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The Mirage of Social Media Metrics?

I don’t need to go on, do I, I am sure you have got the drift! Anthologies of quotations are full of  similar advice handed down through the ages.

Despite this, many of us who are perfectly capable of cultivating a little amused detachment in the rest of our lives find ourselves obsessively checking and re-checking our listings in  Klout, PeerIndex, Twittergrader and Wikio (listed in alphabetical order to discourage the competitive spirit) as we seek the illusory will o’the wisp of enlightenment. If I have missed out any vitally important social media performance analysis sites, please, please do not tell me about them as I am having a hard enough time as it is trying not to become addicted to the ones I already know about.

You may well ask by what right I, a novice, presume to address my fellow bloggers and tweeters after less than three months’ experience. I will reply by offering you the old saw about foreign writers in India:
New arrivals excitedly tell all who will listen that they intend to write a book about the sub-contintent; after a year of fact-finding, they have decided that an article is all that they feel capable of; and after five years they hesitate to utter even a sentence, knowing that its opposite is likely also to be true.

I casually said on twitter that I thought all this social media needed to be treated as a game; to be any fun games need to be taken quite seriously, of course, but perhaps not as a matter of life and death. I was tempted into four successive tweets on this, to the surprise I think of my recipient, and one of my fellow tweeters suggested (hinting perhaps that I had delighted my audience long enough) that I should turn it into a blog post.

Some strange features of the blog and twitter assessment sites have emerged recently. Klout, for example, says that the Revd Pam Smith is an expert on beards and the Revd Maggi Dawn is an expert on coffee. Both deny these allegations. Unfortunately for Pam, the bearded Pete Phillips has taken the opportunity to give her a ‘K’ for her expertise on beards, saying that she has recently influenced him in this field. (I put it to the jury that I am not the only one who thinks this is a game).

I thought I would take a dozen of my colleagues and subject them to scrutiny by these four analytical websites. It seemed only fair to include myself (but if anyone objects to being included, I will of course remove their name). I began with the top 100 Wikio scores for May in the Religion category, and chose a dozen people whom I knew also to be members of Twitter because I follow them.

Here are the Klout rankings for some people who both blog and are on twitter.

  1. Pete Phillips (62)
  2. Maggi Dawn (62)
  3. Peter Ould (59)
  4. Church Mouse (56)
  5. Lesley Fellows (55)
  6. Stuart James (eChurchBlog) (52)
  7. Richard Littledale (49)
  8. Bishop Alan Wilson (49)
  9. Laura Sykes (48)
  10. Charlie Peer (44)
  11. Doug Chaplin (39)
  12. Lucy Mills (37)

For comparison, here are the respective Peer Index rankings:

  1. Church Mouse (58)
  2. Pete Phillips (49)
  3. Maggi Dawn (47)
  4. Peter Ould (47)
  5. Bishop Alan Wilson (32)
  6. Lesley Fellows (28)
  7. Doug Chaplin (22)
  8. Stuart James (eChurch Blog) (22)
  9. Laura Sykes (14)
  10. Charlie Peer (9)
  11. Lucy Mills (9)
  12. Richard Littledale (8)

Now, the same list according to Twittergrader:

  1. Church Mouse (100) 
  2. Bishop Alan Wilson (100)
  3. Maggi Dawn (98.3)
  4. Stuart James (eChurch Blog) (97.3)
  5. Peter Ould (97.3)
  6. Lesley Fellows (95.4)
  7. Pete Phillips (95.4)
  8. Richard Littledale (89)
  9. Charlie Peer (89)
  10. Lucy Mills (87)
  11. Doug Chaplin (86)
  12. Laura Sykes (77)

 And finally, Wikio:

  1. Church Mouse (1)
  2. Stuart James (eChurch Blog) (4)
  3. Lesley Fellows (5)
  4. Doug Chaplin (Clayboy) (8)
  5. Maggi Dawn (13)
  6. Bishop Alan Wilson (17)
  7. Peter Ould (20)
  8. Lucy Mills (34)
  9. Richard Littledale (39)
  10. Pete Phillips (43)
  11. Charlie Peer (45)
  12. Laura Sykes (still not listed)

As you will see, the rankings vary widely. Let us single out Pete Philips (whom I don’t somehow think will mind). Out of a field of 12 he comes 1st (Klout), 2nd (Peer Index), 7th (Twittergrader) and 10th (Wikio).  Triumph and Disaster, the two imposters? Oh yes, I think so.

So if it is all a game, how should we, the poor punters, treat it? Well, if you can honestly ignore these rankings – as many actors claim never to read their reviews – you are made of sterner moral fibre than I am, but I congratulate you.

