SocMetrics Leads Growing Cluster of Boston Startups Trying to Cash In on Social Media Tech

7/14/11Follow @gthuang

Who are the most influential people on Twitter and Facebook? Who has the most friends and followers across the various social media platforms? Who cares?

Advertisers and brands, that’s who—and an increasing number of businesses of all types. (Not to mention all the narcissists and self-promoters out there, but let’s forget about them while we still can.)

If Google mapped the Web to determine which pages were most important, social media analytics companies are trying to do something similar for the social graph, the map of connections between people in social networks. One emerging goal: to identify the top influencers online, and do something about them.

OK, “social media analytics” is a fancy way of saying “who’s popular and what are they talking about?” It’s like high school all over again, except now brands are trying to make money off of insights gleaned from what used to be private conversations.

A cluster of Boston-area companies is riding that wave—and contributing some interesting new approaches. Local techies say social media has become too big to ignore for many companies—and also mainstream enough to be a powerful tool, not just for promoting businesses, but for understanding customers better and managing PR situations (see Netflix, Anthony Weiner, and so forth). While the business case for social media analytics is still evolving, there have been some notable acquisitions around North America in recent months, including BackType (bought by Twitter), PostRank (Google), and Radian6 (Salesforce.com).

The early crop of companies has focused on trying to monitor and summarize large amounts of online chatter—by analyzing the sentiment of consumers or measuring how much they post, for instance—but there’s still a big need for “adding context to that data” and “making it actionable,” says Roy Rodenstein, a tech angel investor and entrepreneur. That means identifying which trends in online conversations are significant and suggesting what next steps to take, he says.

Enter SocMetrics, a Cambridge, MA, startup co-founded by Rodenstein, along with Rebecca Xiong and Jason Toy. (Xiong and Toy pronounce it “Sock-metrics” while Rodenstein says the first syllable like the one in “social.”) SocMetrics determines each social-media user’s influence in a given topic based on how many of their top peers are connected to them, how topically relevant their posts are, how much activity they drive, and so on (across blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Digg, Reddit, and other platforms). Using those metrics, the company gives each person an “influencer” score (between 0 and 100) in specific topic areas—so far there are more than 100 categories, including food, travel, moms, weddings, fashion, and, for you techies out there, things like startups, technology, security, CRM, B2B, and cloud computing. (In the “startups” category, Dave McClure, Eric Ries, and Dharmesh Shah score a 99, while Rodenstein himself rates a modest 70.)

The service differs from Klout, the San Francisco startup with a similar-sounding … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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