SocialRank is helping brands (and average Joes) discover which of their Twitter followers really matter

By Michael Carney , written on May 5, 2014

From The News Desk

With all the Twitter analytics tools in the market, there are more ways to slice and dice the conversations that take place on the platform than there are to understand the people behind those conversations. But for brands, knowing who is following them is often a key piece of the puzzle. Knowing who’s influential and who’s most engaged, can mean the difference between effectively amplifying a brand message and, well, not. But where to get this data is the real question.

Three-month-old analytics startup SocialRank aims to change this. Founded by a pair of former Dwolla biz-dev and developer evangelist execs, Alex Taub and Michael Schonfeld, the company has built a collection of fresh analytics tools to that have captured the attention of brands and celebrities like Conde Nast, MTV, GoPro, Spotify, The Queen Latifah Show, and others.

SocialRank is an outgrowth of a short-lived 2012 hack that its creators called “Most Valuable Follower,” which quickly went viral with more than 50,000 individual and brand users in its first week before being shut down for cost reasons. SocialRank marks a relaunch of the MVF tool and but also adds to it the ability to identify “Most Engaged Followers” and “Best Followers."

Social rank considers a combination of factors in calculating MVF, including reach and follower to following ratio, among other more secret sauce details. MEF on the other hand, measures which of your followers has engaged the most with your content over the last 30 days, by tabulating retweets, favorites, mentions, and other factors to measure interaction. Best follower is a measure of where a user’s MVF and MEF lists intersect. Not surprisingly, savvy brands have already taken to periodically rewarding their “Best Follower,” both with public praise and prizes.

SocialRank launched with a freemium model under which any Twitter account holder can get monthly reports detailing their Top 10 MVF, MEF, and Best Followers. These lists can be further filtered into brands and individuals, with more granular controls coming soon, according to Taub. SocialRank Premium, priced at $25 per month or $250 per year, increases report frequency from monthly to daily (or weekly), and expands their scope to include the Top 50 in each category, as well as detailed demographic and geographic breakdowns for each follower.

Not surprisingly, SocialRank has grown popular with agencies, as well as the brands they represent.  Catering to this audience, the company recently added multiple account management tools and data exporting functionality, including into Twitter lists and RebelMouse. Like many of the other features of the early platform, these were the direct result of customer feedback.

SocialRank has been savvy in driving engagement through the regular addition of new “Fun Features of the Month,” typically in conjunction with a dedicated micro-site that is open to the public. The obvious goal has been generating buzz and adoption for the broader SocialRank platform, something that Taub says is happening in spades.

The first such feature was an answer to the question, “Who was your first follower on Twitter?” The answers were often nostalgic, but occasionally surprising, Taub says, such as when American Express learned that the VP of Social media at Mastercard was its first follower. SocialRank followed up with, “Which verified users follow you on Twitter?” It’s not hard to imaging how this information could be valuable, but, surprising, there has been no easy way of answering this question previously. Unpaid users get access to their Top 5 verified followers, ranked according to follower count, but can get access to the entire list by Tweeting out their results.

SocialRank is just getting started, according to Taub, who hints that the company will soon add in additional analytics and commerce features, as well as roll out its own API, something the founders are intimately familiar with from their days at Dwolla. In many ways, it's starting to look a lot like the product that Klout tried to build but never really managed to dial in before selling to enterprise social company, Lithium Technologies.

SocialRank has been fully bootstrapped to date, although Taub is already making the rounds talking to early investors. The first step when it takes in some cash will be to expand beyond its two-person founding team.

The real question is, how monetizeable is this information. With the addressable brand audience relatively limited (likely measured in the tens of thousands of potential customers), SocialRank will surely have to charge more than $25 per month for its premium service if it wants to build a meaningful business – something its founders fully understand. But the challenge is, how much value can they bake into the platform to justify a higher price. And furthermore, how defensible are its algorithms, or could other competing analytics easily build out in similar competing features.

Taub and Schonfeld have proven that they get what brands are looking for and have thus far been able to deliver accordingly. We’ll see just how long they can keep up this monthly iteration pace.

[Image via ArtPhoto]