Guest

Am I Important? Finding Balance in Influence Score

By: Guest | September 6, 2011 | 
78

Today’s guest post is written by Tammy Kahn Fennell.

Social media has given rise to an entire new level of narcissism. We all want to be heard, and to be respected.

Twenty years ago I bet you never thought that taking a stroll in the countryside or eating at a restaurant would be worthy of broadcasting out to your friends, family, and business contacts, but here we are.

Just last week I couldn’t help but tweet out a picture of a blackberry crumble I had just baked. Given that, it’s no surprise a new industry has emerged, the “influence measurement” industry; another way to make us feel more, or less, important.

Leading the influence measurement pack is Klout, who will mash up your interactions on Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Tumblr, and more, and send it through their algorithm to score you.

Yes people, you are now being scored based on the online influence you wield.

PeerIndex is another service which is gaining popularity and one to which you may want to pay some attention. It is similar in concept to Klout, but they take it a step further and focus more on how influential you are within your niche and areas of interest. Essentially, if you’re the Justin Beiber of the real estate world, you’ll have a higher score even if no one has heard of you in any other industry, which is a perfectly reasonable idea.

Scores are always controversial. I mean, do we really need to be measured?

Narcissism aside, I think the answer is yes.

Think back to the rise of websites, and Alexa scores and Google page rank. It’s really easy to look the part on a website.  A professional looking website with a smooth talking marketing rep could make the site sound really big and really successful.

But, before you decide whether it’s worth your time to do a joint promotion with them, one of the first things you probably do is have a peak at their Alexa or Compete score. Someone whose site is ranked 1.8 million is likely to be all talk, but if they’re less than 150,000, you may want to explore them a little more closely.

Influence scores work in the same way. When I’m seeing @ replies come through on Twitter, or people contacting me through Facebook, a quick influence check lets me know if I’m talking to a zero or a hero. It’s not perfect, and I don’t make my decisions solely based on someone’s influence score, but in a fast moving world we need a little help to allow us to make quick decisions.

Gaming the system

These algorithms are not perfect. We have a test account that has a Facebook and a Twitter presence, and does pretty much nothing besides post RSS feeds and the occasional test update. “His” influence score seems to keep rising. And this makes sense to an extent – even though “he” isn’t interacting with anyone. People can stumble upon him and find what he is posting, and even retweet it. But, the fact that “his” influence has increased exponentially speaks to the fact that there aren’t sufficient checks in place to ensure that influence is based on human interaction.

Danny Brown recently wrote about gaming the Klout system and how quickly he was able to establish himself as an expert in sheep thanks to Klout’s own tool K+.  Sure, there are ways to game it right now, but the influence industry is still in its infancy and we’ll continue to see vast improvements.

Are they here to stay?

The success of these influence measurement tools is based on the development community’s desire to integrate with them. Klout is already present in apps such as Hootsuite and MarketMeSuite. Peer Index has a list system that is widely used by organizations to show the influence of their community as a whole. The success of companies such as Compete and Alexa have set a decent precedent showing the usefulness of measurement tools, so I think it’s fair to say they will likely continue to grow in relevance, provided they continue to improve their algorithms.

Key takeaway

Influence doesn’t mean everything, however it is a form of measurement that should not be ignored. It shouldn’t dictate how we feel about ourselves or whom we interact with, but it’s worth keeping an eye on, and to use to cut through a lot of the noise that’s out there. Businesses and marketers all have a need to measure. They need to make sure they’re spending time connecting with the right people and having influence scores as a gauge helps everyone be a little smarter in their approach.

What do you think?

Tammy Kahn Fennell is the  co-founder of the social media marketing dashboard, MarketMeSuite.com. She also runs WeAreSocialPeople.com, the community driven blog, by MarketMeSuite users, for the world.

One last thing: We hope you’ll join us for a very informative webinar on crisis communications this Thursday. We’ll learn from Alicia Kan, who led her marketing team through a crisis that went global thanks to social media and escalated to street protests. She’ll share her experience and some do’s and don’ts. Thursday, September 8 at 11 a.m. CT. This webinar is $50 and you can buy it by clicking here.
  • I think we need to be very careful here. I look at all of these scores, but they end up being a VERY small determining factor for me, among a lot of other factors. Alexa and Compete have their own major issues which often lead me to believe they are a bunch of crap. I find it especially interesting when things like Klout and PeerIndex disagree. I’ve found that when one goes up, the other often goes down. In my mind, there is no better judge of “influence” than a good ol’ human checking things out.

