Return on influence… Is Klout a feasible measurement?

Fishburn Hedges and I hosted the TechMAP community recently, where we heard all about the ‘Return on Influence’ by highly-rated American author Mark Schaefer. The impact of influencers and influential communities in communications is nothing new, but the manner in which the engagement is now happening has changed. Interestingly, Schaefer believes that it will continue to do so while brands strive for the ultimate list of influencers to build campaigns, and whole communications strategies, around.

It was fascinating listening to Schaefer discuss influencers and show countless examples of how they’re continually changing how brands communicate and interact with their core audience. He can talk at length about how influencers have “a new face” and are the celebrities of the digital world, and must be treated by brands as such.

Schaefer says that P2P is the way that information sharing and forming now takes place, both online and offline. That’s why he strongly believes that consumers are more likely to be influenced by peers rather than organisations, constantly highlighting that brands need to wake up quickly to this. Influencers are hard to accommodate, he says, and brands need to pull out all the stops to gain their attention in a saturated environment.

As communications experts, it is important that we identify the relevant influencers. There are many metrics and benchmarks that we can use to do this. An individual’s frequency of mention, their terms and phrases online, the sentiment of their words, their spread of social media platforms and the reach of content across their network, are just a few of them. But in recent years, and after several strong developments, companies like Klout have sprung up, in an attempt to make communications more manageable.

Now, while many of us are familiar with Klout rarely do we get a chance to explore the complex algorithms that determine how influential we all are. Not just us, but consumers, brands, and everything in between. The Klout-monster presents a laid-back approach to ‘researching’ potential influencers within an industry or theme, and at the moment, it’s big business. Schaefer believes that “social media is democratising influence. Anyone can have it and everyone can have a voice”.  If you agree with statement it immediately increases the need for corporate reputation strategies to be more flexible.

What came as a shock to me was that organisations in the United States are taking Klout, and the like, very seriously. For instance, we were told that some call centres are now prioritising customers based on their Klout scores to keep the most ‘influential’ happy.  Even more surprising was the idea that companies are now recruiting employees based on their online influence.

I’m not sure this will become very popular in the UK for a number of reasons, but this is the official line: “put your Klout Score on your resume to land a sweet job or use it to get better customer service.

What are your thoughts on Klout’s methods of measuring the influential? Do you agree with Schaefer’s thoughts? Drop me a tweet @bnfx/@fishburnhedges or comment below and let’s discuss this further.

In the mean time, we caught up with Schaefer before his presentation and here’s some footage of what he had to say…


2 thoughts on “Return on influence… Is Klout a feasible measurement?

  1. Dont get me started on just how bad Klout (as a one-dimensional algorithm for influence) is.

    Influence depends entirely on context. Klout doesn’t.

    Klout thinks a bot which tweets ‘bong’ each time Big Ben strikes the hour, is more influential than Alan Rusbridger.

    I rest my case…

    • Well, when you put it like that, it does seem rather silly.
      Personally, I’ve always been a fan of hard graft, and by that I mean doing your research and looking for a unique and relevant list of ambassadors/influencers for clients.
      Klout is not the answer, it’s just another tool, to be used in high moderation.

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