In the world of social media, the words ‘engagement’ and ‘influence’ are thrown around quite a bit—but it can be really difficult to sort through all the numbers out there and find out what those terms actually mean when you’re trying to evaluate your own online influence. Unless you’re a person who does social media for a living and spends all day on various networks, you may not be able to have a good idea of what a particular number actually means. Most people settle on follower counts or “Likes” as a valid metric because it’s the most accessible number available.

The rationale for Twitter follower counts goes something like this: “If I can get 10,000 followers on Twitter, that means my message can be seen by 10,000 eyeballs when I tweet.”

That sounds really excellent; free advertising to 10,000 eyeballs? There are newspapers that don’t get that much circulation, right?

The fallacy is: The majority of the time, those 10,000 followers are not eyeballs. Many of them are very likely not even people. Twitter is rife with spam accounts (ironically, most of the spam accounts exist because of shady social media ‘experts’ who have pools of fake Twitter accounts they can sell to customers).

Facebook is slightly different because Facebook is a bit harder on spam accounts (but not much). The problem with Facebook “Likes” is that while you may be able to get people to “Like” you on Facebook, they tend to hide company Facebook profiles from their feeds—meaning they’ll never see your messages. The reason many people “Like” on Facebook is to get something (Like us and get a coupon, etc.). They engage once (when they “Like”) and then tend to not come back. Think of the way you personally engage with companies on Facebook. You probably don’t visit a company Facebook page on a daily basis, even if you’re a big fan.

Despite all this, there is definitely value in having Twitter followers and Facebook fans. The question becomes: How do we sort through them all and separate the good from the bad?

It can be frustrating, to be sure. That’s where companies like Klout and PeerIndex fit in.

Klout score

What’s your Klout?

Social Credit Score

Klout and PeerIndex are services that attempt to assign a digestible, easily communicable score to a person. Think of it as a social media credit score—they take a variety of factors into account and summarize it with a single number.

While neither company makes their algorithm public, we can assume a few things: They’ll look at your followers, attempt to discern how legitimate they are, look at the way you engage (Do you do nothing but post links to your own site? Do you ever retweet anyone? Do you “talk” or simply sell?). They’ll also look at things like how much history you’ve had on the network, how many people talk to you, and how you use the service’s other features such as lists.

They aggregate your presence on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn (Klout just started including LinkedIn yesterday, actually). and come up with a score as well as attempt to categorize you in a variety of ways. By this method, people who check your score can find out how genuine you are and what topics you are an influencer in.

The method is not perfect; not by a longshot—it can be gamed. However, if you are savvy enough to game your score, you have influence and expertise in your own sort of way and the question becomes: do you even need to game it or is that genuine influence? I digress.

However, despite its imperfections, these types of social aggregates are currently the most useful method of discerning the effectiveness and influence of a particular person.

What is Klout good for?

So what good is it knowing that someone has a higher Klout or PeerIndex than another? Klout is using this information in very creative ways. They can connect brands with top influencers in particular categories. For example: a company like HP may want to connect with tech influencers and offer them review products in exchange for blog posts. How does HP find those people? Klout can easily hand them that information. Klout has started handing out “perks” which allow brands to reward influencers in a fair and transparent manner.

This is good for influencers in that they get rewards (of course, most of the time it is implied that these rewards are in exchange for good content), and it’s good for brands who can get their products and messages into the hands of people who will spread their message appropriately.

That’s fine for bloggers, but if you’re a business owner, how does having a good Klout score get customers to walk through the front door?

If you have a high Klout or PeerIndex, people will notice you. When they notice you, they’ll talk about you. When they talk about you, people walk in. Therefore, seeking out ways to genuinely increase your Klout and PeerIndex scores is a valid social media strategy.

As social media evolves, there will continue to be an evolution of ways to measure effectiveness and influence. Klout and PeerIndex are on the cutting edge of that world, and it’s important to at least be familiar with them.

7 Responses to Ten thousand followers and nobody’s buying

  1. Nice post. Not much to argue with.

    I will say that, as a consumer, it can be extremely frustrating when a business that I want to support does nothing but flood my twitter feed with links. If I really like the business, I will tolerate it for a while, but not for long. The social media component of a business needs to be just that… Social. If you go to a party, are you going to hang around with the guy that does nothing but try to hand out his card to those near him? Doubt it.

    To me, that is the easiest way to tell if a company has a good Social Media Expert. When they talk to customers in a conversational way, If not, You are fixing to be blocked, or worse yet, unfollowed.

    Brian | June 15, 2011at 11:44 am

  2. @Brian: Thanks for the response. I want to quote you on this in particular: “The social media component of a business needs to be just that… Social.” and shout it from the rooftops. It’s the classic “cocktail party” model: As a business owner, would you go to a cocktail party and start saying “Check out my latest products…” to every single person in the room? Not if you wanted to stay long.

    Brian Ambrozy | June 15, 2011at 11:48 am

  3. Great post. Totally in agreement with you on this too, “As a business owner, would you go to a cocktail party and start saying “Check out my latest products…” to every single person in the room? Not if you wanted to stay long.”

    People don’t seem to understand that saying “check out our latest and greatest product!” isn’t exactly a welcoming message. And sometimes it takes A LOT of convincing to get PR-minded folk to undertand this.

    mark | June 15, 2011at 2:51 pm

  4. I will agree that Klout and Peerindex do have their place, and they are a good way to begin vetting potential “social media experts” before hiring them or as a starting point for figuring out who to try engaging with.

    My concern about these services always comes back to what really matters for a business though. I guess I worry that people look at these services and others, like Twitalyzer, as the standard of measurement. Each business has different needs when they are participating on the social web and these “one-size-fits-all” services can be an awkward fit for measurement.

    They are also lagging indicators of influence, so active participation is still needed if you want to find emerging influencers. So, I’ll concede that trying to increase your scores on these services make sense to a point, as long as it is not a dominant part of a social strategy.

    Dave | June 15, 2011at 3:05 pm

  5. @Mark It’s the constant struggle between traditional and social. New media knows the etiquette (or they won’t last in this industry), while some in traditional still adhere to the “more, more, more!” model.

    @Dave Absolutely. Anybody trying to sell Klout as a dominant social strategy is a huckster. It’s just another tool to add to the arsenal.

    Thanks for the comments. You guys are making me look good to my new bosses :)

    Brian Ambrozy | June 15, 2011at 3:10 pm

  6. I think that because people go on Facebook to socialize: that many businesses that are hoping for instant results and massive sales from Facebook alone are going to be disappointed. You have to use Facebook with its users’ intentions in mind: which is having fun and hanging out and that is one part of the recipe for achieving results on Facebook and Twitter. I also suspect that many companies that have such a low engagement rate use some of the lower quality Facebook fan services that don’t deliver awesome results. I am excited about the future here because Klout and companies’ usage of such tools is still very much at the beginning and I think there are more and more opportunities for analyzing a lot of the data we’re getting from social marketing to achieve better and better business results.

    WillyDMZ | July 5, 2011at 4:52 pm

  7. What’s Your Score, Baby?

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