The Democratization of Influence

The topic of social media influence has become a hot affair these days with companies like Klout, Kred, PeerIndex, Peek Analytics, ProSkore, and many others actively measuring and scoring the social media activity of online users. According to Mark Schaefer, who wrote the book Return on Influence, social scoring has become possible due to the convergence of three trends: widespread access to high-speed Internet, free and easy to use publishing tools like blogging, Facebook, and Twitter, and new algorithms that can now collect and analyze data from the billions of interactions taking place online. According to the book’s web site:

We are on the cusp of a marketing revolution. And it is being led by you. Companies like Klout are slicing, dicing, and dissecting the billions of bits of information published on social media sites each day and grading your ability to create buzz. The most powerful of these new “Citizen Influencers” are being rewarded by companies like Audi, Disney, and American Express with trips, merchandise, and luxury cars. Today, anyone can get behind the velvet rope … if you know how!

In the below CBS News video, Schaefer talks more about his new book:

In another interview with Jay Baer, Schaefer digs deeper into the topic of social media influence and discusses some of the creative ways that companies are incorporating social media scoring into their business efforts. For example, Las Vegas hotels are referring to Klout scores at check-in and deciding whether or not to upgrade your room or offer you free tickets to shows. And, the New York-based public relations firm Burson-Marsteller is utilizing Klout  for crisis management, analyzing the scores of people who are actively sharing information about their clients whenever bad news breaks.

Whether you like it or not, Schaefer contends that the concept of influence measuring is here to stay. For companies, having access to information about which people can best spread information (good or bad) about a product or service through a network is not only highly valuable, but crucial in today’s customer-centric business environment. “Citizen influencers” have become a new marketing channel.

The Low-Down on Klout

According to Klout’s web site, a Klout score measures influence based on one’s ability to drive action. The Klout Score uses data from social networks in order to measure true reach (how many people one influences), amplification (how much one influences others), and network impact (the influence of one’s network). In the below Forbes video, Klout CEO Joe Fernandez discusses the rise of Klout, and how reputable companies are using the platform to provide perks to their influencers.

Who Has Klout?

According to Mark, Schaefer, anyone can have social influence or Klout. Individuals and companies are scored on a scale between 0 and 100. Furthermore, you can search to see who is influential within a particular topic, say for example, “Lake Tahoe.” A quick search of “Lake Tahoe” provided me with the following top results:

In addition to viewing by influence rank, you can also sort results by “best content” and “top K+” recipients, which are people who have received the most “influence” from others who have identified them as influential.

Measuring Digital Influence

Because social scoring is still in the process of being optimized, there are many people who disagree with current scoring methods. For example, Heidi Cohen questions why Justin Bieber has a Klout score of 100 when President Obama only has a score of 86. In a recent blog post entitled “Report: The Rise of Digital Influence and How to Measure It,” social scientist Brian Solis discusses the trend of digital influence. According to Stephanie Agresta, EVP, Managing Director of Social Media, Weber Shandwick:

Influence is much more than a score. This is about reaching people not just because they’re connected, but because they serve a role within their online community. It’s up to brand managers, marketers and communications professionals to use influence tools to learn more about the social landscapes and the people who affect their markets.

Specifically, in “The Rise of Digital Influence” report, Solis explores the emerging landscape for digital influence to provide businesses with a lens into how it’s earned and spent in social networks. He argues that businesses do not understand digital influence and outlines why digital influence is important, as well as what some of the key issues are with measuring influence properly. Furthermore, he provides a couple of case studies about companies that are incorporating social scores into their marketing efforts, as well as a chart outlining the differences in measurement practices among the top social scoring companies.

Now, it’s your turn!  Have you had any personal experiences with receiving perks from companies based on your social score? How do you think social influence should ideally be measured? Do you have any objections to the way influence is currently being defined? What are some of the creative ways you think marketing managers and/or business owners should be leveraging this information? What impact do you think this influence trend will have on the future of marketing, advertising, and public relations?

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