I’m just going to come straight out with it: I’m pretty interested in online influence scoring tools like Klout and Peerindex. I think they might be useful to organisations and particularly the public sector in years to come.
I understand and agree with lots of the points people make about these tools: people who think it’s inane to simply assign a numerical value to measure somebody’s influence; that you can’t measure true engagement quantitatively; that achieving a score in itself is not an achievement. Yes, yes and yes.
Also, I have seen people who have zilcho credibility in their area of business game their social channels to give them an incredibly high score.
I even had a chuckle at my Klouchebag score which rates me quite kindly considering I’m about to make a case that online scoring might well have some useful applications in the future.
My first perk – a personal experience
I was intrigued when Peerindex told me that I was eligible to claim a hologram of a Ford BMax. I love a freebie and even though it didn’t seem like something I actually want I was curious enough to enter my address to have it sent over.
It’s pretty cool. It came with a nice torch and batteries and when you beam the light on the hologram you can see a 3D view of inside and outside the car. One and a half minutes of fun. I was mostly impressed by the free torch with spare batteries.
But I’m so un-influential when it comes to cars. My last motor cost me a bargainous £750 and my main concern is that it will bring me where I need to go. My brother is a car nut, he loves them, and I go to him, or Google, if I need to know anything. Nobody would be interested in my opinion on cars. I hate Top Gear. I’d never buy a new car.
However, it was novel enough that I have now mentioned the Ford BMax twice in a blog. Is that a good outcome for Ford even though I’m discussing nothing about the car itself? Maybe someone will come across this blog and be intrigued enough to further investigate the model and will end up buying it. Who knows? I guess if the Ford BMAX website analytics show that three people came to website from my blog than they’ll add me to their ‘useless’ list and never send me anything again.
A car is a product that many people would want though. And maybe targeting people because they have a following – any following – is genius. If one of us non-car-expert people recommends the car, that maybe has a lot of weight: ‘It’s not their thing but they still raved about it: it must be good’.
Back to local gov matters
I’ve already blogged about why influence, not ROI, matters for local government social media. Government organisations need to build relationships with citizens and create networks where they can allow the right people to talk about the right things.
As online influence measurers develop their algorithms and search tools I think they could become incredibly useful. Going where people go will always be more effective than expecting people to find your consultation page on your website then fill out forms. Influence measurement sites might let us find the most effective places to go.
Someone interested in the arts, recycling or employment law should find it easy to talk to those people in government who are responsible for developing that. And people in government should find it useful to have direct links and feedback from interested people.
If, for instance a council officer wanted to get help and views on a proposal to create an arts festival, a service like Klout or PeerIndex might let you sort through your communities to find those who are most influential on topics like music, poetry and theatre. By asking these people to get involved and being open that you are doing so because they have very relevant networks where they can spread the message further, you’ve increased potential for collaboration, feedback and awareness.
Influence for emergency planning
If in the case of a real emergency like a flood or a rail crash the Ford BMax scattergun approach is going to be invaluable. Messages about how people should behave (stay indoors/don’t enter certain areas etc.) need to get out quickly. If you found your most influential people online and asked them to spread the word, it really doesn’t matter if that person is a car enthusiast or a gardening expert – the point is that they have a loud voice and you want them to help save lives.
It’s one instrument in a band
Much as I don’t want my very human activities online measured as a number to define me as a person, I think it’s unwise to dismiss online influence measurement altogether.
If you’re looking to ensure who you’re targeting is credible or relevant I’d say triangulate, cross reference and use your instinct.
I’d never suggest something like Klout should be used on its own but it certainly could be one of many methods that help us do our jobs better. (And occasionally get little novelties like a Ford BMax hologram posted!)
I haven’t grasped yet what the significance of a Klout score is. I’ve only seen it as some sort of self-promotion on Twitter that so-and-so has a Klout score of whatever, or that another so-and-so has given +1 to someone. I haven’t seen what one actually does with it. Has anyone expanded a network by relying upon a Klout score, or built new partnerships as a direct result of Klout? I’m not criticizing – I’m asking. Anyone what to chime in?
I use it as an index, sort of like a Consumer Price Index. If it goes down, I look to see if we made fewer posts, or less interesting posts or if we are just losing people. What does it mean? Not much. It’s just a thermometer.
Would I ever post my score? No, thank you. And if Klout goes away because I haven’t financially supported it, that’s OK, too.