Will Social Scores Take The Place of Fan Counts?

What’s Your Twitter Score?

Didn’t know you had one? The truth is, you don’t… at least not yet, but I have a hunch that eventually you will. And not just a Twitter score. I believe you’ll probably have a Facebook score, a Google score, a LinkedIn score and more…

Social Score

photo credit: AMERICANVIRUS via photopin cc


The number of fans and followers you have on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms is in some ways becoming irrelevant. While a large fan count may give you bragging rights among your friends, co-workers and peers, it’s beginning to mean a lot less in the real world. The real social value of fans and followers is in your relationship with them. Do they trust and engage with you? Do they take action by sharing, liking, or commenting on your content? Do they feel connected to you? These are the items that create real social currency.

A large fan count means nothing if fans are fake, bought or don’t engage. A large fan base does not equate to social success.

This is where so many people get it wrong in attempting to increase their Klout score. They add a ton of new people but they don’t engage with them or provide content that is valued and shared. The result? Their Klout score actually drops.

Klout and other social scoring platforms measure influence, relationships and engagement – not just the number of fans you have. So get ready, because if I’m right, like it or not, Klout-like scoring on many social sites (think Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc) is coming in the not-too-distant future.

In fact, social scoring by individual network is already taking place on many platforms like Klout and Empire Avenue, and although it may not be obvious, or public-facing on the actual social networking sites themselves, you can be certain its being explored and tested.

Twitter Reputation Score

According to Twitter founder Evan Williams, Twitter already uses an internal “reputation” score to determine which users they suggest in the “Who To Follow” section of each users Twitter page. While none of the specifics are known, below is a list of some of the criteria Twitter could use to calculate a social score.

• Retweets
• Mentions
• List Memberships
• Followers
• @Replies
• Retweets Ratios: Percentage of retweets against actual tweets
• Favorites: Ratio of favorited tweets to overall posts
• Frequency: How often does someone post or tweet and what is the response/engagement ration to those posts

While its not known if a Twitter “reputation score” will ever become public-facing, its easy to see how the value of this information and an aggregated score derived from it, would be much more valued than the number of followers or fans a person has.


Google understands the importance of this and the anticipated launch of AuthorRank is probably a good indicator of where social scoring is headed.

Mike Arnesen (SEOMOZ Blog) posted one of the best articles to date on Google AuthorRank, its implications and how to prepare for it.

He points out in the article that in February of this year, the term “AuthorRank” first started to surface in the search industry and that AJ Kohn had speculated that the development could change the search game as we know it. AJ Kohn also stated that it would be “bigger than Panda and Penguin combined”.

That is BIG, and I agree with him.

He went on to say that AuthorRank wouldn’t be a replacement for PageRank, but would be used to inform PageRank, thereby enabling Google to rank high-quality content more appropriately. In other words – the higher your individual AuthorRank score – the more weight it would give to your PageRank and potentially, the higher your page will appear in the search results.

In the post, Arnesen goes on to say that Google considers over 200 ranking factors when determining where your sites rank in organic search, so it’s safe to say that they’ll also be using plenty of signals to calculate AuthorRank.

Here’s a shortlist he compiled of factors that Google is likely to use in their calculation:

• The average PageRank of an author’s content.
• The average number of +1s and Google+ shares the author’s content receives.
• The number of Google+ circles an author is in.
• Reciprocal connections to other high AuthorRank authors.
• The number and authority of sites an author’s content has been published to.
• The engagement level of an author’s native Google+ content (i.e., posts to Google+).
• The level of on-site engagement for an author’s content (i.e., comments and author’s responses to comments)
• Outside authority indicators (e.g., the presence of a Wikipedia page).
• YouTube subscribers and/or engagement on authored videos (speculation: multiple-attribution author markup for YouTube videos coming soon).
• Any number of importance/authority metrics on social networks that Google deems trustworthy enough (Twitter, Quora, LinkedIn, SlideShare, etc.).
• Real world authority indicators like published works on Google Books or Google Scholar.

