You tweet, you post, you share, you comment and you like, but how much influence do you really have online? If you're one of the 400 million social media users with a Klout score, that question shouldn't be hard to answer.
Klout — a San Francisco-based company founded in 2009 — assesses online influence by using data from Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram and several other social media platforms. Each user is assigned a Klout score between one and 100. The higher your score, the more influence you're believed to have within your digital networks.
While Klout has steadily gained in popularity over the past several years, there are many who still question its methods. Detractors say the site's scores — which are based on complicated, well-guarded algorithms — are arbitrary and that, in the grand scheme of social media, Klout shouldn't count for much at all.
But Gina Carr — an entrepreneur, speaker and marketing expert with a healthy Klout score of 78 — disagrees. In her new book, "Klout Matters: How to Engage Customers, Boost Your Digital Influence— and Raise Your Klout Score for Success," (McGraw Hill, 2013), Carr and co-author Terry Brock address the ongoing debate surrounding Klout's usefulness. They also provide insight into how to use sites like Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia and LinkedIn to your utmost advantage.
In an email interview with BusinessNewsDaily, Carr offers up some useful tips for those looking to expand their digital influence and explains why Klout, though much-maligned, is not something that today's professionals can afford to ignore.
BusinessNewsDaily: The title of your new book is "Klout Matters"— for whom does it matter the most?
Gina Carr: Klout matters today for those who are influencers or those who want to be influential. This is particularly true for people like authors, professional speakers, actors, marketing professionals and other thought leaders.
It is particularly important today for people in marketing for any enterprise. Decisions today are made based on influence, and Klout provides a good way to quantify the amount of influence a person has online.
It is also important for individuals who want to receive Klout Perks from brands looking to share products and services with highly influential people.
Is there any professional out there who doesn't need to concern themselves with Klout?
If the business is very focused on a tight geographical area, then the Klout Score does not matter as much. It matters most when the professional is looking for a national or international audience and online influence is really important.
Your whole book gives specific tips on how to raise Klout scores, but what are some overarching principles that newcomers should follow?
Some of the most important principles include what we call the ABCs of social engagement. A is "always be engaging," B is "be consistent" and C is "connect."
“Always be engaging” means to engage specifically with people on a personal basis. A great place to do this is in online communities — Facebook and LinkedIn groups, Google+ Communities and Twitter chats. The old "spray and pray" method of advertising and marketing is being replaced with personal, targeted connections. People want a real human being to connect with them and engage with them. Social media marketing works best when you have real people connecting with real people.
It is imperative to “be consistent.” If you make a tweet once every six months, you're not going to be very effective on Twitter. Similar to real life, out of sight equals out of mind. You want to show up consistently with a planned strategy for connecting and engaging with your community.
“Connect” means that you relate to others by first listening to their needs, then responding specifically with genuine help and care. “Connect” also means that it's very important to connect all of your networks to Klout. You can do this at the Klout.com website. We have seen many people in the audiences where we speak who didn't know they were not connected, even though they already had a Klout account. When they added other networks to their Twitter account at Klout.com, they saw a definite increase in their Klout Score.
There's been talk of Klout scores one day replacing resumes. What are your thoughts on the subject?
We don't see a Klout Score replacing a resume. It's not "either/or," it's "both/and." Saying that a Klout Score could replace a resume would be like saying, in the early 1900s, that a telephone will someday replace all face-to-face meetings. However, we do believe that Klout Scores will be considered as a factor in hiring processes in the future. It will increasingly be used as a filter for many jobs. This has already started.
Chapter 8 is entitled "What You Can Do When You Don't Have Time for Social Media." Can you share some of that advice here?
We are all very busy today in our fast-paced world. We don't have time for yet another new shiny object. The most successful people are those who follow a specific strategy and schedule to interact with customers and prospects on social media and make the most of it for business.
We recommend that you begin with your business strategy in mind. When you have that in place, it is very important to have systems that guide you on a daily basis. Some of these systems will include a checklist, productivity tools and a schedule for creating and sharing content.
Another very important consideration using social media for business is to focus on those platforms where your customers spend time. Remember, this is about business social media. That means you devote yourself to what is important to your customers. An old phrase which is still true today goes, "what is important is what important people think is important.” Important people to your business are those wonderful, delightful people who pay your bills. Whether we call them customers, clients, members, patients or some other term, these are the people to whom we should pay attention.
Finally, consider outsourcing some of your social media marketing in order to get a lot of tasks done that you can do but shouldn't be doing. For example, you could have an assistant or virtual team that prepares nice graphics to complement your articles. You could ask an assistant to prepare tweets and social posts from content you prepare. You must take care that your social networks are always speaking with your voice — you must do the engagement and interaction. Peter Drucker taught us years ago that we should do only those tasks that we are best suited to do. This will include many — but definitely not all — of the tasks associated with social media.
In the book, you give several examples of online tools that can help businesses and professionals manage social media. Which one is your favorite and why?
That is a question that is almost impossible to answer. It's like asking which of your five children you love the most. We love them all. Some of those that we use more often would include Buffer App, EyeJot and HootSuite.
What are some tips for businesses looking to create engaging content for their followers?
This is an extremely important area for thought leaders. We devote a lot of space in the book showing how thought leaders can create compelling content for their communities. In fact, in our appendices we list several podcasts, YouTube channels and blogs that we regularly consume to get ideas for our own material.
In addition, it is imperative that companies get their content from questions and problems that their customers are encountering. The best blog posts are those that start from the seed of customer complaints and then blossom into a beautiful fruit tree where customers can dine.
A closely related topic is tapping into the wealth of information in your own sales force. A company’s sales force is dealing with customers on a regular basis. In these interactions, they learn about problems and complaints that customers are encountering. We recommend that sales people regularly contribute to and write columns in the company blog.
You talk a lot about thought leaders. What's the secret to positioning yourself as an authority or expert in your field?
One of the secrets is to focus on a particular topic. This way a thought leader can develop the reputation as the “go to person” for a particular topic. This means you have to have credible, market-valuable skills and knowledge rather than just puffery.
There are a number of ways that you can accomplish the task, but it all comes down to two things. First, have the skills and knowledge that the market wants. Second, promulgate that information through a variety of means, including blogs, books, columns, podcasts and other tools for information dissemination. Writing a book on a topic is still one of the best ways to position yourself as an expert in your field.
Do you think Klout scores might affect small businesses in the future? If so, how?
Yes, we believe that Klout and other social scoring systems will gain increased importance in the future. All businesses want to deal with those customers who share positive experiences with their friends. This is the essence of word-of-mouth marketing.
One day soon, it will be possible for a retail business to know when a highly influential customer comes in the door. Hotels are now using this to identify guests upon check-in and award certain perks like an upgrade due to one's Klout Score.
A small business has limited resources. It wants to focus its limited marketing and advertising budget where it will get the most value. Targeting highly influential people makes a lot of sense. Using a tool like Klout can help a small business to gain a competitive advantage by gaining an understanding of prospective customers.
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