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Return On Influence – A Book Review


Whether you like it, love it or hate it, whether you agree or disagree with its philosophy or purpose, there’s no denying the fact that Klout and other social influence scoring sites are changing the way we all think about online influence and social media. This is the overarching theme of Mark Schaefer‘s latest book, “Return On Influence – The Revolutionary Power of Klout, Social Scoring, and Influence Marketing”.

There is a simple reason for the meteoric rise of social scoring sites like Klout, Peerindex, and the newest kid on the block, Kred. They promise to keep a running score on something that’s inherently elusive and extremely difficult to measure in any quantifiable way: How likely is it that you will affect behaviour and actions related to a specific topic?

It’s pretty easy to see why this would be valuable information to have. Being able to identify key influencers around specific topics would give businesses and individuals much greater ability to communicate precisely focused messages.

There is of course a great deal of debate around whether such a thing is actually measurable, and whichever side of that argument you fall on I’ll leave you to decide. Ultimately though, the perspective presented in this book will provide insight in to how the algorithms calculate influence scores, the different ways certain actions will affect your score, and how businesses are using these sites to their advantage.

Mark Schaefer does an excellent job in this book by looking at the popularity of Klout, PeerIndex and others as a simple reality of today’s online world. The bottom line is: These sites exist. If trends continue, it’s clear that they aren’t going away anytime soon, so you’d best understand what they do, how they work, and what they can mean for your business.

Schaefer presents both sides of the story through relevant anecdotes and personal experiences. You’ll hear stories of tremendous success along side stories of people gaming the system and being discriminated during job interviews because their scores aren’t high enough. You’ll also hear how social scoring companies like Klout are constantly working towards more effective measurements and minimizing the chance that the system can be gamed.

Social scoring is in its infancy, and as a result it’s sound advice to keep an open mind about it. Given the frequency with which new communication tools have appeared in recent years, I don’t think that anyone can guarantee a prediction about how the business of social scoring is going to play out. But this book gives clarity to some very muddy waters. Overall, Return On Influence is an excellent read, and it will certainly give you pause to rethink your position on influence scoring, regardless of whether your for it or against it.

Find ‘Return On Influence’ on Amazon

Note: This review was not solicited in any way, and my copy of Return On Influence was purchased.

This article originally written for http://crowdshifter.com

A Different Kind of Influencer – Find Your Enthusiasts

I have a really hard time putting any kind of stock in to a Klout score. It just seems extremely artificial to me. After all, a quick look at those with scores of 100 yields an awful lot of pop music personalities, whom I shall not name because they clearly do not need any additional referrals. Klout strongly believes that these individuals hold a massive amount of influence, but the question remains: What are they influencing people to do? Retweet their stuff? Buy their song on iTunes? Big deal. Above and beyond that, the real influence of celebrities doesn’t really amount to too much.

One can easily argue that individuals who are ‘experts’ on a particular topic have far more actual influence than celebrities, because they often post blog articles and advice that people will put in to practice, thereby changing the behaviour of their audience based on the information that they share. If they share a review of a web design technique that works, or tips for communicating in the social media world, many followers will heed their advice and put those tips in to play for themselves. This, in my opinion, is a much more accurate description of ‘influence’.

But there’s a third group of people who hold ‘influence’ in the digital world. They’re not celebrities. They’re not experts. They are what I call the ‘enthusiasts’. People who are absolutely nuts for whatever it is they are talking about. They live it and breathe it. Whatever it is, it is their passion. It could be cars, PC’s, flowers, web design, photography, woodworking, travel, or antique toys. Everyone is passionate about something, and everything has someone who is passionate about it.

These individuals are a new kind of influencer. Finding these individuals and engaging with them can create a brand advocate of far greater strength and loyalty than any well-known expert. After all, if a popular expert endorses a product or service, there is a good chance that there is some mutual benefit coming back to them from that company. Either they got the product for free, or were paid to do a review, or simply got the benefit of being featured on the company’s website. Not to say this is bad, because most popular experts got to where they are by being good at what they do. They evaluate products and services very methodically, and tend to have broader experiences to draw comparisons from. But an enthusiast? They probably paid for whatever it is out of their own pocket.

There’s something to be said for having super-passionate enthusiasts interacting with you, sharing their opinions and reviews, and becoming your best friends. Social media amplifies their voices and creates a whole new level of word-of-mouth. Someone with 200 followers who’s crazy about your company tweeting about your stuff for weeks (or months) on end can have far more reach and influence than a single tweet in the daily stream of an expert to an audience of 30,000.

Ultimately, if you are carefully checking Klout scores and looking at follower counts in order to determine if mentioning or responding to a specific individual is ‘worth your time’, you may be missing out on a huge untapped resource of ‘influence’. Every single person who mentions you is worth your time. You never know who’s voice will really carry the farthest in the social media world.