The idea for this blog post came to me after a conversation on Twitter with @annholman and @juliabramble, where we were debating the importance (or unimportance, as we concluded) of influence measurement systems such as Klout. And it got me thinking, not just about influence measurement but the challenges of quantifying social media as a whole.
Social media activity and conversations are notoriously difficult to quantify in exact terms – whatever you CAN measure, is the minimum of what is actually happening, in my (humble) opinion. It is nigh on impossible to quantify what is essentially human interactions – sure you can utilise a host of social media monitoring systems, pimp your website analytics within an inch of its life and watch your Google Alerts like a hawk. But the truth is there will always be bits and pieces that slip through the net. And it may be these bits and pieces that have the most value to you, yet they are completely off your radar.
This comes as a surprise to many clients and decision makers – we have been spoilt with endless statistics and pretty graphs from the yonder-year of online marketing. And yes, for some areas of digital marketing this still rings true but social media is a different beast entirely. How can you really measure something as organic as word of mouth or human conversations, with their subtle nuances and references? Not well, is the answer you are looking for.
A few months ago I was investigating the range of social media monitoring systems available for a client of mine. If you follow me on Twitter you would have felt the pain of this process. I trawled the web, asked for recommendations and got attacked by eager sales reps on Twitter (never, ever mention the words ‘social media monitoring’ in a tweet, they will find you). Yet every system I tried out always let key data and conversations slip through the net or was missing some key functionality – making me even more reluctant to part with my marketing budget for something I just felt didn’t quite cut the mustard.
I will concur that the top-end tools, such as Radian6 and Brandwatch are more accurate than most but unless you have at least £500 a month to spend, you can wave goodbye to the benefits of these systems.
And don’t even get me started on sentiment analysis… I’ll save that rant for another post.
The same applies to Klout, which assigns users with a ‘Klout Score’, claiming to “measure influence based on your ability to drive action”. Your Klout score is based on three factors, according to their website:
- True Reach: How many people you influence
- Amplification: How much you influence them
- Network Impact: The influence of your network
All summed up in this handy little dashboard for you:
In theory, this seems like a good idea but in practice is it a truly accurate representation of how influential someone is in the real world? By the very nature of how your Klout score is calculated you should assume that this calculation of influence is a very vague indicator, because it only focuses on your visible online activity (and it is A COMPUTER). There is no weight given to the conversations that occur online behind closed doors or (shock horror) in real life. Or the fact that you can tweet loads, build up a heap of less then influential followers who have no tangible value to you or your business to dupe your score. Or you could have taken a step back from your online activity to focus on actual clients or to escape those on the constant hunt for ‘influencers’. The list goes on, I could go on but I won’t – point made, I feel.
So how to wrap up this post? Well, it’s how I conclude most posts about social media by emphasising that this is about establishing relationships with other human beings whilst contributing value to your community. By giving a little bit first you will go a long way and by not becoming obsessed with numbers you will go even further. It is the relationships you establish within social media channels that are of true value to your business or to your clients – whether this is with your customers, journalists, bloggers or potential partners. And how do you measure a relationship? Well, essentially you can’t because we are human beings and they are computers – there are some things about one another we will never understand…