  • Hey,

    There are many things we can consider here. Narcissism or just plain business? Ok, sorry to disagree to a certain extent, but yes the numbers craze is a little weird especially where we end up “comparing” each other. I mean, with over 200 million blogs, and topics as different as chalk and cheese, it’s like comparing Lady Gaga and Madonna, they both are good, but each has their own charm. So, the comparing thins is a little crazy; I mean, no one walks on the road and goes up to a complete stranger and says … hey, I score 7 points higher on making better coffee.. 😉

    Also, numbers might actually have a lot of relevance at times, I mean if your blog is famous, there has to be certain parameters by which others or you yourself judge yourself to be good. Comments, alexa ranks ( though I am a big anti-alexa, so that’s okay), followers, making money online or whatever, but how do we “know” our blog is a hit… or at least like able by people who we are not forcing to read (I force my siblings to come read my blog, poor them 😉 )

    But then , what relevance they have is how much importance we give them; if we let ourselves be dictated by numbers, then we might be compromising on quality, but then good quality brings in great numbers… or was that just for the link between chocolate and calories?

    I am sorry I might be a little hazy on this; but I hope I made sense!

  • Klout is a joke.

    Peerindex is a joke.

    Empire Avenue (which I’m currently playing with) is also a joke.

    Influence matters but gaming influence fails every time.

  • andrew.burton.1897

    As this was the first time I have heard of a ranking system for social media, I found this post very interesting. I think that these measurement tools will start to be viewed during a hiring process. Especially in a public relations field, a tool that depicts the amount of relevance and following one’s social media posts hold will be crucial.

  • eric_andersen

    @tonia_ries well sure, *you’re* important, Tonia!

  • eric_andersen

    @tonia_ries well sure, *you’re* important, Tonia!

  • DerekPangallo

    Scores like Klout are only useful when narrowly comparing apples to apples. Or GOP presidential candidates to each other: http://goo.gl/9KH88

  • DerekPangallo

    Scores like Klout are only useful when narrowly comparing apples to apples. Or GOP presidential candidates to each other: http://goo.gl/9KH88

  • kamichat

    @lettergirl The comments on that influence post are even better. More important, are you going out for scare squad @seaworldtexas? 🙂

  • tonia_ries

    @eric_andersen wasn’t there a Sesame Street song about that? 🙂

  • lettergirl

    @kamichat Maybe just to blog it. That would be fun! cc:@SeaWorldTexas

  • eric_andersen

    @tonia_ries even if you’re going for a roller skate! http://j.mp/ouCUe1

  • kamichat

    @lettergirl Hmmmmm.

  • tonia_ries

    I just gave @eric_andersen a +K for roller skates!

  • eric_andersen

    @tonia_ries oh, snap! 🙂

  • OnlineBusinesVA

    Its good investing in Social media. Social Media platform is ideal for different uses and should therefore have a customized strategy. Due to the rapid rise in popularity and relevancy many online marketing companies now offer Social Media Marketing and strategy development services which are paramount to the success of Social Media as a viable marketing channel.

    http://www.online-business-virtual-assistant.com/

  • I’m sort of on the middle of the fence on this one. I agree with @KenMueller that we have to be very careful and that they can’t dictate our actions. However, it is still in its infancy, and I hope to see these algorithms improve.

    Having said that, there is no getting away from the human need to categorize, put in buckets, and rank things. We have to rank everything – the gamification of how important we are online! go!

  • @Hajra I agree with what you say BUT – there are coffee competitions – who can pull the best espresso, who roasts the best beans, and who has the best coffee house in such and such city. there are AdAge rankings for PR and marketing blogs (cough cough) So Klout needs to figure that out. Peerindex is figuring it out….

    But speaking of chocolate and calories…. Klout says I’m influential for cookies. 🙂

  • TammyKFennell

    @Lisa Gerber Hi Lisa! Thanks for publishing this. I enjoyed writing it. I agree with “gamification” – that’s a great point. It’s why foursquare is so widely used – people love ‘achievements.’

  • TammyKFennell

    @Lisa Gerber Hi Lisa! Thanks for publishing this. I enjoyed writing it. I agree with “gamification” – that’s a great point. It’s why foursquare is so widely used – people love ‘achievements.’

