Soial Influence: Do Brands Have Your Number?

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If you’ve ever wondered how much influence you have online, Klout, Kred, and PeerIndex are here to provide you with answer in the form of a numerical score. All three websites similarly define influence as the ability to drive or inspire action, and use information from your social media accounts to determine exactly how much social media influence you wield. Although each site uses different algorithms to calculate your score, all three take the approach of quality over quantity both in terms of your number of friends or followers, as well as the amount of content you post. Interactions and audience engagement are the keys to having high amount of online influence. To better compare these sites, it’s important to have a solid understanding of what each has to offer.

Klout

Klout provides users with an overall online influence score ranging from 1 to 100 (with 100 being the most influential). To determine your score you’re only required to connect one of your accounts, but have the option of connecting any (or all) of the following: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, foursquare, and Wikipedia. Klout measures engagement in the form of mentions, likes, retweets, +1s, comments, and so on, as well as examines who is engaging with your content and who they’re sharing it with. Key features of your Klout profile beyond your score include a display of your most influential moments, and a list of topics which you or anyone else can add to your profile to better reflect what types of content you share.

Kred

By connecting your Twitter and / or Facebook account, Kred will provide you with two different scores. Your influence score is out of a possible 1,000 points, and is based on online interactions such as retweets, replied, mentions, likes, shares, and even event invitations. Your cumulative outreach score represents how generous you are online, and takes your retweets, replies, mentions, and likes of others into account. Similar to Klout topics, your Kred activity page features the communities you are a part of (such as “Fashion,” or “Marketing”) and gives you influence and outreach scores for each. Your activity page additionally displays recent users you mention, users who mention you, most used hashtags, and both you and your friends most retweeted posts. Out of all three options, Kred has made their scoring process the most transparent, helping users understand how their influence and outreach points are being generated.

PeerIndex

Like Klout, PeerIndex provides users with an influence score ranging from 1 to 100, based on interactions from Twitter, Facebook, Quora, LinkedIn and / or your personal website. PeerIndex measures your knowledge and authority in various subjects by analyzing how you share content on any given topic. This authority is then affirmed when others retweet, share or Facebook, or otherwise engage with your content. This provides users with a list of “Top topics” accompanied by a topical PeerIndex score. Unlike Klout and Kred, other people cannot impact which topics are associated with your profile directly through the PeerIndex website. Currently, PeerIndex does not have a feature similar to the way users can give other people +Kred in a specific community or give +K on a particular topic through Klout.

Which One Should You Use?

While all three options use Twitter and Facebook to calculate influence scores, Klout has the most options for connecting additional accounts; depending on how many other social media websites you’re active on and connect, this could mean higher scores on Klout and PeerIndex than on Kred. However, since all three options offer their measurement services for free I recommend signing up for all of them to maximize the amount of data you have on your online activity. Your Kred activity page is updated in real time, while you Klout and PeerIndex scores are updated daily; however, PeerIndex warns that certain analyses happen weekly, so it may take up to a week for changes to be reflected in your score. No matter which site you use, fairly constant and continuous involvement is required to keep your score from dropping.

Need another incentive to join beyond analyzing your social media interactions? All three options offer rewards for high influencers ranging from exclusive discounts to entirely free items. Klout Perks are rewarded based on your score, topics, and location. Kred rewards are similarly given out based on your communities and location. PeerPerks are available to users based on influence scores, and are featured on your homepage as soon as you sign in.

How Legitimate are these Tools for Measuring Social Influence?

Although the algorithms aren’t perfect yet, I think that these tools are a strong starting point for understanding how engaged a social media user’s audience is. However, in their present state, I don’t think they can be relied on to always provide an accurate picture of a user’s ability to influence others. The possibility of “gaming the system” (discussed below), combined with points raised by Sean Carlos and Erik Kain have left me unable to completely trust in social influence scores.

Sean points out that both Kred and Klout allow users to endorse others, thus raising their overall influence score. Not everyone believes in measuring online influence yet, meaning that those who choose to participate on these sites and associate with others users can be rewarded with higher scores. Similarly, the more accounts you connect to your profile on each website the more your total score can be raised, again rewarding users of these tools with higher scores. Although Sean points to PeerIndex as the exception to the +K and +Kred effect, I noticed that this site assigns everyone in your network a PeerIndex score whether they have signed up or not. If you have not registered with the site they do not have access to all of your data, and therefore your score can’t possibly be an accurate reflection of your influence.

