Ever since I published my post a short two weeks ago, and Joe Fernandez, CEO, Klout, was kind to discuss the company's and tool's genesis at lunch the day the post published, many have entered the fray. Geoff Livingston was writing about it on the very same day, too.
Of course, it is a bigger conversation than any one tool, and there's room for everybody to comment and add their experience. This not being a popularity contest, or a contest of any kind, big props to Geoff for staying ahead on the story and for linking to other resources besides this one.
Who doesn't love a good conversation? For this week's post, we'll get right to it with two of the most frequently asked questions.
Can influence be bought?
One fundamental tenet of influence -- the broader conversation we'll be having leading up to our face to face in March -- is that it touches those who do affect a desired change in behavior. There is no expiration date on that, although if you ask a marketer, it would be as soon as possible, this quarter, even.
While influence may hit apparently suddenly, enduring influence has a long tail -- before and after it hits, preferably long after. Let's suspend our focus on influence for a moment though so we can see the bigger picture. This is a conversation about people, isn't it?
In that case, to stay on the practical side of things, it has been demonstrated that people can be bought. It's even in the finest art of storytelling. There is a global and local tradition on that, and not just for monetary gain.
In fact, you don't even need to pay in many instances, as the human desire to compete can be triggered for free. You do know we test ideas and dynamics here. If influence can be bought, can it be sold? I'll leave you to wrestle with that one, while we look at how it can be gamed.
What do the tools measure?
There are more tools that purport to measure online influence in addition to Klout:
- PeerIndex -- described as a social capital system for measuring how influence is used, with a known bias towards technology and businesses. Of course, your mileage may vary depending upon being a registered user. From the description on their site, it sounds like if you have a breadth of interests and topics, you dilute your score. Two potential pluses, content farms and link blogs have lower value, and spammers are penalized. There is a bit of secret sauce about the algorithms, and the tool says it measures five areas: authority, resonance, audience, activity, and realness; which it then normalizes agaist the "top people" it tracks.
*Note: the tool seemed to have cached quite an old version of my account; because the topics I share are not in one of the buckets tracked by this tool, it categorized my activity as arts and entertainment, missing business strategy.
- Twitalyzer -- introduced as an analytics tool for comparing relationship strength. As of January 2011 Twitalyzer has become a largely month-to-month paid service. Business and agency accounts can track up to 100 streams. What the tools tracks are: impact score, influencer type, most commonly used hashtags, recent topics, and network on Twitter.
*Note: when I looked at my own Twitter activity, it pulled from an old version of my profile, and showed people I never even @ replied as part of my network. It didn't pick up the #kaizenblog tag, even though I used it heavily for 18 months.
- Edelman's TweetLevel -- developed by the agency for its own research, it measures an individual's importance on Twitter. There are four result metrics: influence, what you say is interesting and many people listen to it. This is the primary ranking metric; popularity, how many people follow you; engagement, you actively participate within your community; and trust, people believe what you say.
*Note: my handle gets high popularity and engagement scores, while trust levels could be upped. In other words, retweet more of my posts, will you?
- TwInfluence -- from the site, twInfluence is a simple tool for measuring the combined influence of twitterers and their followers, with a few social network statistics thrown in as bonus. It calculates two types of ranks: Reach Ranking, as compared to other accounts the site analyzed, and Relative Scores, where twinfluence calculates three derived statistics - velocity, social capital, and centralization - that don't really make sense without additional context.
*Note: the site didn't work at all for my handle. And I have a hunch that the explanation wouldn't have made sense anyway, given how the derivative statistics are described.
What does Klout measure? Using more than 35 variables, the secret sauce, on Facebook and Twitter, it measures True Reach, which excludes spam bots and inactive streams, Amplification Probability, which it says it's the likelihood that someone will act on your content, and Network Score, which is the influence level of your network.
*Note: last time I checked, it picked someone who influences me on Twitter I have not interacted with in months, if not years. My main activity on Facebook is focused on the blog's page, and not my personal profile.
How is Klout different? I asked Joe Fernandez to share his thought.
Honestly, I don't look at any of those tools as competitors to what we are trying to do. Our mission is to help individuals understand and leverage their influence. We are people focused. My belief is that if we can help consumers find value from their Klout score (whether it's through discovery, becoming more effective at social media or getting perks from brands) then brands will benefit also. Think of Facebook. The goal there was never to build a service for brands but to create something that people value.
We believe we can become the standard measurement of influence across the social web by going bottom up through the people.
I think the tools you listed are in for a rough go of it in 2011. TweetLevel is already basically abandoned (things like this inside big companies never work), Twitalyzer has a nice little dashboard and integrates our data but they are in a crowded market where it's a race price wise to the bottom. Twitalyzer is a side thing for the guys in that company so they'll be fine. PeerIndex are smart guys but I think they might have shown up too late. I think they'll find an interesting niche but it will require some pivoting.
A better question is what do these tools fail to measure?
In addition to what we discussed in our conversation a couple of weeks back, there is no reliable qualitative information, as well as definite correlation to a desired change in behavior and actions in the community, even as in some cases, they give the impression that something may be happening or has happened -- a retweet, a link shared, etc.
It seems to still be related to those other impressions that mean so little to connecting trust and authority with relevance, and ultimately action.
Because the tool hit a nerve early on, it got proper attention by becoming synomoum with the term online influence -- as uninformed as that may be, people are busy and like to simplify and respond to a company name like Klout.
It got Joe Fernandez and the team a nice boost in publicity along with giving them potentially enough incentive to clarify what the tool measures vs. what it does not.
There are plenty of people who have been doing amazing work on documenting how influence moves through relationships, and who have built influence algorithms out of passion and a desire to understand better how influence moves.
Klout scored (no pun intended) attention because it became the symbol for the whole conversation. A couple of good comments to Livingston's post highlight basic nature of what Klout measures and where in different ways:
In the end, unless the greater public might embrace this as an activity of merit to collect more and more people willing to click through on an empty action (because of a headline, linkbait, or fan of the subject matter but not the author), I suspect it will become an increasingly small pool of individuals who have a vested need to improve their scores. [Rich Becker]
I do rather think that the “influencer” model is still viable with some regard. But I’d be inclined to argue that it has to adapt to the new media. If Sarah Jessica Parker is one of the only people talking on television about hair color, that gives her 30 second spots a bit more impact. If Sarah Jessica Parker blogged about a hair color one time – well, let’s just say her SEO would need to rock for that to stand out in the ocean of online posts about not only that hair color, but the manufacturer, the problems, the customer service issues, and a myriad thousand other posts that will drown it out. No matter how many people read her blog? It’s still a drop in a bucket. But the same woman, same product, why not same level of influence? [Lucretia Pruitt]
Will Klout the brand suffer the long term repercussions of succeeding in being on everyone's mind so quickly, while trying to be all things influence to all people and organizations? Will you or your business suffer because you're focusing too much on one data point and how to game grow it?
Next week we'll talk about five influence traps you and your organization must avoid.