  • TammyKFennell

    @DerekPangallo ha that’s really interesting. But they left Ron Paul off the list. He’s a 75 on Klout and 48 on PI 🙂

  • TammyKFennell

    @Lisa Gerber And Klout says I’m influential about…. drum roll… Lightning, Colorado and Netflix. http://phto.me/5d464 I traced this back to one article I wrote about how lightning hit an Amazon server. But I don’t recall ever mentioning colorado nor netflix… so as I said, they still need to work on their algorithms but I do appreciate that they are trying to crack it.

  • TammyKFennell

    @KenMueller Klout and Peer Index are different companies so I am not suprised they don’t agree. They have different algorithms and criteria. I’m not saying they’re perfect – far from – but tell me you don’t sneak a look at someone’s alexa score every now and then? 😉

  • TammyKFennell

    @KenMueller Klout and Peer Index are different companies so I am not suprised they don’t agree. They have different algorithms and criteria. I’m not saying they’re perfect – far from – but tell me you don’t sneak a look at someone’s alexa score every now and then? 😉

  • martinalovric

    @brasonja hvala za RT 🙂 I, kako prolazi danasnji dan?

  • brasonja

    @martinalovric I drugi put … ide pomalo, uz uključen musltitasking 😛 … nadam se da je sve 5 “preko puta” 🙂

  • martinalovric

    @brasonja cini mi se da je situacija na obje strane prilicno slicna 🙂

  • @TammyKFennell I keep tabs on my own and some others, but the Alexa score only reports those who are using the toolbar. So it is probably the worst of the bunch, as it skews heavily toward websites that actively push the toolbar.

  • TammyKFennell

    @KenMueller Oh yes, agreed, but i guess it doesn’t stop me from still looking at it. I don’t weigh my decisions on any score, but the sum total of all metrics I can find usually gives me a good idea of whether someone is as big as they say they are 😉

  • ginidietrich

    The example I always use when I talk about the influence sites is this: Jay Leno has a Klout score of 68. I have a higher score. If Jay Leno and I were to walk into the grocery store, even if it were in my own neighborhood, he wouldn’t get through the store without being stopped 16 zillion times. I would get through without being stopped at all. So, sure, I use online technology more than Jay. But he’s far more influential than I am…in real life. It’s a completely unfair comparison.

  • ginidietrich

    The example I always use when I talk about the influence sites is this: Jay Leno has a Klout score of 68. I have a higher score. If Jay Leno and I were to walk into the grocery store, even if it were in my own neighborhood, he wouldn’t get through the store without being stopped 16 zillion times. I would get through without being stopped at all. So, sure, I use online technology more than Jay. But he’s far more influential than I am…in real life. It’s a completely unfair comparison.

  • ginidietrich

    The example I always use when I talk about the influence sites is this: Jay Leno has a Klout score of 68. I have a higher score. If Jay Leno and I were to walk into the grocery store, even if it were in my own neighborhood, he wouldn’t get through the store without being stopped 16 zillion times. I would get through without being stopped at all. So, sure, I use online technology more than Jay. But he’s far more influential than I am…in real life. It’s a completely unfair comparison.

  • ginidietrich

    @andrew.burton.1897 They ARE being viewed during a hiring process. It’s both disturbing and fascinating.

  • ginidietrich

    @andrew.burton.1897 They ARE being viewed during a hiring process. It’s both disturbing and fascinating.

  • ginidietrich

    @andrew.burton.1897 They ARE being viewed during a hiring process. It’s both disturbing and fascinating.

  • TammyKFennell

    @ginidietrich Gini you’re right. In that situation it wouldn’t be a fair comparison. In fact, overall influence is not always a great comparison. But, you compared to other top bloggers, that is a metric worth keeping an eye on.

  • @ginidietrich and here is the other side of that equation. I can’t stand Jay Leno, and, well, I kinda like you a little. If Leno were to promote a product, I might go out of my way NOT to purchase it, whereas YOU could probably sell me stuff I don’t even want or need. Klout and other indexes fail to measure what TYPE of sentiment it is. There are a lot of people who love Leno and a lot of us who dislike him. You see this a lot with certain professional athletes.

    And beyond balancing the positive and negative influence, there is the extent of the influence. Does a high number really mean “influence”, as in “getting people to take some sort of action”?