The point once again is the importance of an individual network/platform score that incorporates relevant social signals.

Universal or Combined Social Score

While a combined, universal score can be fun and interesting, a single score from each network based on the unique data from that platform makes the most sense. A high score on one platform does not necessarily translate to a high score across others. I may be a “Rockstar” on YouTube (I’m not) but have little to no influence anywhere else. A universal or combined score may, or may not pick that up.

A combined score is good however in the sense that it provides a single snapshot of the overall influence a person has across their social sphere.

Unqiue Platform Data

The most valued data and scoring will come from the unique characteristics of each platform.

For example, what if LinkedIn adopted social scoring in some manner. Imagine being a local business owner or job recruiter and having the ability to quickly search for potential candidates and filter them using a trusted, aggregated score based in part on the criteria below.

• Recommendations
• Endorsements
• Length(s) of employment
• Previous Positions/Titles
• Career path
• Weight of Connections (Position, Industry, Engagement)
• Member of Relevant Groups
• Active in Relevant Groups
• Achievements and Awards
• Community Service

The benefit and value of a more granular social score on each platform is obvious.

One Final thought.

Social scoring by network is part of the natural evolution of influence measurement, however; it must be relevant and highly accurate before it will gain wide acceptance in the mainstream. Its inevitable that the social networks will one day need to adopt a method of social scoring that offers a quick visual representation of a person, or company’s influence and social currency other than a “fan count”. My guess is that it will happen sooner, rather than later.

Social scores are coming.

Think I’m wrong? Bookmark this post and lets see if we’re not comparing our Facebook, Twitter and Google scores sometime in the near future.

Please leave your thoughts and comments below!

Martin Jones
Martin Jones is Social Media Marketing Manager with the corporate Cox Communications social media team where he assists in leading strategy, campaign ideation and marketing execution across each of the company’s social media platforms. Today, over 500k fans engage with Cox Communications content, campaigns and Customer Care on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, You Tube and Google+. His career has been characterized by his ability to work with groups, individuals and businesses to uncover, optimize and implement digital marketing strategies and tactics that propel them past their competition. Thoughts expressed here are his own.
Martin Jones
Martin Jones

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  1. rayhiltz says:

    My answer is, yes – eventually.
    For the short term, those who don't understand online influence and new rules of SEO, will still use numbers of followers as their success metric. (mostly businesses themselves)
    I agree fully that AuthorRank is very important and encourage people to set theirs up right away.
    Thanks for ;posting this Martin.

    • martinjonesaz says:

      Thank you Ray, I agree. Fan counts are important in some ways but too many use them as a standalone benchmark to measure their success.

  2. Kittie Walker says:

    I agree yes eventually and the problem that you hit upon is the issue of a trusted score. Whilst the scores can be so easily manipulated and gamed then they won't be seen as anything than a vanity tag! AuthorRank is at least heading in the right direction.
    Great post Martin!

    • martinjonesaz says:

      I believe that the scores will become much more trusted when calculated by the network itself . At least that's my hope.

  3. Kim Reynolds says:

    What a great post Martin! Thank you so much. While I agree with most of it, I hesitate to say that fan/follower will become irrelevant. I do think we’ll see more tools to distinguish fake from real.

    As to Google AuthorRank, I think you are spot on. I’m really excited to see the changes Google plans on implementing.

    • martinjonesaz says:

      I agree – I don't think fan counts will become irrelevant – I believe they'll just become one piece of the score and something to use against other metrics in various ratios like; percentage of followers that retweet, like or comment, etc.

  4. Harold Gardner says:

    How or where do you think the existing scoring sites fit into this? I am thinking about Klout, PeerIndex, and Kred to start with. Do they have much credibility in the real world? Is there a risk of changing one bad…easily manipulated score for another bad, easily manipulated score?

  5. Robert Tyson says:

    Thanks for a thought provoking post Martin. People think that e.g. Klout is a bit of a joke. It's not. It's very much the shape of things to come in my opinion.

