What Social Influencer Measurement Tools Are Good For… And What They’re Not

Despite the many benefits of influencer marketing, the popular social media measurement tools on the market are not quite up to the job.

Measuring digital influence is an essential part of a good social media strategy. Any business that is able to identify – and connect with – influencers in its industry has an opportunity to harness the power of word-of-mouth marketing and get their message into the minds of thousands of individuals through a trusted source.

But despite the many benefits of influencer marketing, the popular social media measurement tools on the market are not quite up to the job.

No doubt you’ve heard of Klout. Quite possibly, it was in the context of someone doing the ol’ humble-brag, pointing out that they only have a Klout score of 65.

Klout is one of the most popular influence measurement tools on the market, alongside its rival Kred. Both tools spit out a public score for anyone on social media meant to indicate how influential they are.

They use super-secret algorithms to determine influence, and they actually do a pretty good job… in the most general sense.

Most of a Klout or Kred score is based on social activity and engagement. This means that they look at the amount of content a person shares compared to the number of reactions – retweets, likes, that sort of thing – that content receives. The algorithms are getting more specific and granular all the time (for instance, giving more weight to content share by people who are selective about what they share), but they mostly boil down to a numbers game.

There are a number of articles online about “How to Game Klout” and net yourself a higher influence score. Presumably these types of articles have arisen from people’s desire to appear more influential, but besides the ego-boost a high Klout or Kred score may bestow, there is a danger in businesses relying on these scores to identify influencers.

A high influence score from one of these tools is like a quick sketch an artist does of his muse before he actually paints in the details – it’s an overview, but not much else.

It’s fine to take a glance at someone’s Klout or Kred score and say “huh, isn’t that interesting.” For businesses, they’re a great jumping off point for doing more research into potential influencers to reach out to. But they absolutely should not be the sole measurement your company performs when identifying your most influential brand advocates or potential spokespeople.

The reason for this is simple: there is no context. Being generally influential on social media is great, but what is that person with a Klout score of 89 actually influential about? Social media isn’t just one thing: it’s a diverse ecosystem of various interests, topics, events, industries and opinions tangled together in a web of replies and shares. It’s a mashup between social and information, and unfortunately, today’s influence measurement tools only seem to get the social part right.

As a business, you are situated within an industry. You have a competitive advantage. Products or services. A brand persona. All of these pieces of information come together to make your business unique. And they’ve got to match up with your customers in order for you to tell a compelling brand story on social media.

By using Klout or Kred to identify influential individuals and reach out to them with, say, a partnership offer or a sneak-peak at your new product, you run the risk of your message falling on flat ears.

Take Justin Bieber, for example. He’s got a massive 96 Klout score. That’s huge. It means that he’s just about one of the most influential people on social media. So, judging from his score, he’d probably be a good person become your brand’s social media spokesperson, right? Wrong… unless you are the right brand.

If you’re a hip baseball cap company, you might find a partnership with the Biebs to be successful. But if you’re an enterprise software company, you’re out of luck. The tens of millions of excitable teen girls who hang on Bieber’s every tweet probably aren’t your target audience. Despite his high Klout score, Bieber’s actual influence in your industry is nil.

So sure, go ahead and use these tools for what they are: sketches of the who’s who on social media – in general. But you’ll have to do some serious data digging if you want to uncover the people that are actually influential in your industry.

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