(This article first appeared on the CIPR Conversation)
Mark Schaefer’s recently published book – Return on Influence – is a good primer on the emerging world of social scoring. He looks in great depth at the various social scoring platforms such as Klout, Peerindex and Kred as well as some case studies about how brands and individuals are using (and misusing) these new tools.
Schaefer’s view of social scoring seems to be that – love it or loathe it – it isn’t going away.
As he says: “The implication is that a numerical marker of authority such as a Klout score can have a legitimate impact on people’s opinions about status and influence even if the score doesn’t necessarily reflect offline reality or the system can be gamed. The whole philosophy is that your online reputation, or your capacity to influence, your probability to influence, is going to be increasingly defined by metrics. There’s no doubt about that trend.”
He advocates that although Klout and its ilk are by no means perfect, they are getting better all the time. And it ill behooves those in the worlds of PR and marketing to ignore it.
He also has an interesting definition of online influence as measured by Klout. Namely, that a Klout score is a reflection of an individual or brand’s ability to move content and initiate action amongst an online audience.
He uses the example of Justin Bieber. Many critics point to the fact that Bieber has a Klout score of 100. Barack Obama by contrast scores 91. Does that mean the young entertainer is more influential than the President of the United States?
No, says Schaefer. It simply means that Bieber’s ability to move content through his online network is supreme. When he says click, his audience clicks. The President’s audience doesn’t quite respond in the same Pavlovian manner (which may be no bad thing).
Whether you accept this definition of influence, it does perhaps suggest that it would be unwise to dismiss the concept of social scoring out of hand in this context.
But what if we take this a step further. Klout has been described as an Influence Engine. Schaefer muses in the book about the potential rise of “Klout coaches” – individuals or agencies who will provide services to help improve your Klout score. In which case, will we see the emergence of Influence Engine Optimisation consultancies who will perform a similar role to an SEO agency in the world of natural search rankings? Will PR professionals be tasked with managing reputation via influence – and thus turn themselves into Influence Engine Optimisation specialists?
Or is it the case as Brian Solis argues this week that Klout and PeerIndex don’t measure influence at all? You decide.