The Significance of Klout for Advertisers: Why Online Influence Means Attention

Monday, September 24, 2012

By: Weston Bonnelle

Image via Wired

Why Advertisers and Businesses Love Klout: The True Meaning of Online Social Influence

Social media and online advertising is unpredictable. Klout offers stability through categorization.
In the past, only traditional media platforms such as television, radio and newspapers sustained premium attention from a wide and diversified audience. Television and radio introduced the dialogue, maintained the conversation and dictated what was relevant while the populace passively interacted with media. Social media has caused a paradigm shift by allowing media to be in the hands of the people. You no longer have to wait for a television program; you can just watch YouTube. You don’t need be entertained by a magazine; you can simply scroll down your Facebook feed. You're not desperate for another celebrity interview; you can just read their tweets. The people are getting educated, informed, entertained and amused by their each other and well-known figures can directly share their narratives to the public.

With media being the hands of the people social media, like life, is unpredictable. Marketers and businesses don’t have the script beforehand. Social media occurs in real time. Social media isn’t as conducive to strategically planned product placements as movies and televisions are. It’s more difficult to sync up marketing with social media than traditional media. Now people can make up crazy hashtags on a whim. By the time old school advertisers jump on board, another trend has passed and now a meme about Angelina’s leg is popping up. Even dictators are having a hard time keeping up and retaining dominant influence over their populace. Advertisers are desperate for more content organization & categorization of data that is being produced out of their control.

Social media is like a crowded marketplace.
The streams of attention are so dispersed that it’s almost impossible to know how to make an ad online that reaches millions of your target demographics on the consistent and daily basis. In the past, if advertisers needed to market cosmetics, they could contact a studio that produced shows that are geared to women and then millions of women would have their eyes on your advertisement at the times advertisers dictated. Now, millions of conversations are going at once and it’s nearly impossible get anyone’s attention unless they are already interested in what you have to say. The statistics about the amount of content being produced and in addition to the number of unpredictable celebrity rants are enough to make a person dizzy. However in the midst of chaos, Klout strides into the marketplace confidently and says “I can organize this catastrophe… I mean data and content for you. I can tell you want they are saying, who they are telling, the trends they are starting or following and what they want. I can get you into that conversation and give your power back.” Klout gives advertisers the power to know what social media participants consistently tweet or post about.

Since so much attention has transferred online, the marketers and businesses are following. Marketers loved the idea of viral marketing because it was the most similar and nostalgic to the traditional forms of advertising, reaching millions are once. Adsense was revolutionary because it was like a visual or text commercial in between content and you could reach millions. Marketers also like the idea of Facebook advertising because it replicates word of mouth. It has the ability to target millions within a specific demographic just like a television ad and just like Adsense the users provided the media while the advertisers tried to capture a fraction of the attention through ads. Now marketers are starting to get comfortable with the idea of reaching small niches just like SEO marketers are openly embracing the long tail. Also, what’s so amazing about online ads is that it’s significantly easier for customers to make an impulse purchase. As opposed to seeing a commercial on television and having to transfer that effort from the couch to the computer or even wait longer to go to a retail store, consumer can just click on an ad or make a quick purchase at Amazon.

Online Social Influence is Code Word for “the amount of attention you receive online”
If you speak and people are purposefully listening, then you have online influence. Just like when ladies are watching a commercial and one makes a positive or negative comment about the product that is being advertised, the lady that is speaking has the attention from her friend at that moment. Klout is attempting to give marketers and advertisers the opportunity to replicate that experience. Friends pay more attention to each other’s recommendations and that attention is a form of influence. Similarly smaller communities online are probably more trusting of each other. Instead of defining Klout as a measure of influence, it’s more accurate to refer to Klout scores as the measure of attention or measure of premium attention. In the age of information overload, social media and individuals staring at multiple screens at the same time; premium attention is a scarce resource. Klout could also mean a measure peer pressure. Klout attempts to answer the question, does this individual have enough clout in these areas to peer pressure individuals to purchase specific products. Television shows have ratings and now those that participate in social media will have the equivalent through Klout scores.

