Data Stories: Tyler Singletary of Klout

This Data Story is with Tyler Singletary, Director of Platform at Klout, and we’re talking about Klout Scores, Klout data, international influence and more. Klout is an extremely popular Gnip enrichment and it’s clear that the world is interested in Klout data, so we thought this would a fun interview. You can keep up with Tyler on Twitter at @harmophone and on Klout at Klout.com/harmophone.

Tyler Singletary from Klout

1. Gnip’s CTO Jud Valeski has a Klout Score of 56, our VP of Product Rob Johnson has a Klout Score of 50, and I have a Klout Score of 60. If you’re a business, who do you give an offer to?

It depends on what you’re looking for. While the Klout Score is an expression of a user’s potent network effects, Klout Topics are an expression of where and what the user drives engagement on, and to some degree, where their interests and passionate community lies. If I wanted to reach Engineers and Boulderites, Jud would be a good choice: his audience is very engaged with him on those topics. We’ve been leveraging this understanding and segmentation in our products for years now.

2. What has the introduction of Cinch meant for Klout? Will Cinch data be available through the Klout API?

Cinch is another way to look through the prism of what it means to influence someone, and is built on the idea of social authority being an important piece in the collaborative economy. To that end, again, Cinch is built on Klout Topics as an important way to quickly find subject-matter authority and trust, combined with a user’s personal network.

Cinch is in the early days as a product, but we can easily imagine it as part of the platform in the future. There’s already a wealth of good advice around lifestyle topics, and it would be a fantastic channel for businesses and consumers to integrate with to pose engaging questions and take a pulse on influencers recommending their products.

3. What is the potential for companies using Klout in a CRM?

Klout’s influence graph helps CRM users gain insight into users, enabling them to improve prioritization of issues and outreach, as well as customer satisfaction. By finding their most influential customers, these companies can also streamline outreach and word-of-mouth marketing to increase new business. As the truly “Social CRM” platform evolves, and inbound leads are generated from social feeds, it will become increasingly important to know how and what influence leads and customers have. It’s about finding more relevance and reach.

4. Klout is big in Japan. What are the challenges of defining influence in different countries?

I tend to think of things in terms of “units of influence.” Each network has a different set of actions that can be influential. You have an actor, an actee, an interaction, and a subject (or two or three). In terms of Japan, and other countries using different languages, you still have an actor, actee, and interactions– all of those units that go into the Klout Score. What we need to build is an interpreter for the subjects (effectively, Klout Topics), using the character sets, grammars, and dictionaries mapped to the common and unique meanings. This is not a trivial undertaking.

So the Klout Score is effective and applies easily to activity on the networks we’re already surveying in Japan and South Korea, and other countries. Klout Topics will take an investment of resources, but it’s not an impossible problem. One interesting other way to look at the problem– a short circuit– is to delve deeper into content. A URL is a URL in any language. If you can understand what that destination is about, as a subject of influence, you may be able to come to a solution for the Topic problem before tackling the language issues.

There’s also the diversity of networks, and the availability of data. From my research, platforms like LINE and Gree aren’t yet opening up APIs or partnering with the Gnips of the world. Getting access to the wealth of data in what might be a more dominant platform in foreign countries  needs to be solved.

5. What does the future of Klout data look like?

Klout Topics are a constantly adapting and improving system. I hope to have us release different prisms to view them under, like standard ontologies like the IAB, while still retaining the adaptive and “in the moment” nature that social data requires. I think you’ll see us encouraging developers and companies to build into the platform more and to derive new insights from aggregated data and around individual pieces of content, and you’ll see us make more inroads in our offering there. With Cinch we’re proving that there are broad use cases for influence data, and we’ve been encouraging the platform community to build on that premise.

6. What are common misconceptions people have about Klout?

There’s still this thought that we are only about the Klout Score. Topics have been around for several years now. There’s also this sense that it’s a value judgment, or a rank-order. We’re none of these things– we have scientists and social people working on the tough problems on social media, and really, in a society where money drives so much. People should be recognized and rewarded, even indirectly, for the impact they have in their networks.

7. If you’re a business, what is the first thing you should know about Klout?

Klout is the best platform for driving authentic earned media, and our data is the best lens with which to capture, catalog, and understand all of the earned media being generated around products, entertainment, services and brands.

Thanks to Tyler for the interview! If you’re interested in more data stories, check out our compilation of 25 Data Stories from Gnip!

