Founder of PeerIndex – a website based on peer-to-peer reviews of products and services – shares his views on the need for online social capital
Nowadays most people have profiles on one or more social media platforms on the internet. More new contacts are made online in a day than a person made in a week 20 years ago. These relationships mainly come about because of the easily accessible electronic data of a person that makes it so easy to get to know them.
CEO and founder of PeerIndex, Azeem Azhar explains that having such profiles is nothing new.
“We have a credit score, CV’s and resumes. We have always had them, except now there are many more channels available in terms of presenting”
Azhar has had his share of experience in the field of information circulation. Before PeerIndex, he worked for the BBC and The Economist and has been involved with several other start-up companies.
When the financial crisis hit in 2007 he found that the most informed people were having more interesting discussions on Twitter than in major newspapers. This led Azhar to wonder whether there was a way to find “all the smart and influential people” in certain topic areas on the web and bring them together - the idea for PeerIndex was born.
“PeerIndex turns social capital into real capital”, he explains. While social capital is something that everyone can acquire through relationships online, it is created from knowledge, communication and information exchange with other people who are both interested and informed in a certain topic or simply trust another person’s opinion and recommendations. The PeerIndex team helps to identify, understand, access and use this social capital so users can benefit from it.
“We are providing influence [based] around segments of interest,” Azhar succinctly explains.
This is highly interesting for companies as knowing how people influence each other and who would be the perfect pacemaker for a new product is essential and can be far more effective than randomly placed adverts.
“An example is technology,” says Azhar. “I recommend technology to my friends and they buy it. So if your company brings out a new digital camera or a new broadband service, you want to get your product in front of me.” Deductively this also lets a company know which “influencers” are wrong for their product and they wouldn’t benefit from them.
“Why does Kim Kardashian get all the free stuff? Why don’t you and I get some good things?”
In exchange for making it so easy for companies to find people and access their profiles from which information can be gathered, they are then rewarded. The latest programme launched in this context is PeerPerks, which provides influencers with access to very special offers from brands and companies that they have earned through their input and social capital.
Currently there are 50 different PeerPerk campaigns running and they all contain rewards such as access to gigs of a new band, haircuts, cross fit training sessions or bike caps. Some of them are only valid in the UK while others are globally redeemable, but all of them are absolutely free.
Twenty employees are currently keeping the PeerIndex machinery running and quite like its user base this number is constantly growing. It is not just the growth in numbers that is important, it is also the importance of social capital itself that is gaining ground and if Azhar’s assessment of the future trend is accurate, social capital will be more than necessary.
“I think that electronic profiles are going to become more desirable than the snapshot of a resume, or the snapshot of a CV, because they are actually based on how other people work with you and how they engage with you over a longer period of time.”