Influence is not a nail, and Klout is not a hammer. For best results, you should augment Klout results with those of other items in your social media toolbox.
Influence is the ability to get people to do what you want them to do. Influencers, considered the holy grail of marketing, can drive others to act on your behalf, providing a powerful opportunity for endorsement and engagement. However, identifying online influencers is a complex process. The introduction of social media tools with numerical scoring systems is garnering much attention and interest. Klout is a leader in this space. Opinions on its value vary widely -- it has staunch supporters and vocal detractors. As a marketer, here's how you should be using Klout.
Ignore the score
Much of the controversy surrounding Klout's value arises from its algorithm and how a user's Klout score is calculated. Celebrities with large numbers of followers tend to have higher scores, as do individuals who are very active on Twitter. That said, influencers with high Klout scores may have no correlation to the influencers who are important to your target market. Putting this theory to the test, Christopher Penn identified all his followers who had Klout scores of at least 34. He asked this group to re-Tweet a specific Tweet. He found that those with scores over 80 did not respond at all, and that his real influencers (those who re-Tweeted) had scores ranging from 60 to 75. And as Klout adds more social networks to its platform (Google+ was announced last week), changes in the algorithm are likely.
A better approach
Research suggests that identifying users with lower Klout scores who are subject matter experts in your market can be a much more effective targeting approach and a better starting point for your influencer research. Make a list of these influencers, and get to know them better. Are their values aligned with your company's product or service?
Initiate, but triangulate
Though Klout can be a good starting point in identifying individuals who are influential to your brand, the danger, says Tamsen McMahon, vice president of digital strategy at a-g.com, is "If you approach your research into influencers as one-dimensional, what you'll get is a one-dimensional result." To overcome this, use at least two other online influence measurement tools, such as Peer Index or TweetLevel, and triangulate your results.
Do perks work?
Up until now, Klout Perks have been offered based on a baseline Klout score set by the company offering the perk. The disconnect has been that eligibility has not taken into account whom the recipients of the perks influence, or even whether they are in the target market. Such a blunt-instrument approach can produce negative reactions. I've seen blowback for two of the offered perks: for Axe shampoo (many of those eligible were follicly challenged men, or even women) and for the new Winnie the Pooh movie, which went to many (myself includied) whose children have long since passed the target age demographic. With the newly announced Klout Topic pages, perks are targetable based on topics and score level, so more precision should be obtainable.
A Klout Perk can be a good choice for companies trying to reach marketing and agency executives who are highly interested in social media tools. The Pivot Conference partnered with Klout first to identify top influencers and then to offer them a Klout Perk that discounted their registration by subtracting 10 times their Klout score in dollars. According to Pivot Conference CEO Mike Edelhart, the results have been very positive, producing the "fastest burst of registrations to date."
The ability to quantify online influence is an important development for marketers. Social media scoring tools like Klout can be a good starting point, but uncovering true influencers -- those who can get people to do what you want them to -- is hard work and requires many tools. Make sure you've got them all in your toolbox.
— Anne Weiskopf spent the bulk of her career as a publishing and media executive in the high tech arena, focused on developing and executing sales strategy, brand positioning, and researching and reporting on the technology purchase process. An experienced sales warrior, Anne was instrumental in launching and leading the move to integrated sales across off and online channels at UBM TechWeb. A social creature to begin with, she became enamored with social media and was on the launch team of TWTRCON (now The Realtime Report & Conference.) You can find Anne blogging here, and, at RipOffTheRoof.com.
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