Why We Need Social Scoring

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The social scoring service Klout has been generating a lot of press lately, both good and bad. If you don’t know what Klout is, it is a service that assigns a single score (out of 100) to an individual as a measure of how influential they are online. Since Klout came onto the scene last year, a whole host of similar services have popped up. All claim to measure online influence, but they do so using different criteria and algorithms.

While some have embraced social scoring, others are wary of some of the potential implications social scoring will have for society going forward. One of those implications is the creation of a social media caste system. People are worried that businesses will discriminate against individuals with low social influence scores.

The idea is that marketers target those with the highest scores and provide them with perks, (like a better suite at the Palms in Las Vegas), in the hopes that they will spread the good will to their networks, resulting in more customers for that business. The only issue is that if you have a low Klout score, then you do not receive these perks or advantages.

Think of your Klout score as a credit score. Just as you are not entitled to those low levels of interest with a low credit score, you may not be entitled to certain perks at restaurants and hotels because you have a low Klout score.

That being said, society needs social scoring. Today we are living in an attention economy, where we face a continuing downpour of data and information. If we don’t figure out a effective method of sifting through all this information, we’ll drown.

That’s where social scoring comes in. When I want to find content that is relevant, useful, and/or entertaining, I turn to my friends, trusted publications, or people that I know are considered experts in their fields.Those are the new gatekeepers.

By creating or curating information that has relevance and value I am more likely to pay attention to them. I spend hours reading Mashable every week because I always learn something new. And I follow Brian Solis on Twitter for the same reason as well.

My attention is just like a currency, a currency I exchange for relevant information.

Of course, there were going to be attempts to measure online influence. Humans have always sought to align themselves with people more influential than they in order to achieve influence themselves. However, I believe that social scoring services like Klout should seek to measure influence only when it pertains to specific topics, such as SEO or dubstep.

A key component of online influence is relevance. Take Britney Spears who has millions of Twitter followers. She has a high Klout score but does she exert any influence in the SEO industry?

No.

But she might exert some influence when it comes to dubstep music, because her latest song has some dubstep elements, and you know there will be at least 200 dubstep remixes of any Britney Spears song.

Imagine if there were directories you could look up according to topic. At the top, you’d be able to see individuals, blogs, products, services, etc., with the highest influence scores. Then you’d be able to make a more informed decision depending on what you are looking for. It’s not that you or I are want less information. In fact, we want more. We just want it to be the best, most accurate, most relevant information we can get.

Does the concept of social scoring raise some legitimate issues? Yes, but ultimately I believe the benefits of social scoring will outweigh the costs.

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The Facebook Commenting System: A Tool for the New Influential

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I noticed that there were essentially two sides to the debate: readers vs. the websites and companies and brands that operate them.

From a brand or company perspective, the new commenting system makes a lot of sense. With the Facebook commenting system, readers are using their real identities, so anything they post gets traced back to them.

The new system means less trolls and livelier, more interesting discussion. It also means that brands have more face time yours and your friend’s newsfeeds.

There seem to be two major gripes by readers however. One, readers are skeptical of granting more third-party companies access to their private data on Facebook, and two, since whatever comments you post on a site like Techcrunch are also posted to Facebook, readers fear certain people reading their comments. Maybe you don’t want your girlfriend to see that comment on Askmen.com about the 25 hottest women in sports.

Personally, I think that the new Facebook commenting system will be a boon for the New Influential.

It is hard to build online influence if you are not authentic, and Facebook comments is a great way to show who you are, and what you care about. If you provide helpful and/or entertaining comments, people are likely to follow you around the internet and hear what you have to say.

Another benefit is Facebook’s 600 million person user base. By integrating Facebook comments on your site, it increases the likelihood of your content going viral.

I can think of two scenarios where the new Facebook commenting system might help.

Imagine if you were a fashion blogger, and you just posted a positive review of a new pair of Jordans released by Nike. Your post receives dozens of positive comments from “real” people, a few buy the shoes, and you get affiliate fees. Your readers’ Facebook friends also see the comments in their newsfeed, and are curious to see what shoes their friends are looking at. Clicking on the link, they visit your blog, and decide that they want to buy shoes as well.

Voila! Influence.

Or what if you were holding a contest that allowed readers to come up with a clever tag line for your new product. You ask your readers to write their own tag lines in the comments. Your reader’s friends see this, and decide that they want to join as well, and now you have more participants and readers than you did before.