    The race is on to get G+ followers and build influence there – that is the new SEO, like it or not. It has to be because people are not linking to valuable content from their sites like they used to (they social share instead).

    • martinjonesaz says:

      Great points Robert. Social scores will become increasingly important in our day to days lives in many ways.

  6. martinjonesaz says:

    I think there is still a good place for Klout in both providing a single snapshot of someones overall influence and in aggregating the information. I believe a Klout-like score would be much more relevant if it was a transparent, aggregate of the scores provided from each network, somewhat like a credit score (for lack of a better comparison).

  7. ideagirlmedia says:


    While I don't love all that goes into number scores, they can be useful if implemented in a meaningful way. I like what I hear most from AuthorRank. Eager to see where we are a year from now!

    Thank you for sharing your insights. I learned a few things, and you gave me something to think about.

    Great post!


  8. Randy Bowden says:

    Good read Martin and helpful. I agree that the measure of influence is evolving, and probably will continue for most marketers. I still, rarely look at number counts (followers, likes, etc) of others or mine even my own, but I do look for unique and quality content with contex and engagement.

  9. martinjonesaz says:

    Thank you Randy – Social scoring will continue to evolve and take on different forms. One example; Amazon, Yelp, Trip Adviser reviewers. These are social and many of the reviewers are very trusted and respected – should the "social weight" from a review site carry over into a Klout, Kred or Peer Index score? I think it should. Especially when I look at the data and role those review sites play in the buying decision process. They're very influential. Your thoughts?

  10. Shawn Murphy says:

    I think Martin positions a solid argument for the popular effort to rank contribution in social networks. And without doubt scoring and ranking those of us who contribute content will not go away. What makes me uncomfortable are two things. Firstly and mostly deeply philosophical is the commodititation of people based on what they create. This is new territory for individuals and no longer relevant to big corporate brands. Secondly, how relevant are the scores to the impact a content creator has on people, companies, communities, and so on? To me this is far more valuable. Admittedly it's more difficult to measure. We'll see how it all unfolds.

  11. Jeff Howell says:

    Assuming that the social scores will come from reputable sources, we'll finally have a way to weed out the "fauxperts" if this is done correctly. I certainly hope that is the case because there are too many people out there preying on unsuspecting businesses touting how many likes and followers they have.
    I'm curious if you think the social scoring will come internally from each platform or if there will be a third-party source? We know Klout is there (and it's kraptastic) but I wonder if there will be a platform that will be able to rank a person by platform. Maybe someone is amazing at Facebook and blogging but not so great at Twitter and only average at LinkedIn.

  12. martinjonesaz says:

    My thought is that the best solution would be for each network to develop their own scoring around KPI's for thet platform. Then I could see a 3rd party company emerge that would compile and average those scores for an overall rank.

  13. This was a really interesting article. I actually experienced the drop in my Klout score first hand when I started using twitter more actively and started to gain a few followers. I didn't start using twitter to increase my score, and it didn't take me long to figure out what happened. I think I'm finally catching on and my Klout score is going back up.

    I actually think it's a good idea to measure social influence and authority in any given space. It can be difficult to sort through who's real and who's not.

    Thanks for sharing!

  14. martinjonesaz says:

    Thanks Beth – My guess is that Klout measures on ratios of the number of followers you have to engagement (retweets, mentions, favorites, etc) For example if you have 500 followers and get 10 retweets on a post, it will have much more weight than 10 retweets of a post of someone with 5000 followers. Everything goes up exponentially.

    • Beth, just being me says:

      Thanks Martin,

      That's exactly what it is. I read how they calculate the score and that is a big part of it. I think a lot of people misunderstand Twitter and think they are just supposed to tweet links all day long.

  15. martinjonesaz says:

    Exactly! Better to have 2-3 "tweets" that each get retweeted a few times than 30 "tweets' and only half get any engagement.

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