Lots of people I know in PR and marketing are enamored by new services such as Klout, PeerIndex, and Empire Avenue, which seek to provide a quick assessment on any person's online influence.
If you want to know the top influencers in a specific niche market, these services will provide you with a simple number for each person, which you can use to rank the influencers.
Their goal is to provide information to marketers to help them target the right people in their markets.
But it seems to me that there's a big problem with this approach. If you, as a publicist or marketer, need to consult these services, this probably shows that you are clueless about who is important in the very markets that you are selling into.
Surely, you already know a lot about your markets. Why would you not know who is important?
Surely, you are in them, an active participant in the communities that represent your markets.
Surely, people know you, and you know them... you know who's who.
Rule 1: You have to be in your communities to know them.
Rule 2: Repeat rule 1.
Rule 3: There is only rule 1.
Klout et al, have no clue, beyond counting Tweets, reTweets, and applying an algorithm to people's online activities, about the context and the meaning of what they collect. They will provide you with a single number that refers to a person's influence within a specific sector.
But that number tells you nothing about the context of that assessment: it tells you nothing about what the hot topics are; what the major issues are in those sectors; and nothing about the culture and how to behave in those communities.
Klout, PeerIndex, Empire Avenue, and the others, provide shortcuts without insights.
[There's many cases where these services have ranked bots higher than real people.]
Use them sparingly and carefully; and get involved in your online communities. You will learn so much more about what's what, and who's who.
Finding influencers is more than just comparing their Klout score.