The businesses looking for the 'magic middle' on social networks

As anyone who survived school will know, there was never any shortage of reminders of how popular you were - or weren't, as the case may have been. Picked last for the football team, ignored by the prettiest girl or best-looking boy... life can be cruel when you're young. Fortunately, we all get older and a little more grown up about things. Or do we? In a world of retweets, "likes" and +1s, there is no shortage of services claiming to tell you how influential and important you now are. And if you're lucky enough to be up there with the social media elite, you could find yourself being highly sought after from eager brands trying to piggyback your popularity. This is the fledgling industry of social media influence, a raft of services which track your online reputation by monitoring activity on social networks. The main players include Klout, which launched in 2009; Peerindex, in 2010; and Kred, which is building up a head of steam after its unveiling last year. All proudly claim to be in possession of social media's secret sauce: an algorithm that can pick the influential voices out of the crowd. For businesses, the appeal of this is obvious. If you're a company about to launch a new product - let's say, a new type of dog food - it is now possible find out who tweets a lot about their dog. But, and here's the real selling point, social influence measures can supposedly determine if anyone is listening to those tweets, thus making the enthusiastic dog-tweeter a valuable asset to a marketing campaign - particularly if you can get them tweeting about your brand. Read more at BBC News