This Blanket Has Klout

A little while ago Klout, an organization that scores individuals based on their perceived social media influence, changed their algorithm for measuring that influence. For two weeks or so after the change, the Social Media Gurus were abuzz blogging non-stop about how they were no longer going to spend any time talking or writing about Klout (and the irony of blogging about not blogging wasn’t lost on me). While there is a lot of excitement about using “Big Data” from social media to target potential customers, in reality, any tool that claims to measure social media influence is going to be fraught with problems and misconceptions about its value. There is an inherent struggle to interpret the massive amount of information being shared through mediums such as Twitter and Facebook, and contextualize the meaning of what is being said.

For example, Klout proposes that I am influential not only on topics such as humor and beer (no surprise there), but also tea, parties, and cats – which may actually categorize me as someone thirty years my junior, and a girl. While technology is helping us to slice and dice larger and larger volumes of data at an ever increasing rate, without the human impact of analysis, there will always be shortcomings to any system that purports to provide strong analysis of social media interactions. There should be excitement for marketers with services like Klout, but that energy needs to be tempered with an understanding that any information from “Big Data” is likely to be flawed because of the sheer volume of information processed and the inherent challenges of understanding it.

Klout’s premise is that social media has “democratized influence” and that applications like theirs can help you to isolate the appropriate influencers who can help drive a valuable return on marketing dollars. In other words, instead of wandering around in the dark sending messages to every potential customer, you can find key people on various social media platforms and let them do the heavy lifting for you.

Here’s one example of this mindset. I was recently offered a free fleece dog blanket from Subaru as a Perk from Klout. While I don’t own a dog, or a Subaru in which to comfortably place a dog on a fleece blanket, the intent was probably to get me talking about Subaru to the people I communicate with on social networks. So even though I didn’t get a blanket, here I am using this example, so I suppose it actually worked. Now can I retroactively have my blanket please? I know it isn’t a lucrative as the payout a vapid reality star gets to attend a party, but free stuff is free stuff.

So on one level, their marketing ploy worked even if I didn’t get a blanket. I had Subaru at the top of mind and told the story of how they wanted to give me a free doggie blanket to talk about them. Interestingly enough, there’s a lot of interaction on the Subaru twitter page and even a few conversations about the blanket. So for their organization, it makes sense to extend their marketing to reach out to influencers that aren’t engaged with their brand. However, for many businesses (especially smaller ones) this might not make sense. There’s significantly more value in reaching out to your own followers and creating positive shared experiences than in trying to reach out to people who aren’t already willing advocates of your brand. When planning a marketing campaign, it’s easy to get distracted by the new, bright and shiny toy and ignore what has already made your organization successful.

It's unbelievable that EMF still exists.

I speak from experience when I say I’ve reached out to companies on Twitter, said positive things and they haven’t felt the need to respond. While on the other hand, I had a one-hit wonder band comment to me humorously after I made a dumb joke about them (EMF for those of you old enough to remember them). So the question is: how many times can you ignore your “arbitrarily calculated” influential customers on a social media platform while spending money encouraging new influencers to promote your brand? I think the example from Subaru, being heavily invested in responding to their customers, seems to be the exception to the way many organizations treat Twitter and Facebook. Am I more likely to keep saying nice things about companies or organizations that make me feel good in return, or will I just give up? If you are serious about growing your business outside of traditional or historical marketing channels, you need to evaluate your customer acquisition strategies beyond the latest and greatest product a social media company is trying to sell you, and look at people who already appreciate your organization enough to want to engage you on one of the many social media platforms.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get a Corgi and a Forrester so I’ll have a place to keep my new fleece blanket.

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