Use the Force of Your Influence, Luke!

Much has been made about often-provocative attempts to measure social influence, driven particularly by companies like Klout, Kred, Traackr, Appinions, and now apparently LinkedIn. I’m a tough critic of the effort myself, though I certainly praise the effort and find the tools useful at times.

Anyway, according to the new Klout, my most “influential” moment of the past 90 days is when I posted this on Facebook:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s great that I had some engagement, but I really really hope I’ve had a more influential moment than that! And anyway, so how did I influence people? I had some engagement, which might indicate I have the potential for influence, but friends, there ain’t a whole lot of influence actually happening here.

What’s especially puzzling is Klout can tell I’m influential in some way around B2B marketing topics. Yet none of the big “influence moments” reflects that. We may be making progress, but we’ve got a ways to go.

 

Klout Gets Closer But Can It Ever Arrive?

Those who know me are aware that I’ve long been a Klout skeptic. Anyone who mostly does B2B communications should be, quite frankly.  How pointless is it that we walk around bragging about some sort of “Klout” score?  I’ll keep that 75 score in mind the next time I have a new mobile data management application to market.

As of today, however, Klout has rolled out the results of another round of tinkering with their algorithm.  I gained about 10 points, so of course now I’m a huge fan!  ;-) 

To be fair, I do use Klout from time to time as another data point despite its limitations. When you’re helping a client get a new or revamped Twitter presence off the ground, it can be encouraging to use Klout to simply show that the world is noticing.  Also, although Klout doesn’t give as much attention to topics, there have been instances when the site has helped uncover other relevant peers in a space.  And the fact is that a score of 10, regardless of how relevant the person or how niche the subject, doesn’t bode well for their social impact.  Finally, and not insignificantly, basic Klout is still free. Better alternatives like Traackr and Appinions cost hundreds of dollars per month.

And while Klout’s efforts to get people to obsess over their Klout scores seems vain to me, the corresponding efforts to make the formula behind their Klout score better should only be encouraged. They’re making it easier to understand what’s driving your score (that feature is still coming) and introducing new data points like Wikipedia activity. All good.

Still, I’d like to see a lot more attention given to topics.  I’m influential on “Minnesota” and “B2B”? What does that even mean?

Meanwhile, I would really caution marketers – especially in B2B – that we’ll probably never get an uber-powerful, magic list of just the right influencers.  One of the points made in The B2B Social Media Book by Jeffrey L. Cohen and Kipp Bodnar’s book is to not over-target. You can’t know with enough precision today (or anytime in the foreseeable future) who exactly is going to be the key to spreading that great story about your brand or product.  If you have something compelling, cast as wide a net as practical.

 Read more about influence on B2B Voices:

How Are You Measuring Influence?

Social Influence Matters! No it Doesn’t!

How are you measuring influence?

Last week I spoke at the European Corporate Communications Social Media Summit on tracking influence and the non-financial ROI. The topic has been a key issue for our 233industry in 2011 as offerings such as Klout, Peer Index and the Social Business Index have garnered plenty of attention — both good and bad. I’ve written on this blog before about ROI (Return on Influence) as has Aaron Pearson (Dare we measure ROI?) and I’ve also written about the Social Business Index. The subject warrants discussion as B2B companies are devoting more resources to social media and in particular working to discover and measure what matters — the people, messages and sources.

For my presentation I was asked to address what we are doing and to help the audience target two questions:  Where should your business be spending its time and how much time should you allocate to the social channels?

I will admit, this is nearly an impossible topic to talk about and discuss in any great detail in under 60 minutes.

When I look at measuring the effectiveness of what we are doing I like to break down our metrics into two categories. By doing so, it helps me to focus on both the quantitative and qualitative items that can help us see what’s working and who/what matters. The two sets of metrics I like to reference are Attention Metrics and Influence Metrics.

Attention metrics tend to have a bad reputation. But don’t discount them. While they are hardly scientific and lack context, they can help validate over time topics and issues that matter to your audience and who you are trying to reach. Keep in mind that these are a helpful guide — but treat them as a guide since they are easily and readily accessible, but lack the depth you need to act on any strategic decision making.

The second set of metrics I prefer for better analysis are what I call the Influence Metrics. These will take more time from you and your team to assess, but certainly can give you a better indication of the content and people that matter to you. For instance, location metrics can better help you understand if you need to translate content or even add more content to focus on other regions, but you need to get an understanding from the business if that’s really ideal to sales and revenue generation. In our case, seeing the growing traffic from China helped make our decision to join Weibo. Another metric that matters is trying to know the people who talk about your company and products, but it’s not as simple as seeing if they’ve retweeted you or posted something on your Facebook page (more than likely they have not). You will need to find the tools and resources needed to locate and engage with them both online and in person. Take a read at what Vann Morris wrote about the value of B2B relationships in social media if you want to learn more.