If, on the other hand, you are made of the same clay as the majority of your fellow members of the human race, may I suggest that you pick the website which gives you the highest score and check no other.

If that is unacceptable, then you must play the hand that you have been dealt as if you were playing bridge, poker or racing demon, in other words with gusto – while relishing the fact that it really is all a game and while remembering that you want to be able to look your fellow bloggers and tweeters in the eye between games at the next conference of  the blogosphere!

1. The illustration (author unknown, but issued under creative commons licence) is of a hunt for will o’the wisps. School of Henri ‘Douanier’ Rousseau?

9 comments on this post:

UKViewer said...

I never bother checking ratings. My tweeting is not very professional and my blogging it to sporadic for anything worthwhile.

I think I have 5 followers of my blog, the rest having got bored waiting for something inspirational to be posted (:

I tend to think of social media as a communication tool, allowing my participation as and when I have the time.

Even us unemployed, retiree's surprisingly actually do something else. This normally involves feeding the cats and grooming the wife or the other way around 🙂

As I don't pay much attention to whose blog is rated the top, I just follow loads and hopefully pick up one or two golden nuggets along the way.

So there!

07 June 2011 16:58
Lay Anglicana said...

I congratulate you on your detachment, O Wise One From the (South) East! (But I would follow your blog if I knew how to find it – clicking the link just takes me to a page saying it is not available to the likes of me – I paraphrase!)

07 June 2011 17:19
The Church Mouse said...

With the exception of Klout the ratings seem pretty reliable to Mouse!

More seriously, they all measure different things, and you'd be crazy to let them mean to much to you – even if you're top of the list. It is of some use to see whether you are going up or down in the rankings, but I don't think anyone tweets or blogs just to rack up followers or page impressions, so there is no point putting too much importance on them.

07 June 2011 17:30
Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you, Church Mouse.

As you say, no one is egotistical enough to blog just for the sake of racking up followers. I suppose the (occasionally obsessive) interest in the ratings is partly because tweeting and blogging are essentially solitary. Unlike actors, academics, and clergy, there is not necessarily any flesh and blood engagement with one's audience. It is back to the question of whether a tree falling in the forest can be said to have made any impact if there is no one there to hear it. So the ratings are a way of reassuring us there is an audience, even if small, for what we write.

Of course, many of the well-known bloggers also have a corporeal presence (in the Church or academia) which allows them to engage with their audience.

And you have the added pleasure of teasing us, like the Scarlet Pimpernel or Pink Panther, about who you are in real life (your utterings suggest you do have inside information). As the Church Mouse, you may not engage with your readership face to face but the 'frisson' of keeping us guessing does I expect make up for this!

07 June 2011 17:48
Pete said...

Thanks for the post. A friend I met at Thinkjng Digital who is community development manager for a multinational anti-virus company said the whole ratings thing is a load of b……s! Others pointed out that unless you Klout was over 60, you weren't worth speaking to.

The game concept is good. But social media should be about building community not outranking others. So it's not a competitive game. More like playground games whee the fun is in taking part and learning together. The problem is that the ranking sites push the ego buttons too hard and make some if us think rankings are something when they aren't!

Thought-provoking stuff! Clearly Klout is the most accurate!!! 😉


08 June 2011 07:18
Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you Pete, and thank you for taking the post in the spirit it was intended! Perhaps we should write a prayer to be used in cyber-intercessions along the lines of your second paragraph? With a bit of additional liturgy we can then ask St Pixels to lay on a service for bloggers and tweeters…

08 June 2011 07:28
UKViewer said...


I've emailed you a link to my blog, which should allow you to subscribe to it.

08 June 2011 07:41
Digitalnun said...

Thank you for a most entertaining and informative post. Klout, PeerIndex and Twittergrader are new to me. I only know about the Wikio ranking for my own blog because I have a badge on the site which goes up and down according as I have annoyed/amused the readers (and I only learned about Wikio after, ahem, four years of blogging). I suspect some people are naturally competitive and check their ratings regularly; but as others have said, most bloggers are either too egotistical to care ("I blog what I think') or have another object in view, the creation of some kind of online community ("let's get the conversation going"). It would be sad if we started a rankings war in the blogosphere.

08 June 2011 08:49
Lay Anglicana said...

Oh yes, Digitalnun, I was really trying only to entertain.

I think the people who check their ratings may be competitive but I don't think this is the main reason (in my case, it would be a highly depressing exercise!) But as Churchmouse suggested, they are a useful tool for checking on your own ups and downs.

Above all, for me, as I live in a small village where I have no contact with the wider community, the blogging and tweeting community gives me many of the advantages of city life – like sitting in a Paris cafe with Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir! I am certainly not competing with them, but I do relish their company.

08 June 2011 09:00

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