Klout Scores & Topics Together in a New Twitter Enrichment from Gnip

klout-logo-color-dark

Today we’re announcing a new stage in our partnership with Klout. Gnip is now the exclusive provider of Klout Topics to the social data ecosystem. Along with this new data, we’re also able to provide Klout data under enterprise licensing terms specifically designed to support our customers’ needs and use cases. Together, Klout Scores, Klout Topics and enterprise licensing terms create a more powerful online influence product that is uniquely suited for social media monitoring, engagement and analytics use cases.

With this announcement, we’d also like to welcome Klout to the Plugged In to Gnip partner program. For Klout, this shows they’re committed to building their solutions on sustainable, complete and reliable social data and are joining fellow industry leaders in this pursuit.The Klout Score established Klout as “the standard in online influence,” and our Klout Score Enrichment is one of Gnip’s most popular data products – more than half our customers get Klout Scores delivered alongside Twitter data. The addition of Klout Topics will help our customers understand and evaluate online influence through a different lens. Where Scores tell you how much potential a user has to drive engagement online, Topics tell you what a user’s influence is about so you can better connect with and target the right users.

For example, consider a sports brand that sells golf equipment. The brand wants to identify users who tweet about their products and try to turn them into devoted fans. In a stream of thousands of Tweets, they want to identify the influencers talking about their brand so they can focus their engagement on these people – and they want to do this with smart software, not by hand. Klout Scores can help them identify the difference between my good friend Justin (not likely to drive much engagement) and Justin Bieber, whose Tweets regularly get retweeted 50,000-100,000 times. But while Justin Bieber may be a major influencer, his online influence doesn’t have much to do with golf, or really with sports in general. Using Klout Topics, the brand’s software can now quickly hone in on influencers with a Klout Score above a certain level and who are influential in relevant Topics like “Golf,” “PGA Tour,” “Masters Golf Tournament,” “Nike Golf,” “Sergio Garcia,” etc.  These users probably won’t have millions of teenage girls ready to engage with them, but their audiences may be more likely to make buying decisions that affect the brand.

There are more than 7,000 Klout Topics covering a huge range of topics from broadly relevant categories like “Social Media” or “Software Development,” to highly specific entities like the names of brands, products, movies, TV shows, or celebrities. Approximately two-thirds of users with Klout Scores are categorized with at least one Topic.

Where Klout Topics represent the heart of the new data we’re providing, we’ve also addressed some important licensing limitations to meet our customers’ need for sustainable Klout data suitable for commercial use. Gnip can now serve Klout Scores & Topics together under an enterprise license that goes beyond Klout’s basic Developer Terms of Service, including the important ability for our customers to save and use data for longer than seven days.

Online influence data provides critical insight for engagement and CRM use cases. We’re looking forward to what this new Klout data combo will do for these applications, as well as others in the world of social media analytics.

To learn more, check out Gnip.com/Enrichments.

Big Boulder: Measuring Influence Online with Klout

An interview with Klout’s Joe Fernandez and Matt Thomson about measuring influence online.

Joe Fernandez and Matt Thomson of Klout

Klout began as an idea in 2007 because Joe Fernandez had jaw surgery, and his mouth was wired shut for months. Unable to communicate on his own, Joe had to depend on social sites like Facebook and Twitter. As is only means to speak, Joe’s way of thinking was radically changed. His conversations with his friends made him think about influencers, and it was while he was wired shut that he starting building Klout. Joe wanted to find the answer to “how do we help every person understand their influence?” Four years into the business, Klout is tackling a very ambitious challenge to  understand conversations, relationships, and tie that back to influence. It’s an early start, but they are leaders in the space and hope to continue to grow and expand upon the idea of influence.

Measuring influence on the web can be a challenge. Joe says Klout strives to brand themselves correctly, which is why they chose their name. They wanted to push out the API for growth and not for monetization: to simple put the data out there so users can see it. It’s an easy entry point for consumers, albeit a bit counter intuitive for business plans. Though the data is often criticized for being incorrect or off, Joe says it’s a huge challenge to measure influence and they are striving to make it more measurable and more actionable. Klout is keeping up with ingesting every piece of data that is becoming available. While Klout is a leader in the space of influence, they’re still not satisfied with their product. They are consistently working toward better real world influence associated with online influence, and taking a first shot at addressing that. Matt Thomson gave the example of Google; In 2000 they had the best search engine available, but it was nowhere near where Google has taken search today. Matt says Klout’s algorithm will continue to change to incorporate the most relevant data becoming available.