One of the most compelling arguments against the accuracy of influence measurement sites was made by Erik when he compared his own Klout score to Warren Buffet’s. At the time, Erik explained, Buffett’s score was “a measly 35, which means he has absolutely no influence at all… at least compared to me.” In this case, a Klout influence score failed to accurately compare the ability of one person to drive action online versus the other.

Right now I believe sites such as Klout, Kred, and PeerIndex are best used for quickly gathering a sense of who is active on social media, and whether they’re sending out meaningful content that others like and share (versus simply using these platforms to broadcast what they had for lunch).

Increasing Your Klout Score

Currently I have a Klout Score of 54 – not bad considering the average score is 40, but I’d certainly like to see it climb higher. There are a number of strategies you can use to boost your score, and I’ve outlined my 5 favorites below.

1. Connect multiple accounts

Klout promises that adding additional accounts can only ever improve your score. Although you may have one favorite social media site, spend time developing your presence elsewhere to give people more of an opportunity to connect with you.

2. Have one-to-one conversations

It may seem obvious, but sometimes we can get so focused on producing our own content we forget to engage with what other people are sending out. Share your opinion by replying or commenting on posts, or start a conversation by tweeting a well thought-out question at someone. You’ll see your number of mentions and replies increase in response.

3. Share information relevant to your niche

If you’re a marketer, share industry news and tips or how-to’s that are relevant to other marketers. Klout tells you what your most influential moments were from the past 90s days, which you can use as an indication of what type of content most interests your audience.

4. Get strategic

Social media management systems, such as HootSuite, not only let you track what content your audience has engaged with the most, but also allows you to write tweets in advance and schedule when they will be posted. Why is this important? Studies show that there are key times to post on Twitter and Facebook in order to maximize visibility.

5. Stick with it

Don’t get discouraged if your Klout score doesn’t jump 8 points overnight. Building up your online influence takes time, but if your attention wanes and you find yourself only posting sporadically this can bring your score back down.

The possibility of people “gaming the system” in order to raise their scores has the validity of Klout, along with other social influence measurement sites, still in question. I believe that the tips I’ve highlighted are legitimate ways to influence the level of engagement you have with your friends and followers, which should in turn rightly lead to higher scores. Interacting with others and providing them with relevant content isn’t cheating – it’s precisely what social media is all about. Lavall Chichester and Samantha Murphy have both written about the issue of gaming the system, and feel that what constitutes bad behaviour is being “sneaky,” and insincere in an effort to raise your Klout. For example, since Klout takes the score of people who engage with your content into consideration, one way to try and increase your score quickly is to target conversations with high Klout influencers. While reaching out and interacting with others is a huge part of using social media, ignoring a large majority of people in favor of influencers coupled with the sole intention of boosting your score (versus engaging in a meaningful dialogue) is not going to get you far in the long run. Although Klout continues to improve their algorithm to identify things such as bots, it is still possible for people to create multiple Twitter accounts and interact with themselves (replying to or retweeting their main account content), as well as use these handles to sign up for Klout and give themselves +K. Comparing these types of strategies to the methods I listed above, it’s clear that gaming the system involves a level of deceit quite separate from taking a genuine interest in increasing your audience’s engagement with your content.

Using Social Influence for Business

Tools that measure online influence provide businesses with the opportunity to connect not only with consumers who have an engaged online audience, but they can also use topic and community features to identify which subjects consumers are most influential on. Having a celebrity or thought leader in particular space, such as fashion, endorse your brand is an expensive endeavor, plus it puts all of your eggs in one basket; you are relying on the ability of one person (albeit a high profile one) to influence the actions of others. PeerIndex CEO Azeem Azhar identified a group he calls the “magic middle;” while brands are able to easily identify top bloggers and celebrities, finding this middle group of people who have strong reputations and a higher than average reach has always been a more challenging. Now companies like PeerIndex will work with businesses, for a fee of course, to put them in contact with people whose opinion matters on particular subjects. Using Klout for example, your brand could find a list of users who have a minimum score of 60, are influential on the topic of “fashion,” and live in Ontario. You could then send these consumers perks such as a gift card and an invitation to the opening of your newest store. People who receive perks are not obligated to share anything about your brand with their followers, but the hope is that they enjoy the discount or free sample so much that they genuinely want others to know about it. Alternatively, you may choose to provide rewards and perks to anyone above a certain threshold score, again in an effort to get influential people talking about your brand online. Consumers are increasingly more likely to trust the recommendations and opinions of their friends and network than brands.

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