  • @Lisa Gerber Hmm… a lot more hungrier than analytical! 🙂

  • TweetShannonNow

    I love this blog, such great points. I’ve been pretty obsessed with Klout lately, and noticing that my score drops when I had great traffic days and vice versa. (Therefore this post was pretty encouraging haha!) Thanks for sharing! I think I’ll check out PeerIndex as well!

    -Shannon Lutz

    http://www.BizChangerZ.com

  • @KenMueller Thank you and WORD. That sentiment, the type of motivation it gives, comes not necessarily from influence but from the relationship you have with @ginidietrich and what value you place on her recommendations.

  • Thinking of signing into PeerIndex, just to see. Somebody stop me. (Think that might be my RT too).

    I get the idea of measuring these things, the need; it’s just the algorithms are flawed, the systems can be gamed. I still have the opinion that these measure online activity, a few connections but it’s far from influence – even if limited to the online arena. And many big names ain’t playing along, too busy getting work done to worry about vanity numbers. Would I want more follower, RTs, higher numbers? Sure, but I’d rather more clients. FWIW.

  • @TammyKFennell@Lisa Gerber Think Klout once said I was influential about cars; closest I’ve come is bitching about Atlanta traffic. When last I checked, it was improved in showing my influencers; there was a time when I barely recognized 3 of the 5 people they listed, so they are working on it. FWIW.

  • ArthurAnswers

    I think it’s a bad idea if you cloud the results of influence rating by purely looking at popularity. This is the way that Klout works; there is no distinction between the followers who are a part of your community or “tribe”. Instead, we should rely on the community we are targeting and whether they find the target to be influential or not.

    As an extreme example, we wouldn’t rely on someone like Jay Leno to broadcast messages about our cookware brand (as cool as it would be). But if we can find someone like Alton Brown or Gordon Ramsey, we’ll have a much better impact on the cooking/food community through our interaction.

    Another note: Influence measured through twitter can easily be gamed through getting bots to follow you and retweet you. Tools like Klout find no distinction between twitterers who are reliable experts who are widely followed and twitter accounts that simply receive a large volume of retweets possibly from bots).

    As I see it, there are two ways to combat this. The first way is to identify the people who actually generate original and relevant content. It thus makes sense to only on people who publish content to a popular blog. Afterall, for any expert’s social media presence, the true meat of their content will be found on their blog. The second way is to only rely on accounts that you have verified to be real (and not just a bot or fake account). In this regard, I would rely on blogs rather than sorting through the long list of twitter accounts. I find it easier to differentiate between spam blogs and spam twitter accounts.

    Yes, the tools for ranking social media presence will improve, but until then, we’re going to need to be smart about our measure of influence.

    Thoughts?

  • TammyKFennell

    @ArthurAnswers “Another note: Influence measured through twitter can easily be gamed through getting bots to follow you and retweet you.” — this is a lot less common these days. Twitter laid the proverbial “smack down” on automation apps last year.

    I agree, we do need to be smart about it, but I also believe part of that is not dismissing it entirely 🙂

  • ArthurAnswers

    @TammyKFennell You’re right, and I’m not one to discredit anything entirely (sorry if it sounded that way). But as you said, we definitely need to be smart about it, and heck, if there’s a way to get around the shortcomings with minimal effort, why not go that route?

    It’s what I’ve been working on for the past two years. And I’d love to share it with everyone! =]

  • TammyKFennell

    @ArthurAnswers Cool, what is it?

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  • prajnamu

    Tuh! QT @TweetSmarter: Social media has led to an entire new level of narcissism: http://t.co/ld5OTzX

  • GeoffAlexander1

    @TweetSmarter Interseting read!! Thanks so much!

  • merigreiz

    @TweetSmarter so true

  • MalikAnila

    @TweetSmarter hi

  • SoNJOfficiant

    @mayhemstudios @TweetSmarter Thank you for the article. It is timely for me.

  • SoNJOfficiant

    @mayhemstudios @TweetSmarter Thank you for the article. It is timely for me.

  • jbella2024

    Oh, boy! Sigh, smh. RT @TweetSmarter Social media has led to an entire new level of narcissism: http://t.co/uFqwOn0

  • jbella2024

    Oh, boy! Sigh, smh. RT @TweetSmarter Social media has led to an entire new level of narcissism: http://t.co/uFqwOn0

  • SoulKirk

    Social Media Has Lead To An Entire New Level of Narcissism: http://t.co/F8eV8qw rt @TweetSmarter /Sure has! & u know who u R. : ) ~K

  • Rlmagyar

    @TweetSmarter Narcissism started social media but the realization that “Content is king” changed its dimensions and purpose for many users.