Influence spans many topics and platforms online, so Klout must decide what matters more or less on the social web. They aim to include as many signals of influence as possible. Klout  chooses specific data to decide where influence lies and which signals trigger value in their platform. Their team of scientists works with more than 500 different variables to determine Klout scores. However Klout uses tools like “Who is more influential” that asks a user to rate two friends and uses that against their algorithm to benchmark themselves and their data.

The real value of Klout lies in the context of influence: what someone is influential about, and how they get to a place to have influence. Joe emphasized that if you’re doing anything with customer service, targeting, or filtering, you know data can be a lot of noise. But a Klout score can help with decision making within a business. Klout is consumer-focused because they want something really digestible. Klout hopes marketers are using this, and on some level users are investing in the future of Klout, and where it can go. Klout ranks topics in the background as well, and hopes to bring that feature to the forefront. Topics are critical, and the second biggest investment for Klout after influential people.  Understanding topical analysis, is difficult because often there is so little context. It’s a big challenge, but Klout hopes to evolve to incorporate topics into their product.

Klout’s business model right now is very consumer-centric. One way users are benefiting from Klout is through their perks program. Klout Perks are exclusive products or experiences that you earn based on your influence. Influencers have earned sweet Perks like laptops and airline tickets. Chevy is a great example of this; they came to Klout looking to reach out to influencers about cars. The influencers were given a Chevy Volt for a weekend with gas money to burn, and in turn these influencers generated social proof on Chevy. While these influencers weren’t paid to do this, they felt empowered to talk about the Chevy Volt. And it worked: 180 million impressions on the Chevy volt were produced, and advertisers were happy.

Joe had a great personal example when he tweeted about a poor experience with Delta. Because Delta was using a tool that incorporated Klout into their API, they were able to immediately contact Joe and remedy the complaint. Joe says this is exactly what Klout is working toward: improving customer experience. Every interaction between a company and a consumer is an opportunity for a story to be told through social. If you have the most passionate people talking about your brand in good ways, it’s super valuable.

Big Boulder is the world’s first social data conference. Follow along at #BigBoulder, on the blog under Big BoulderBig Boulder on Storify and on Gnip’s Facebook page.

Customer Spotlight – Klout

Providing Klout Scores, a measurement of a user’s overall online influence, for every individual in the exponentially ever-growing base of Twitter users was the task at hand for Matthew Thomson, VP of Platform at Klout. With massive amounts of data flowing in by the second, Thomson and Klout’s scientists and engineers needed a fast and reliable solution for processing, filtering, and eliminating data from the Twitter Firehose that was unnecessary for calculating and assigning Twitter users’ Klout Scores

“Not only has Gnip helped us triple our API volume in less than one month but they provided us with a trusted social media data delivery platform necessary for efficiently scaling our offerings and keeping up with the ever-increasing volume of Twitter users.”

- Matthew Thomson
VP of Platform, Klout

By selecting Gnip as their trusted premium Twitter data delivery partner, Klout tripled their API volume and increased their ability to provide influence scores by 50 percent among Twitter users in less than one month.

Get the full detail, read the success story here.

Get your Hack On! Gnip Helps Power an App Developed at the 2011 TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon

Over 500 individuals recently gathered in New York City for this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon. This annual event, fueled by pizza, beer, and Red Bull, features teams of die-hard techies that spend 20 hours, many without sleep (hence the Red Bull), developing and coding the next big idea. Participants compete in a lightning round of pitches in front of a panel of judges with the winners receiving an opportunity to pitch on the main stage at the TechCrunch Disrupt Conference in front of more than 1,000 venture capitalists and industry insiders.

We are excited that one of the apps that was developed at the 2011 Hackathon was powered by Gnip data! We love it when our customers find new and creative ways to use the data we provide.

Edward Kim (@edwkim) and Eric Lubow (@elubow) from SimpleReach (@SimpleReach), which provides next generation social advertising for brands, put a team together to develop LinkCurrent, an app powered by Gnip data and designed to measure the current and future social value of a specific URL. When fully developed, the LinkCurrent app will provide the user with a realtime dashboard illustrating various measures of a URL’s worth — featuring an overall social score, statistics on the Klout Scores of people who have Tweeted the URL, how many times the URL has been Liked on Facebook and posted on Twitter, and geo-location information to provide insight into the content’s reach. Call it influence-scoring for web content.

