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My Take On Social Media Tools For Influence

Today I would like to offer my views on several social media tools. They are:

  • Peer Index
  • Klout
  • Quora
  • Yahoo! Answers
  • Facebook Questions

When I woke up this morning and got online, I went to Google Buzz! and found this Youtube video from the vernerable Robert Scoble, in which he interviewed the founder of a new Twitter social influence tool, Peer Index. Basically, Peer Index goes one level beyond what Klout does; instead of just ranking people as influencers, curators, pundits, etc., it goes one level beyond, and divides people into vertical groups, and the identifying the groups in which they are influential. Just to give you an idea of how it works, here is my profile on Peer Index.

Partway through the video, I got a little surprised and my ego puffed up a bit when the China economy and biz section was brought up and I was mentioned. Always thankful for nice little mentions!

This looks like quite an improvement over Klout because of the finer granularity than Klout. I have been disappointed in Klout lately because they don’t seem to have kept their index updated. Give you an example: Here is my profile on Klout; notice how my tagline hasn’t been updated compared to my Twitter page.

For this reason, I much prefer Peer Index to Klout.

Another area I have been interested in are online questions forums; these really started with Naver in Korea, which has the predominant search engine in Korea. At one time, Naver marketed itself as the leading human-powered search engine; it relied on human vertical sector experts to answer questions. Eventually, some of these people first became experts in their field and became well-known first on the Internet, then on TV and through society. A few even achieved fame and riches through Naver.

One of the interesting side effects of this was that when people become well-known for the right reasons, they want to use their real names. Naver enabled this to happen.

Yahoo! noticed the success of this, and created Yahoo! Answers , which was largely a copy of the Naver model. Since it did not have the rigorous enforcement, policing and feedback which Naver did though, the quality of the questions and answers quickly went down in quality, with the result that the audience which used it also went down.

A recent variation on this has been Quora. This is a well designed question and answer model, which has good design and a good clean interface, and is heavily policed by editors. I tried it out for most of July and generally like it, but I found the editors too intrusive in the way they tried to edit questions. The community which is there is heavily slanted to ex-Facebook people, and the venture capital community. For a while I found this amusing, but after two weeks I found it boring, since I found both communities to be navel-gazers. As a side-point, I found many of the editors to be either Taiwanese who were deep-green pro-independence folk, or Indian. (Not that I care, but it is interesting how sub-communities shown through.)

For me, the straw broke when I asked a question in Chinese: 能用中文发问吗?(Translation: Can I ask questions in Chinese?) My motivation in asking this question was to engage some lively discussions in Chinese, since there is a significant number of Chinese on Quora. This question was quickly deleted by one of the Quora editors, and I was told to send an email to feedback at quora dot com. This was too much, and told me that their rules were too inflexible to make it a truly global Q&A forum, and I had had enough of the ex-FB and VC community, so I left and haven’t been back.

Facebook Questions is now undergoing closed testing; I expect this to be much better than Quora because it will associate people using their real names with their FB identities. For advertisers, this will be a very powerful tool because it will identify who really knows their stuff, and it should quickly replace Quora because of Facebook’s huge user base. In my opinion, Quora is too little too late, and their community is too narrow, and their editors’ overzealousness will prevent it from growing significantly.

After seeing Peer Index and the Q&A portals, I have decided that the Peer Index approach is much better. When people go to portals, they want to strut their stuff and show off, or of that doesn’t work, they just leave. In my own case, I like it much better when people can build their crowds based on their tweets, and you can build and lose followers according to Twitter. This is why I like Twitter and Peer Index much better than any of the Q&A portals.

I hope that Peer Index represents the trend of the future so that we get better quality as well as quantitative research when looking for influencers and knowledge experts on Twitter and the Internet.

10 Responses to “My Take On Social Media Tools For Influence”

  1. Dana Chen says:

    Hi Paul, thank you for the post and your take on our service, PeerIndex. You are right, the under-lying assumptions that drive our algorithm are based on a more topical map of the web. We believe rankings with more context around them are more meaningful than a more generalized approach. Given your authority on China, do you have any other suggestions for our list in that subject? And thank you for the earlier tip, much appreciated.

  2. [...] @pdenlinger mentioned the granularity of a PeerIndex profile, so let us just quickly talk about how to make sense of your public profile. The first thing to understand about the numbers on your profile, is how we calculate your PeerIndex score. [...]

  3. Joe Fernandez says:

    Hey Paul,

    I am one of the cofounders here at Klout. Just wanted to give you a heads up that if you sign in you can actually refresh your account. We also track what topics you are influential about and post them on the bottom of your summary page.

    Happy to answer any questions or hear any concerns you might have.


  4. trevelyan says:

    Have only heard of Quora, and had much the same reaction you did. Wonder how they plan to monetize Peer Index. The business model for most of these question sites is distinctly low-brow: get users to create free content that will rank on search engine queries and then monetize through advertising.

    The underlying authority problem really belongs to Google, which is increasingly biasing it’s search results towards established brands in an effort to get credible content on the front page. This is making it hard for smaller sites to come up through the mess of Wikipedia and About.com pages and undermines the point of search.

    Social media may be a less gamed space, but it seems that the same equilibrium problem exists.

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