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Thursday, 29 November 2012

Klout: Online Social Influence


Klout, a company that measures web analytics to determine a user’s influence across social networks, is one of those polarizing topics. Its harshest critics have mocked it with a parody site called ‘Klouchebag’, while others see it as a sign of the rising power of influence data.

From Facebook ‘likes’ and ‘tweets’, we all generate loads of data that can be harnessed by anyone interested in our time and money. Klout is just another tool that mines this data to assist a user (and businesses) in understanding how ‘influential’ he or she is. It provides the user rewards for their influence and gives companies information about potential brand endorsers, as seen with the case of John Pham endorsing the car he got to use for free over the weekend to his social network.

Klout’s CEO, Joe Fernandez, says until the rise of social media there was no way to pinpoint society’s hidden influencers, including friends and family members whose recommendations directly impact your purchase decisions. According to Mark Schaefer, an adjunct marketing professor at Rutgers and author of the book ‘Return on Influence’: “this is the democratization of influence.” He adds: “suddenly regular people can carve out a niche by creating content that moves quickly through an engaged network. For brands, that’s buzz. And for the first time in history, we can measure it.”

It is interesting to see how some of the advertising metrics we looked at the Marketing Performance Evaluation lectures, such as ‘reach’ and ‘amplification’, are now being used to measure people’s communications! People are increasingly taking the space of traditional advertising channels, with trust being the key factor. A recent global consumer trust survey by Nielsen shows 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations versus 61% trust in TV ads.

With this in mind, some of the leading marketers like Disney, Nike and Audi have incorporated Klout influencers into their marketing activities. According to Klout, each influencer in one of their ‘Perk’ programs produces an average of 30 pieces of content and millions of possible impressions. With a low cost per thousand impressions compared to other types of advertising, it’s a tool hard to ignore. Watch this space, Klout and social influence data mining is on the rise.

What tools do you use to measure the impact of your marketing activities in social networks? And, more importantly, what factors should be taken into consideration when developing ways to measure online influence?

Adriana Heinzen
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

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