Web Toolbar by Wibiya Dave Gallant: Are Social Influence Scores Completely Useless?

Are Social Influence Scores Completely Useless?

This is a guest post by Yomar Lopez.

Social influence sites like Klout, PeerIndex, and EmpireAvenue are popping up everywhere and it's no wonder that some people are already tuning them out. Sure, some of them are more "accurate" and they each have a different approach to influence but they all follow the same basic formula:

  • Activity trumps results. 
  • Reach trumps conversions.

That said, are social scores utter tosh? Not at all.

My buddy Dino Dogan doesn't bother with any of these types of sites and he's not alone on that. He laughs at them and thinks they're silly. Sites like Klout will tell you that you're an authority on Pokemon and more influential than Seth Godin - wow, I WISH!

(Yes, Klout, Dino still likes Megan but, your service, not so much.. Even though he finally signed up. *cough cough*)

No solution is without some sort of ugliness. Social influence sites tend to be more trouble than they're worth for some. They can be time-consuming and discouraging for those that favor engaging people over "blanketing the marketplace". It's all automatic so there's a chance that the sites won't "get you" and that's always a pain.

Thing is, if you pace yourself and see these scores for what they really are, you'll find that signing up for these sites does a few things for you...

  • You protect your personal brand. 
  • You get to be where your audience is. 
  • You pioneer new technologies and lead others. 
  • You can learn from the mistakes of others. 
  • You may gain more insight about how others may perceive you.

With such information at your fingertips, you can take action and focus on the right kind of activity, the type of stuff that suits your personal style, goals, and interests. Thus, I could not write off any of these social influence sites as a total waste of time.. Not by any stretch of the imagination!

I think our very own Dave Gallant said it best when he described Klout as a guidepost. I could not agree more!

Graphical Representation Of Scoring
I'm a visual person and, if you are too, you may also appreciate the graphical representation of your activity. With all the data we have access too, often for free, we can start to identify patterns and correlate activity with results.

Suddenly, all this raw data starts to mean something!

Now, note how the first screenshot, taken from Empire Avenue, doesn't give you as much context at-a-glance as the second one, which I snagged from Klout. Even though I prefer Empire Avenue due to it's savvy game mechanics, Klout has done a better job as of late to make data more actionable. On the flip side, Empire Avenue has a more active, helpful community and great third-party support, which can be the tie-breaker in the long run.

If I were a stranger to myself, which would be a bit strange, I could look at this and see that this Yomar fella engages in conversations on Twitter above all. I can gather that he is rather engaging.. But I can also see that he has slacked off a bit recently. Overall, he's pretty consistent, though.

Not too shabby. 

If nothing else, the social aspect is what excites me. I can engage my peers and role models. I may also get a little competitive streak and try to edge out others, just for the fun of it.

How you play the game is up to you but you need a plan in order to get a feel for that often-talked-about ROI stuff. Social media, in essence, is a game. As a gamer, that is exciting in itself but the best games are those that are sticky without becoming chores. There needs to be enough intrinsic value, built-in appeal and rewards (SEE Seth Godin's "Free Prize Inside"), to keep us gamers committed. 

This is the essence of engaging audiences on the social web. Your online content needs to be quite remarkable with so much vying for everyone's attention... And social influence sites are no different.

The Community-Driven Social Experience

This social activity chart from EmpireBuilding.net, one of the major community hubs for Empire Avenue, shows us that there are different types of players in social media communities. While I don't believe in static profiles and demographics, this chart is on-the-money and focuses more on the behaviors and intentions that drive us, an active, engaged community also brings social sites to life, which is an aspect we can't afford to ignore.

What's interesting is that, as a gamer, I actually prefer the networking part of social influence sites but the income-generating opportunities aren't too bad either, I rather go deep than broad or wide. This allows me to build relationships and create avid fans who, in turn, will help me promote my stuff. I, in return, do the same for them. It's a very natural approach to marketing, whereas warm connections are the start of all good things. 

Given this information, I would be viewed as a Blogger, which is about right. Really, I hop-scotch between Butterfly ad Blogger behavioral profiles a lot these days. Competition and mass reach don't appeal to me so those other squares won't be seeing much of me.

Where Do You Fit Into The Grand Scheme Of Social Media?
Ultimately, these social influence sites provide incentives to keep networking, engaging, and measuring our progress and productivity alike. While social influence scores are often laughable, there is great value in sites like Klout so I say take the plunge if you're still on the fence about it.

If you're worried about overwhelming yourself, start off with one site at a time. I'd say PeerIndex and Klout take the least amount of interaction, while EmpireAvenue can be a bit more involved. Then there's Commun.It, FourSquare, MBlast, and a whole slew of other comparable sites. Where do you begin? Again, it all depends what your goals are so you have to be very honest and clear when deciding what those are...

I'd like to close with the million-dollar question: Are you working your social media or is social media working you?

Yomar is a online consultant who helps small businesses with their SEO conversions, barcode marketing campaigns, and launching web sites and systems aimed at engaging communities. You can visit him at Yomar.me or connect with him on Twitter and learn more.


Janet Callaway said...