The conclusion of my discussion was more of a reminder than anything else. It’s key for any program — social or traditional — to focus on what you are trying to achieve and how you will get there. I like to use a three step process that I’ve used for many other forms of communication — new product launches, events and white papers. First, decide what it is you want to accomplish with your program. In the case of social media this could be to increase the number of positive conversations (or decrease the negative) and build relationships with the people online whose opinions matter most (customers, bloggers, journalists); understand the metrics you will want to use; and, finally, analyze the content and then repeat. You may find that you need to change what you want to accomplish or perhaps you were measuring the wrong item. Some programs we use require more detail and more steps, but these three should provide a good foundation.

Even as the existing tools get better and more tools are introduced (like Awe.sm — and I suggest you try this one), the key to remember is that you need to always focus on what you are trying to achieve. You may need to adjust your tactics, but use your metrics to better understand if you reaching your goal — and don’t lose sight of your goal.

So what’s Next for ROI? I pointed to four key trends that we are all going to need to pay attention to in the coming year.

  • We are awash with data. At times it seems like we are drowning. But don’t despair as the technology to analyze this will continue to get better. Will it be perfect? More than likely not, but it will continue to evolve and help us better evaluate what we are doing. My suggestion is that you not enter into any long-term vendor agreements and make a concentrated effort to use the tools. The more you can engage with your metrics the better you will be able to tell a story about what’s happening with your brand.
  • CRM will matter even more, which means communications and sales have a tremendous opportunity to gather social data and apply it toward sales relationships. Salesforce.com continues to integrate social capabilities and will provide more insight on your customers. While I’m a bit sceptical for the early results, it’s a step in the right direction and needs to be watched closely.
  • There’s not a silver bullet and never will be. There are some great resources and tools that help you move in the right direction, but one solution will not work for everything. If that’s what you’re looking for and expecting you will be disappointed. If you focus on using the tools to make you more efficient and better utilize your resources you will certainly move in the right direction.
  • Everything will move in real time. Are you ready for a real-time B2B world? Not only is the data growing exponentially, but it’s moving faster and faster every day. For example, StockTwits helps investor relations professionals now monitor real-time conversation, and those discussions are growing (we monitor nearly 45,000 posts each month about our products). Are you ready to monitor, report on and respond to this new era of public communication? In 2012 more B2B companies will look at who staffs and responds to these issues and the centralized v decentralized model debate will continue.

What are you thoughts on measuring and influence? Is this a case of too much information to make it matter or can we cut through the noise and build business solutions?

And while I like to delve into our metrics I continue to learn more from reading what some of the true thought leaders on this subject have to say. Here are some resources on this topic that you should read:

Social Media Measurement 2011: Five things to forget and five things to learn – Metrics Man

The Digitization of Research and Measurement – Metrics Man

Social Media Impact Takes Awhile to Gauge – KD Paine

Real Time is Wrong Time in Measurement — KD Paine

Making Business Decisions Through Data — Logic & Emotion

Why Online Relationships Matter — B2B Ideas@Work

12 Tools to Measure Social Media Influence (Maybe) – Social Media Today

Social influence matters! No, it doesn’t! — B2B Voices

Social Influence Matters! No, It Doesn’t!

There’s a growing debate on the relevance of social influence. From services like Klout to the Social Business Index, everyone seems to be discussing either how to measure influence or how to be influential. As Paul Colligan asks, “Does any of this matter?” We decided to join the discussion and look at it from a B2B brand perspective.

This discussion around thought leadership and influence does matter as Eloqua reminds us.

The battle for social influence

But I’d like to shift the question. Not the debate. Rather than ask “How can we be influential?” the better question to ask is, “What are we trying to achieve?” If you can start to think about it from this perspective you may find that you will be closer to your answer around influence than you think. And when we look at influence we really are talking about achieving one of three options — create awareness, educate or change opinions. You may focus on one or any combination of these, but it comes down to choosing one of these.

As you think about how your B2B brand can be influential here are some thoughts to consider.

From a B2B perspective, one of the biggest obstacles with social influence metrics is that they are focused on consumer and retail brands. So from the start, those numbers mostly become popularity contests. However, if you can use a service like Klout to identify the people who talk about your B2B service/product you can help further narrow the prospects of who you want to talk with. My suggestion is stop focusing on the top people/brands overall. They more than likely won’t matter to you. What you need to research are the topics you want to discuss and then find out who you need to follow and engage.

Don’t focus on the obvious numbers thrown out at you — number of Twitter followers, number of Facebook likes, etc. Those number are meaningless for the most part. What you need to do is find and implement a measurement system, which means making a time and money investment.

What we need to realize is that this discussion around social influence is new, and I believe we need more people talking about the topic and more debate about social influence. We also can’t ignore influence in the non-social world. That still matters more these days by building relationships and gaining access to the right people. Don’t be blind and just focus on social. Remember that there are still plenty of organizations and people who are influential and not active on social networks, so while social is growing in importance it is one piece of the puzzle.

