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.

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.