Klout and Kred, two sites that give people an online influence score have come into the media lately touting their wares. Indicaiting that their scores assigned to people are true indications of a persons ability to influence people online. This definitely has created quite the stir amongst influence and reputation followers online.
There have been opinions everywhere, and don't we know, everyone has an opinion. Some of the points raised are valid. Yes, some may have a following, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they can influence people to make decisions. Companies are now using Klout and Kred in tools in hiring employess to see the type of reach they can have for their businesses.
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IT’S JUST A GAME: MY TAKE ON INFLUENCE AND SOCIAL SCORING
There has been much discussion as of late about social scoring and its connection to “influence marketing.” I am not an expert on the matter like Mark Schaefer or Danny Brown and Sam Fiorella, but I figured I would weigh in. The debate centers around whether or not social scoring metrics translate into real influence. And, to clarify further, the real argument is whether or not someone with high scores on social media platforms has a greater likelihood of influencing purchasing decisions than someone who does not. In other words, does Klout really mean clout?
In short, my answer is a resounding, “No!” Until someone comes up with a social scoring platform that connects dollars spent to social media interactions, I will not be convinced otherwise. Just this past week or so, Klout–the company that really brought this debate to the forefront–announced the rolling out of Klout for Business. In my opinion, this is taking it way too far. I’ve heard stories about employers requiring a minimum Klout score from applicants, but this? Marketing departments spending actual money for access to these arbitrary metrics? I must be dreaming.
What does Klout (or other “social scoring” platforms that are more transparent like Kred) actually measure? Well, it has nothing to do with money. As I understand it, it is simply the quantity and quality of “conversations” people have with other people online. By quantity, I mean consistency. If you drop off social media, your scores plummet. By quality, I mean that you are interacting with other people who have high scores.
The first problem is that measuring a person’s ability to talk to people online is not the same thing as measuring that person’s ability to influence purchasing decisions. The second, more difficult problem (as Margie Clayman gets at above) is that platforms like Klout are so easy to fool. Countless stories have been relayed to me about people intentionally “gaming” Klout and becoming influential on silly topics like, “Unicorns.” You can convince the platform that you are “influential” as long as you have a lot of connections who are also “influential” and talk about the same thing all of the time.
For example, right now, Klout says I’m influential on football, dentistry, and Chicago–three things about which I am very uninfluential. But, somehow, the platform picked up a discussion on those topics in which I was involved and, presto, I have influence. So, if you’re a football player in Chicago looking for a dentist, I’m your guy…but it’s going to cost you ;-D
WHAT THESE SOCIAL SCORES ARE REALLY ABOUT…
A couple of weeks ago, Daniel Newman left a comment on Facebook asking the very same question that I’ve been pondering:
“Maybe this is a pot stirring comment…But at this point can anyone tell me what the point of Klout is? I just checked in for the first time in a quite some time and thought…why am I here and what the heck is the point. Just curious if anyone else is wasting their time wondering the same thing.”
My response to Dan sums up how I feel about the whole matter:
“Klout’s a fun game for celebrities and teenagers, but for professionals doing real work and building real relationships, yeah, it’s meaningless. If someone ever asks me in a professional setting what my Klout score is (hasn’t happened yet) I don’t think I’ll be able to keep a straight face.”
Klout is a game. Kred is a game. Empire Avenue (remember that one?) is a game. I am perfectly okay with people “playing around” on these networks and trying to beat out their friends on social media. But, seriously, let’s leave it at that. It is nothing more.
Until Klout adds PayPal and Square to its slew of social media platforms it is measuring, I would not recommend it is a gauge for making business or marketing decisions. Be smart with your money. Understand that this is all just a game. Play it if you want but please, I’m begging you, don’t spend money on it.
There was an interesting story in Linkedin from Don Peppers talking about online influencers and how you can “connect” with them. All very basic stuff, but non-the-less, valuable information. World renowned Influence Strategist, Robert Cialdini defines 6 main areas one can influence and number 2 in the process is Liking. Involved in liking are activators that are similarity, praise and co-operation and Peppers touches on these identifying 4 main ideas one can use in connecting with people in your niche.
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How to Influence Social Media Influencers
Recently I discussed the danger of hitting the “third rail” of social media, when you make the mistake of mixing money with friendship. Try to compensate a social media influencer with money or material benefits and you're likely to electrocute your campaign, because crass commercialism is simply out of place in the “social” domain.
You can buy your advertising, but you can't buy your friends. If you want to influence your influencers you have to concentrate on the non-commercial things they value.
Think of what might motivate an influential blogger or Twitter user – someone whose opinions matter to thousands of followers. While almost all such key influencers would be offended if you offered to compensate them for a favorable post, they are still human beings, and like all the rest of us they still have ambitions. They want to be noticed, and to increase their own influence, which means writing better, more original and authoritative posts.
Most such influencers don't think of themselves as experts on particular companies or brands, per se, but as authorities with respect to an issue or problem of concern to them and their followers. It might be a business issue or a health issue or a relationship issue, but in most cases their central mission isn't evaluating the products and services offered by you or your competitors. Expressing opinions about brands and products is more likely to be a side effect of helping their followers and friends solve problems.
Think about social media influence in this context, and you'll realize that what social media mavens value most are the signals and ingredients of influence itself: acknowledgment, recognition, information and access. You can remember them easily with the mnemonic word “aria,” as in the solo sung by your favorite opera star.
Acknowledgment: Simply identifying an influential blogger or social media influencer and acknowledging their existence will go a long way toward having a positive influence. When you identify someone important, reach out by posting a comment on their blog, retweeting a smart update, or emailing them with a thoughtful (but non-self-serving) suggestion. Just let them know you're paying attention.
Recognition: Consider mentioning authoritative bloggers in your own press communications, providing recognition to the blogger as well as additional sources for whatever reporters or other commentators follow your firm. If you have a crowd service system that relies on a few super-users to handle the complicated inquiries of other customers, recognize them with special badges, emblems, or status designations. Everyone wants to be Platinum in something.
Information: Key influencers want the inside dope, the straight skinny, so provide them with all the information you can reasonably manage. Even without divulging the kind of “inside” information that might get a public company in trouble, you can almost certainly provide a key influencer with a more useful perspective and insight about your business or your category, including the problems you face, threats you are trying to avoid, and opportunities you see.
Access: Just as useful as insightful information is giving an influencer access to the author of the insight, or the operating person at your business who is most connected to the information. Probably nothing will pay bigger dividends in terms of social media influence than simply allowing influencers themselves to have access to some of your own people, your own experts and authorities. Not everyone gets this kind of access, because you just can't take the time for everyone. But do take the time for someone who has an important enough following in social media.
There's a caveat to this, of course: No matter how influential you may become with your own social media influencers, in the end it will always be their call.
So your ultimate goal with any social media influencer is to establish a level of mutual trust that will serve as a bridge between you, increasing your credibility with them by increasing their own credibility with their followers.