Yomar, aloha.  What a terrific post with its explanations, graphs and your perspective.  Interestingly enough, last night I was on a tweetchat and the topic of Klout came up.  Now 4-6 weeks ago, Klout had been a guest on this same tweetchat and people felt "good" about Klout.

Recently, it seems Klout has changed some of what it's doing and, this was the bad part, they are not responding to either tweet questions or through the site.  People are wondering it Klout has changed its purpose and is just marketing perks.

Yomar, I think there is merit to looking at what they have to say, decide if you feel it is accurate and then engage as suits you rather than attempting to achieve a certain score or game the system.  With the myriad of platforms out there, I don't think anyone can work them all effectively.  Pick what works for you and engage with those who matter to you. In the final analysis, relationships and sales/clients are what matters--not your score or your share price.

Again, thank you for this well thought out post on an important topic.  Wishing you a great day.  Aloha.  Janet

Yomar said...

Janet, as always, your comments have so many wonderful pearls of wisdom that I simply do not know where to start..  I guess I can begin by saying that it's always a shame how some small businesses and start-ups lose touch with the things that made them successful to begin with.  With regards to that, there's always the matter of scalability, sustainability, and all those other words that rhyme together slightly. ;o)

Another thing you touched upon here is something that I just finished discussing with Dave Gallant during a recent mastermind session (I love doing those, especially via Skype).  We feel that businesses have to embrace the rules they created as part of their core experience.  You have to preserve these rules because there are expectations and needs attached to them..  Thus, if you change your core experience TOO much, you can lose a lot of people in the mix.

We've seen this with Klout, HootSuite, the countless MMORPGs out there, Netflix, and just about any online service that uses a subscription and/or upgrade model as their primary income generator.  The common thread there is that we have choices so, in the end, we'll stick with the platforms that have good people running the show, people that care about our best interests.  The rest is just icing on our metaphorical cakes.

Certainly, you can't jump on every flavor of the moment, but it's nice to be an early adopter and see if there is something worthwhile there..  Sometimes, you'll find that you can get on-board as a consultant and help shape the experience, or at least become one of the community's trusted authorities...

Like you and I both agree, the relationships are what really matter and, really, there's no algorithm out there that can really capture that essence.

You should join us on Skype sometime, Janet.  Maybe we can all get together and do some podcasts..  That's on the to-do list.  I know Dave Gallant, Dino Dogan, and Laurinda Shaver are all down.  I think we can get Dan Cristo and others to join us too.  At the very least, we can have some round table discussions..  Mastemrind groups work (and I truly enjoy them)! 8)

Laurinda Shaver said...

Like Janet,  I really believe that these tools only work if they matter to your goals. 

I am guilty of the shiny new toy syndrome.  I sign up for anything new.  Play around a bit and decide whether its worth my time.

The goals I have to help my consulting business are:
- meet new people who can teach me, inspire me, hire me, refer me.
- build a relationship with these people by helping them with what I can. I truly believe that if I become a resource for others, then business will naturally follow.
- build original compelling content as a way to learn and share
- have fun.  I refuse to do it any other way.  (Yomar has no idea what fun is..... cough, cough)

So.. when I look at Klout and Empire Avenue I have to ask myself, do these tools help me reach my goals?  I find Klout is my social monitor.  I have had the same downward spike as Yomar and its a reminder to me that I need to keep up my first 2 goals of meeting people and building relationships.  Empire Avenue doesn't really appeal to me because it takes some time to figure out.  I have to see how it would help me achieve my goals.  And I think Yomar is having too much fun on it... oh wait a minute.. Yomar doesn't have an idea what fun is ;)

At the end of day, keep an eye on what your true goals are.. and use the tool that fits.

Yomar said...

Haha!  You had me going for a second there..  Then I realized you were being facetious about my lack of fun! ;o)

Shiny new toys are great fun.. but most of them lose appeal after the novelty wears off.  I admit that Empire Avenue can be rather intimidating but it is worthwhile.  The built-in "forums" alone are worth it for me.  I've met some very helpful people on there that have helped me promote my content so I'd say it's worthwhile.

On the flipside, Klout has been more of an incentive for keeping up with my existing contacts..  It's not very good for finding new people unless you dig deep and go into everyone's individual profiles.  They should implement a matchmaker system, similar to what Empire Avenue has. =o]

That said, Klout sure beats a lot of these other platforms I've been told to check out.  Sometimes it's just a matter of personal preference too..  Klout does what it does very well and doesn't have you chasing your tail all day with all these little toys to play with.  I can get down with that. 8)

Samantha Bangayan said...

Great post, Yomar, and thanks so much for hosting, Dave!

I loved how you began this post with humor, Yomar, and I could completely relate to some of the silly topics Klout has assigned to people. I've had "sea" as one of my expertises, which made no sense to me. =P

Nevertheless, I'm finding it useful to check in once a while to watch trends. There are some obvious dips like when I went on vacation, but it has been effective for social comparison and seeing how often my tweets/posts are acted upon. I think what's important is to take it with a grain of salt as you've said.