The new Facebook commenting system is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination (no Twitter or Google integration. or the voting system), but the potential is there.

I can’t wait for the reaction I get when my comments on TechCrunch start showing up in my newsfeed.

What do you think of the new Facebook commenting system? Do you think it helps from a branding perspective?

Is The Concept of Online Influence Overrated?

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If you’ve been following me around the Interwebs lately (why would you? That’s called stalking. Unless you’re a marketer of course) then you would know that the subject of online influence really gets me going.

Wanna know how I’m obsessed?

It all started when I had to create a class blog on online influence.

I called it The New Influential.

I thought (still do think) it was brilliant.

So brilliant that I had to make it my Twitter handle. And now I obsess over Klout scores and PeerIndex scores, and like a drug fiend, I zip through my Google Reader, trying to get the latest fix on online influence.

But today Tom Webster wrote a post on Social Media Today titled, “The Limits of Online Influence”. Webster discusses how he enlisted the support of A-List influencers like Chris Brogan and Ed Shahzade to help raise awareness for the earthquake disaster in New Zealand.

He wanted people to create a simple 20 second message, and hoped that his influential friends, which have hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers, would cause an outpouring of 20 second messages.

With a little help from his friends, Webster’s message had a combined reach of 308,000, and generated over 400,000 impressions.

Those might seem like big numbers, except when you consider that only 389 people clicked on the actual link, and only 10 left a message.

Wow. Talk about disappointing.

So does this mean that the idea of online influence is overrated? Webster would think so:

“What this experience suggests to me, however, is that if you thought online influence has been a bit oversold, you are wrong. It’s been exponentially oversold.”

I would say yes and no.

First of all, how we define influence as it pertains to the web is still ongoing. Is influence the same as popularity? Is Lady Gaga influential because she is popular?

Well, it depends.

When it comes to music, definitely.

But when it comes to online marketing, probably not.

It also depends how much work, planning, and preparation is put into making an influencer outreach program work. In his post, Webster talks about his good friend Matt Riding, who rattled off three things that Webster could have done differently to engage more people.

I guess it served as a wake up call to me because I figured you could just rely on the inherent potential Twitter and Facebook to carry your message and influence the masses.

Apparently not.

Lastly, I think it’s important to say that we are just beginning to live in the digital age. Remember 6 years ago when services like Facebook and Twitter did not exist, and blogging was not for moms?

I do.

Society is still not at a point where social media is absolutely essential. I mean c’mon, most companies still haven’t figured out how to get a ROI from social media. How are they supposed to know how to run influencer campaigns?

I believe that as society grows more comfortable with these new tools marketers can then create more effective influencer campaigns. There will be more data available, and better tools for collecting and analyzing that data so that a formula is established.

So to say that the concept of online influence is overrated is shortsighted.

A service like Klout might be pretty meaningless to Joe the Plumber in 2011, but what about in 2025, when there will be billions of people connected to the internet?

Just something to chew on.

How Will You Be Remembered?

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Do you remember watching Britney Spears on TV when you were younger? You wanted to be just like her, singing and dancing at the MTV Music Awards with thousands of adoring fans screaming your name.

Or maybe it was Kobe Bryant. You wanted to slash to the rim and dunk over other superstars in the NBA Finals, in front of an audience of millions.

You wanted to be famous and you wanted to be influential, just like those figures mentioned above.

I don’t blame you. I wanted (and still want) to be famous and influential. It’s part of human nature.

As humans, we have this innate need for attention. For the most part, we like to be recognized for our work, for our beauty, for our personality; for something. Whatever it is that we own or have accomplished in this life, we need that feeling of validation.

And just as we’ve needed this feeling of validation since the Stone Age, we also need this feeling of validation in the Information Age.

You’ve probably heard talk about how our generation (Gen Y) is becoming more and more narcissistic, and that may very well be true.

Consider this story for example:

I don’t normally spend much time in Duke’s Law School, but the Law Library is a great place to study during finals. Finals that semester were particularly tough, and I had been awake for 48 consecutive hours. Tired, I walked up the stairs, pushed open the double doors, and then proceeded to use the bathroom, not sure of where I was going.

As I walked in, the first thing I noticed was that there were no urinals.

That’s odd I thought. Unperturbed, I finished my business, washed my hands, and then walked out, only to see a female pass my by and look at me very strangely.

What’s her deal? I remembered thinking.

And then by chance I glanced up, and saw that I had just used the “Ladies” bathroom.

Oops.

