Up Your Score

The usual suspects By now you probably figured out the title of this post has a double meaning. Good, you're ready to read what comes next.

As we continue this conversation on influence, I'm fascinated by some of the reactions to the posts.

My goal with these simple entries is to provide enough food for thought so that you can distinguish between hype and real influence, going from temporary popularity to sustainable approaches that benefit your business.

It's very tempting to dive into tactical stuff — here's what you do on Twitter, that's what works on Facebook.

However, without an understanding of what levers you are moving and when, you're chasing one hit wonders. Why everything you know about influence is wrong is a good step in a more strategic direction.

What we know

I run in my neighborhood. It's a quiet suburban area with fairly narrow streets on which plenty of children play hockey, soccer, or ball when the weather permits. A 25-mile-per-hour kind of place. Running every day at about the same time, usually during the early commute, I observed a few things:

  • it takes one person going fast for everyone behind them to accelerate
  • when someone doesn't respect a stop sign, the drivers within eyesight don't, either
  • drivers accelerate when they feel there is no immediate retribution – e.g., a police car nearby
  • when a fast driver makes eye contact (sees you see them), she will decelerate visibly
  • people within eyesight of a fast driver will call in and report them the police

I even witnessed one shouting match between a young woman driving a sport Lexus and the man she almost hit while he was collecting his mail. His phone was out in no time, and you bet he had memorized her plate. She had gotten to his sense of fairness – a very strong human instinct.

These example illustrate that when everyone behaves alike, no one thinks very much.

They also demonstrate the principles of social proof. As Robert Cialdini wrote in his seminal book on Influence, social evidence can be used on us – not by others, but by ourselves – to assure us that what we prefer to be true will seem to be true.

In other words, because we believe it to be true, we make it so in our reality – we are influenced. There is something else here at play – uncertainty. When people are not sure about something, they are more likely to use the actions of others to decide how they should behave.

Short cuts and look alikes

Which is the main reason why so many are willing to jump on the online measurement tools bandwagon – since you are not sure how to measure influence, you need a short cut, a code, a way to quickly decide where to stack your chips in the competition for the online attention roulette in search for buzz.

Since everyone is now talking about Klout, that has become the short cut to certainty for lack of resources, time, and skills in determining the true nature of what and who influences purchases of your product or service. Are Klout scores meaningful? Sure, just not in isolation.

I liken them to key performance indicators – along with number of followers and fans, number of posts in a blog, etc. They will give you information that is quantitative, grounded on specific actions, the ones it measures, and most useful when compared with itself.

In other words, if your score is 46 today, you figure out the kinds of things you need to do to up it, you do them and you push it higher. Generally, it involves tweeting and posting to your Facebook profile a lot more than I do.

Not so useful when comparing apples to oranges – two individuals with similar scores, yet who affect totally different environments. For example, Scott De Yager has the same Klout score as Alex Hillman. Although at a first blush you may think they are reliably and dangerously awesome, respectively, would you hire them interchangeably?

I'll give you another one. Say you are looking at two candidates who are both knowledgeable in social media, and similar backgrounds/experience, yet one has a higher Klout score. Would you hire her? Why? How do you know she would not be spending the whole day on social networks working on her score instead of your work?

Let's not get tangled into a series of "what ifs". You're dealing in the reality of profit and loss.

What matters to up your real score 

Your real score is attached to results and how your actions and those of the people they affect impact them. Saying it another way, you care about those people who buy, and those who recommend you to others and generate actual purchases.

They are not the usual suspects. They are the ones who engage another mechanism that is embedded in our DNA as social beings, and they do so in more powerful ways when you establish the conditions for them to do more of it, and do it more easily.

What matters to upping your referral score, which many in social networking circles are also call advocacy, is similarity. It takes seeing people just like us do something for us to follow suit.

So people who see other people they consider similar to them do something, follow suit. What else can you put into play to up your real score? True influence flows from drawing together people with shared interests. You can do that without creating a proprietary community or insisting people "like" your Facebook page.

Developing a context or series of situations where people come together to problem-solve something, or based upon their passions. Giving thus those people who participate a way to pull others like them into it. The more you connect those people with each other, the higher your score.

Indeed, there are natural leaders and more outspoken evangelists in every field. And you product or service is no exception. What are the best ways to influence the influencers your customers watch for cues? We'll talk about it next week.

The comments are yours.

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0 responses to “Up Your Score”

  1. Valeria,
    I agree whole-heartedly that engagement is more important than any specific rating system (number of followers, HubSpot grade, or Klout score).
    The troubling thing I am seeing now, as Social Media positions are becoming more wide-spread in medium to large companies, are these specific scores being used as a point of entry for prospective candidates.
    So knowing how to game the system becomes more important than actually entering into the conversation.

  2. Valeria, great picture to go with this great post. “True influence flows from drawing together people with shared interests.” Exactly. This is the difference between an expert and an influencer. The expert thinks it’s about him. The influencer knows it’s about…us.

  3. One of the reasons I enjoy the #kaizenblog chat so much (which I know you founded) is because it draws together people with DIFFERENT backgrounds, but with a shared interest in continuous improvement. We really do feed off of one another’s experiences, skill sets and evolving ideas. And it’s very influential in how I’m thinking about “business transformation” (also one of your terms).
    That’s so much more interesting and effective than the echo-chamber of agreement and cross-promotion that pervades so much of social media, yet provides higher scores (through RTs and “Likes”) on Klout, et al.

