Posts Tagged influence

Influence is irrelevant

Posted by on Wednesday, 9 January, 2013

jro_kloutThat got your attention, didn’t it? Last month I called 2013 the Year of Influence and shared Brian Solis’ interview of Klout founder/CEO Joe Fernandez where they spoke about the future of Klout as a tool for influence measurement. Contrary to the title of this current post, I still believe 2013 will be the year of influence for content marketers and social businesses on a large scale. But, let me tell you why I think it is also irrelevant to some of us:

In social business, the common belief is that measuring a person’s influence on social networks is the key to showing value; that influence is THE metric to use to show value and success. That is to say: is it accurate that if I have a higher influence score then I am obviously more successful in social business? Many people have been scurrying to quantify this as part of their efforts to define ROI. You’ve even heard me use the word when speaking about other aspects of social business and how being and influencer and working with other influencers are key parts to creating results.

While I’ve been cautiously skeptical about companies purporting to be able to define this soft concept in quantifiable numbers, I did buy in to the idea that influence is one of the keys to show value beyond simple click-through or follower metrics. I’m no longer so sure. From a strictly sales or marketing organization perspective that may indeed still be the case; but I don’t work in sales, I work in the support organization where our mission is different and our value is most often seen after the sale.

From a support delivery perspective, as a client what you want from me isn’t my opinion nor my ability to influence you to my ideologies; what you want (and need) is my tacit knowledge and skills to solve existing technical problems. As a client/customer your interaction with us has nothing to do with our level of influence, instead it is wholly focused on your trust in our expertise and capabilities; two items which activity measuring services like Klout, Kred, Crowdbooster, or PeerIndex can’t touch on… at least not yet.

Tom Webster at BrandSavant.com notes in a prior blog post:

“… These are the three appeals:

  • Ethos, the argument from the author’s credibility;
  • Pathos, an appeal to the emotions of the audience;
  • Logos, or an appeal to the audience’s sense of logic and reason.

Writers who skillfully weave Ethos, Pathos and Logos stand the best chance of swaying their audience to change their state. I believe that what “influence measures” are working towards is this: a quantification of Ethos. They aren’t there yet, but they are iterating rapidly. And I can buy a Klout score as a representation of Ethos, especially if they would finally get around to applying these scores to individual topics. But Ethos alone is insufficient. What all of these scores fail to measure–indeed, cannot measure–is the effect of the message itself… “

Taking Tom’s ideas into account, we can still use the Rhetoric concepts of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos to help our efforts in quantifying value within the support realm but outside of the concept of influence.

  • Ethos= perceived trust and identified skill.
  • Logos= quality of interactions and historic interaction/observation
  • Pathos… There is less of an emotional need in support, as logic and reason are ingrained in our technical content used to answer questions or solve issues. But what this does touch on is the sense our clients get from our interactions which may help them be more inclined to contact us sooner when an issue is encountered, or conversely may cause them to use us only as a last resort. Call this approach-ability, friendliness, or personality.

So, let me try to define a new way of looking at this:

Value for a social business support account = perceived trust + identified skill + historic interaction/observation + quality of interactions + responsiveness + approach-ability.
Or, put more simply: value = ethos + logos + pathos

But it goes beyond that. You can see here, what we need from these measurement tools is not a quantification of influence. Rather, we need thought leadership or digital eminence quantified: a person/account which is perceived by their followers as best in breed; the people who are technically adept and know the right answer, the smart answer… the connectors to the knowledge you need.

The deeper root problem here is that the mock equation above is based on measurements of concepts, thoughts, and feeling; not always directly observable or quantifiable activities. So, how do we quantify perception?  In my research I’ve found that direct feedback is the single most critical component to quantifying subjective perception. But, often that feedback is scarce at best, and non-existent most other cases. Often (and especially in self-help scenarios) once a problem is solved there is no additional contact to close the loop and provide feedback so we are left attempting to quantify the unknown, and make educated assumptions of effectiveness to close the gaps as best we can.

In light of the lack of direct quantifiable feedback we only have indicators like click-throughs, reach, and influence scores to tell us if our efforts in the social business spaces are moving in the right direction and potentially effective in helping our clients solve their issues, and to show us value beyond the pure technical content we create and share. So, while influence is indeed irrelevant, the scoring information is a usable measurement to at least tell us if we’re doing something right.

All our efforts in the social spaces, of course, grow IBM’s influence as a whole as we build that level of trust and identified skill.  But in support, indirectly providing influence is a side-effect of our primary objective: getting the right answers to the right people just in time.

2013: The Year of Influence

Posted by on Thursday, 20 December, 2012

In 2012 you’ve likely heard me talk about thought leadership and digital eminence, both of which are components of influence. You’ve also heard me talk about Klout before, and how I didn’t think it was up to the job as a tool for influence measurement, but that it was the least objectionable tool out there at present. Because I’m a skeptic when it comes to Klout, but believe there is potential there, I’ve been keeping up with their changes and shifts in strategy if only to be able to say “no, we still can’t really rely on this yet”.

That’s how I came to watch when Brian Solis shared this interview he held with Klout founder and CEO Joe Fernandez in which they discuss the future of Klout and influence measurement.
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Some of the key points highlighted:

  • Klout as democratizing influence. Everyone with access to a smart-phone now has a voice and can become influential at scale.
  • Be more mindful of what we create and the impact we have.
  • Responsibility to cultivate good behaviour, to elevate level of conversation
  • Klout as tool to grow social media maturity
  • Klout as a tool to help you be more effective in social
  • Move into the real world. Balancing online and offline life to contribute to the overall score.
  • Increasing the power to the influencer, shows how powerful their content is
  • Evolving into a more robust picture of influence.
  • Vision for the future of influence: every interaction of brand to person is the story of the brand. Influence will only grow in importance and building a relationship with influencers will be critical.
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In my comment on Brian Solis’ share on GooglePlus, I noted:

“…at best Klout is an indicator of activity that hopefully shows deeper levels of conversation and interaction. The difficulties with Klout come when people become so metric focused and begin to only do the simple things akin to gaming the system to keep their number high, rather than looking at the long game and actual goals surrounding their online presence.. Only using Klout as that indicator and not a direct measure is how I am able to use it currently, and how I continue to see it in the near future.”

I’ll be honest with you and myself here: I initially missed the point of his interview and what Joe was saying when I commented on Brian’s share. Only after replaying it a few times as I was working on this post did it really sink in. The point is that Klout is intended by its founder and CEO to be a tool to guide both brands and influencers to build better, more effective relationships, not to be a metric to tell you how good you are.

I think I’ll be able to start accepting this new-found view of the tool if the user base (both individuals and brands) also begin using the tool to this end rather than basing business decisions on it as a metric. In either case, and regardless of which tool you use, the coming year is indeed shaping up to look like the “Year of Influence“, where your level of influence is going to dramatically increase in importance for your professional life. We can’t ignore it, but we also can’t blindly accept that what we have presently to measure is the best we are going to get. And that is why Joe’s interview is beginning to turn me: he gets this, he knows he hasn’t solved the problem. So, I am going to be watching Klout next year, even more intently than I have in the past, to see where their changes take them. I’ll be looking to see how much of the gap they can close to get us all closer to a usable and trustworthy tool intent on helping guide us in building those all important influencer relationships. After all, relationships are the key component to being a social business.