Instead of being embarrased, I was thought it was incredibly funny, and posted it to my Facebook.

So tired that I just walked into the Ladies bathroom in the Law School Libs. LOL!!!

Or something like that.

Within minutes, I had about 10 comments that read, “Hahaha”, “LOL!!!”, “You so stoop!!” and “You would do that!”

While your status updates may never be as extreme as mine was, at some point (probably today even), you’ve posted an update that you knew/hoped would get liked, commented on, or retweeted.

You wanted to create something memorable, so that people could look back and say, “remember when you said that?”

And that, is the whole idea behind fame and influence: legacy.

People will always remember Britney Spears because she makes great (depends on your taste in music) pop music and continues to influence generations of teen girls.

And people will always remember Kobe Bryant as being one of the greatest basketball players of all time, and for inspiring a generation of kids to shoot turnaround jumpers in their backyards.

We, as humans strive for influence because if we can have an impact on a certain number of people, then that many more people will remember us after we are gone.

It doesn’t have to be millions, thousands, or even hundreds. We just need to exert enough influence so that someone remembers us after we are dead and gone.

Facebook: The Social Network for Revolutions?

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I can say with 95 percent confidence that when Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook in 2005, he did not create it with the purpose of sparking political revolutions.  Yet, it seems that in 2011, Facebook is doing exactly that.

If it holds true to its early form, 2011 just may be remembered as the Year of the Revolution. Feeling the aftermath of Tunisia overthrewing its government in late 2010, Egypt just deposed President Hosni Mubarak from power, and it seems that Algeria, Libya and other African and Middle Eastern nations may soon follow.

Political revolutions are nothing new. It’s just that in 2011 Facebook and Twitter have overtaken the traditional outlets of print and television as the conduits for political protest across the Middle East.

Which is why Newsweek’s piece on Wael Ghonim, Google’s head of marketing for the Middle East and Africa, is so fascinating.

There is always that one still image that defines a revolution and marks its beginning.

Khaled Said was a businessman who was beaten to death by local police after using Facebook to disseminate a video of police stealing pot from a drug bust.

The beating was captured on film and disseminated around the web when Ghonim saw it, and inspired, he created a Facebook page titled “We Are All Khaled Said” in Said’s honor.

Running the page as “El Baradei”, or the Martyr, Ghonim was able to convince 50,000 people to attend the “revolution” on Facebook. The most interesting line of the article comes on page 3,

In another conversation, he mocked the idea that any politician could corral the growing protest push. “A virtual guy that they don’t know is telling them what to do,” he said. “I have the people on my side.”

What is so extraordinary, is that Ghonim was able to translate virtual support into tangible support by using the Facebook page to promote democratic ideals and schedule and organize individual demonstrations.

“El Baradei” was the perfect storm of Ghonim’s expertise and the unfortunate death of a businessman – Khaled Said was viewed as a martyr for dying to uncover injustice by the local police, and Wael Ghonim used his marketing savvy to channel the online frustrations of Egyptians into productive demonstration.

Wael Ghonim was just one example of an individual exerting influence on a network of people. No doubt, there were hundreds, if not thousands of individuals exerting influence on their neighbors, family, friends, strangers, and fellow Egytpians to participate in the revolution.

What do you make of the revolution in Egypt? Do you think you have what it takes to spark a revolution?

5 Ways to Win Friends and Influence People Online

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1. Check your Klout Score and PeerIndex Score.

I’ve already spoken at length about the pros and cons of both services, but they do have a use and a place. Use them to gauge how active you are online, and then see which areas you can improve.

Did you only connect your Twitter account. What about your Facebook? Or Linkedin? Or your blogs?

The more the merrier.

2. Write a blog.

If you aren’t already blogging, what are you waiting for!?

Blogging is a great way to establish authority and credibility on a subject.

If you work hard at blogging, market your blogging, and actually stick with blogging, over time you will end up with dedicated readers.

3. Read and share interesting or useful content.

After you read an article, you shouldn’t just keep it to yourself. You should share it! Sharing content that is relevant and interesting to your social networks, you will increase your value to individuals in your social network, and they will come to rely on you as trusted source for interesting and useful content.

4. Brand yourself across social networks.

This is an important one. By establishing a consistent brand image across multiple social networks, you ensure that your posts reach as wide an audience as possible. For example, I can rely on Facebook for people mostly college students, Linkedin for more professional connections, and Twitter for everyone in between. There are even more social networks you can use to establish influence online, but those three are the most important.