As for the other measures of influence, I have no experience with PeerIndex or Empire Avenue, but I like what Janet says about picking what works for us. Otherwise, I'd be wholly overwhelmed with all the different social media tools on the web right now! =)

Yomar Lopez said...

Hola Samantha!  Que tal? =o]
Haha..  I try to keep my articles light-hearted.  I feel there are too many folks out there that take themselves TOO seriously.  You have to have fun when blogging, I say!
Don't worry: you're not missing out on much if you're not on PeerIndex or Empire Avenue.  You gals are right: stick with what works for you and you're most comfortable with.
For me, trying out these new platforms allows me to honestly assess them for myself and for clients or anyone that asks for my opinion on them.  PeerIndex I've logged onto only a few times.  I've kept up with Klout and Empire Avenue.  Commun.it is great but not really a social influence platform as we've come to know them (they look more at your audience than content and authority).
There are a whole slew of other social media tools.  You have MBlast, which is decent, and some I can't even remember now.  It's important to note that some of these sites don't offer any real incentive for checking in frequently.  Empire Avenue and Klout both do a good job of making it enticing to keep coming back...
Anywho, trends and correlation.  That's key.  If you can see how your behaviors and activities drive results, the rest is icing on the cake.
Certainly, if you're trying to juggle all these tools but you're not getting content out there and engaging your audience, all these spiffy graphs and numbers don't really matter..  Still, sometimes it is fun to play with these spiffy little toys and see how others may be viewing you... 8)

Mattias Gronborg said...

@Yogizilla:twitter Great post and the last question is really a million dollar question. My interest for those sites is vanishing because they makes people think about numbers instead of people and relationships.

Yomar said...

I'm glad you made that point, Mattias, because it's something I've given more thought to..  You see, abandonment rates on social media are on the rise due to the contention between like platforms and tools.  Ultimately, alliances will be forged once relationships are nurtured.

This all goes back to meaningful, authentic engagement and, by extension, converstions.  How can we turn strangers into avid fans naturally and effectively?

More importantly, I think we are all charged with the responsibility to be much more socially-responsible and aware.  True influence is positive and long-lasting.  It can't be measured in isolated activities and singular actions.  It's all about the little things done persistently and consistently, mostly because you truly care and are passionate (everything else will follow).

I definitely get where you are coming from with the diminishing interest in social influence sites because they do lean more towards the bad side of game mechanics: extreme competition and playing the numbers.  Klout seems to be making some strides in the right direction so we'll see.

I will also say that Empire Avenue has been amazing for the community aspect.  In fact, just the other day we talked about the excessive self-promotion we see on the social web.  I'd recommend joining the Social Media community there for some valuable insight!

Keri at Idea Girl Media said...

@openid-84350:disqus  & @DaveRGallant:disqus ,

The million dollar question for sure!

I'd say my social media is working me, while I'm aiming to work it.  Someone has got to get G+ in the mix for social sharing and scheduling.  They'd earn the "Groovy Award" from me!!

That said, I do think that the current social influence platforms are imperfect.  Have some homework to do.  But they do seem to be doing it.  I find Klout the easiest to understand and maneuver.  Peer Index more demanding and accurate.  And Empire Avenue too demanding of time to really encourage this whole concept their going after.  $300 selling price on shares...?  (really)

@MattGron:disqus mentions something very valuable: The focus should be relationships.

Lets not lose sight of those...


Yomar said...

The focus on raw numbers over relationships is an aspect I meant to delve more into here because it's really at the heart of this all.  That is why I mentioned how looking at the size of your audience and the social influence scores alone will not get you real results, nor will it make you remarkable or memorable.

Some folks have a severe disdain for Klout.  I was hesitant about it at first myself.  I feel like the addition of perks will make some folks just focus on the extrinsic value rather than the behaviors that make the social web a better place to work and play.

Stan@Faryna:twitter  and Aaron @Biebert:twitter both agree that we have to think outside of "the page" and think about people because THEY matter..  And so do you.

Good catch pointing out how different the three major social influence platforms are,@connectyou:twitter!  To me, PeerIndex does not give you enough incentive to keep pushing for the right types of activity.  It feels like they place more value on gaming the system rather than authentic, meaningful interaction.  I think it's a better platform for major (personal) brands like a Chris Brogan or Seth Godin type, perhaps?

As for Empire Avenue, I only work with those in the same "bracket" as me.  Investing in the really expensive shares does nothing for me as those people likely won't reciprocate or engage me in any meaningful ways, if at all.  While I recommend getting involved in the deeper aspects of the #EAv network, it's actually rather easy to keep up with if you're just investing, recommending, and leaving shout outs on profiles. 8)

davergallant said...

Just a quick comment on Empire Avenue. I see absolutely no value in it at this point in time. I have been signed up for awhile, after the first few days of using it, I felt it was nothing more than a time vortex. Some may disagree, but that's my take on it.

I've explored Peer Index, but will admit that Klout is still #1 , despite it's flaws. But at the end of the day, it's simply a number. 

Thanks for the comments @connectyou  and Yomar !

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Are Social Influence Scores Completely Useless? ~ Dave Gallant