Don’t Fear the Influencer (Now with More Cowbell)

I was talking with some time Outsider and full time social smarts guy Mitch Lieberman via Twitter about Klout and why I think it is stupid.

I mean, it is important to think about your advocates and influencers – but how can we really standardize someone’s level of influence? I am not sure the Klout algorithm actually has the ability to scour public, private and semi-private customer networks. And, many people with only a few followers or a small sphere of influence may be terribly important to one company’s social strategy.

As more and more purpose-built communities and networks come in to play, thanks to platforms like Lithium, third-party tools like Klout can be less and less useful. This is because these purpose-built communities can capture and analyze data in a far more profound and useful way than the generic system Klout uses across public networks – in my humble opinion. A company can identify, nurture and work with its influencers more closely and gain so much more in an interactive platform like Lithium versus simply fearing potential “big follower list” influencers and kowtowing to their demands.

The latter model is just bad business. Or,I should say is a symptom that you have broken service models in place or simply are not as customer-centric as you think. I have blabbed ad nauseam about using social as a band-aid.

How do we stop fearing the potential damage to our brands on the part of influencers?  For starters – create a consistent experience for all customers. Set expectations and apologize when you fall short.

If you truly believe in delighting customers, and do your best to see that happen, no influencer sending a few choice negative tweets or blog posts can do any real harm – the rest of your intelligent customer base will know the truth. And – if you can quickly manage the issue (by either addressing it on your community platform or pulling that influencer in and showing them you care) – the unhappy influencer can present an opportunity – not a problem.

4 thoughts on “Don’t Fear the Influencer (Now with More Cowbell)

  1. Hi Martin
    If you think of Klout from a marketing perspective, it makes sense–like the focus group with a new face–one that is much easier for companies to identify. For example, Cirque Du Soleil was planning a Michael Jackson show. If the show featured a misrepresentation of Michael, people would notice. So Cirque Du Soleil could have used Klout to identify the most reputable MJ influencers and build the show with their insights, feedback and cliffs notes (yes I said it).

    Klout provides an easier route to a focus group. Also I think Klout paved the way for all social business vendors to start thinking about customers differently. While I don’t endorse fear as a tactic, companies should be a little afraid of some customers. Let me add that what an influencer actually looks like–that’s debatable.
    I don’t know about you but sometimes when I approach the ticket counter at Delta about a delayed flight-I’m shakin’ in my boots.

    In considering the idea of influence–I am reminded of Frank (Eliason) who recently said on a panel at E20 Santa Clara:

    “….. let me the first person to say that influence is pure bulls**t. In fact, influence is a dangerous perception to create. All people are on the same playing field, anyone at anytime can create a good or bad reputation for your company, regardless if they have “influence” or not.”

    –>And Frank has a point—here’s why…

    “Many people remember the video of the sleeping Comcast technician right? It received millions and millions of views. However, the person that put up that video up only had 1 other posting on YouTube in their whole life. The person would not be considered influential at all yet had such as an impact.”

    His comment reminds me of your post about consistency of customer experience. If you cross your t’s and dot your i’s–generally you won’t have a problem.

  2. Blake – I think we agree for the most part – and I never thought about the “Focus Group” angle of Klout.

    But if you’re using a tool like Lithium or blueKiwi (wink) – can’t you simply identify the most fervent in your community? Shouldn;t big brands be creating platforms and identifying influencers – not simply mining the public networks and trying to gauge “influence” based on some silly arbitrary algorithm?

    Just my $.02…

  3. Hi Martin

    I don’t believe their algorithm is arbitrary.

    Today Klout is measured by True Reach (engaged followers and friends vs. spam bots, dead accounts, etc.). Amplification Score (likelihood that your messages will generate retweets or spark a conversation) and Network Score (if followers are influential).

    At this time-in a general sense-this measures aren’t totally arbitrary. They are the best we can think of in the sense of generalizing influence today.

    I think the guys over at klout are pretty rad for challenging us to think about customer segmentation differently. It’s not all about cash and “high value” customers.


  4. Great points Blake – I think Klout might be a nice to have tool for a company without its own community or plan of attack when it comes to aggregating customers in a single place for engagement, feedback, monitoring etc. Thanks for pointing this out.

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