  • DinaJ

    RT @mayhemstudios: RT @TweetSmarter: Social media has led to an entire new level of narcissism: http://t.co/7jkFt7g @earthXplorer

  • ManInBlackNY

    I like the points you made and brought up, thanks for sharing. The numbers are something to think about. I look at the scores to get an idea as to how active the user is. Then I try to check out their tweets and/or blog posts and see how engaging they are, but I must admit that the scores play a part in my first impression.

  • mqtodd

    Unfortunately Tammy you do not understand anything about Klout or about why people should post and tweet via Foursquare. Why don’t you just focus on what is good? Please read michaelqtodd.com/klout3new for why it is barely anything about the score anymore

  • mqtodd

    @TweetShannonNow It will depend on how you did 90 and 30 days ago. If you had great days then which drop off then your average score will drop too

  • mqtodd

    @TammyKFennell@ginidietrich Yes because it is an online inflence score not an influence score

  • mqtodd

    @TammyKFennell@ginidietrich Yes because it is an online inflence score not an influence score

  • mqtodd

    @TammyKFennell@ginidietrich Yes because it is an online inflence score not an influence score

  • TammyKFennell

    @ManInBlackNY Hi there! Nice to see you over here as well as in my tweet stream. Always nice to have MMS users following some of my posts! I think it plays a role in a lot of people’s decisions, whether they care to admit it or not 😉

  • TammyKFennell

    @mqtodd “These people have failed to keep track of and encompass the vision of what this company is doing. What they offer now is much much more than a score. ” — you wrote that. I agree, they are still evolving, and I mentioned that above. I have a pretty decent understanding of it, but no one knows the future of it, not even Klout! It’s going to be about adoption and integration. Without people seeing it in the apps they use, it won’t have the relevance, in my opinion. But, I do think they are geting widespread integration and attention, so I think the future is bright for influence scores.

  • Hey @mqtodd We always appreciate people stopping by and commenting. We also welcome disagreements and healthy debate. However, there is no reason to personally attack @TammyKFennell about her knowledge or lack thereof, about a subject. Not sure even how her post demonstrates a lack of understanding. She states that Klout is evolving and less than perfect.

  • NW7US

    Peerindex has one major flaw, so far: their set of “topics” under which they index/score people is *very* limited, indeed. They have taken it upon themselves to predetermine a scope of what is important, and then measure everyone accordingly. While they suggest that an individual feel free to “suggest” a new “topic” for their ranking system, there is no guarantee that it will warrant their acceptance as a vogue trending subset to which they ought to devote their resources. At least Klout gives credence to one’s following, no matter how fringe.

  • TammyKFennell

    @NW7US That’s an interesting point. I’ve often wondered why “javascript” is given so much importance. There both have a ways to go.

  • NW7US

    @TammyKFennell There are people, like me, who don’t even clock on their radar. Yet, we are very significant within our own community. Call it narcissistic if you wish, but I’m self-aware of my place in my community. PeerIndex hasn’t a clue. Yet, they *claim* such. That’s what bothers me.

  • NW7US

    @TammyKFennell There are people, like me, who don’t even clock on their radar. Yet, we are very significant within our own community. Call it narcissistic if you wish, but I’m self-aware of my place in my community. PeerIndex hasn’t a clue. Yet, they *claim* such. That’s what bothers me.

  • TammyKFennell

    @NW7US I like the folks peerindex – I think they are working on some pretty cool stuff and I”m very eager to see what they come out with this year. I’m hopeful to get one of them onto this thread to comment.

  • NW7US

    @TammyKFennellpeerindex I do hope that they find a way to move their algorithms beyond such a limited scope. I find it humorous, actually, to see how well a machine does in trying to categorize me.

  • ArthurAnswers

    @TammyKFennell Stay tuned to SpinSucks, I’m about to write a guest post with a focus on finding social tribes for blogger/influencer marketing. using the application. In the meantime, you can check it out at http://www.ecairn.com

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  • TammyKFennell

    Hey Everyone!

    Here’s a new post I wrote on the subject. I’d be really interested in hearing any comments! http://wearesocialpeople.com/kloutapocalypse-have-you-lost-influence/

    ~Tammy, CEO marketmesuite

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