I have a lower Klout score because I have fewer eyes on me. I generally get attention through engagement. I don't have hoards of fans and/or followers staring at my stream wondering what I'll say next.  However those with higher Klout scores have social media profiles that gets visited regularly because either online or offline they have achieved a significant amount of popularity that has earned them sustained attention.

Some people argue that there are influential people with comparable low Klout scores. However marketers aren’t necessarily targeting them. If these individuals have considerable influence offline and/or online, they are already being vetted by marketers. Marketers are more focused on targeting people that are under the radar such as bloggers with 2,000 followers or the popular student in school with 1000 Facebook friends. People who are getting attention online who advertisers may not had learned about before Klout. For example, not every single person who watches television is extremely influential however most have attention from their family and friends.  Marketers who use Klout are hoping that these individuals attract enough attention online to be able to indirectly peer pressure or “influence their colleagues.” Klout is purely an advertising medium and we are the media.

Marketers probably aren’t too disappointed by Klout’s inadequacy at integrating online influence with offline influence (even though they did update their algorithm in an attempt to rectify this issue). Television, radio, newspapers, other traditional media outlets and even celebrities are filling this gap. Instead they are pursuing the online niches that being overlooked. They are trying to reach the individuals that are the center of a loyal yet small to midsized online communities. They want to know about the mysterious influencers behind the computer screens. So when people argued about why Justin Beiber used to have a higher Klout score than Justin Beiber, they were too focused on offline influence. For now, Justin Beiber is being searched online more, online he has more YouTube videos, online he probably gets more retweets, online he has more facebook likes and twitter followers. Online, Justin Beiber exerts more peer pressure and has more attention. Plus marketers already know that Barack Obama is influential, they don’t need Klout for that and I’m sure Barack Obama isn’t feverishly searching for Klout Perks. With Barack Obama’s campaign and Justin Beiber’s career on a slow decline, Justin Beiber is now has a lower Klout score.

My Attempt at Deciphering Klout Scores

These people have lower scores because either 1. They don't have any online influence and their offline influence isn't powerful enough to get them attention online.  2. They don't have enough influence online or offline to not participate. For many people, if they don't participate then they simply don't get attention.

They are people with scores because they engage with their audience. These people may or may not have both offline and online influence. For example, I believe more people in this group either have online influence but lack in offline influence or their have offline influence and lack in online influence. These people are able to engage if they want to. So for example, an executive will be able to get a response from the average Twitter user however since he doesn't have a blog; he isn't known well-known online nor does he have  an online community centered around him.

1. Well-known figures with who don't need to engage their audience on Twitter or Facebook because they are already in the public eye. Their brand speak for themselves, i.e. Seth Godin. Whether or not he's replying to people, there will be people looking at his stream. He also has a large online community based around his blog and books. Marketers are satisfied.
2. Highly influential figures who don’t need to engage with their audience but choose too. Many entertainers fall in this category.Generally those with high Klout scores have online influence because of their popularity offline.

Some companies will automatically have the edge on Klout because of the nature of their audience. For example, tech companies will probably have higher Klout scores on average than restaurants.

Concluding thoughts about Klout:
They need more organic people to be aware about Klout. People who just appreciate the free stuff. People who participate in social media for fun like when YouTube first started and people made the videos for free and not the money. Or how people authentically used Facebook to connect with loved ones. Klout is too focused on advertising their service to thought leaders and social media mavens. Of course this was important because they have high profile social media accounts and they caused conversations about Klout to spread rapidly but now it's time to get the "normal people in". Update 10/6/ 2012 * I saw an advertising of Klout in a popular magazine.

Use technology to see the ratio of fake followers. I don't like having spammer as followers so I remove them (according to Statuspeople I have zero fake followers). Many people don't do this; in fact many people even purposefully purchase them. There's no point in giving spammers high Klout scores. 

They need to get their keywords right. One tweet giving a mini tutorial about fixing gadgets on Blogger shouldn't warrant me to be listed as influential in gadget. I'm not going to remove it though. Heck I want a free gadget lol! The chances are low but you never know....On second thought ...I'll pay someone a dollar to consistently retweet or reply to anything that I tweet about cars. I'm serious.

Thanks for reading, if you have a different perspective on the meaning of Klout and online influence I would love to hear it!