My disdain for social scoring platforms is no secret. Not only have I expressed my opinions on this site, my perspective on – and experiences with – these tools have been widely written about in books, magazines and on other blogs. I’ve been interviewed on Web, radio and television broadcasts where I’ve shared those same views. I’ve not been able to attend or speak at a conference this year without someone yelling: “Hey, it’s the Klout-guy!”
If all of those articles and interviews were to be boiled down to one sentiment, it would be that you’re a fool if you pay any attention to social scoring platforms. There are many factors that have impacted my view on these, from my personal experiences during job interviews, inaccuracies in scoring algorithms, security concerns, poor operating practices, and of course the fact that these platforms can be gamed, thus rendering the scores meaningless.
While I’m not the lone marketer with these apprehensions, some have asked why I’ve been so vocal in my opposition. In truth, it has been less about the business of social scoring as it was about the use of social scoring. A new breed of “professional influencers” who understand how to game the algorithm for personal and financial gain has emerged and they’ve muddied the social pool, making it difficult to distinguish real influencers from fabricated ones.
Brand marketers (and others within the organization) were misplacing their trust in these scores and crafting communication strategies around them without understanding the context or accuracy of the reported influence. As a marketer who prides himself in successfully creating word-of-mouth marketing campaigns that drive measurable results, I took exception to how these scores and platforms were being used.
Overcoming Prejudice and Logic
A lunch-time conversation with Dups Wijayawardhana, the co-founder and CEO of Empire Avenue, shed some new perspective on the debate when he challenged me with this statement: “Even if you believed none of these tools could accurately measure influence, in combination with other tools and processes, they have value.” In theory I understood his point but in practice I could not get over the inaccuracies that many have proven exist in these measurements or the subject matter of said influence, not to mention the fact that I could not always gain direct access or ownership to the actual database of names these tools spread my message to, or the algorithms used to identify them.
The one point I could never argue was that such tools – and the very concept of scoring influencers – will not go away. Scoring influencers was done before social scoring platforms like PeerIndex, Klout and Kred became so popular and I’m certain many more will emerge in the future. I owed it to my clients to further explore the current state of these platforms.
After a lengthy and very frank discussion on the subject with Andrew Grill, CEO of Kred.com and Lee Bogner, Vice President of Business Development, I began to see the evolution of these tools and, for a moment, had hope in the future of the practice. Created by social analytics leader PeopleBrowsr, Kred measures influence in online communities connected by interests.
For influencers, Kred presents a visual history of a person’s social media influence in a rather cool drill-down dashboard that’s fun to play with. However, cynicism saw this interface as another gamification tactic to keep us interested and playing their game. On the other hand, for marketers Kred offers four distinct services:
- Brand Follower Scores
Find the most engaged (influence) and engaging (outreach) followers of your brand over a select timeframe.
- Brand Champion Influencer Identification Score
Find the most engaged and engaging users around your @name #hahstag, or keyword matching your brand over a select timeframe.
- Competitive Follower Score
Find the most engaged (influence) and engaging (outreach) followers of a competitive brand over a select timeframe.
- Competitive Mention Score
Find the most engaged and engaging users around a competitor’s @name #hashtag, or keyword matching your brand over a select timeframe.
It’s not these services that had me rethinking my stance on Kred, but its philosophy and business practice in providing those services.
Kred is an open book. It doesn’t hide the algorithms it uses to identify, segment and rank individuals, which is extremely helpful for those of us who like to do a deeper dive into the nature of relationships between influencers and followers when designing influence marketing campaigns. Further, its history as a data management/analysis firm becomes evident when you review its methodology; Kred gets it.
It understands that social scoring gamers, employees (yours and your competitors) and others “work the system” to artificially increase their scores, so it actively seeks out, flags and removes these individuals from the lists Kred provides its clients. In that same vein, Kred analyzes the sentiment of content shared by those it scores to offer greater and more accurate segmentation of the audience.
Kred’s focus is not to sell scores or be a facilitator between you and your audience but on providing a customized consulting service that works to help identify the multitude of considerations and filters required to accurately manage an influence marketing campaign. Oh, and if you don’t want to use Kred to broadcast a message, you can take the list and work it yourself.
Its scoring is two-dimensional and evolving. Kred states its scores “reflect trust and generosity, the foundations of strong relationships.” It scores “influence” as the ability to inspire action and “outreach” that reflects generosity in engaging with others and helping them to spread the message. “In the future, you’ll see the scores become multi-dimensional with the inclusion of even more data sources that could include attribution, affinity, context and more,” states Mr. Grill. This provides marketers greater insights and allows for better planning and decision making in our outreach efforts.
It’s About Me
Kred’s business plan, service and platform are designed to build their business by truly improving the effectiveness of a business’ influence marketing efforts, not to increase its own revenues by being a middle man between the business and a black hole of undisclosed “influencers”.
While I’m still wary of any platform that claims to be able to unequivocally and scientifically rank something as fluid and unpredictable as influence, I appreciate the openness and flexibility of Kred and how it provides me with solid data points that I can choose to incorporate into my own influence marketing programs.
Could there be hope for social influence scoring platforms?!
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego