What I Am Reading: This Is Klout?

Apr 02 2012 Published by under [Information&Communication]

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A few weeks back I saw a blurb for Return On Influence: The Revolutionary Power of Klout, Social Scoring, and Influence Marketing. As a scientist, I know the power of measurement. Until something can be quantified, you really cannot demonstrate its relationship to other phenomena. Social media certainly leaves an online footprint we should be able to measure. Marketer Mark W. Schaefer takes on this topic as he has other forms of social media.

The first part of the book deals with "The Roots of Influence." Long ago, we learned about stuff and events through conversations with our neighbors. Our leaders made proclamations and such, but if we wanted to know which baker had the best goods, we asked others. As time went on, humanity saw the growth of media via printing presses, radio, television, and the early internet. Broadcasters, politicians, and celebrities became "thought leaders" with a few-to-many form of communication. Want to market the next "It" bag? Make sure the hottest stars carry it.

Now, argues Schaefer, we are back to the village square with everyone participating in the conversation. However, influence still concentrates in select individuals. How can we determine who the key movers are in a market? How can marketers then exploit those with influence?

Obviously, Klout, PeerIndex, and similar services (outlined in a helpful appendix) attempt to measure this influence. Klout receives more attention than the other services in the text. The second part of the book examines in broad strokes the way social scoring works. Social influence at present is assessed through engagement, retweets, the connection of your followers, and the influence of those followers. Of course, by the time any book is published, the exact algorithm for measurement by any service will have changed, so specific numbers would be moot.

Schaefer also envisions a future where these scores can be linked to you both online and off. He sees the good: you purchase something, your superior Klout score is flagged, and you get a discount. I see the real power of this linkage, namely tracking your followers' actions. Marketers would love to know if I tweet about a product (maybe do a book review ;)) how many of my followers then go out and purchase this item? Then they could calculate an actual financial ROI for sending me an item or book or widget. The real question in my mind is whether we want them to link our purchases to our online identities in this manner.

I must admit, the book inspired me to make more of an effort to engage with my twitter followers over 10 days to see if I could drive my score up. Instead it fell from 45 to 44.

I also wish the book had focused more on some of the less obvious aspects of Klout. I do not want to be Justin Bieber (the only person with a perfect 100 Klout score), and my mid-40's score is quite respectable (the average score is 20). Adding more networks to the service may improve your score, although connecting Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and FourSquare did not change mine. The topics section of Klout interests me. The only subject in which I have high influence is Barack Obama. Huh? While I retweet a fair amount of political stuff, my major interest revolves around biomedical science and health. Third on my list is Helium. Of course, this can be linked to a single tweet during Science Online 2012 (Funniest element is Helium: He He He). I eventually lost track of how many times that one got retweeted.

That's influence?

My second most influential topic is Bangladesh. I have absolutely no clue how or why this is in my list, even after reading ROI.

I also long to know more about Klout Styles. The service calls me a Networker, and I have no reason to doubt that. I am proud of my ability to connect across groups to bring people and thoughts together in new ways. I have no idea what the other styles might be since the book does not delve into them, nor does the Klout website. Since the book often comes across as an ad for Klout, providing this level of detail about a single service might have been interesting.

There are some interesting ideas in ROI that could have produced a couple of long-form articles. For someone well-versed in social media, the book goes on and on about the same thing for a long time. I suspect those in business, especially marketing, will appreciate the read more than I did. As someone whose interests lie a little farther off that path, I was underwhelmed.

My blogs are on my CV. My Klout score is not.



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