In late April, I headed down to Knoxville to attend SocialSlam, a conference founded by my friend Mark Schaefer. Mark has been one of the people who has really reached out to me over the two years that I’ve been online – he reached out when I was having a hard time, invited me to guest post on his extremely popular blog, and has always been genuine and warm (he was no different in person). At the conference, I received a complimentary copy of Mark’s new book, Return on Influence (not an affiliate link) which had been next on my Amazon wish list.
I have come to learn that books tend to influence me (bwa ha ha) to react in one of a few ways:
- They make me excited because they make clear a lot of things I didn’t even realize I was unclear about (see Olivier Blanchard’s Social Media ROI and Christopher Barger’s Social Media Strategist)
- They educate me in such a way that I want to take action and try new things (see John Jantsch’s Referral Engine, Jonah Sachs’ Winning the Story Wars, and Marketing in the Round by Gini Dietrich & Geoff Livingston)
- They make me want to argue with the author
- They make me really bored and curse my OCD (I have to finish every book I start)
In the case of this particular book, I am inspired to argue with Mark. Now, that does not mean I think his book is bad. In fact, I have so much to say because he really got me thinking, and his book pushes a lot of hot buttons, at least for me and my own view of the social media world. With that said, what do I want to argue about?
Does a high Klout score mean passion and/or knowledge?
If you are not familiar, the focus of this book is the role algorithmic sites like Klout and PeerIndex are playing in measuring the hazy world of influence. Now, a point that is referenced quite often throughout the book is that a high Klout score can be a sign that a person is really passionate or really knowledgeable about…something. Take this quote from Naveen Krishnamurthy: “I want to find the people who are online because they are knowledgeable passionate, and excited about what they are doing. Looking at a person’s Klout score seems to be a good indicator of that, a good way to recruit.”
To which I respond, Hmmmmmm.
When Klout first began making buzz in my online circles, I don’t recall seeing anyone saying, “I have to make sure I show that I’m influential in a topic relevant to my business. What I saw was, “Crap, my Klout score fell by 3 points over the weekend. I need to get it back up again.” Indeed, Mark quotes a tweet that says something along the lines of, “I can’t let my Klout score ever fall back that low again.” I am not convinced that Klout scores are signs that people are passionate or knowledgeable. My humble opinion is that more often than not, high Klout scores are symbolic of a person who wants to have a high Klout score.
The spiky thorn that is reciprocity
Mark talks at length about the importance of reciprocity online. He gives several examples of people who formulated online relationships and were able to help each other out both online and offline. This concept was also a major focus in Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith – if you give, you’re likely to get something back.
But are you?
The longer I stay in the online world, the less reciprocity I witness. This is not meant to be a mean statement – it’s just, well, people are people. And in the online world, people are predominantly out for themselves (working on their Klout scores, for example). The other issue, as the book points out, is that Klout encourages people to engage with those who have higher Klout scores. Reciprocity tends to be sought after more from those folks, and thus, paradoxically, more is given to those who may not need it as much. The idea of reciprocity is nice, and I agree it could be extremely useful as you build a network, but I just don’t see it in action as much as Mark’s chapter might have you believe if you’re new.
Low Klout scores mean things won’t spread online
This is perhaps the part of the book that surprised me most. Mark tells the story of a company who found a PR crisis unfolding online. Really bad news was being spread about this company’s client. Well, the client was freaked out, but the PR firm said, “Hang on. Most of these people have really low Klout scores. I don’t think what they’re saying will spread.” Nothing was done, and sure enough the news fizzled out.
To me, that’s a pure stroke of luck.
Here’s the thing. My Klout score is a relatively paltry 57 (Yes, I look on occasion). A really good score is a 70 to give you some perspective. If I decide to say something about you and you dismiss me because of my Klout score, what you’re missing is that I’m fortunate to know some folks who DO happen to have high Klout scores. Without me even asking, one of them might spread the word. If I did ask them, boy, you could really be in trouble.
I would also suggest that ignoring positive feedback from a person with a low Klout score is just as dangerous. This concept that you really need to nurture people with high Klout scores so they don’t say anything bad about you is spreading at an alarming rate. Think it through, though. If I go out of my way to say something really nice about you or your company and I keep getting ignored, I might end up talking about you or leaving a comment somewhere. If that gets picked up by one of your high Klout score babies, you’re still going to be in trouble. As much as you might want it, people with high Klout scores are not isolated from us poor Klout shlubs. At least not yet.
What I can’t argue with
The overriding point of Mark’s book is something you can’t argue with, however, and that is that this notion of trying to measure influence does not seem to be going anywhere except up. It’s important to educate *yourself* to determine what *you* think about all of this, and Mark’s book does a great job of introducing you to the pros and cons of Klout in particular.
Check out the book, then come on back here and let me know what you think!
I’ve written a new e-book called The ABCs of Marketing Myths. You can read about it here!