Friday, November 4, 2011

Finding Influencers: Looking beyond their Klout

Klout is the go-to place for marketers and individuals to measure social influence on the web. Every member of the Klout community is assigned a score based on their ability to drive action in the digital world. Marketers use Klout to identify social community influencers by their overall Klout score—which is a calculation based on the combined impact of their actions online. Using interaction data from social networks, Klout measures an individual’s true reach (number of people they influence), amplification (degree of influence) and network impact (true reach over a network). While Klout can be useful, it should only be used as a starting point to find influencers in online communities. Marketers need to look beyond this top-level score to really understand how influential a person is in any given community.

Klout should not be used as the single barometer to determine of how influential an individual is online. The algorithmically-generated score cannot reveal quality of content, or that content’s relevance to a brand, campaign or social community. Marketers must bring the human element to the decision process and use qualitative metrics to determine whether an individual is relevant and influential for over a brand community—qualitative factors include:
  • Brand/Campaign Goals: Differing brand or campaign goals should be considered when identifying influencers. For example, marketers working to revamp a brand image should focus on influencers that speak negatively about the brand. Conversely, marketers trying to introduce a new diaper product to moms should focus on influencers such as Mom Bloggers.
  • Engaging Content: Klout measures quantity of content, but not necessarily quality of content. Take time to read content posted by the individual from various blogs and forums—Is the content accurate? Are the sources reliable? Can you trust what they say?
  • Active followers: Retweets are not a sign of influence. Ask yourself: Does the individual “talk at” the masses or do they engage in a conversation? Investigate blogs, forums and social media profiles to determine how the individual is interacting with the community. Pay attention to what readers are posting in the comments area. Evidence of engaging two-way conversation is a strong sign the individual has influence.

The purpose of this post is not to diminish the usefulness of Klout in identifying influencers. The service is a huge help to marketers narrow down online influencers in a given category. I encourage marketers to use this service as a jumping off point. Use Klout to get an idea of who is influential in an industry. Once marketers have a core list of potential influencers, take analysis a step further to better understand the quality, relevance and degree of influence in their social community.

Carrie Griffith is an Integrated Marketing Communications graduate student at Northwestern University’s Medill School. She is the Online Publicity Director for the student-run marketing blog, Vitamin IMC. To learn more about Carrie, follow her on twitter @carriegriffith or visit her website.

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