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With services like Klout and PeerIndex continuing to attract investment and users, there’s some serious money and traffic to be had from social media measurement, which explains why a corporation like News International would be interested in acquiring a slice of the pie chart.
This week the NI-owned Sunday Times launched its own ‘Social list’, and based on initial use it could be set to attract a wider audience.
Rather than relying on follower numbers and ratios, The Social List claims to rank users according to the responses of their wider network.
In other words, simply sending a million tweets or having a million followers won’t help you work your way to the top, but a million retweets or responses just might.
The service looks across four major networks - Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and LinkedIn - to compile a composite score, so you won't be penalised for favouring one over another; good news for the heavy tweeters among us.
While this gives the usual celebrity and corporate suspects a clear advantage, there is a chance for the social media manager in the street to make a dent in the rankings occasionally:
Perhaps more important in terms of virality and sustainability, the service also provides you with sub-lists showing exactly how well you are doing compared to your immediate social circle and it’s this gamification that should encourage a wider audience to try the app out.
Speaking at the service launch on Friday, the Sunday Times’ online Editor Gordon Thomson said that the paper was ‘Serious about social’ and hoped that the Social List would come to rank alongside the publications’ popular rich list as a marker of influence:
“Most of us won’t ever appear the rich list, but this is a service that anyone can get involved with."
It’s a little too early to see determine the accuracy of measurement, and as with other services, they should be taken with a pinch of salt and backed up with granular, manual research if you’re planning on using the list as an indicator for business.
There are also a few other teething problems which will need to be resolved.
The service is currently a little clunky to use, with extended page loading times which could drive casual users away.
The list will apparently also post rankings to your various networks on a weekly basis, which could be a major turn-off for many users who want to avoid auto-tweet spam.
As with any service that requires permission to post directly to your account, this requires access to an awful lot of your social graph data, and raises several privacy concerns which could be a make-or-break feature for the service.
Logging out is also unnecessarily complicated, with users needing to sign out of each of their connected services completely in order to disconnect.
On the plus side there's a nicely designed site, with fun rankings and an infographic-style display which many will find appealing.
Ranking categories seem to be based on an adaptive algorithm. With only a few users on board, 2nd place netted me the title of "Oligarch" at the launch (I've since been reduced to a humble "BigWig"), but Econsultancy is now an 8th-place "Titan" based purely on our Twitter activity, despite the huge rise in users today (which has seen the site fall over a few times already).
The Sunday Times' widespread audience could mean that this is the app that brings social measurement to the masses, although whether that's a good thing or not remains to be seen.
It's still early days, and like all apps this could be a flash in the pan, but it will be interesting to see whether major broadcast muscle will be enough to give the Sunday Times list real social clout.