Like being voted Homecoming Queen, being at the top of the list of influence metric companies such as Klout, Empire Avenue, Peer Index and ProSkore may be turning into a hollow victory as the shortcomings and pitfalls of these services become more pronounced.
The major issue seems to be the ease with which some of these metrics can be rigged through a well-organized canned third party campaign. Because the measurable data is very much anecdotal – and also requires a lot of context to determine whether a reference to your company is glowing or scathing, reliance on such measurements becomes very much a ‘use at your own risk’ exercise.
How these companies work is by aggregating the numbers of times and also what is being said about a brand or company within major players such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Google+ .
This is a guest post by fellow marketer Doug Crosse of 4 C Communications
The real grey area appears to be in the influence special formula each company uses. Like the Colonel’s Herbs and Spices recipe – most people can figure out the basics of how a company gets its metrics – but it is what they don’t specify that has industry watchers worried. The argument presented by the Social Influence companies is that the score a company receives is based on quality analysis of retrieved social references about your company. But any industry will tell you that these can be dangerous tracking metrics if the person looking at the information doesn’t understand the nature of the business being discussed.
A company that makes surf boards is going to have a much different social conversation in the wild then an airline or a car company. But if you use the same standards for all three the resulting data is sure to be flawed for one of the companies.
A report from Digital Agency White Horse had this to say about Klout’s recently updated scoring system. “Although highly touted and, in many cases, given significant weight, social scoring systems are a cloudy measurement of true influence. This is due, in part, to secretive scoring practices (i.e. – “mystification”) of measurement in order to prevent users from “gaming,” or artificially manipulating, scoring systems.”
So – going back to the Homecoming Queen analogy – if your best friend is counting the ballots – chances are good the vote is going to go your way. It is the human element involved in creating these scores that makes the data such a dangerous measurement of a company’s social reputation.
A more useful measurement tends to be how much a brand is coming up in the overall conversation. Heard of Pinterest lately? Until recently, most of us hadn’t but now the ubiquitous image sharing social site is the next ‘big thing’ . Certainly a quick random check of those conversations about Pinterest reveal a very high approval rating among users – so it is quick exercise to connect the dots that a large volume of references X high percentage of glowing recommendations = Pinterest’s meteoric rise in the social conversation.
Where a service like Klout may become more relevant is for companies going through a bad PR stretch.
Case in point: Tassimo – the maker of the popular single serve coffee machine has had to issue a recall of nearly 1.5 million units plus some of its line of Kraft made tea discs in Canada. How they are handling this PR disaster would be a good thing for Klout to be measuring hour by hour and day by day – so Tassimo can better direct its resources.
- If they hear, for example, the 800 number is frustrating and people are unhappy – they can scale up or outsource the phone system to handle the extra call volume.
- If the website is missing key information – Klout might be able to reveal that through measurable conversations in the key social media streams.
The question then becomes – is that not a task for the in-house PR team to be conducting – or is this a value add that a Klout or ProSkore bring to the table.
While useful information can be gleaned from the reports of these companies, it should all be weighed against other measurables both scientific and anecdotal, to achieve a fair and balanced view overall. What am I missing here? Is there a better way? Chime in with your thoughts below.