Sunday, February 28, 2010

Twitter Influence Graders: Behind the Green Curtain

Does influence on Twitter matter? And, if it does, what is the best way to measure it?

On the first question it seems reasonable to say influence only matters if all or part of the reason you are on Twitter is for business … then “influence” matters.

So if it matters to you, how do you measure influence?

In Twitter 1.0 most believed: Followers = Influence. Clearly the world of Twitter has moved on.

Today there are many tools that claim to measure an individual’s influence using up to 140 characters.

I decided to look at the three Twitter influence graders I use and ask questions of the people behind the tools. Here’s what I found:

Twitter Grader

Twitter Grader is just one of the many free analytics tools from the always helpful folks at Hubspot. I heard back from Dharmesh Shah, the founder at HubSpot himself (and
@dharmesh on Twitter).

Twitter Grader ranks Tweeps on a scale up to 100 and allows comparisons to others by city and state, as well as analysis of followers and those you are following.

Dharmesh says Twitter Grader looks at a number of factors but one of the most important is the degree of "engagement" for a user.

“So, if a given user seems to be getting more retweets and responses to their tweets, they would get a higher grade.

“This makes sense, because this ‘engagement’ score acts as a decent proxy for influence,” he says. “We also look at the number of followers – with some adjustments for when an account has a lot of low-quality followers.”

Dharmesh went on to say that what people should know is that Twitter Grader measures on a curve (i.e. a relative scale). “So, as the Twitter user-base evolves, the scores adjust automatically. So, when a user gets a grade of 80, it means that based on the factors we look at, that user scored higher than 80 percent of the other users that have been graded.”

He concluded by acknowledging that calculating authority on Twitter is not a perfect science, but that Hubspot, who has been doing this for a while, has evolves its algorithm as it learns more about how Twitter is being used.


On behalf of Twitalyzer I heard back from its creator, Eric T. Peterson, Chief Executive Officer and Principal Consultant at Web Analytics Demystified, Inc (and
@erictpeterson on Twitter).

Eric says Twitalyzer, which can spit out analytics in dozens of categories, decided that humans know that influence is “something we see and experience every day in our lives” and “that being complex for complexity's sake was a bad idea. So we fixed that.”

With the Twitalyzer 2.0 release his company made changes to the old "influence" calculation and started calling it "impact."

“At the same time we dramatically simplified the influence calculation to look at the two measures we believe best reflected the pure definition of influence (‘causing something without any direct or apparent effort’): retweets and references,” Eric said.

That way anyone tracking their influence in real time will find “the more you invest in Twitter as a communication medium, the more influential you will become,” he said.

And while he personally does not see influence on Twitter as some kind of contest “if you're a business person paid to Twitter and you can’t move your Impact score up, something is wrong.”

“This is why we provide recommendations in Twitalyzer Dashboard ... to help our business users understand how they can improve their impact in Twitter,” Eric said.


On behalf of TweetLevel I heard back from its creator, Jonny Bentwood, Head of Analyst Relations and Strategy at Edelman in London (and
@jonnybentwood on Twitter).

TweetLevel tallies up scores in popularity, engagement and trust to reach an influence score. It does this with a transparent calculation it reveals on its
About page that includes data from such places as Twitalyzer and Twinfluence.

Jonny told me that the key aspect when measuring influence with Tweetlevel is context. Within context the tool examines the “location of the conversation” and the type of influencer (including those that create, amplify, adapt or comment).

TweetLevel doesn’t “confuse popularity with importance,” but instead focuses on “micro topics” and understanding who are the key people in those areas. Jonny added: “TweetLevel is a dynamic tool that will alter someone’s score depending upon that user’s current usage.”

“The tool will continually evolve as Twitter adapts its API and functionality (such as the recent introduction of lists and change in the way retweets work). TweetLevel will take this new data and include it in the algorithm,” he said.

In terms of what TweetLevel’s scores mean (on a scale of 1 to 100) Jonny said his tool’s score is the equivalent of someone’s Google PageRank x 10. A score above 80 is truly exceptional and below 25 is not too good. For the everyday user that means a score over 40 is good, over 50 is great and over 60 is amazing

So what did I learn? It seems that of the three tools I use (for myself and clients) all have their value.

I think anyone relying too heavily on one influence measuring tool is likely getting a skewed picture of influence. Maybe there is a place for an “influence aggregator” that scores each user across multiple influence tools.

What do you think? Does Social Media , and Twitter specifically, need this?

Possibly related post
7 Tools To Find Who’s Big on Twitter


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