Answer by Balachandar Ganesh:

TL; DR: All solutions represented in the graphic below have fairly advanced influencer identification capabilities

If your analytics requirements are fairly simple, free and freemium tools such as HootSuite and IceRocket will more than suffice. As most of these tools feed off data exposed by Klout and PeerIndex’s APIs their analytical prowess is decent but nevertheless limited by the richness and type of data provided by Klout/PeerIndex. If your social media management processes are in the early stages, you can get by with these tools and supplement this with some manual work around identifying and engaging with influencers.

However, if your needs are more complex, you’ll need to consider more mature tools. These tools typically approach the issue of influencer identification and analysis in two ways:

Approach 1
Some tools adopt a people-centric view to influencer identification. You manually populate an initial list of people you think are influential (or alternatively, the tool auto-populates this initial list with all your Twitter followers). Once this is done, the influencer analytics algorithm kicks in and it tells you which of these followers are influential across what topics. If you already have a fairly large, influential and a very relevant audience following you on Twitter, you’d be better off with tools that adopt this approach.

Approach 2
Other tools adopt a topical approach and flip the process I just mentioned above. You start off by feeding the analytics engine topics that matter most to you and the tool returns a list of people you should ideally be engaging with. Some of the more mature tools in this category offer pre-curated influencer lists across a number of topics so you don’t have to start afresh and sift through all the noise. If you are looking to hunt down influencers from the Twitterverse (or any other channel for that matter) and get their attention, you’d do better with tools that adopt this approach.

With this in mind, there are, broadly speaking, two types of tools in the market that help you identify influencers and topics that are relevant to them.

  1. Point solution providers like mBlast, Socmetrics, Traackr that offer some pretty awesome influencer identification and analytics capabilities, but offer very little aside from this.
  2. Enterprise grade social media management platforms such as Radian6, UberVU, Infegy Social Radar, Visible Intelligence, Crimson Hexagon, come with the full suite of bells and whistles, including influencer identification and analytics.

(PS: The screenshot is from Credii‘s web-based business software selection engine)

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