To use or not to use?
You know it’s a sad day when 18-year old Justin Bieber (91/100) is said to have more influence than Mick Jagger (whose stones are gathering no moss, as they have just announced two more shows both in London and in New York cf Rolling Stone)!
But, as controversial as influence measurement systems such as Klout, Kred or PeerIndex are, I maintain that they are still a valid and valuable tool for business. All the same, the question for me is not whether or not to use them; the question is how best to use them.
Why influence measurement counts
Here’s my take on why influence measurement counts.
- In the absence of an alternative, they are the next best thing available. To the extent brands need to allocate their scarce resources as efficiently as possible, the scoring system is likely as good a way as exists to make targeted communications and digital marketing campaigns (ie. for PR or CRM), or to recognize a possible amplifier for Customer Service.
- They are not perfect, but they at least provide a rational way to discuss the topic with the hierarchy who would prefer to talk numbers than loosy-goosy ideas such as “emotion” and “engagement” (which remain essential).
- Beyond the single figure score, the deeper information (such as who you influence, your influencers, your communities or topics of influence. etc…) may be more revealing. Over time, the trend in the numbers will also provide insights.
- These measurement systems will improve over time if they can figure out their economic model, have enough support and we, too, learn how to use them better.
- The last reason is more of an insight how I believe these systems will evolve. First, they will inevitably want to become communities in their own right. Secondly and more prospectively, I believe they could end up very useful as being the repository of all one’s social media identities. Just think of it: each social media to which you belong you probably have a different username, varying email addresses and, of course, different complex passwords, no? In the future, is it not possible that a service like Klout could end up being your gateway into all your social media sites?
The cons must be aired
Sure, there are some downsides to these services. Tantamount among the cons are:
- people will inevitably game the numbers
- the numbers are essentially only online and, for now, predominantly weighted for Twitter (more or less open API, etc)
- the strength of those influence numbers relies on the credibility of the organization behind them
- how transparent are they with the scoring?
- how trustworthy are they with your data?
- the companies running these systems may change the rules at will, or more drastically evaporate for not having found an economic model.
How to best to use influence scoring systems
In terms of best ways to use these influence measurement systems, here are what I consider a few guidelines.
- First, spend some time scoping out the systems.
- I suggest using at least two systems in parallel (e.g. Klout and Kred) to evaluate which ones work best for your business and customer base.
- Score your own brand. Find out where the system places you — it’s as starting point to indicate your digital influence.
- Test out the “perks” for your brand on a small trial basis.
- Engage with people with higher scores versus lower scores with the same energy and see if the amplification is legitimate.
- Try out some “exclusive” events with the higher ranking people and, using a value against each output, evaluate the ROI. What is the best cut off level? Is your customer base sensitive to such an approach?
- Try, Fail, Learn and Try again!
Bottom line about Influence
You cannot rely solely on these tools. Knowledge of your customer base (i.e. being customer centric), strong values and having some higher mission, and, above all, irreprochable product/service are the best ways to gain good and lasting word of mouth. But, in the absence on other tools, I would recommend getting used to these measurement systems, as I believe that they have a good future, providing they remain transparent and find a suitable economic model that doesn’t push them to be too unfriendly.
So, what’s your take? Are you a believer or would you prefer to live Kred and Klout-free?
For further reading, you might enjoy listening to this podcast interview I cut with the CEO of Kred, Andrew Grill.