  4. @Damian — hiring is an art, there are so many variables for success. Gaming can get you so far… eventually you are found wanting, and you may discover you made no friend on your way up people’s backs.
    @Jack — hardening around definitions can be restrictive to one’s thinking. The problem is not the terms. There are so many wonderful words that have been pulverized to nothingness in the quest for meaning. Meaning is something we put into them by way of being and doing, not something they come with…
    @Judy — it was the principle and vision I also had when I developed the Fast Company social network in Philadelphia. We need more perspectives and voices to open up new opportunities. Scoring is most helpful versus oneself. It’s information, it’s not a perennial certainty, etc.

  5. Tweet and post Facebook statuses all day? That’s what I should do to up my score? Has the bar been set for the score or range that we should be seeking to obtain? Love your point about the candidate with the high score not really doing anything else with their time.
    Before Klout came out and we were assigning specific scores to people online, candidates were being judged by their online presence. How many connections do they have on LinkedIn? What is their life like courtesy of Facebook? How many people are following them on Twitter?
    I think its interesting that just because we now have a fancy, fast way to assign a number to someone based on an algorithm that can’t possibly work for all personalities and objectives, that we are placing such a high emphasis on this. Were we not paying attention this whole time?

  6. Valeria,
    I love your continued emphasis on influence. Someone asked about finding influencers online the other day and I had to tell them to take a hard long look at how they are influenced.
    Who has influenced you? Was it a journalist or an article? A book or an author? A blogger or a teacher? A parent or a follower?
    Some public relations and social media firms are trying to “broaden” the definition of influence to include things like clicks because it makes it easy to convince someone that they are actually doings something. There is no influence, especially not in a click.
    I can count on one hand how many colleagues have influenced me in a small way over the course of the last thee to five years (you being one, perhaps the pointer finger). And not once has it been related to click, which usually draws me in for the content not who shares it. It usually consisted of an idea they shared … one that makes me say “Wow. You just helped me draw a connection.”
    Thank you,

  7. I believe it’s not really much about how many connections, visitors, followers or friends you have, but about the final goal you’re “networking” for in first place. If all the contacts-building tactics work harmoniously towards a specific strategy, forged to achieve certain goals, then that’s alright and it becomes pretty easy to measure wether or not you’re getting what you want out of it.

  8. Connection, not reach. Actions, not talk. Quality, not quantity.
    Without the context of the group or the relevant action, a score is meaningless (as it is with all metrics).
    Scores work as heuristics and proxies, part of the equation in measuring influence. But only a part of the equation. Helping determine how much, and where to apply it, is where you come in.
    (I have a longer thought about your post about differentiated levels of customer service based on how “valuable” a customer they are. Another day.)

  9. @Christina — and shout louder, or write more controversial stuff 😉 Shortcuts and silver bullets, yeah, see where they got humanity.
    @Rich — I’m starting to think that those who care are at a disadvantage over those who don’t. Ignorance is bliss as the saying goes. Thank you for the thought starter, as always.
    @Gabriele — yes.
    @Taylor — “Helping determine how much, and where to apply it, is where you come in” I’m starting to think that we’re collecting data because we can. There is a tremendous need for certainty and validation. The gold rush is here to having all the answers, which are never in one place alone. They come by connecting dots, yes, and collaborating. Yet, I’m not seeing the correspondent behavior. In fact, quite the opposite. Everyone chasing the last bit down the bottom. (looking forward to your thoughts on customer value, as I have my own 🙂

  10. Great post today. I am enjoying following your thoughts around Influence. You wrote “[some scores are] Not so useful when comparing apples to oranges – two individuals with similar scores, yet who affect totally different environments. ” To me, this is the very heart of the matter when looking for influencers — they may have a high potential influence score (aka: social graph) by the fact they have a voice that talks a lot in a lot of prominent places; but if they are not actually connecting with the audience looking for answers, solutions, thoughts, etc by saying things contextually relevant to that audience, it is really hard for them to have influence.
    Further, I believe people will have many different scores – not one generic one — , as they have different abilities to be an influencer depending on the target market or audience being addressed, and each target market or audience perceives them as influential or not accordingly.
    For instance, I found you because you are talking about a topic I am passionate about — influencers and measuring influence. If you had been talking about fruit, winter lawn maintenance or other topics, I still might have stumbled across you and enjoyed your writing, but it would not have influenced me in any way to respond, think or otherwise take action. Contextual / topical relevance is a key component for influencer measurement, and one most ignore at their own peril.
    Because of the need for contextual relevance, few if any can be an influencer to everyone. But each of us can be an influencer to 1, 2, 3, 4…Z audiences and markets due to our ability to influence those markets with our thoughts, ideas and solution sets. And through that, we will each have our own “scores” or influencer rank. We may be the top influencer in market segment A who cares about Fly fishing. We may the 4th top influencer in the market who cares about boats, etc.
    Contextual / topical relevancy is a very key part of influencer measurement, and acknowledging that a person is not represented by a single “score” or rank, but actually a series of scores or ranks is critical as well.
    For more of my thoughts, you can see my blog posts on this topic here: http://blog.mblast.com/mbwordpress/
    Gary Lee
    mBLAST (www.mblast.com/mpact)

  11. Love the way you tied the neighborhood speed demons to Cialdini’s work on social proof and how we allow others to determine what measures are indicative of successful engagement. Just like Meb, you, or I might define successful runs differently, we all have to determine what goals are appropriate for any activity including the use of new social tools.

  12. @Gary — two considerations. 1) is about “who benefits?” Does this person have a vested interest in pushing something vs. something else? The other is, we fill many roles in life, we’re someone’s daughter/son, a parent, a teacher, an employee, a customer, etc. We borrow considerations from one type of experience to make decisions in others, for example, if you have a really bad experience working at company, you may not recommend its services or products.
    @Doug — and I didn’t even talk about the dog owners not curbing their animals when nobody is watching, or when they do it on the street… which is not very socially friendly behavior.

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