August 2011


TweetLevel and BlogLevel are two purpose built tools for the PR industry that aim to be a GPS for navigating influence. At its heart is an open and transparent algorithm that seeks to measure who is important within each social media channel.

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Resting behind the methodology are several key insights:

Influence without context is irrelevant

Understanding measurement is more than simply putting a name into an algorithm. It’s a process. If you are looking at influence, then go for Justin Bieber – however, if you are looking to get the right people to speak about you and engage on your behalf then understanding context is critical. This is what the first step in TweetLevel that we always recommend anyone follows is context. Using Boolean logic, anyone can enter a search term to identify who are currently the most influential people about a certain subject. Only when you have identified who these people can you source relevant measurement metrics. The process that it follows is:

  1. Which people have the largest share of voice about a specific search topic
  2. Ranking the top 100 people by their SOV, we then import these names into TweetLevel to identify their influence score
  3. We recommend that brands should focus on people with a score between 65 and 85. Above that score people are significant but are in the realms of the “Today Show” and PR pros must question how likely is it that their message will want to to be heard by this target.

Much as we would like to engage with every relevant person, the sad truth is that most people do not have the time or resources to do so. We therefore need to prioritise which people to focus on. This process explains how to find them.

Popularity does not equal influence

The above statement is bold and almost 100% true. I am not naive if you are popular then by default you are more likely to be influential. However, this is just one factor that can measure how important someone is. The numbers of followers someone has is interesting to me but not as key as how somebody engages in relevant conversations or create ideas that then resonate through the social web.

Engagement is not the same as activity

People have long understood the difference between broadcasting and engaging. As communication channels become more dynamic and interactive, true influence is derived by having two-way dialogues, asking questions and by posting interesting and informative content.

This is the time of the new influential – idea starters and amplifiers are both influential in their own way

If you compare the lists of top tweeters from TweetLevel with other tools on the market, there will be a marked difference in that in our lists you will see some people with comparatively few followers and yet with a higher influence score than their peers who may be extremely popular. The reason for this is that TweetLevel identifies which people create ideas which are then amplified. This isn’t to say that both types of people aren’t important but more that they are both key targets and should be engaged with.

We are at a tipping point where sociology and technology can assist us in engagement

imageContinuing the argument above, we are at a wonderful position whereby sociology and technology are merging to assist us in understanding how to engage with different audiences in the most appropriate manner. TweetLevel can identify what type of person an individual is by their online behaviour. We call this the ‘Topology of Influence

We believe that influence is derived by how information flows between different people. Backed-up by the Web Science team at the University of Southampton, influential people can be: idea starters, amplifiers, curators, commentators or viewers.

People within these different categories all portray behavioural attributes that when complemented are more likely to promote the spread of a message. For example with Idea Starters I would engage in a deep structured discussion and with amplifiers I would understand their need to satisfy their readership and provide them with pre-packaged information that they can easily repurpose.

TweetLevel measures influence and more…

Understanding which people engage with is just half the story. Nothing irks me more than hearing someone has emailed their boss saying that “so-and-so has just retweeted us and they have 30 thousand followers”. Big Deal.

What is more important is ‘has there been a significant change in the amount of conversation that you have catalysed’ and ‘defining whether people are talking and sharing the points you want them to’. These are key measurement metrics which Tweet and BlogLevel also measures.

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However, I would always counsel having a consistent measurement approach:

  • At the beginning of a campaign: to set a benchmark and ensure your message is relevant
  • During the campaign: are there peaks at the right time? Do we need to course correct, issues hijack or amend our message?
  • At the end of the campaign: how have we done? Have the right people engaged? Has the right message been echoed and spread?

What the tools can and can’t do

TweetLevel and BlogLevel are tools that help PR pros take what would be either an expensive or time consuming process into a free (these sites don’t cost) and quick job (reduces the analysis time from days to minutes). However, they don’t fully automate the identification or measurement role – this is intentionally done as a human mind always needs to validate and sanity check the results.

There are of course other excellent tools in the market. However, TweetLevel and BlogLevel are not trying to compete with them. These are purpose built to mirror the way we work so we do not need to retrofit our work to complement their tools. These are games or perks but simply a way that we can do our job better.

Of course there are some added extras that go beyond measurement – for example identifying what individuals most frequently discuss, who they influence, who influences them and other people who talk about similar subjects.

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I like to say that these tools are in continuous beta. As new developments arise or demand for specific features are required, we will update the tools accordingly.

What’s next?

To answer this simple question I would like to refer you to a simple quote that Jeremiah Owyang once said to me:

If you want to influence me, be in a conversation with me – wherever that conversation takes place.

I will be discussing both TweetLevel and BlogLevel at the forthcoming #measurePR chat on 30 August at 12-1 pm ET. I hope you can participate and join the debate. @jenzings will be hosting and my thanks to @shonali for organising.

It would seem that it isn’t enough for us to just talk and think ‘DERTy’ (Digital, Entertainment, Rights and Technology), we now want to find out about DERTy trends too. 

