San-Francisco-based Traackr this week launched a revamped version of its platform, a move to make its tools more user-friendly in the increasingly competitive market for helping brands identify key influencers.
The revamped Traackr lets users identify, research, and engage with influencers - those who have a reputation as thought leaders in a company's target markets - without leaving the Traackr website, the company said. Features include a new interface that integrates more smoothly into a marketer's workflow, built-in social media integration - so users can interact with influencers directly via the platform on Twitter, for example - and instant search, which allows companies to quickly put together lists of influencers.
"Instant search allows me to see if a keyword works or not," says Jessica Lovejoy, PR content developer at enterprise software company Cincom, a Traackr customer who has been trying out the new features in beta form over the past few months. "I find it handy, because if I have an idea for a new campaign I can test it out." A subscription to the service starts at $1,795 per month based on the number of active projects and users a company targets.
Lovejoy says the tool has helped Cincom more quickly identify relevant influencers in the company's niche markets, which include manufacturing, insurance, financial services, and healthcare. "I feel like I'm getting to the right people and receiving a list [of] influencers I've never seen before. This used to be a slow, manual process in which I would search the web for who was talking most about the relevant industries," she notes, adding that she is currently using such searches to recruit industry experts to contribute to the company's online magazine.
Pierre-Loïc Assayag, the founder and CEO of Traackr, says its algorithm is like Google search but for people, analyzing "anything we can get our hands on in the public domain." But Traackr is far from alone in this market; it competes with companies including Little Bird, Appinions, Klout, and PeerIndex, each eager to convince brands and agencies that their approach is the best.
Little Bird, a new entrant whose product is still in beta, crawls Twitter for content to determine the most trusted specialist, for example. Meanwhile, Appinions uses intelligent text processing, linguistic analysis, and natural language to sort through both social media and traditional media channels.
Many players seem eager to disassociate themselves from the best known social influence identifier - Klout, which comes up with a ranking based on social media output and then gets paid by brands to forward free samples to the people it decides are influencers.
"The people you find in results on Traackr are not getting a perk. We are a search play," says Assayag. And in a dig at Klout on its website, Appinions notes that it is a "serious influence marketing platform that can't be gamed, pumped or played."
However they are determined, Assayag claims that more companies are shifting their focus toward reaching influencers. "Instead of spending money on paid media, people are becoming media and influencing the news. It's part of a move towards a more people-centric web," he says.
But not all marketing experts are convinced that influencers are the be-all and end-all. In a recent article in The Huffington Post, blogger Sam Fiorella, a partner with Sensei Marketing, noted that while influencers may get the company talked about, that doesn't necessarily help the company's bottom line. "Influence marketing must be focused on influencing prospective customers to purchase a product or service that they may buy," he reminded readers.
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Mary Lisbeth D'Amico is a freelance writer based in Jersey City who frequently covers digital marketing, social media, tech startups, and venture capital. She has contributed to a wide range of publications including The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Red Herring, and Real Deals. Find her on Twitter at @mldamico.
March 19, 2014