Lately it seems there have been several interesting companies which are ascribing quantitative value to people’s online presence. With data readily callable from a number of different APIs from companies like Twitter and Foursquare, there are now ways of determining how “important” different people are on the net based on their social graphs. And, if said people make other data available (Google analytics on their blog, for example), then one can get a pretty accurate picture of the amount of influence these people are having on their peers.
In my opinion, the ability to identify influencers within different demographics and then target them for advertising, coupons, and deals will be an ever increasing trend. For example, I recently saw a presentation by Dennis Crowley of Foursquare (which was at NYU, that’s right) in which he discussed an analytics package he would be giving to local merchants through which they could track the behaviors of their customers that use Foursquare.
Let’s say you run a paintball arena (I’m getting flashbacks to weekends in middle school). Through Foursquare, you know that your customer Billy is an influencer – meaning that Billy typically brings new people to the arena. You, as the arena owner, give Billy an upgraded gun and free paintballs each time he comes based on his mayor status/badges/customer loyalty. This incents Billy to come back more and more, and we know from his past behavior, and maybe even his behaviors at other local merchants, that he tends to bring a pack of people with him – many of which are first time paintballers and wouldn’t have come otherwise.
In this example, the local merchant was able to acquire new customers by targeting Billy and giving him an incentive to come back more often. This isn’t rocket science. But, it will be interesting to follow how companies, particularly facebook, utilize this kind of data. facebook knows who influencers are by whose status is commented on, whose pictures are looked at, who leads a new trend of “liking” something, etc. Being able to map someone’s social dynamic is very powerful. Instead of targeting boys who see Ronaldinho wearing Nike, you can now target Johnny’s friends who are jealous of his new Nike shoes because he is the captain of the soccer team and a leader in his social group. Or, Nike can tailor their advertising to Johnny’s friends’ parents, especially before a birthday is coming up. This is powerful stuff!
Another example, Sysomos is a company that dissects data on how people use social media. This data on past behavior is used to assign a value to a user. For example, if someone on Toyota’s site has been to the BMW and Audi facebook pages, then they are most likely looking to make a purchasing decision and therefore are assigned a high value by Sysomos.
Lastly, Shortboard is a company that tries to assign value to someone based on their online presence, and then attach logos to their online avatar. So, Bob has a fishing blog with 10,000 monthly uniques, a twitter following of 1,000, and so he warrants a certain score, and is offered $500/month to associate Bassmaster’s logo with his online avatar. Pretty cool.