We have compiled a monthly report highlighting some trends we have seen within the news this month and what they mean for brands.  This is part of an ongoing series which will look at some of the key trends within the consumer, technology and digital space over the last month and report back.

This month reports on the social gaming trend , with new releases such as Sims Social soon to be launched on Facebook, we ask just how social are these games? We explore the use of social media for doing good, citing the recent #riotwombles and Twestival as examples of how social media can be used for the greater good.  The report also looks at a new term for an old concept, Likeonomics, which is all about brands going beyond good products or services and into the realms of brand personality.

We hope you enjoy:

http://www.slideshare.net/EdelTechLondon/trend-report-august

(alt. title@ “how Gary Neville ever managed to play for Manchester United”)

Wanted; serious media hound, must possess exquisite writing skills which are perfectly adapted and adaptable to the needs of our clients (from corporate brochure to rap), must enjoy granular, detailed work such as formatting and proof reading, must possess and be prepared to nurture a deep pool of media contacts (from daily newspapers to the most obscure subscription trade title) and – most of all – must be prepared to take direction and work as part of an extremely structured team. Hobbies and interests? If you must, but see below for hours of work; and make sure it’s nothing too dangerous as we don’t provision much time for illness or injury. Hours of work, 9h until 18h (that’s just the weekends, we reserve the right to finish later during weekdays). In short, we are looking for a PR apprentice who is capable of and prepared to learn the roles of our esteemed industry.

Also wanted; social media guru, must live and breathe new media, possess a large and lively personal social media profile, must be prepared to improvise, work independently and convey the essential in 140 characters or less. Neither structured pros nor proof-reading nor formatting are likely to feature heavily as part of the role. Working hours are not structured, but you will be expected to deliver insight and response in real time from your mobile (wherever you may be; whether queuing for lunch or moshing at Glastonbury). Speaking of moshing; do people still do that? We are very interested in your hobbies and interests you see. In fact, your outside interests could actually be good for business, especially that of our clients; particularly if you regularly blog about them. Oh, yes we are quite relaxed about your blogging and Tweeting on company time; in fact, depending on your aforementioned outside interests, we’ll actually require you to furiously blog and Tweet on behalf of our clients. To summarise, just about as far a departure from the traditional PR apprenticeship as you could imagine.

And here’s the dilemma . . . agencies need both of these people. Despite the demise of Rupert (or perhaps because of it) traditional print and online media is not about to disappear. The proven skills required to deliver compelling PR will still be required; and that includes an attention to detail and pure copywriting skills. However, agencies also need social media experts to help give a voice to their clients’ products and services, to help position them across the increasing range of user generated content platforms and to continually monitor online opinion and feedback on the same.

So what’s the solution? I realize that this will prompt hails of “cop out” but I actually believe that there are two approaches to this dilemma. The challenge is basically to figure out which to apply to which candidate:

· Approach 1. The apprenticeship; social media mind sets should be coached and trained to deliver a minimal level of detail, copywriting and structure. They should also be required to undertake ‘due diligence’ in terms of media knowledge, press contact and drinks with the usual array of trade press misfits (insert your own).

“Traditional media mindsets” should likewise be supported to understand and participate in a minimum level of social media life (i.e.. on a personal level through Twitter, online communities etc.) and learn to effectively select and communicate the benefits of various platforms.

· Approach 2. Play to their strengths; in footballing terms, Gary Neville was never going to make a centre forward (despite his finishing), and Romario never likely to track back and defend. They were specialists, and what amazing specialists they turned out to be (well, Romario).

While Manchester United and FC Barcelona can afford such luxuries, can PR agencies afford employees who are not going to “track back”? In this case, adhere to deadlines, write up minutes from meetings or, even, proof read? I believe that agencies can employ specialists; but on certain conditions:

  • The size of the agency or department; while such social media specialists are great within a structured and functioning team, they are going to be of less use in a start up environment where staff are expected to do everything from cold calling prospects to making the tea.
  • What is the social media specialism? Does it fulfill a current or future client need, is it really a specialism we are talking about, or simply someone who never learned to punctuate
  • Does this person possess experience or knowledge that is not currently covered by the existing more generalist staff. This is a vital consideration if you decide to accommodate a genuine specialist, in order to avoid resentment amongst the incumbent team.
  • Finally, above all, do you want to see this person working for the competition? If not than you’d better him or her!

So that’s the agency dilemma and my dual approach (cop out) to addressing it. Specialists (particularly social media ones) can cause disruption and resentment within a team due to the nature and relative informality of their work. They can also prove a secret weapon for agencies who can genuinely harness them.

I’d love to hear any feedback on the dilemma and my suggested approach; at what size can a team/department start considering social media gurus as stand-alone hires? How can you tell if the candidate before you requires Approach 1 or Approach 2? What’s the best way to incorporate them into an existing team to maximize performance and minimize disruption? How should they be trained and measured?

If nothing else, let me know your thoughts on my incorporation of Gary Neville in yet another blog about PR!

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