Examples of quantifying social influence

Is Klout the new SAT score?

“Maybe,” responds Sandy Carter, who leads social media initiatives across IBM.

Sandy made this intentionally provocative comment during SXSW this year to make the point that measuring both internal and external social influence is a critical path for marketing today and we can even begin to assign a specific dollar value to an employee’s social media presence.

sandy carter of ibmDuring the SXSW event, I had the chance to be interviewed by IBM but when I saw Sandy in the room, I asked if I could turn the camera around and be the one to interview her. She graciously agreed and it turned out to be a discussion that is jam-packed with insight on how large companies are beginning to use social influence to create measurable economic value.

She also discusses a shift in corporate reward systems, HR policies and commercial strategies that emphasize the sharing of information instead of the hoarding of information.

If you are a marketing professional, you won’t want to miss this discussion on the state of the art of social influence marketing.

If you can’t see the video at the top of this article, click here to see my interview with Sandy Carter of IBM on examples of quantifying social influence and social selling.

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  • Kitty Kilian

    Whoa, very interesting. Economic value attached to Klout score. Thanks – oh, and Klout scores under 60 need not reply, huh. I’d better go tweet this and some other stuff 😉

  • Patricia Haag

    Mark – What a great interview with Sandy Carter. The info is priceless. Again, this is why your site is always my first stop of the day. I now need to work on my Klout score (I’ve never gotten above 47).

    I’m looking forward to the new edition of the Tao of Twitter!

  • michaelbrenner

    Mark, this is awesome. I have been a big fan of Sandy for a long time. Love that you were able to capture her thoughts and experience in this interview. Especially love the comments about how IBM is analyzing social influence.

    Also really relate to the comment about social media being about more than just a media and really being about relationships that can be quantified.

  • Try as you want, there’s so still no actual way to prove influence with any statistical confidence. There are too many variables and not enough attempts to formally test for causality.

  • get to work Kitty! : )

  • Thanks very much for the support Patricia! I appreciate you.

  • Yes, some really great insights here. A fun interview!

  • In fact, it is easy to do a correlation study between a number like a Klout score and another number like sales productivity. This would be a basic statistical test and if your sample size is appropriately calculated you absolutely can calculate a correlation between these numbers with statistical confidence. In fact, this has been done in psychological tests on influence for years.

  • You can correlate any two numbers you want, my personal favorite is the rise in Facebook users compared to the Greek debt crisis. There’s an amazingly strong correlation there, but 0 causal relationships.

    The problem is that until recently, influence tests have had two problems 1 – statistical confidence has been tied to groups and 2 – statistical confidence has been low.

    Something as seemingly basis as Authority (one of the most studied, repeated, and peer reviewed Influencers) only has applicable confidence of around 2/3rds. That means Authority only words as an incentivising factor in 2/3rds of people. For the remaining 1/3rd, Authority actually disincentivizes.

    Of course, that all misses the big influence barrier – it must be calculated on an individual level (as in “these are the things that influenced me regarding my decisions this time) and can only be calculated after an act has occurred.

  • Mark, I love the video and the deliberately provocative topic. So I’ll bite. 😀

    As you know, I work in the institutional financial services industry (which is well-known for being social media laggards). Right now, I’m working on filling out speaking panels for a few events. We have a very good idea of who has influence in this industry – and those folks get invited to speak frequently.

    Their influence in the industry and in their companies is very high – and it definitely makes them more employable. But most of them are not even on Twitter, and if they are, they’re not active and are not following best practices. Most have probably never heard of Klout. However, they are writing, publishing on industry forums, and are frequently interviewed by the press.

    Any insight on if and how companies are actually measuring social influence outside the world of Twitter followers and Klout scores?

  • A very fun interview. I have to look a bit askance at my Klout score until they find a way to link self hosted blogs. Of course I was feeling okay with mine until 60 was the benchmark. LOL I was 62 and now I’m 57 and I have no clue why. I’m doing pretty much what I was doing. Ah, fame, you are so fleeting….

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  • I don’t you think you need to prove causation to use good business judgment. I don’t believe Klout CAUSES sales productivity. However, if there is a high statistical correlation between between an internal “influence score” (based on a level of social media activity) and sales productivity, why in the world would you not use this as a signal to either train people to be more active with their customers on the web, hire people who already active on the web, or both? Just seems like common sense.

    I once worked for a company that gave people personality tests before they were hired into a sales department. They found a high correlation between sales productivity and certain personality traits. That seems rational, right? But some how when you tie a sales strategy to something that hits an emotional hot button like “influence” it becomes a debate : )

    I’m not sure Klout measures influence, but it does measure a person’s ability to create content that moves on the web. I think that is an important skill for many careers today, including sales.

  • This is a really interesting topic. There has been a lot of work done in this area with some pretty surprising results. For example, in one study, they asked people who was most influential and they named the most well-known speakers and personalities. But when they actually traced who was impacting their behavior, it was somebody exerting quiet authority through personal connections. I think we see this often in sales and marketing. If you were to name the most influential name in our field, it might be Gary Vaynerchuk. He’s everywhere. But who is affecting how you do your daily work? Your boss? A mentor? Your favorite blogger?

  • You are exactly right with that one. The blog thing has been a big disappointment to me too.

  • I’m in complete agreement with you on Klout not measuring influence, specifically because influence has to be a causal relationship (hell the two words are synonyms).

    But Klout’s marketing language – that they specifically measure influence – presents a branding coup.

    People don’t say they’re correlating Klout score and sales, they say they’re correlating influence and sales.

    Then people want to target “influencers” by using Klout in hopes that those influencers drive sales/awareness/impressions.

    Branding social success as influence creates a drastically misaligned sense of expectations that, frankly, the math can’t back up.

  • I mostly agree with you. Klout’s tagline is outrageous and has caused a lot of problems for them! : )

    Here is a view, though. What is the source of my power on the web? That is very easy to identify. I create content that moves (which is different than just creating content). And that is about it. You would not know of me at all without my content.

    There are many people, from tech pundits to mommy bloggers, who would be unknown if they did not have the ability to create content that moves and I include myself in that category too. Today, I speak all over the globe, people tell me my books have changed their lives, and I provide advice to big companies — all because I can create content that moves.

    So you would probably agree with me that if a person can figure out how t create content that moves, that would be a legitimate source of power on the web. To the extent that we could measure an ability to move content, we could also have a relative measure of web influence.

    Guess what. That is what Klout does. If you peek behind the curtains, Klout’s algorithm is a limited but nonetheless useful measure of a person’s ability to move content. Is that a proxy for influence? I believe it could be, in context. Not a measure of all influence, but a sliver of it.

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  • Kevin Pignone

    Thanks for sharing. It was another valuable interview. It’s all about relationships!

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  • Holy smokes! I have 9 points to go before I get to 60 =) I don’t see dates in your article header. So, I’m not sure klout scores are still relevant, today?

  • This interview was conducted in March 2014 and yes, Klout is about the same in its relevance now, : )

  • Watched the HOA the other day w/ Ryan. Then, I saw your post about using twitter to reach media on social causes. I’m going to try that! I did a piece about france joining the open government project. I reached out to my Senator, Marco Rubio’s DC office and the staffer gave me her email address and simply never replied.

    I was looking for a few sentences to a paragraph insertion / citation.

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