Bloddy hell, we just can’t get away from “influence,” can we?

Image: Jonathan D. Blundell via Flickr, CC 2.0

Reminds me a little bit of a cheer from my high school days:

Everywhere we go-o-o!

People want to know-ow-ow!

Who we are-are!

We are ______ (insert school/team/whatever of your choosing)

The mighty mighty _______ (see above)

YAY TEAM!!!!!

Or words to that effect.

Ugh.

The tool that’s making the most rounds these days, it seems to me, is Klout.

There have been blog posts ad nauseam by online influencers (and I don’t mean to use that term in a belittling way, so please don’t anyone take it that way) on online tools such as Klout.

If you use HootSuite to manage your social platforms, every time you click on someone’s profile, you’re hit in the face with their Klout score.

And now mainstream media’s getting into the act: I give you last week’s Wall Street Journal article on how certain wannabe cool kids are trying to game the system.

Good grief, after reading that, even my husband, who couldn’t care less about such stuff, asked me if I knew what my Klout score was.

And, then, yesterday’s Inc.com article on how to measure your brand’s online influence.

Now, I have no axe to grind with Klout.

I’m sure Very Nice People work there.

And I have received my fair share of “influencer perks” from them, some of which I wrote about, though probably not in the way they would have liked, and others I didn’t.

(For a funny look at Klout Perks, check out Olivier Blanchard’s recent post on the swag he’d like.

Maybe I shoulda done something like that. ‘Cos the Sony PSP I received as a promo for “Are We There Yet?” is still sitting in its box.)

But if they claim to be “the standard for influence” (I’m not making that up, that’s their tag line) and people are being influenced to the degree that (quoting from the Inc.com piece) …

“We have people who are getting jobs because of their Klout score,” says [Joe] Fernandez [Klout CEO].

“We have hotels in Vegas that use the Klout score to upgrade rooms, so there’s real value. Klout does actually have real impact on people’s lives.”

… then it seems to me that if they make a prediction of what’s going to happen, based on folks’ Klout scores, it should be at least 75% accurate.

Shouldn’t it?

Let’s take a look.

The Grammy Awards aired last weekend.

Klout decided to predict some of the Grammy winners based solely on their Klout score.

Let me repeat that: based solely on their Klout score.

Here’s how that turned out, with what Klout called accurately indented and in bold below:

Record of the Year

Klout prediction: Eminem

Actual winner: Lady Antebellum

Album of the Year

Klout prediction: Lady Gaga

Actual winner: Arcade Fire

Best New Artist

Klout prediction: Justin Bieber

Actual winner: Esperanza Spalding

Best Female Pop Vocal

Klout prediction: Lady Gaga

Actual winner: Lady Gaga

Best Male Pop Vocal

Klout prediction: Bruno Mars

Actual winner: Bruno Mars

Best Metal

Klout prediction: Iron Maiden

Actual winner: Iron Maiden

Best Female R&B Vocal

Klout prediction: Monica

Actual winner: Fantasia

Best Male R&B Vocal

Klout prediction: Usher

Actual winner: Usher

Best Rap Solo

Klout prediction: Kanye West

Actual winner: Eminem

Best Rap Album

Klout prediction: Drake

Actual winner: Eminem

Four out of 10. Four out of 10.

Hmm. I wonder why?

Could it be that…

… the members of the Academy, who actually vote for the Grammys, don’t really care what people are tweeting about?

Image: Mr. Thomas via Flickr, CC 2.0

… all the people tweeting about and re-tweeting Justin Bieber (Klout score: 100) have little-to-no influence on the people who actually decide who wins the Grammys, i.e. the members of the Academy?

… someone’s Klout score is merely one facet of how influential they might be in real life?

My best guess is that it’s all that, and then some.

I don’t blame anyone for trying to identify influencers and then get them on their side.

But the truth of the matter is that any influence score and influencer outreach must…

… be taken in context

customized to your organization’s particular needs and circumstances

… be undertaken only once you have clearly identified your ultimate goals.

How do you explain influence?

Justin Goldsborough had a great post yesterday on eight questions to help explain influence.

I left my $0.02 there; I suggest you do so as well.

But my short answer is: influence is when you can get people to actually do something.

It doesn’t matter whether or not they have a gazillion Twitter followers.

It doesn’t matter what their Technorati ranking might or might not be.

It doesn’t matter what their Klout score is.

If you can’t get someone to do something that benefits your organization’s business objectives… they are not an influencer as far as you’re concerned.

In public relations

our clients (or organizations) look to us for strategies on how best to use communication tactics and build relationships that will benefit their business objectives.

Can we please please please not get hung up on discrete scores without looking at the proverbial big picture?

If Klout could get egg on its face with something as silly as Grammy predictions, so could you… with something far worse.

Shonali Burke
Founder and publisher of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke helps smart businesses make bank by taking their communications from corporate codswallop to community cool™. She is also the founder of The Social PR Virtuoso®, which provides online, on-demand training that helps you unleash your inner Social PR superhero. Shonali is mad about ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis, though not necessarily in that order. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke