Archives for the month of: September, 2012

Klout is a social media tool designed to measure how influential you really are recently changed its algorithm taking into consideration both online and real-life influence.  The Klout team boasts that it now uses 400 signals, instead of 100 and 12 billion signals, instead of 1 billion to develop a more accurate reflection of a user’s influence.  It even takes a user’s Wikipedia page into account when creating a Klout score–the minds behind Klout allege that Wikipedia is a true gauge of real-world influence because it shows how you affect the world and people.  Joe Fernandez, the CEO of Klout, explains Klout’s new algorithm in an interview with Brian Solis.  In Fernandez’s opinion, having a “number” associated with influence is empowering and encourages people to build an audience and increase their influence.  Furthermore, Fernandez believes that Klout cultivates a more thoughtful social media presence.  But is Klout oversimplifying influence?

The question remains if Klout really accomplishes Fernandez’s goal of successfully grading each user’s ability to impact others and is good gauge of a person’s presence, not impact, on social media.  Blogger and consultant Mark Schaefer explains that Klout finds, “the people who are experts at creating, aggregating, and sharing content online and creates a measurable reaction. Nothing more. In the old days, we called this ‘buzz’.” Schaeffer is correct in his assessment that Klout does reward those who create and share content online, but people who are active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. can have high Klout scores without being true influencers.

Klout falls short in its attempts to accurately depict real-world influence, but does so without using quantitative data.  Wikipedia is a great resource, and yes, many of today’s influencers have robust Wikipedia pages, but not all robust Wikipedia pages are an accurate indicator of real-world influence.  It is not difficult to write your own Wikipedia page or add links to your page.   Wikipedia’s strength is in its ability to curate accurate information on anything you want to learn.  After implementing the new algorithm, Obama finally has a higher Klout score than Justin Beiber.  Obama’s score is now 99 whereas Bieber’s is 91–but it is election season.  Klout has the tremendous limitation of only being truly pertinent in an online context, but it can be valuable to measure your online influence against more traditional measures.

The real limitation of Klout is not with Klout itself, but with how people use it.  A professor at Florida State University plans to grade his students by their Klout score in an attempt to prepare them for job-hunting, when Klout scores may matter.  The problem with this is that while Klout may be a good initial indicator of online popularity, it cannot fully judge a person’s influence.  Klout should be considered as a complement to other information, it should not be the only important factor in deciding someone’s influence and success.  On Klout, blogger Matt Owen  explains, “if you have a million followers then it’s a bit more likely someone will click on a link in your tweets. If I advertise sofas on national TV, more people will see that ad than if I put it on a card in my local newsagent’s window. Will they purchase? Only if they’re looking for a sofa.”  A high Klout score is not necessarily correlated with a high influence.  The content that someone publishes on social media is what matters.  The context of different user’s scores needs to be taken into account.  A social media user with a small audience that covers a specific niche effectively is more valuable to users than an “online celebrity” that dishes on everything to millions.

If you want to understand someone’s ability to influence others, you can take a look at their Klout score, but realize that this score does not fully measure total influence.

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40% of the top 100 brands are all on Instagram.  Out of the top 100 brands, 37 regularly post photos, and 17 of these 37 brands have over 10,000 followers each.  The top 10 brands on Instagram have a 96% engagement.  

Instagram can easily help you optimize content by noting which photos garnered the most feedback, and what time during the day you get the most feedback from followers. However, make sure not to post photos that are overtly promotional– top brands on Instagram post photos to build their brands, not promote.

Instagram’s new business blog features MTV, Starbucks, Victoria’s Secret, EOnline, and Burberry as the most followed brands on Instagram.  MTV is the most popular Instagram profile with over 846,000 followers. These accounts all try to post photos that they think their users will enjoy and ultimately comment on or “like” instead of photos that directly promote their brand. Successful companies become tastemakers on instagram instead of touting their products endlessly.   

Not every company is suited to Instagram.  As shown by a study in April, Instagram’s users are predominantly in the 18-35 age range.  The most popular companies on Instagram are product-driven brands that appeal to younger generations, if your brand doesn’t fall into that category it will probably be difficult to market your company towards that demographic.  

Instagram allows businesses to grow their mobile audience–the next frontier in social media.  

Facebook and Google+, as with most social networks, force users to give up their privacy to get more out of the service, but are there any benefits to this loss of anonymity?

Facebook and Tumblr deal with online privacy very differently.  Facebook requires you to use a real name and is designed to connect people.  There is no anonymity on Facebook–it even started as a closed network that required a verified .edu email address to become a member. However, Tumblr doesn’t require any personal information, and allows people to anonymously share pictures, ideas, etc.

In an interview with BloggingHeads, Andrew McLaughlin, VP of Tumblr,  and Marne Levine, VP for Global Public Policy for Facebook, explained how anonymity and transparency effect Tumblr and Facebook.  McLaughlin and Levine provide completely opposing viewpoints on the importance of anonymity.  McLaughlin praises the freedom that comes along with anonymity, while Levine criticizes the lack of comfort and lack of security that stem from anonymity.  While Facebook is a networking tool used to connect people, Tumblr is creativity tool used to share ideas–anonymity has a different role with each.  In Facebook’s case, the lack of anonymity allows users to connect with other users, but since the network has opened up it is nearly impossible to verify identity.  In Tumblr’s case, anonymity allows people to share ideas, but this also makes people less accountable for their ideas and opinions.

Full Video of the interview

Anonymity may allow people to express themselves without consequences, but it also creates a false sense of security.  Anonymity allows people to express themselves without reproach.  Free, anonymous expression makes sense for Tumblr, as it allows users to explore creative interests that they wouldn’t explore without anonymity, but it does not make sense for Facebook, which is meant to be an online extension of real interactions that happen between people.

The real question may be whether this anonymity is truly possible.  If you engage in social media, your information is going to be in their database forever.  Even if you don’t have an account, however, your information may not be as private as you think–everything that you have ever searched on Google is tracked and saved.  If you choose to delete your Google search history, your search history can still internally be used by Google for 18 months.  Nothing that you do online is anonymous, the only question is if you know your anonymity is being violated or not.  Google has agreed to pay a 22.5 million dollar settlement to the FTC for violating users privacy, without their knowledge.

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