The hackathon team also included Russ Bradberry (@devdazed) and Carlos Zendejas (@CLZen), also of SimpleReach, Jeff Boulet (@properslang) of EastMedia/Boxcar (@eastmedia/@boxcar), Ryan Witt (@onecreativenerd) of Opani (@TheOpanis), and Michael Nutt (@michaeln3) of Movable Ink (@movableink)– Congratulations to everyone who participated! You created an amazing app in less than 20 hours and developed a creative new use for Gnip data. I highly encourage all of you to check it out: www.linkcurrent.co

Have fun and creative way you have used data delivered by Gnip? We would love to hear about it and you could be featured in our next blog. Drop us an email or give us a call at 888.777.7405.

Letter From The New Guy

Not too long ago Gnip celebrated its third birthday.  I am celebrating my one week anniversary with the company today.  To say a lot happened before my time at Gnip would be the ultimate understatement, and yet it is easy for me to see the results produced from those three years of effort.  Some of those results include:

The Product

Gnip’s social media API offering is the clear leader in the industry.  Gnip is delivering over a half a billion social media activities daily from dozens of sources.  That certainly sounds impressive, but how can I be so confident Gnip is the leader?  Because the most important social media monitoring companies rely on our services to deliver results to their customers every single day. For example, Gnip currently works with 8 of the top 9 enterprise social media monitoring companies, and the rate we are adding enterprise focused companies is accelerating.

The Partners

Another obvious result is the strong partnerships that have been cultivated.  Some of our partnerships such as Twitter and Klout were well publicized when the agreements were put in place.  However, having strong strategic partners takes a lot more than just a signed agreement.  It takes a lot of dedication, investment, and hard work by both parties in order to deliver on the full promise of the agreement.  It is obvious to me that Gnip has amazing partnerships that run deep and are built upon a foundation of mutual trust and respect.

The People

The talent level at Gnip is mind blowing, but it isn’t the skills of the people that have stood out the most for me so far.  It is the dedication of each individual to doing the right thing for our customers and our partners that has made the biggest impression.  When it comes to gathering and delivering social media data, there are a lot of shortcuts that can be taken in order to save time, money, and effort.  Unfortunately, these shortcuts can often come at the expense of publishers, customers, or both.  The team at Gnip has no interest in shortcuts and that comes across in every individual discussion and in every meeting.  If I were going to describe this value in one word, the word would be “integrity”.

In my new role as President & COO, I’m responsible for helping the company grow quickly and smoothly while maintaining the great values that have been established from the company’s inception.  The growth has already started and I couldn’t be more pleased with the talent of the people who have recently joined the organization including: Bill Adkins, Seth McGuire, Charles Ince, and Brad Bokal who have all joined Gnip within the last week.  And, we are hiring more! In fact, it is worth highlighting one particular open position for a Customer Support Engineer.  I’m hard pressed to think of a higher impact role at our company because we consider supporting our customers to be such an important priority.  If you have 2+ years of coding experience including working with RESTful Web APIs and you love delivering over-the-top customer service, Gnip offers a rare opportunity to work in an environment where your skills will be truly appreciated.  Apply today!

I look forward to helping Gnip grow on top of a strong foundation of product, partners, and people.  If you have any questions, I can be reached at chris [at] gnip.com.

Marketing is from Mars, Business Intelligence is from… Betelgeuse?

Beetlejuice! John Battelle wrote a great post last week titled “What Marketers Want from Twitter Metrics” in which he recounts a conversation with Twitter COO Dick Costolo and lists some data he hopes we’ll soon see from Twitter.  These metrics include:

  • How many people *really* see a tweet.  Even though @gnipsupport has 150 followers, it’s unlikely that they all saw our tweet about this post.
  • Better information around engagement, such as retweets and co-incidence data.  There’s a classic VC saying: “the first time I hear about something I don’t notice; the second time, I take an interest and the third time I take action.”

For me, marketing is about sending a signal into the marketplace and then measuring how effectively it is received.  For instance, Gnip is trying to better engage with companies that use third-party APIs, and since we’re a startup, low cost matters.  One mechanism is this blog and the article you’re reading now.  That’s the “sending a signal” part.  While you’re reading this, I’m likely logged into Google Analytics, monitoring how people find this article, and watching Twitter to see if anyone mentions this post.  That’s the “measuring effectiveness” part.  And this isn’t a static, one-time cycle.  Based upon the feedback I get (some direct, some inferred), I’ll write and promote future posts a little differently.

