Influence marketing, Klout, social scoring and why they are important – Interview with Mark Schaefer

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Following on from my recent interview, Service innovation is the key to avoiding extinction – Interview with Mitch Kowalski on the future of the legal industry, today I am going to change it up a little and wanted to present to you a text-based interview with Mark Schaefer, an acclaimed author and marketing consultant, on his new book: Return On Influence: The Revolutionary Power of Klout, Social Scoring, and Influence Marketing.

I met Mark when he shared some ideas on the impact of influence on marketing at The Academy hotel. The event was organised by Ana Silva O’Reilly (@mrsoaroundworld) and I was invited by Corinne Stuart who runs the The 450 Club, private members club at the hotel.

This interview makes up number thirty-four in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that I think that you will find interesting and helpful in growing your businesses.

Below are highlights from our interview:

Adrian: Hi Mark, could you tell us a bit about you?

Mark: I’m an author, faculty member at Rutgers University, blog at www.businessesGROW.com, consult and speak. Most of my career has been in B2B marketing with Fortune 100 companies but today I work with a wide variety of companies around the world.

Adrian: Now, you’ve just recently published a new book, Return On Influence: The Revolutionary Power of Klout, Social Scoring, and Influence Marketing, what’s the basic thesis of the book?

Return on Influence Mark Schaefer

Mark: There are two primary themes to the book. First, this is an incredibly empowering time for both individuals and brands to create a voice of authority on the web and in the world. I call this the Era of the Citizen Influencer. Second, I peel back the covers of this world where companies are actually trying to measure our influence on the web and leverage these new abilities in their marketing approaches. It’s the first book of its kind.

Adrian: Tell me a bit more about Influence Marketing…..why is it now important, why should companies be paying attention to this?

Mark: Look at the traditional ways we have have advertised and communicated to consumers: Newspapers – Going away. TV — People skip ads and viewing is down. Websites — 68% of the Fortune 100 had less unique visitors to their websites last year. Even online banner advertising is considered a failure by many. So what’s left? Social influence marketing is being viewed as an entirely new marketing channel, and when was the last time we had one of those? It is a historic opportunity to identify and nurture powerful word of mouth influencers on a mass scale. A very exciting development.

Adrian: In the book you focus quite heavily on Klout and it’s ability to measure online influence. However, Klout and other influence measures have also received their fair share of criticism that their scores can be gamed. Is that a concern?

Mark: Klout made their fair share of PR blunders as they iterate in public. But I think marketers would be unwise to dismiss the entire trend. The technology is still in the silent movie stages and it is developing rapidly. The scores can be gamed to some extent, but every platform that has become popular has been a target of spammers. The social scoring companies will have to address that or their effectiveness will be compromised. I know that Klout is actively sniffing out people who are trying to game the system.

Adrian: What would you say is the best way to starting build influence?

Mark: Unless you are a celebrity or mega brand supported by a huge advertising budget, you have to build influence the old fashioned way:

    1. By creating or aggregating useful, interesting content;
    2. By surrounding yourself with an audience that has some pre-disposition to be interested in you and your content; and
    3. By being helpful, not “salesy” on the web.

That’s just practical advice for any success on the web but it is also the key to influence.

Adrian: Seems like blogs, micro-blogs and bloggers will grow in importance when it comes to a businesses marketing objectives. Would you agree?

Mark: Oh absolutely. There are so many advantages, not the least of which is the fact that the search engines are relying more heavily on original social media content in their search results.

Adrian: Online and offline influence…..different things or very much connected?

Mark: Vastly different. This is one of the reasons people dismiss Klout too easily. They are locked in a paradigm of “influence” that may not necessarily be relevant in the online world. One example — the “social proof” that results from numbers like Twitter followers, likes, or even a Klout score. In our information-dense world, people are hungry for these shortcuts to determine who is worth following, who is legitimate. It may be unpopular to say, but these numbers do matter because people use them as indicators of influence. That is unique to the online world since we don’t walk around with numbers on our foreheads.

Likewise, the ability to freely publish and move content is a source of influence unique to the web.

This is a big source of misunderstanding about Klout and social scoring because people are stuck in an old way of thinking. The rules are different now.

Adrian: When you talk about an old way of thinking when it comes to Influence, are you referring to influence that is assumed and associated with position and title?

Mark: Yes. Influence in the real world often comes by jumping through the right hoops. Going to the right school. Coming from the right family. Knowing the right people. With the Internet, we all have a chance to create a voice of authority and get our voice heard. We need to break the paradigm that influence only occurs in a boardroom or classroom. It can happen on a Facebook page or blog today.

Adrian: What are the overall lessons for businesses following your experience?

Mark: I think every business owner needs to understand this trend to make an informed decision about what social influence means and how it can be applied to your business. I encourage people to look at it rationally instead of getting caught up in the emotion of Klout scores. Also, look beyond Klout. There are many other options. One company that is making a name for itself is Appinions, which goes beyond social media to distill influence ratings from 5 million online sources. Revolutionary stuff.

