By: Dianne Heath
January 12, 2012
Apps, algorithms, automation and other online tools have increasingly become a widespread method to simplify complex tasks. For example, why drain your resources counting out change when a cash register can do it for you in seconds? Now tools are moving online to help us increase our productivity. These online tools are quickly trusted since many are glad to reduce to effects of human error and bias. Data and algorithms are rapidly dominating the business world, dictating significant decisions that can propel or crumble a business - remember Panda? There are computer programs that trade stock at hyper speeds have been integrated into daily use prominent for stock brokers - perhaps prevent the chance of another NASDAQ meltdown. ABC News reports that "The computers have become traders in just the last few years, say market people. One particularly visible part of what they do is called High Frequency Trading, in which machines, programmed to look for market trends, may buy or sell a stock in milliseconds... often based on information they receive a fraction of a second before the rest of the world does." Apparently we can't trust humans to honestly trade stocks and rationally consider all the factors such as business climate, pop culture trends and household needs. However the question remains are these tools truly accurate? Can they really determine the direction that a person should go even if the algorithm doesn't have human emotions? The lack of human emotions can often result in inefficiency. Calculations can't always compete with human reason.
Klout has been acclaimed as an easy and effective method for advertisers and businesses to determine if someone has enough influence to promote their products and services. Social media is a great tool for word of mouth online and offline so a service like Klout was inevitable. Businesses are clamoring to find people active in social media that can advertise their business therefore I'm not necessarily objecting to its development. I believe that the concept behind Klout is pretty clever and I admire products that provide valuable measurements. However do the numbers explain the whole picture? I believe that Klout scores do provide brief useful insights into a person's activity and overall influence however advertisements and businesses may expect too much through Klout Perks - especially since Klout is in its beginning stages. Klout leaves too many questions unanswered for advertisers that want to use it for a targeted advertising campaign. Therefore I recommend for businesses to think carefully and strategically before pouring funds into this tool.
1. No personal investment in your business or product. Having passion for a business, product or service helps to incite excitement in others to use your product. This genuine passion needs to be consistent and displayed over a long period of time to really convince an audience. For example there is a difference between an iJustine who dedicated her channel to your product or service than a self-serving product reviewer that just wants the next shiny new product. You can see in what areas that person is influential but you can't do a search for previous Tweets, Facebook mentions or YouTube videos about your product or service. The person could have denounced your product or wrote a vehement review about it but you'll never know if you just trust Klout. Some are simply confused and amused about their Klout perks. On Techcrunch a couple of "influencers joked about receiving yogurt, hair gel and slim fast. Many may just enjoy the free items but only plan on mentioning you once in halfhearted Tweet or disappointingly brief Facebook mention. Also what if the person is influential in phones but a die-hard Android fan? Therefore giving them an iPhone may be too much of a risk. You may gain a new fan, however start-ups have limited funds and don't the foundation to risk a wave of negative reviews or wasted money. Klout allows anyone with a high score to grab freebies but if you are doing a serious marketing campaign this approach may be too shallow. Unfortunately you can't even stipulate conditions for using the product to help it become a trending topic on Twitter or gain more likes on your Facebook Page. However if you only concerned about getting your name out there then this isn't necessarily an issue.
2. Negates offline and media presence. People that have skillfully branded themselves offline are the most effective at building influence and wielding this influence online. These are the types of people that don't have to search to gain followers on Twitter or Facebook but instead people search for them. With the advent of YouTube and the popularity of media, a powerful screen or video presence is also just as effective being an expert offline. However Klout diminishes this factor. You want people that can tout your product to relevant circles both offline and online, the influencers that can use your product or service that their circle is interested in and are able to appeal more people in their field who in turn purchase more products. As a result you've got free advertising just by choosing the right people and not solely trusting in Klout scores. What if the person just has an internet persona but once they are offline live in a completely different life that is unrelated to your business? Klout has somewhat rectified this a bit with the addition of more social media platforms however the broad distribution of free products and services still doesn't allow for a targeted marketing campaign. Also the greater offline or media/video/screen presence the more seriously people or follow the product recommendations or want to be associated with them by purchasing their same products they do.
3. Not a genuine relationship or connection with followers or fans. Klout scores can't detect whether the people can relate to the influencer, if their fans or followers are just commenting to get attention or if their fans or follow act on their recommendations. For example, I follow some people but I don't necessarily follow their recommendations because it's not relevant to my lifestyle. Klout can't provide data on follower demographics so that you can determine which influencers have fans that are more relevant to you. Are people just following because he or she is attractive? Is the individual interactive with the audience? Will they retweet excited people that followed their product recommendation? Will they answer common questions or tell you about common complaints? Also how active is their audience? Does their audience have any influence? These questions are quite difficult for any tool or person to determine therefore this is more of an example to temper your expectations.
4. Targeted by too many advertisers. At some point each endorsement actually lessens the effectiveness other product mentions unless the person has branded themselves as an official product reviewer. If not, many may grow suspicious of the endorser and either grow to dislike or ignore the “influencer”. It’s like the boy who cried wolf way too often or the YouTube beauty guru recommending any products that are given to her for free. This causes the audience to just learn how to ignore the advertising efforts. Also the individual can’t dedicate the necessary attention to your business, they are instead just flooded with free products. One minute your business is the best and the next minute your competitor is. However if your individual is already known as the experimenter, as I mentioned before, this can actually be beneficial. A product reviewed by CNET becomes more credible. The only issue is that Klout can’t decipher the difference.
5. Missing out on personally connecting to influencers. People want to be personally vetted and appreciated by companies. It just makes a blogger’s day to be contacted by a company. It means that you were personally vouched by them an expert and valuable in their field. Imagine that instead of CNN personally contacting people for interviews about events they used a service that ranked random people in topics, people who aren’t even personally connected to the event who were then assigned an interview according to the score. Do you see how inefficient and impersonal this is? People would rather be personally and individually contacted by CNN. If you want people to do something for you, you at least have to treat them with dignity and like a human if you want that emotion to transfer into them advertising your product. By using a third party system you miss out on the opportunity to build a long term relationship. Once again if you are just seeking to approach anyone that has influence and not leave any stone unturned - almost like a TV commercial - then Klout is perfect.
I think that Klout has a great potential. It’s just one aspect of a thoughtful and solid marketing or advertising campaign. However I believe that in its current state it's mostly for a mass advertising campaign to help your brand gain name recognition. What do you think about Klout scores or perks?
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