(This article first appeared on Marcom Professional)
Can online influence be determined algorithmically?
That’s the serious question behind the bit of fun I had last week creating the PR Week UK Social Media Power Player league table.
Using PeerIndex to determine an overall influence score (and based on PR Week’s original Power Player selection), I’ve so far listed around 283 people (if you feel you should be on the list, then sent me a Tweet – @andismit).
As I explained in my original Storify piece, I was simply testing out the new group creation feature of PeerIndex. However, little did I realise the Pandora’s box I was opening. If I’ve learnt anything this last week, it’s that PR folk love a league table and are hugely competitive. The clamour to be included on the list was astonishing (as of this morning, the list has been viewed nearly 7,500 times). And clearly some people have begun obsessing about their rankings.
Inevitably, some have questioned what meaning – if any – a PeerIndex score has (or a Klout score for that matter). I’d have to agree that an absolute rating like the overall PeerIndex tally probably doesn’t really provide much insight – other than being a modest diversion for PR people. However, PeerIndex clearly has plans to provide a rating relative to specific topics. That to my mind is far more interesting. Being able to have insights into which people may have more or less influence in relation to specific subjects is far more worthwhile for PR and marketing people.
Of course, that begs the question as to how PeerIndex arrives at its scores. Like Google, they aren’t revealing the details of their People Rank algorithm. Some might argue that it is impossible to determine influence algorithmically. And I’d agree that PeerIndex isn’t perfect. At the same time, I applaud the effort to try and do it. Given the choice between attempting something and doing nothing I’ll always plump for the former.
So the debate about PeerIndex and its ilk will no doubt rumble on. But I can’t help but feel that this kind of algorithmic approach to determining online influence will play an ever increasing role in 21st century PR and marketing.