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Does online influence matter?

There are a lot of tools that automate online influence and reach. The most popular – or at least most talked about – is Klout. Klout calls themselves …“the standard for influence. We believe that every individual who creates content has influence. Our goal is to accurately measure that influence and provide context around who a person influences and the specific topics they are most influential on.” Unfortunately, with this push to determine and exploit “online influence,” businesses are beginning to use Klout, and other online influence platforms, as part of their online strategy. I say unfortunately because, in my opinion, services like Klout have very little use in their current state.

The problem with Klout and using it as a guide to gauge who you interact with, as a brand, is flawed. I understand the concept of reaching out to those who a large network. On a pure number basis, it makes sense. And for promotion and awareness, that’s fine. But as a brand, simply throwing a bunch of stuff against the wall and hoping something sticks, is poor business.

I think we have a flawed sense of what “influence” really means. Those who live and work in the online space have this assumption that pure volume grants someone influence. And in terms of the social space, it might be true. But how many times have you made a purchasing decision (other than tech, web, social related) based upon the decision of an online marketer? Mr. Social Media Expert/Consultant/Guru might know a little something about the online space, but does he really have any influence on which brand of cereal I’m going to buy? Absolutely not. Keep in mind, outside your little social bubble, the vast majority of people in the real world have no clue who you are, nor do they care about your opinion.

The other week at work, I was going through the stream of Foursquare check-ins I monitor. I have a separate stream filled solely with check-ins, and I use this to monitor both the frequency and volume of check-ins, along with who’s checking in. Right now, a lot of the customers who check-in on Foursquare aren’t very active on Twitter. In fact, a lot of those who check-in to my locations only have Twitter because of Foursquare. Based on Klout’s measurement guidelines, these users have a low Klout score, if any at all. If I were to put value in Klout scores, I’d simply glance over these users. However, the users who simply have Twitter for their check-ins are often more valuable than those active users.

The users who simply have Twitter as a platform for their check-ins are giving me, as a brand, an in-depth look at their purchasing decisions. It’s essentially like having a researcher following the consumer charting their behavior. This information is incredibly valuable. I’m not into throwing a bunch of crap against the wall and hoping something sticks. I’m into knowing the likelihood that an individual is going to make a purchase at one of my locations. Give me Johnny, who’s broadcasting that he’s checking into my location every 4 weeks, over Jimmy, who has 30k followers that may or may not visit my brand.

I understand what Klout is trying to do and I think the big picture concept is valuable. I think Klout can play a small role in building awareness for a brand. However, in the world of engaging with consumers, managing reputation and building loyalty, I think those who use online influence are going down the wrong path.

*Please note, this is solely my opinion and not that of my employer

Join The Conversation

  • Dec 9 Posted 6 years ago esteban contreras (not verified)

    I diagree. Influencers are extremely important. Advocates are also extremely important. Valid point about klout. Klout scores on their own are interesting but sort of useless unless you can get an indepth analysis and actionable information. I think you're seeing it from a very biased point of view. All companies and brands are different. Not all brands have locations. Not all brands sell directly. Not all brands need the masses. Not all brands have the same cycles or products. Influence and advocacy matter. How you discover these will be unique for each brand.

  • Dec 6 Posted 6 years ago Courtney (not verified)

    Really enjoyed your thoughts, Kasey. I completely agree with your sentiment that numbers alone are not at all helpful in the grand scheme of things. I think what it comes down to is that influence is relative, in the sense that someone who focuses on fishing and wildlife would never find a social media "guru" influential - regardless of their stats. Like you said, the guy who checks in to your store four times a month is relevant to you - so, as a marketer, you may even take it one step further and try to find out what is relevant to him to find those who are truly influencing his buying habits. I work at a company that focuses on identifying online influencers, and we have always believed that influence is contextual and, while the stats play a role in their overall score, it is what the influencers talk about and who they reach that is ultimately the most important piece of the campaign.



  • kmskala's picture
    Dec 6 Posted 6 years ago kmskala

    Thanks for your comments Glenn. I think the concept of what they are trying to do is useful for some brands (luxury, as you mentioned, might be one of them). While I assume that the brands that are using Klout (Virgin America, The Palms, etc.) are only using this as one method of determining who and how they interact, I fear those brands and individuals who base their decision solely on "online influence."

    A lot of us who work in the online space have a false sense of importance and value. We have our blinders on and assume the vast public all cares about influencers with a large follower base. While most people are online, their attitudes and values are different than those who live/work in the online space. If you target users with high Klout scores, you're leaving out a very valuable segment of your customer base. It's like giving incentives to non-customers and ignoring your current customers.

    Thanks again.

  • Dec 5 Posted 6 years ago Glenn Johnson (not verified)

    Hi Kasey,

    Nicely put together case, I agree with you. I think that while measurement is the buzz word (sentiment, anyone?) the truth of influence is closer to your idea than that of a Klout score. I have looked at Klout and not been impressed when I filtered whom I considered an influencer and was disappointed to see that in real-time the numbers really don't add up except in exponential terms.

    With all due respect, I find, for example, Guy Kawasaki to be an informational influencer in terms of shear volume of information he's putting out there. I myself cull some interesting tid-bits from following him, but more often than not, I find his aggregation of content to be a cul-du-sac on the web.

    Its all relevant to your goals. I think Fortune 100 companies look achieving scale on influence in a much different way than a niche brand or a luxury brand may. There is no turn-key solutions, its up to those in the business of marketing (and yes, public relations) to provide quantified and qualified information regarding the reach and constituencies any given program may be reaching.



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