When CEO Joe Fernandez was recovering from jaw surgery, he relied on social media to communicate with people. Since he could not do much himself, he recommended restaurants, neighborhoods, and other interesting things and places for people to go. He noticed how people took his suggestions seriously and realized how influential he could be even though he was a nobody. Joe had an idea. He sought to empower society’s hidden influencers through social media. Thus Klout was launched, as a platform where the social clout of hidden influencers could be recognized.

Well, Klout has become influential amongst businesses. Businesses now use Klout scores to identify people of influence and build a relationship with them. Hotel upgrades, free gifts, vouchers and invitations exclusive to those with high Klout scores are commonplace. Calvin Lee, a graphic designer in LA for one, has a Klout score of 74. He has since received 63 Klout perks, and freebies including a free windows phone, an invitation to a VH1 awards show, and a promotional hoodie for the movie Contraband.

The extremes that businesses are willing to go to please the influencers are also partially driven by a paranoid fear of a PR disaster. Regrettably, all it takes is a single slip-up to tarnish a good reputation accumulated over the years. Take Chris for example. Chris is an accomplished author and professional speaker actively involved in the social media industry right from the start. When NMTW Community Credit Union gave robotic answers to his queries, Chris blogged about it and caused a stir. It was eventually resolved when one of the VPs of NMTW Community Credit Union, Tom Hammond, called Chris to resolve the issue (by the way, Chris’ last name happens to be ‘Brogan’)

So, by identifying these influencers early, businesses are pre-empting PR disasters. Many hope to groom them into evangelists and reach into their network of faithful followers too.

This idea is sound. Yet the problem lies with Klout. Klout measures the online social influence of a person, not the amount of true influence he or she has within your industry itself. That is, people who have the highest Klout scores are ‘social media types’ who actively use social media (as opposed to non-social media types). If your customers do not frequently using social media, Klout would not be useful to you.

Non-social-media types are influential too. I read a story about Bob, an old-time radio engineer, who owned a small rural radio station near Mt. Vernon. Bob did not know how to use a computer, so a CSR from Broadcast Software spent 2 hours on the phone with him teaching him how to use his computer. Bob was moved by this CSR’s sincerity, and shortly after when Bob’s radio station was bought over by a media giant, he recommended Broadcast Software to all his new colleagues. Eventually that media giant purchased Broadcast Software’s product and led to 4 million dollars worth of sales to Broadcast Software. Bob did not have any social media ‘influence’ then, but he was still able to influence Broadcast Software.

Don’t underestimate your non-social media type customers. And don’t blindly shape your customer service around Klout without checking your customer base. Sure, it’s great to use Klout to identify customers who could potentially give the company a leg up. Yet your customer profiles remains the key to determine whether Klout is useful or not. Keep in mind that Klout scores depend very much on the amount of activity on your social media. This means that someone who tweets a hundred times each day about popular trending topics is more likely to receive a higher Klout score than someone who only blogs once in a blue moon.

Now then, who are your customers?


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samuel lee

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