Will Google Start Giving People Social Media Influencer Scores?


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Social Media Influencer Scores

A patent granted to Google this week tells us about social media influencer scores developed at Google that sound very much like the scores at Klout. In the references section of the patent, Klout is referred to a couple of times as well, with a link to the Wikipedia Page about Klout, and the Klout FAQ page. We aren’t given a name for these influencer scores in Google’s patent, but it does talk about topic-based influencer scores and advertisers.

Many patents are published that might give the inventors behind those patents a right to the technology described in them, but often the decision to move ahead with the processes described in those patents might be based upon business-based matters, such as whether or not there might be value is pursuing the patent. When I read this patent, I was reminded of an earlier patent from Google from a couple of years ago that described an advertising model that used social media influencers and their interests called Adheat. That patent was AdHeat Advertisement Model for Social Network. A whitepaper that gives us a little more indepth information about that process was AdHeat: An Influence-based Diffusion Model for Propagating Hints to Match Ads. One of the authors/inventors, Edward Chang left Google after the paper came out to join HTC as their Vice President of Research and Innovation.

This new patent was originally filed on May 29, 2012. Edward Chang left Google for HTC in July, 2012. I don’t know if those events are related, but the idea of using social media influencers in advertising is an interesting one. The patent doesn’t pinpoint specific social media platforms that would be used the way that Klout does. Interestingly, Klout does use Google+ as one of the social media networks that they use to generate Klout Scores.

I like seeing what Google patents say about things on the Web. Their introduction to social media and to influencer scores was interesting:

Social media is pervasive in today’s society. Friends keep in contact throughout the day on social networks. Fans can follow their favorite celebrities and interact on blogs, micro-blogs, and the like. Such media are referred to as “social media,” which can be considered media primarily, but not exclusively, for social interaction, and which can use highly accessible and scalable communication techniques. Brands and products mentioned on such sites can reflect customers’ interests and feedback.

Some technologies have been developed to analyze social media. For example, some systems allow users to discover their “influence scores” on various social media. An influence score is a metric to measure a user’s impact in social media.

The patent tells us about the role of the process it defines:

…one aspect of the subject matter described in this specification can be embodied in methods that include the actions of identifying a user in a community; determining an influence score to be associated with the user in the community for a particular topic including determining a reach of one or more communications that relate to the particular topic that have been distributed from the user in the community; evaluating the reach as compared to one or more other users in the community for the particular topic; and storing the influence score in association with the user.

This new patent tells us about

  1. Identifying a user in a community;
  2. Determining an influence score to be associated with the user in the community for a particular topic,
  3. Determining a reach of communications that relate to the particular topic distributed from the user to other users in the community, and
  4. Evaluating that reach and comparing it to the reach of communications from other users in the community for the particular topic; and
  5. storing the influence score in association with the user.
  6. The patent also tells us that the following are advantages to be gained from the use of the process described in the patent:

    (1) The subject matter can be used to attribute viral growth to certain individuals or selected group.
    (2) Such attribution can be used for targeted advertising to the selected group or even to the individuals or other individuals that are influenced by the individual or group.

    The patent is:

    Determining influence in a social community
    Inventors: Emily K. Moxley, Vinod Anupam, Hobart Sze, Dani Suleman, Khanh B. Nguyen
    Assignee: Google Inc.
    US Patent 9,632,972
    Granted: April 25, 2017
    Filed: May 29, 2012

    Abstract

    Methods, systems, and apparatus, including computer programs encoded on a computer storage medium, for determining influence in a social community. In one aspect, a method includes identifying a user in a community; determining an influence score to be associated with the user in the community for a particular topic, including: determining a reach of one or more communications that relate to the particular topic that have been distributed from the user to other users in the community, and evaluating the reach as compared to the reach of one or more communications distributed from other users in the community for the particular topic; and storing the influence score in association with the user.

    The patent is worth reading in full, and it contains some interesting insights including some hints regarding whether Google might engage in this type of social media advertising (see the screenshot from the patent that starts this post, showing influencers and topic scores for them, which is described in a little more detail in the patent.

    I also liked this quote from the patent, and wanted to make sure that I shared it, because it raises a good point:

    Every community has individuals who influence that community. From a prominent economist’s advice on economics to a celebrity buying the latest designer bag, thousands of people pay attention to what influential individuals are doing within their field. However, less attention is paid when an influential individual opines on a topic outside their field. For example, the thousands of individuals that pay attention to the economists on economics would be unlikely to pay attention to the economist’s latest jacket purchase.

    These social media influencer scores do seem very similar to what Klout is doing. Would Google venture into such territory?

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