Social influence measurement has been a hot topic again recently. One of the most articulate discussions comes from Tom Webster (BrandSavant) where he articulates (as a previous professor of rhetoric) that what these influence algorithms measure is actual Ethos, the ability to sway an audience based on credibility, which is only one-third of the of what is needed to sway an audience (the other two being Logos and Pathos). That article sums up what so many have known in their gut, but have been unable to articulate.
I’ve been fairly vocal on this blog, in my training and with my clients about my wariness of measuring social influence. In particular, I’ve aimed my arrows at Klout. But within the last year, there is a new player, Kred, which hasn’t quite caught on the way Klout did. I still understand the value of measuring influence from the perspective of brands and analytics. Despite my krotchey Klout reaction, I’ll admit to using Klout, PeerIndex and Kred scores into baseline, weighted influence measurements for analytics purposes. So while I’m still wary, I’ve found a way to balance their usefulness and defects for measuring social campaigns. In my mind the value of attempting to measure social influence is more on the side of businesses and brands rather that the people whose influence is being measured.
Last year, I blasted Klout for its shortcomings and in several speaking opportunities and training sessions since then I’ve been known to have a “KloutKonniption” when the discussion turns to over valuing a single number such as Klout. Recently, several high profile social media people have removed themselves from Klout all together. While I haven’t gone that far (I prefer to keep my eye on the game), I’ll say that some of Klout’s improvements haven’t impressed me. Since I wrote that blog post, we seen people get hired (or not) based on their Klout scores (really?). We’ve seen companies begin to offer perks of varying value (the much vaulted KloutKlub in LasVegas kicked that off) and we’ve seen a continuation of people obsessed with measuring themselves through some unknown algorithm . Klout has done one thing I appreciated: established areas of influence, which was a major concern of mine a year ago. But now, Klout has turned into little more than a “scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” online social currency game. By recommending that people give one another ”+K” points we’ve now turned it into a popularity contest. Blech. The real problem with the backscratching elements is that the giver of +K may not be qualified to give the +K. In other words, having someone who actually knows the topic that they are measuring you on has more value. I could give my Mom a +K for astronomy, but since I don’t know much about astronomy, is that really relevant?
To the mix we add Kred, which launched in September 2011. It really hasn’t caught on the way Klout did, but maybe that’s because we’re all still so busy knocking Klout. Anyway, I’ve had my eye on Kred since then. I think its an improvement, based on how its score is calculated, its more consistent with social values of transparency and collaboration. In the end, I also think it offers more value to businesses and brands than Klout does; but don’t go changing your hiring practices to hire (or not) on a Kred score yet.
Here’s what I like about Kred: the transparency piece is the big winner for me. You and everyone else can see how it is that a particular Kred score is calculated. I also like that the score is relative (“normalized”), its like being graded on a scale. There is a person in each area of influence with the highest score of 1,000. The rest of us fall somewhere beneath there, which makes it easier for those trying to identify influencers to find the influencials on a certain topic. I think its also interesting that Kred separates your “outreach” which in Kred-speak is a measurement of generosity from your “Influence”. Since collaboration is also a key social value, I appreciate this reward system. Sure, you still get points for each time you’re mentioned, but the I see this as an interpretation of the idea that if you aren’t sharing and having conversations with others, then how influential are you really? This point could be argued for a long, long, long time, which is probably the reasoning behind separating it.
Another interesting component of Kred is the attempt to integrate offline influence. I tested this out awhile back and added the fact that I was Chapter President of Social Media Club Hawaii (SMCHI) to my offline Kred. I got 2500 extra points for that; President Obama got 500,000 extra points for being the President of the United States. So, I guess if I really want my Kred to sky rocket, I better aspire to be President of something bigger. The President of the United States gets more points for Lady Gaga – I wonder what millions of fans (especially non-voters or Republicans) think of that? The point is, that offline influence, like online influence is relative to a whole host of external factors, including bias and perception. Kred asks you to verify the source of the offline Kred, which I can appreciate; though I’m not sure how they evaluate the documentation you send in. I can also add the fact that I am frequent flier too if I’d like, which is the beginning of the end in my book. But, if you’re a travel blogger, then your frequent flier status probably is significant to your influence. For me? Not so much. Now, if the airline I fly on most started caring about my Kred, I might care more..but I still think frequent flier status is a lame measurement of over all influence. However, the offline influence piece is a significant piece and I give Kred a
+K pat on the back for giving it the college try.
I admit, I’m curious to see what it brings now that Kred has announced its own perk system of “Kred Rewards.” Kred Rewards has the potential to be more valuable to brands looking to find and reward influencers, since transparency is built into the equation and here’s an interesting tid-bit, sharing is built into the system too – so those who are targeted for rewards can also share those rewards with their community. Now THAT’S valuable to someone whose trying to create community and takes the reward system idea to an entirely new level.
We aren’t going to stop measuring influence anytime soon, no matter how many times I shake my fists and stomp my feet. Given that fact, I personally feel Kred is a big improvement over Klout. But that’s only within the context of the fact that I remain skeptical of how good we are at measuring influence at all. But someone has to dip their toes in the water for it to get better, and Klout and Kred have both done that. Regardless of the fact that I think that Kred is an improvement over Klout, can we please agree that hiring someone (or not) based on a single number is nothing short of laziness? And just as hiring someone on a Klout or Kred score is laziness, so is assuming that your only influencial fans are on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. I’d be willing to be that ALL businesses could find great customers that have no social media influence what-so-ever, and yet they tell their friends, family and coworkers about their experiences. And I’m even more sure that simply having social media influence today, doesn’t guarantee social media influence tomorrow. The day we can actually measure offline and online Word of Mouth will be the day I celebrate in style.
But lest we all take this social influence measurement stuff too seriously, I have to sign off with a “case study comparison”. When I did my Klout blog post, I called out a particular Twitter user @milsuckee for his high Klout score compared to real influencials who had a lower score. I just had to go back to the well and see how Kred compared he and I. Dude is still at it and his Kred is showing some serious threat to my own.
I’ll let you come to your own conclusions: