Klout, PeerIndex, and other companies offering up social influence scores via semantic analysis of social networking are all the rage, but why? What power do these scores really have? Sean Carlos of MarketingLand recently asked that very question. He writes, “What is online influence, also called social capital, and can these companies really reduce it to a number? Many readers will remember that it wasn’t so long ago that many would cite their site’s Alexa rank as a badge of honor, blissfully unaware that the score had no scientific basis nor business value. Can marketers, HR professionals and others rely on these social capital scoring services to identify influencers or are the scores so flawed to make them meaningless?”

Carlos continues, “Social scoring services may have their place in the planning and execution of a social media word of mouth campaign. But to understand both their strengths and limitations, a prerequisite for their correct use, and to explain a brand’s score to the boss, it is important to know how they work. This is also true for HR professionals who want to consider influence scores in hiring decisions. The first step a social influence ranking service has to perform is much like that of a search engine: collect raw data from the world wide web. This task is much harder than one might think to do right. Ideally the service would scour (crawl) all major social networking sites, blogs, forums, question and answer sites, review sites and other sites where people add user generated content (UGC). In reality most services have taken the path of least resistance: they limit their scoring for most profiles to data from a single source, Twitter, as it is already nicely structured and is available from distributors GNIP and DataSift.”

Read more here.

Image: Courtesy Klout