Online Influence and Smoke-Filled Back Rooms

by Ken Mueller on March 5, 2013 · 19 comments

white 15 Online Influence and Smoke Filled Back RoomsSend to Kindle

6502423469 0f6c5b3317 m Online Influence and Smoke Filled Back Rooms

The other day a friend took a poke at me on Twitter by noting that my Klout score had dropped and that another friend had risen above me. Now this friend was joking because he knows I don’t take Klout seriously, but beyond that, there was a simple explanation for the drop in my score. Because of our move, I took a few weeks off from blogging, and greatly reduced my activity on Twitter, Faceook, and other social platforms. Since I returned a few days ago, my score has begun to rise again.

So does the reduction of my activity online mean I am any less influential than I was when my score was three points higher the week before? And am I now regaining influence merely by increasing my activity online?

Thankfully, it seems as though many are beginning to see through the fallacy that is Klout, and are understanding that you just can’t simply create an algorithm based on online activity, frequency of activity, level of engagement, number of retweets, and more. I just don’t believe it can be done. Even if you are able to somehow include more contextual elements and sentiment analysis, there are too many other factors that can’t be quantified.

Why?

These algorithms can only measure what is done publicly online. Period.

What about offline influence? Like any other aspect of our lives, you can’t really separate online and offline influence. In the same way you can’t separate online and offline marketing and communications. They work hand in hand.

What about private influence? Remember those smoke-filled back rooms of yesteryear where deals were made? I live just a few blocks from the Hamilton Club, a private social club that dates to the late 1800′s. There was a time when it was limited to only men, and I’m sure there were plenty of back room handshake deals made in smoke filled rooms back in the day. They were more important and more binding than any of the deals made in public.

The same thing happens in the online world. For all of the public conversations I have on Twitter or Facebook, I have many more privately with some of the same people. Whether it be Facebook chat, Twitter DMs, Skype, Gchat, or email, this is where the more important conversations take place. The public tweets and updates only go so far. Big decisions and more important sharing go on behind the scenes.

Add to all of this the ever changing dimensions of influence

. Positive vs. Negative influence. Varying levels of influence. Influence across categories. And so on.

These are just a few of the reasons that I’m not convinced influence can be measured.

Don’t get me wrong; I believe in influence, and believe that it can be a powerful tool if harnessed properly for marketing. But I don’t believe it will be done through any level of algorithm or measurement. I believe that the human touch and sentiment will always be needed in identifying influence and influencers, more so than any number. Much more so.

This is also why I’m eagerly awaiting the May release of the new book Influence Marketing from my friends Danny Brown and Sam Fiorella. I’m not sure I’ll agree with them on every point, but they approach the topic from a very balanced and reasoned angle. I love reading their blog on influence marketing, and would encourage you to do the same as we move into new and nuanced areas of the world of social media.

Will I continue to take Klout perks when offered? You bet! But it’s all a game that’s waiting to be gamed. It has no meaning.

What are your thoughts? Do you believe influence is something that can be measured with any level of accuracy?

 Online Influence and Smoke Filled Back Rooms
Buffer
16 comments
creman4u
creman4u

No smoke without fire! I think this is a great article but see Klout from another perspective. Klout discussions have been ongoing for a couple of years and the algorithm has improved in many ways. I think also that when companies as Microsoft invest in something it has a partial value and is not totally worthless. Social media is mainly used as a communication tool reflecting our daily online presence and not offline which is why it calculates how active we are and influence in social media. The weakness as I see is more about there is no filter for gaming or quality content but on the other hand people have different interests as country music, playing World of Warcraft, environment and sustainable issues, technical products, psychology etc who shall judge what is quality content? As all of the mentioned measurement tools there is a way of gaming but you have therefore to check the persons total presence and maybe even call someone for a reference before you hire or make a decision based on a Klout score. It's the same with the LinkedIn endorsements which has to be backed up with written endorsements and that you have invested in someone else who investigate "Your Professional Reputation".

Kelly Jennex
Kelly Jennex

I do think influence is something that can be measured, however agree with you that the current most popular ways of doing so- like Klout or Kred- are faulty. As Danny and you have both stated, there is an element of influence that takes place offline and within more private communcations that needs to be accounted for and which simply can not be within these algorithms. Perhaps it is an element that can only be defined through a human measure- by that I mean a personal interaction and its influence can not be measured by any algorithm but only through some kind of human, personal assignment. 

