Measuring influence and social capital in construction

As Twitter usage has grown, people have tried to quantify how influential some tweeters are, and I have started to incorporate two of the more commonly used tools, Klout and PeerIndex, into my work.

EEPaul rated on Klout.comKlout’s strapline is “The standard for online influence“, while PeerIndex aims to help you “understand your social capital“. The exact workings of each system’s algorithm are, of course, closely guarded secrets (and subject to considerable blogger analysis and comment – see this post and comments, for example), but they are, I think, a step forward from simply measuring how many followers a particular user has or how many times they tweet.

I used the platforms in a recent social media workshop for a client, and both proved useful. Klout accurately described the client organisation as an ‘explorer’ still finding their feet in social media, while PeerIndex helped the organisation see where it stood in comparison with others it regarded as competitors. As that client integrates Twitter and other social media activities into its future communications, these tools will give metrics that can be used in periodic audits to report on what progress is being made.

Of the two systems, I have spent more time exploring PeerIndex, partly because it allows users to curate groups of Twitter users and rank them according to their influence. In the past month, I have featured in two such lists:

[Disclosure: I helped create the tCnTop100 as an advisor to tCn: the Construction Network. I also provided, on tCn’s behalf, a short opinion piece for Construction News to help explain why Twitter could be useful to construction folk.]

How useful is the tCnTop100?

As I expected, reaction to the first tCnTop100 has been mixed. Su Butcher felt the initiative worthwhile:

“Publishing the list in print brings the value of twitter to a much wider audience and will, I am sure, encourage many industry leaders to look again at what strategic goals tools like twitter might help them fulfil.”

Martin Brown saw the potential of such ratings to help identify suitable advisors (eg: a company looking to use social media to improve their corporate social responsibility, CSR, or sustainability ratings might use such listings to identify consultants with relevant expertise), and Ross Sturley is clear about the reputation benefits to individual knowledge workers in the industry.

Judging from the Twitter traffic (423 tweets of the #tcnTop100 hashtag in the 24 hours following publication; over 2000 page views of the live Top 100 – source), many of those included in the listing were delighted to feature and to get their name in Construction News, etc, but others were left wondering why they were apparently excluded or only rated modestly influential (and, no, @ConstructionEnq didn’t feature – post – but The Construction Index was 72nd).

There was no simple way to quickly aggregate all existing Twitter users from across the construction industry into one list, so tCn had to rely upon people either putting themselves forward or nominating others. As a result, the first listing inevitably omitted some people whose names were not suggested but who are, nonetheless, influential in various parts of the built environment professions, etc. However, I understand Construction News may well work with tCn to repeat the tCnTop100 next year, so there will be ample time for those initially left out to be included in the 2012 edition. They can put themselves forward for inclusion in the real-time Top 100 and this new ranking will constantly evolve.

Some AEC industry bloggers, such as Constructing Excellence’s Jon de Souza, have been critical of the exercise, calling it broken, but I feel that is an exaggeration (see comment on Jon’s blog post). To show existing take-up of social media by individuals, companies and membership organisations within architecture, engineering, construction, FM, etc, the tCnTop100 has given a good impression of the diversity of industry people using Twitter and so may encourage more to a) start using Twitter, and b) to start using Twitter more often and/or more appropriately as part of their B2B communications and, as a result, to become regarded as influential.

PeerIndex’s methodology, also, is constantly evolving and I hope they listen to some of the reactions (I agree with Jon’s view that recency of updates should be a factor, and that – for the purposes of the tCnTop100 – a focus on industry-related comments is needed). But it can be difficult to respond to everybody’s views. I, for one, think occasionally going off-topic or being social helps to show that the author is actually a real person and not 100% focused on talking about work (in real life conversations, we don’t only talk about business, so why should we be any different in our online conversations, so long as it’s kept to an acceptable minimum). I also think that re-Tweeting is useful: the act of RTing is also part of what makes Twitter useful as a gauge of people’s influence – people RT information and ideas that they find useful, interesting, funny, etc.

So, it’s not totally perfect, but it’s a start. It has usefully stimulated some debate about how to use Twitter as part of B2B communications, and it has done a lot raise the profile of tCn and to drive traffic to Construction News‘ website (the tCnTop100 is one of few pages that are not covered by CN’s paywall, though free registration is required). The test of how useful it’s been will be if and when the process is repeated in 12 months time.

1 comment

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  1. Nice post and Great information:-)

  1. […] But in their own different ways, both StickyWorld and tCn have also learned some of the same lessons outlined by Bob. The StickyWorld team has cultivated its early adopters among research project partners, in universities and through industry events such as the 2010 London Festival of Architecture (StickyWorld Exhibition), while tCn has successfully developed awareness through marketing consultancies and existing membership organisations which have ‘championed’ use of tCn to their clients and members, and through its recent ‘tCnTop100′ campaign with Construction News (post). […]

  2. […] in UK Built Environment – by AJ’s Emap sister title Construction News in April (post).* Initial reactions to this initiative were mixed, and this latest AJ/tCn project seems to be a […]

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