But the key to all of this discussion remains that being influential must be defined by you. Not others. So while you can’t ignore the concept, you should may want to ignore all of the rhetoric around the offerings. In the end, it may all come down to content anyway, but that’s a discussion for another post.

Here are some recent stories from around the web on this subject:

Klout has raised ~ $30 million – Business Insider

Klout tries to adjust your influence…again – PR Breakfast Club

Do we need a social index for businesses? – B2B Voices

What is Klout really about? – KD Paine

Do We Need a Social Index for Businesses?

Last month, the Dachis Group launched a public version of its Social Business Index as a way to measure and analyze the social influence of brands in real-time. Less than a month into its launch the company has gathered a lot of attention from the likes of Tech Crunch, AdWeek and Edelman Digital. There certainly are a lot of questions. For one, do we need this? And second, is it legitimate?

In terms of the need for it, yes, it’s an interesting way to benchmark brands and its early days for the index. Before the index existed taking a look across multiple platforms was time-consuming and, frankly, quite biased if you were doing this for your own interest. The index looks to create a “neutral” view of brands based on the back office technology it is using. This can be helpful, but it also needs to be accurate and fair. As time goes on I’ll be following what the Dachis Group is doing to improve and expand the service.

So is this a legitimate tool for you to use? That’s hard to tell since companies that do this type of analysis keep their formula mostly secret. The most well known indicator of online influence these days is Klout. The service is focused on individuals for the moment, but brands can take advantage of Klout as well. Klout has its detractors, but people can opt out of Klout. An advantage — or disadvantage depending on your point of view — of the Social Business Index is that if you’re a brand you have no choice — you will be measured against your competitors. In order to build on the influence of this tool I’m hoping the Dachis Group continues to reveal more about its metrics and analysis.

From what I’ve seen so far I like the index (One reason is that we rank quite well as a brand against our competition). Yes, there are a lot of questions that remain but surely Dachis will continue to improve what they have created. It’s not perfect. None of the metric and measurement tools that exist are perfect, so don’t think of this as a way to solve any content or competitive issues. It’s simply a tool to give you a view of your industry.

So what can you do?

First, if you’re company is not listed you should register it. Once you do so you can gain access to a handful of ways to compare your company against the competition. My hope is that Dachis Group will build out the metrics portion of the index, and even offer for purchase more detailed information on their scores.

Second, you should discuss the index with your team. Keep in mind that this is a view into the social side of your business only. I have always held the point of view that social media needs to play a part of your overall brand strategy — it’s not a silver bullet. If you are falling behind the competition in social media, yet, track far ahead of them in other marketing measures you will need to assess how important it is. On the other hand, if you are far ahead of your competition in social media, yet are behind in other areas you should decide how to integrate everything better. But these are decisions for you to make. The advantage is that you now have a new tool to help in your discussion and decision process.

It’s Social Media Week — Do You Know Where Your Brand Is?

Today marks the launch of Social Media Week around the world and there’s a lot going on. I’m hoping to get to one or two events this week in London. With so much taking place around the world it’s clear that the days of not paying attention to social media are over.

To me the foundation of social media — any media for that matter — is the concept of listening. Who is talking about your brand? What are they saying? Why should you care? What can you do? The rapid growth of technologies makes it far more easier to discover the answers to these questions, but my advice is don’t just use anything. Find the right tools. Here are some that I particularly like and have used to help us.

  • StockTwits: I’ve talked for months about the value of this network from an investor relations perspective. But the platform brings a much richer experience than traders just talking about puts and calls on your stock. This is a constant stream of investors who are also talking about your executives, products and services. You should register and tune in.
  • Hootsuite: I like what Hootsuite has done with its dashboard in terms of metrics and its ease of use. Because of the platform and how simple it is we can really take a deeper dive into specific topics and the people talking with us and about us. There’s also an ongoing debate around Klout, which is integrated into Hootsuite — I’m following the discussion closely. In fact, I just started an online poll about Klout the other day — http://twtpoll.com/s4luaa
  • 14 Blocks: This is a very simple tool that looks at the time your followers on Twitter are most active. The free trial is useful and does give you a good indication of when to engage with your audience.
  • Facebook: We continue to gain a larger audience on Facebook and I continue to be impressed with their analytics. I think they could improve them with more information about topics that our followers discuss, but I’m sure they’re working on that. And if you haven’t tried Facebook ads yet I would encourage you to do so. I think you’ll be surprised.
  • Omniture: If you’re not talking to your website team about this you should make it a point to do so this week. Their tools for your website can give you a much better picture of social media traffic and how you can improve your programs. Your web team will also appreciate the attention and how they can help. It’s a win-win.

There are lots of other tools and resources out there. In fact, my good friend Ken Burbary has created a Wiki of social media monitoring resources to use.  So what are you using to listen and why to you like it? Let us know.