We’ve covered a number of tools that help marketers and brands identify influencers here. From Klout to mBlast and event the influencer identification tools in social media monitoring platforms, there exists a variety of methodologies, interfaces and price points to help you find the right bloggers and online voices to target with your company’s outreach.
One product on the market that has always intrigued me is Traackr. The San Francisco-based (by way of Boston) startup is inching up on four years old. At first, it focused on allowing individual bloggers to see their reach and influence. But as many a social media tool has discovered, making a tool for the tools isn’t profitable. Since refocusing its efforts to produce top-10, -25 or even -50 lists of influencers in a given niche, the service has taken off. Brand marketers and public relations folks looking for a sophisticated and automated way to find out who they should focus on are quick to subscribe to the service.
Traackr is keyword-based and the team stresses that setting up the keywords correctly is critical. They work with customers to fine tune the set up so you get what you’re looking for. While other monitoring services and online research tools may offer a topic-based approach, searching the web in a more advanced, non-keyword dependent, approach, none are solely influencer tools.
I took Traackr for a test drive recently and entered a string of about six keywords related to banking, personal finance and home mortgage loans. Within a matter of seconds, I had a 1-10 ranking of the top blogs I needed to focus on, including The Simple Dollar‘s Trent Hamm, MarketWatch‘s Andrea Coombes, Miranda Marquit from Financial Highway (among other blogs) and Tara Kuczykowski of Deal Seaking Mom, all of which have considerably large audiences with their blog readerships, Twitter followings and the like.
But Traackr also revealed Philip Taylor of PT Money and Kenneth Mages from Near Field Communications Data who don’t have huge audiences, yet nail the keyword topic relevance I’m looking for. As it turns out, Mages — as an example — doesn’t appear to have a huge blog following (he’s listed as an author on two blogs according to Traackr), but has a nice Twitter and LinkedIn following. His reach and resonance scores (more below) are low, but he nails relevance because these are the topics he’s been talking about recently.
Traackr combines three qualities when finding and ranking influencers. Reach is obvious: how many people does this person reach when they write something online? Resonance is the tendency for those posts to be repeated, linked to, retweeted and the like. Does this person get amplified by his or her network? The last one is relevance, which Traackr measures based on the keywords you’re targeting and how recent, often and important they are in the blogger/influencer’s content.
Certainly, one could argue relevance is only worthwhile with a certain reach and resonance, but unlike most other influencer tools, Traackr scores and prioritizes quality over quantity in this regard — certainly something worth considering.
Other tools, like mBlast, also offer dynamic results and incorporate a number of factors into their rankings. For gits and shiggles, I pumped the exact same keywords into an mBlast search. It revealed 25 “influencers.” None of them were in Traackr’s list. Most of mBlast’s results were certainly blogs and influential sites in the space, and ones I would certainly investigate and prioritize for an outreach project. In fact, I’d really like to use Traackr and mBlast together to ensure I’m getting influencers from a couple perspectives. But a closer look at some (not all, but some) of the mBlast results revealed blogs or websites I wouldn’t consider worth reaching out to. Traackr’s list only produced Mages that made me wonder. I’m not sure I’d put him in a top-10 list and not a blog like NetBanker, but that Twitter and LinkedIn list might reveal some heavy hitters.
However, the comparison in results only proves one critical point: You cannot trust algorithms alone. Regardless of the tool you use, you must add a layer of human analysis and investigation to verify the lists, ensure the results you’re working with are legitimate influencers in the space and, of course, none of these tools will do your outreach for you.
To effectively use an influencer identification tool, you must do some actual leg work yourself. Sorry … automation only goes so far. If that revelation disappoints you, step back and reassess whether or not you’re too lazy to do this.
I like Traackr for the simple fact that it’s incredibly easy: Put in good keywords, hit search and voila! You get your top-X list of influencers. And frankly, their algorithm produces a high quality list. You can add your own influencers to ensure their posts are considered and the dynamic nature of the tool allows you to see who’s talking about the topics in question now and how influential they are.
But there is a big drawback to Traackr. You’ve got to be series if you want to play. A single search to yield one top-25 list will run you $499 per month. There’s also a one-time, $2,500 setup, training and lifetime support fee. Influencer identification is a very small part of an overall marketing or public relations effort. You’re looking at $8,500 per year or so just to walk in the door with this tool. That alone means one thing: Big brands or big budgets only.
The tool its good. And if taking the manual labor of identifying who you should reach out to — not the outreach itself, just making your list — is time you’d rather spend doing other things, then Traackr may be for you. But for most public relations and marketing efforts, the price tag is going to be prohibitive.
Do you use Traackr? What are your experiences? The comments are yours.