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

You touch on a key point here, Ken, that of offline and private conversations. Social scoring measures online conversations and how they're amplified. Despite their protestations to the contrary, they're very much driven by amplification through popularity, and not so much influence.

It's why I like platforms like @Appinions - they may not be cheap but they take into account offline influence as well. 

Hopefully, come May, @samfiorella and myself will start to balance the skewed definition. We'll see. :)

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR

What an excellent observation, Ken. Much like what happened to me last week when I realized Google Authorship dictated search rank with the numbers of circles plainly in view as an influence metric. I wrote about it and many were in awe about my discovery. I was merely agog. (Great word, had to use it!)

We're seeing things we never used to; but the ones still learning have a long way to go.

Latest blog post: We're Drowning In Marketing

NLCuk
NLCuk

This is article is spot on, Ken.

There is so much BS about Social Media influence (although I am still a passionate advocate of it in principle), and Klout is just one of its manifestations.

The ultimate metric of any Social Media interaction is whether it has fulfilled its goal, and that might range from informing friends/ connections of an interesting article to getting a sales lead on the back of a blog or Tweet.

If there is ultimately no traction with the real world (or if a business, the financial sphere), that Social Media activity is inherently a futile exercise.

nlampert
nlampert

Not to mention the fact that Klout places an extraordinary amount of value on Facebook. That and they offered Fish McBites as a "perk" to a vegan.  

LizJostes
LizJostes

I rejoined Klout after a year of being disconnected. I did it purely to see what - if anything - had changed. I was not a fan of Klout previously, thus my disconnecting.

Now, outside of Klout being more upfront at the time of joining that you can connect a bunch of social media accounts but there are only a few that actually factor into your score, it's the same as it was before. You need to post a lot. And you need to always post a lot. Or else your score immediately drops.

I'm with you, Ken. It isn't measuring actual influence.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

@creman4u I question how much the algorithm has improved, when you still "lose influence" just by stepping away for a few days from the public networks you're measured on. is Klout really saying you're less influential because of that? And don't be too surprised if the Microsoft partnership is their way of competing against Google's growing "network of influence" via its G+ platform, +1 buttons and Authorship Ranking. Microsoft has a lot invested in Bing and it needs to stay relevant compared to Google - the Klout deal seems more aligned with that, than trying to understand true influence.

The bigger problem, as you mention, is the gaming aspect - yet that's what happens when you introduce a public score into the equation, people will want to try and "better" themselves. It's why real influence platforms (for me, personally) aren't the social scoring ones, but those that don't care about a score. Platforms like @Traackr , @Appinions , @Tellagence , etc. These are the guys moving the conversation forward, and the ones that will help shape the next wave of influence marketing.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@Kelly Jennex I think we're in agreement. To me, when you say "measure" you are talking numbers, formulas, and algorithms. With influence, you need that human element of judgment where in the end, regardless of numbers, I have to decide if someone is an influencer in an area that interests me or is something I can tap into from a marketing standpoint.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@Danny Brown @Appinions @samfiorella I'm going to check out Appinions, because I'm curious how they include the offline influence, and how well they do it.  And if they're not cheap, well....they're out of my price range. And I'm really looking forward to the book and reviewing it!

Latest blog post: Water street cover image

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing It's a crazy new world out there. And unfortunately I think there are a lot of sad things going on. I think Google  needs to be careful how they let people potentially game their own system.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@NLCuk Thanks for stopping by and for your comment. We all know that influence exists, but the magic bullet is how to harness that (and if it should be harnessed). I just think that we marketers tend to ruin things when we try too hard to capture something like this and measure it.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@nlampert Oh, trust me. I get offered perks for Red Bull all the time, and I hate Red Bull!

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@LizJostes For a while there, I was seeing people putting Klout numbers on their resumes, and companies using Klout as a hiring parameter. I'm not seeing that as much. Thankfully.

Kelly Jennex
Kelly Jennex

@KenMueller exactly Ken- u hit it right on- 'human element of judgement' 'judgement' being the key word is perfect.  Judgement, I do not think, can be built into a scoring metric.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Online Influence and Smoke-Filled Back Rooms by Ken Mueller (@kmueller62) [...]

Previous post:

Next post: