Klout – Influence Isn’t Just a Number

The latest version of the social media tracking site Klout has created a lot of buzz about what influence really means in a Web 2.0 world.

I agree that influence isn’t something that can be easily summed up as a single number – just as hospital quality can’t be adequately conveyed as a single number or a 5-star rating system.  Yet, quality is conveyed as a number.  Whether reviewing a quality rating or a measure of someone’s social media influence, it’s important to remember to dig a bit deeper and look at the context to be sure you are getting entire story.

Let’s looking at Klout as an example.  I was looking at Charlie Sheen and the American Red Cross on Klout recently.  The Red Cross posted the following tweet which was re-tweeted by the Warlock himself.

I was curious if you could measure the impact of a Sheen re-tweet using Klout.  What I found was truly astounding.  Absolutely beyond my expectations (the red arrow represents the #Tigerblood tweet).

I’d never seen a rise in authority like this.  Not ever.

What I’d missed, of course, was the earthquake and related tragedy in Japan (represented by the black arrow).  The numbers removed the context and, for a short time, I’d wildly misinterpreted the results.

I don’t think Klout is a bad tool and I believe in the idea that we should be measuring what we’re doing in social media.  The voices against measurement or accountability in social media are still loud.  Just this week, Social Media Today published a blog post entitled “Why Brands Can Ignore ROI in Online and Social Media for Now” by Bill James who carries a fair amount of clout in social media circles himself.

But keep these points in mind:

  1. Professionalization of marketing in healthcare – While marketing has been making excellent progress, if we want to continue to build our credibility with the C-suite, we need to demonstrate that what we’re doing makes an impact.
  2. Good metrics focus our efforts – As the old saying goes, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.”  Setting measurable goals allows social media managers to channel their efforts in a manner that’s more likely to deliver value.  Even if the metrics aren’t perfect, they work if they’re directionally correct.  In the words of author Tim Ferriss, “Tracking anything is better than tracking nothing.”
  3. Social media requires resources – While many of the tools are free, social media requires devoted time from staff with specific expertise.  For many organizations, it would be far easier to get dollars budgeted to purchase tools than to fund new staff positions.  This generally requires a business case demonstrating how the resources invested will translate into value for the organization.  Repeating the “ROI will come later” mantra is likely to get you a “staff will come later” response.

So use the measurement tools that are out there, put time and energy into the problem of translating social media efforts into organization value, and set goals with actual numbers attached.  You may be surprised at how much more you can achieve when you can see the finish line.

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Ben Dillon

About Ben Dillon

Ben’s a big picture type of guy. He loves sharing new ideas in digital marketing, keeping a watchful eye on healthcare industry trends and seeing how it all intersects. A sought-after speaker, writer, blogger and current SHSMD board member, Ben’s an influential voice in healthcare marketing, helping organizations across the country embrace online strategies to engage health consumers. Combine his industry savvy with his background in software development and you can see why he’s also an important member of Geonetric’s software team, ensuring our content management system stays a step ahead of market needs. Ben holds a master’s degree in eBusiness and strategic management from the University of Iowa and a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from the University of Michigan. When he’s not traveling and evangelizing, Ben enjoys cooking with his family and playing the Big House with the University of Michigan Alumni marching band.

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