Adrian: If I’m an entrepreneur or small business owner and I am thinking that that all sounds great but I would like to know how I apply that to the benefit of my business, what would you say to them?

Mark: I think my favorite chapter of “Return On Influence” is the one devoted to case studies. I had the chance to go behind the scenes and see how big companies, small companies, agencies and even non-profits are weaving these social scoring indicators and powerful word-of-mouth advocates into their marketing campaigns. There are many, many applications of these tools and there are more every day. One of the most exciting developments is the ability to access word of mouth influencers on a local level through new smartphone apps. I think this is really going to push things down to a local business level in the coming months and open up amazing opportunities.

Adrian: The case studies that you mention sound really useful. Can you give us a quick example?

Mark: Companies are using these tools in so many ways. To create brand awareness, to build new audiences, even to do product research. In one example, a PR firm decided to NOT respond to a customer’s crisis because the Klout score of the disparaging blogger was so low. The low score indicated that the blogger could not move content and it turned out they were right. The issue died. So they were using a Klout score as a predictive indicator. Quite fascinating stuff.

Adrian: I always end interviews with one question and that is: What would you like to shamelessly plug? ;)

Mark: Ha! Well, I am enjoying doing workshops to teach people how to use social media in their own businesses and I also have written the most popular book on Twitter called “The Tao of Twitter.” I’m proud of both of those contributions.

About Mark (taken from his blog)

Mark Schaefer

Mark Schaefer is among the most acclaimed and accomplished marketing consultants in America, with a special emphasis in social media marketing. A few of his recent accomplishments include:

  • Forbes magazine “Power 50″ social media influencers of the world
  • AdAge magazine “Power 150″ marketing blogger
  • TweetSmarter 2011 Twitter User of the year
  • Peer-elected 2011 B2B Twitter User of the Year
  • B2B Magazine (UK) social media book of the year: Tao of Twitter
  • Author of two best-selling marketing books
  • Seven patents

Mark Schaefer has 30 years of global sales and marketing experience and two advanced degrees, in business and applied behavioral sciences. A career highlight was studying under Peter Drucker at Claremont Graduate University.

Mark is a globally-recognized business writer, university lecturer, and innovator, receiving seven international patents for new product ideas with Fortune 100 companies. He is a marketing faculty member at Rutgers University and has been a keynote speaker at major conferences around the nation. Mark is the author of the best-selling books The Tao of Twitter and Return on Influence and has appeared in the New York Times, CBS This Morning, Fox News, INC Magazine, MSNBC, Business Week, Entrepreneur magazine, and many other publications.

You should check out Mark’s blog at www.businessesGROW.com, connect with him on Twitter @markwschaefer and grab a new copy of his book, Return on Influence, here.

Thanks to superk8nyc for the image.

Comments

  1. I love it when a plan comes together! Glad we were able to meet through Corinne and that you got to meet Mark. I really have a lot of time for him – he is open, knows his stuff and he’s is so humble – things we don’t get everyday. Thanks for sharing this interview with me and for getting in touch! Ana

    • Hi Ana,
      Thanks for that. Yes, indeed, Mark really does know his stuff and is very willing to share his knowledge and ideas. Great guy and thank you for setting up the event :)

      Adrian

  2. To influence people, you must be able to touch the heart before you’re able to move the hand. Understanding the buyer’s psychology is the key.

    • I like that: “To influence people, you must be able to touch the heart before you’re able to move the hand.”

      Well said and very true.

      Adrian

  3. Adrian,

    I’d always been a bit sceptical about klout, but two points in your post rang true for me:

    1. a PR firm decided to NOT respond to a customer’s crisis because the Klout score of the disparaging blogger was so low.
    2. Newspapers – Going away. TV — People skip ads. Websites — 68% of the Fortune 100 had less unique visitors to their websites last year…. So what’s left

    So I have just wasted an hour of my life playing with Klout. (Your score is one point higher than mine would you believe).

    Fascinating post, thank you

    JL

    • Hi James,
      I make no excuses for having a higher Klout score than you and also offer no explanation.

      I have my own concerns about tools like Klout, Kred, PeerIndex and the like and their ability to measure real influence. Michael Wu wrote a really interesting article on the subject here (if you are interested):http://lithosphere.lithium.com/t5/Science-of-Social-blog/The-Missing-Link-of-Influence-The-Potential-to-Influence-and-Be/ba-p/62722

      However, despite any shortcomings in any of the new tools, analytics and algorithmic jiggery-pokery that is around right now, I think one thing is clear and that is ‘influence’ in the connected and social economy is here and will probably be here for some time. Therefore, there will be many more efforts to better understand and measure ‘influence’.

      Adrian

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