5. Leave comments on other blogs.

And not spam comments like, “Hey check out my post here!” If you do this, no one will want to follow the link back to your website, especially the blogger, for fear that you are a spammer.

If you do leave comments (and you should), you should seek to add something meaningful to the conversation along with a link.Leaving comments provides two benefits: 1) the blogger will be thankful that you contribute regularly to the conversation and will be more likely to help you and 2) by leaving insightful comments, you can help brand yourself as an expert and draw that bloggers readers to your own blog.

What do you think of this advice? Do you have anything to add?

 

 

How My Embarrasing Facebook Photo Went Viral

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It was 10:30PM, and I had just gotten out of my fraternity’s chapter meeting when I felt my Blackberry buzz in my pocket.

Is this an email, a text, or a bbm? I thought as I reached into my jeans pocket, and pulled out my red-flashing Blackberry.

It was an email from Facebook, with a subject line that read (I’m using a fake name to protect my friend’s identity),

“Jane Doe has tagged a photo of you.”

I’ll check it when I get to the library, I thought, and stashed my phone back into my pocket, Facebook photos an afterthought.

As I continued walking, my phone began vibrating again, but I ignored. But then came a second vibration, and a third, and then a fourth.

Intrigued, I whipped out my phone to read more emails from Facebook. More of my friends were tagging me in photos but added captions like,

“So easy a caveman could do it,” and “Save money on Geico car insurance”.

Confused, scared, and intrigued, I rushed to the library, logged onto Facebook, and saw 10 notifications waiting.

Heart racing, I braced myself for what the embarrassing, job-prospect-destroying photo would be.

It wasn’t that bad, just a goofy photo of me that all my friends made their profile pictures.

I have no idea what I was doing.

Amused by my friends’ creativity, I decided to join the game, “@” replying each them and writing, “I hate all of you.”

In under a minute, there were half a dozen likes and comments, and more friends were getting in on the action.

And then the Facebook chats began.

Their profile defaults set to that picture, all my friends simultaneously chatted with me, and when I responded to one, they would coordinate their message and all respond at the same time.

Faced with a lost cause, I logged off Facebook, thoughts of revenge on my mind.

Dissecting my first Viral experience.

The prank got me thinking about how and why content goes viral, like the Old Spice campaign. Obviously my photo was not on the same scale as the Old Spice campaign, but I think there are some commonalities:

1. Humor.

It’s almost a sure bet that if a video or graphic is funny enough, and enough people see it, it will go viral.

Comedy works. Ask Old Spice.

That photo of me is pretty creepy, but also kinda funny. Who wouldn’t want to tweet that?

2. Relevance.

The photo is funny, but it is not on the scale of Old Spice.

The Old Spice campaign was geared towards males, ages 18-35, who I’m sure were more inclined to engage with the campaign than anyone other demographic.

Likewise, my friends and I found it funny because we have a history together, a certain context that an outsider would not have, and therefore the photo means more to them than any outsider.

3. Personalization.

For content to be viral, people need to engage with it. Old Spice allowed ordinary people to submit their own captions, which Isaiah Mustafa would then respond to.

This clever idea no doubt caused people to spread the message, because the chance to be part of history was too alluring.

4. Game Mentality.

This is tied to personalization. Old Spice allowing individual input created a sense of competition among viewers: who could come up with the funniest caption.

A similar competition arose between my friends and I, as we all tried to one-up each other.

5. Social Media.

This one is rather obvious, but Facebook, Youtube and Twitter are all mediums that allow you to 1) comment and participate in real-time, and 2) share content easily within your social network.

It was like my friends were in the same room with me, and we were all laughing and talking about the photo. Except it was through Facebook, and all the people I’m friends with on Facebook could see, and join in.

6. Influencers (or as Seth Godin calls them, Sneezers).

These were the people who were responsible for making the photo go viral. They were the ones who saw the Old Spice video on Youtube, and then shared it via Facebook, Twitter, email, etc.

They exerted influence over their social networks, and helped the video go viral.

The same for my photo. My friends and I all have a certain measure of trust with one another, so when someone posts content on their wall, our network is likely to listen.

In my case, my friends saw that initial person tag a photo of me, and then from there the firestorm started.

Recreating the Viral Experience.

I’m glad to say that my first viral experience wasn’t an embarrassing one and now I’m tempted to recreate the experience.

I don’t know what it will be, but you can bet you’ll find out first.

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