I am positive that Twitter and other forms of social media will be hugely beneficial to marketing and the surrounding fields of sales, advertising and customer service. Highly measurable and disintermediated low-friction customer interactions with the marketplace is a wonderful thing.  However, if five years from now we’re still primarily talking about social media in terms of marketing, then an opportunity has been squandered.

If marketing is a company sending a signal to the marketplace and measuring how it is received, then business intelligence (from a product perspective) is the process of measuring and acting on the signal that the marketplace itself is sending.  For instance, last holiday season, a major discount chain wanted to know why, in the midst of the a recession, many of their traditional customers were opting to shop at more expensive competitors.  After examining Twitter, Facebook and other social services, they discovered that customers were unhappy with their stores’ lack of parking and cashiers.  Apparently, even in a financial crunch, convenience trumps price.  The store took steps to increase the number of cashiers and sales immediately increased.  THIS is where I’d like to see more emphasis in social media.

It’s a function of magnitude

With marketing, the product or service has already been created and success is now predicated on successfully engaging as many people as possible with your pitch.  The primary question is “How do we take this product and make it sound as appealing as possible to the market?”  Great marketing can create far greater demand than a shoddy one, but in the end, the product is fairly static by that point.  Sales is plotted on a continuum defined as “customer need multiplied by customer awareness,” where need is static and awareness if a variable.  What if you could change the scale of customer need?

When the product or service is still being defined, the size of the opportunity is extremely fluid.  A product that doesn’t address a customer need isn’t going to sell a ton, regardless of how well it’s marketed.  A product that addresses a massive customer need can still fail with poor marketing, but it will be a game changer with the right guidance.  Business intelligence is crucial to the process of identifying the biggest need in a market and building the appropriate solution.

Steve Ballmer is very vocal about how he only cares about ideas that will move his stock price a dollar.  But to move his stock price by even $0.10 at today’s P/E is to increase earnings (earnings!) by almost $100MM annually.  In other words, if you’re a startup whose product can’t generate a billion dollars, then it’s not worth Microsoft’s time to talk to you.  And if you’re a MS product manager who isn’t working on a billion dollar product, you might want to put in a transfer request.  Or better yet, listen to the market and retool what you’re currently building, because no amount of marketing is going to save you.

Yeah, “billion” with a “b”

Typically, entrepreneurs use personal experience and anecdotal evidence to design their offering.  Larger companies may conduct market research panels or send out surveys to better understand a market.  We are now blessed with the ability to directly interact with the marketplace at a scale never previously imagined.  The market is broadcasting desire and intent though a billion antennae every day, yet product managers are still casting a deaf ear.  Maybe we need better tools and data so that the business world to start tuning in.

First off, when you’re launching a product, you ought to know what the market looks like.  We need better access to user demographics, both at the service level (who uses Twitter) as well as the individual level (who just tweeted X).  A number of companies are starting to serve this need (folks like Klout, who offers reputation data for Twitter users, and Rapleaf, who offers social and demographic data based on email address) but there is a massive way to go.  I would kill for the ability to derive aggregated demographics — tell me about all the people who tweeted Y in the last year.

Secondly, access to historical data is critical.  When deciding whether to even begin planning a new product, it’s important to know whether the marketplace’s need is acute or a long-standing problem.  Right now, it’s nearly impossible to access data about something from before the moment you realize you should be tracking it.   This has led to all sorts of “data hoarding” as social media monitoring services attempt to squirrel away as much data as possible just in case they should need it in the future.  The world would be so much better with mature search interfaces.  Think about your average OLAP interface and then think about Facebook Search.  Twitter has already said that they are taking steps to increase the size of their search corpus; let’s make sure they know this is important and let’s encourage other social services to make historical data available as well.

One beeeeeeellion dollarsThe best part of all this is that Marketers and Product Managers need many of the same things — they’re in the same universe, you might say.  The best companies engage marketing as the product is being defined, and a result, a lot of these metrics will be benefit product managers and marketers alike.

Dell selling $6 million of computers on Twitter?  That’s pretty great.  Dell identifying a new $600M market because of signals sent on Twitter… that’s simply amazing.  And that’s the level of impact I hope to see social media have in the next few years.  Got your own ideas on how we can get there from here?  Post ‘em in the comments.

(Thanks to Brad Feld, Eric Norlin and Om Malik for helping me edit this post into something more readable and accurate.)