I'm something of a sceptic when it comes to social networking metrics such as follower counts and influence scores. On the plus side, they do provide some objective means of measurement and comparison over time. But on the negative side, they can be subject to "gaming" and more importantly, they can distract attention from the reason people engage with social media in the first place: real communication.
For law firms, this area became a hot topic last week. Some research on social networking metrics was published on thelawyer.com that was subsequently exposed as being of rather dubious quality by Brian Inkster on his blog, generating much comment on both sites and on Twitter itself.
As a technologist what struck me most about the debate was that whether you think the data is useful or not, all of it is public and readily available. There really ought to be very little scope for selective reporting or spin. To remedy this, today we're launching a new web site that aims to provide comprehensive, unspun social networking metrics for law firms. It includes data from Twitter, Klout, PeerIndex and LinkedIn.
Before you go and take a look, some caveats. To start with, the current list is focused on firms, rather than individuals at those firms. That's a little contrary to the essence of social media, and hopefully in the future we'll be able to include data from individuals as well. We've started with an initial list of entries for 150 or so UK law firms(** UPDATED - SEE BELOW **). The list is not complete, and does include a number of international firms with operations in the UK. The firms included are very different and are using social media in very different ways. They range in size from less than a dozen staff to more than 6,000. Some of the larger firms have multiple Twitter accounts, focused either regionally or by practice area (in those cases we've picked what appears to be the main account, even if it's less active). Some firms use Twitter only for specific practice areas. Some firms don't appear to have an official Twitter account, but do have individual lawyers at the firm who tweet and use the firm's name in their profile (in those cases we haven't included them, unless they are clearly the firm's owner). In short, it's a complex picture that makes it very hard to provide an "apples to apples" comparison.
We'd welcome feedback on the contents of the list - both the metrics themselves, the accounts for the included firms, and especially any omissions or errors. With regard to the scores from Klout and PeerIndex, both services are still officially in beta and presumably still refining how they generate their scores. Currently we're just showing the basic scores they provide, but both services provide much more detailed information which we could make available in the future as those services mature. Please send feedback to email@example.com.
Metrics data like this has a short shelf life - we'll keep it updated automatically, so check back regularly - the data is available at http://apps.fellsoft.com/SNMetrics.
And if all these numbers are getting you down, you might enjoy this article by way of contrast: In Praise Of Vagueness.
(** UPDATED 15th Aug **): We've now expanded the list to 270+ firms operating in the UK, USA, Canada & Australia. If you know of any that we've missed, email firstname.lastname@example.org