Does Social Influence really matter?

This is a guest blogpost by Dan Purvis @DanPurvis of Digital Musings:

The original blogpost can be found at



The unveiling of Klout’s new algorithm last month prompted a lot of debate and discussion about “Social Influence”.  I particularly rated Neal Schaffer’s post on this in which he sought the opinion of 13 experts – balanced and packed full of common sense.

Personally, I don’t believe that influence has much value.  Particularly influence scores produced by free tools.  They’re flawed for two fundamental reasons: 1) the system can be gamed to artificially increase your social score, and 2) influence, I mean real influence, is relative.  Lady Gaga having a bejillion Twitter followers and a ludicrously high Klout score does not make her an über influencer.  What does she know about business?  Or social media trends?  Or football?

What’s relevant to you?

Think about it…think about the real world we live in – in your circle of friends you know who to turn to for a shoulder to cry on or to talk sport.  Similarly, in your work environment you know which colleagues to ask for advice.  In the media and blogosphere, you know who to follow to get breaking news stories or learn about emerging issues.  These are the people with influence.

To hammer the point home, Klout advises us what they reckon we’re influential about.  The top five topics I’m apparently influential about are: Public Relations, Social Media, Blogging, Media….and Travel & Tourism.  The first four I can live with, but Travel & Tourism?  What?!  Come on now.  I’ve tweeted a lot while on holiday or while travelling with work, but that does not in any way make me an authority on Travel nor Tourism.  This score can only be based on quantity not quality.  Likewise for other topics in my endless list: Investing, Markets and Surfing.

Yet people crave to have a high social score, whether it is on Klout, PeerIndex, Kred or one of the others out there.  Why?  To show-off and boast?  To prove their value to their business?  To get a job?  Hang on…surely a Klout score can’t get you a job!  Sadly, it seems some businesses (particularly in America) won’t give interviews to candidates who have a rating less that 50 on Klout.  Ridiculous.

Ok, I admit I check my social scores across Klout, PeerIndex and Kred from time-to-time.  But I stopped tweeting or broadcasting my scores a long time ago.  And I certainly don’t use them as a barometer of my “success” or “profile”.

Having said all this, there are some uses for such tools.  For example, in the media (and I mean traditional and digital media) it is useful for businesses to know which are the influential ones so they have an idea about who to engage with, educate and convert into being an advocate of theirs.

But come on now…if a business were serious about this, they’d use a PR agency’s expert knowledge of and close relationships with the relevant top tier media.

I predict a riot…!

Klout suffered a backlash (there was pretty much an online riot!) in October 2011 on launching its new influence scoring model, promising everyone it would be “the biggest step forward in accuracy, transparency and our technology in Klout’s history”.  They don’t appear to have learned, but sadly I don’t think they care.  They may proudly proclaim to be the self-titled “Standard for Influence”, but their business model is based on murky advertising and affiliate marketing partnerships through its Perks programme.

I’d like to end this post with something CEO and co-founder of Klout, Joe Fernandez, said in an interview last Summer:

“When you think about it, the idea of measuring influence is kind of crazy. Influence has always been something that we each see through our own lens.”

I think I will leave it at that.

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