The Delicate Balance Of Online and Offline Influence

“What is truly exciting about where we are today is that never before in our collective history has it been so accessible for absolutely everyone to provide their voice to the conversation. Where anyone with ‘humble beginnings’ can make a name for themselves.  Your ability to influence comes more from what you have to offer, than from your background or your pedigree or financial status.Mark Schaefer 

I had a discussion recently with a tenant of a Housing Association. It followed a presentation where I stated that I didn’t think we could afford to ignore the concept of Social Influence scoring for too long.  Influence scoring , if you don’t know, is where your online contributions through social media are aggregated through an algorithm and converted into a number by tools like Klout , Kred and PeerIndex. A number that compares your influence to everyone else.

And , just like credit reference scoring, we all have a number.

“You are right” , said the resident I was talking to, “I have a Klout score of 30,  Our Chief Executive has no online presence. Perhaps I’m more influential to my online community.”

There is no perhaps about it. This concept of “Citizen Influencers” having greater online power than the CEO’s of large organisations fascinates me. Surely we would be foolish to ignore a system that attempts to measure that?

What would you do if you interviewed someone for a job who you thought was brilliant – but had no online footprint? Who appeared influential in real life but who wasn’t on Twitter , Facebook or LinkedIn? What would it make you think about them? Would they even get an interview? 

I used to be quite cynical about social influence scoring – thinking it was a fad and lacked sophistication. But then people like Helen Reynolds and Shirley Ayres got me interested in the possibilities. Klout , the leading platform, says Helen and Shirley both influence me. And Klout is correct – they influenced me to buy Return on Influence – a wonderful book by Mark Schaefer, the author I have quoted above.

Get that. Two people , only one of whom I have met in real life , have influenced me to read something I previously had no interest in.

And that’s why online influence is important.  You can amplify your real life influence to an online audience.  And you can make them do something. Like read your blog, purchase a product or tell their friends about your services.

And it will make people decide whether they want to work with you or not. Social Scoring could become a metric that influences recruitment decisions.

There was a post this week criticising a company for stating that applicants for a Social Media position had to have a Klout score of 35 and above. I just don’t see the problem with this at all. Is this any more unfair than ruling out an applicant based upon those traditional , and not particularly reliable,  tools like CV Scoring , Belbin profiles and psychometric tests.

I have proposed using Klout and Kred as part of performance management for the roles on my teams that depend on influencing others. So far , I’ve been convinced that it’s not necessary.  But I can see a useful future tool here. After all , if part of their jobs depend upon online presence – why would I not be interested in the trajectory of their influence?

Our future professional success will be dependent on an increasingly delicate balance between our offline and online track record. Social scoring will play a part in that. Whether we like it or not.

But what do you think?

10 Comments on “The Delicate Balance Of Online and Offline Influence

  1. Cracking stuff, Paul. Really made me think:

    – Who influences me online?
    – Who do I influence online?
    – How do I use Klout?!

    An online community is happening all around us, we have a choice as to whether we should be a part of it – but by choosing to ignore it we are missing a raft of opportunities to make a difference. So, if we are to recruit by looking at somebody’s online presence I say it’s a good thing. We are not only assessing their interactions with other’s but looking at what this person could bring into our organisations – which could be quite literally a ‘Whole Wide World’ of new influence. Sounds good to me!

    • Thanks Andy – I think these tools will help us answer the first two questions you posed. As our approach to online personality develops – we will move away from merely having presence to looking at who and why we influence. But a lot of people disagree. Thanks for provoking that interesting exchange on Twitter!

  2. Morning Paul

    Great post, as always. I wonder if the reluctance to take part in social scoring is due, in part, to the British trait of not wanting to blow our own trumpets. I think people worry about how it will be perceived, a kind of ‘look at me, I have influence’.

    That said, I agree with you entirely that it’s important, particularly when it’s clear that the world is now online! I’m off to do my Klout score now 🙂

    • It’s a very emotive subject for the reasons you have outlined. I personally don’t think scoring should be used as a “who is best” type contest ( any contest can be gamed and cheated) – but it does have a benefit in helping tell us whether our contributions have reach and resonance with our audience.

  3. Interesting blog!

    It had the potential to be a useful tool but surely its open to manipulation. I haven’t looked into how the system works but if its all based on likes and retweets if I wanted to I could boost my score easily in ways that aren’t really relevant to how influential I am online. Does it make a distinction between quality influence and noise?

    • Thanks Thom – It can , like any system, be gamed. The algorithms will be developed all the time to spot this. But just like someone who is intent on telling lies on their CV – there is no way you can stop it. But – just like people pay for fake twitter followers – cheats can be spotted. I agree we should approach influence scoring with caution – but , like football , athletics and multiplayer gaming , I don’t think we should let the cheats put us off.

  4. Thoughtful post – Thanks Paul, I’m still pretty wary of this sort of scoring tbh I find the assumptions they make on an account by account basis are wrong more often than they are right.

    Also I think it is still way too easy to play the results ~ like SEO ten years ago :s

    …I’m sure it wont take too long to become more useful though

    • Thanks Crispin – I think the comparison with SEO 10 years ago a is a very comparison. Although I don’t think it will take as long to refine as SEO did.Let’s see though..!

  5. What an interesting blog post. I feel that I have a very strong online presence, and although I am often mocked for being a ‘internet geek’, or ‘tided to my macbook’ I think so much good can come out of the internet.

    I am shocked I have never heard of this Klout. I will be looking into it.

    I personally feel that, I am influenced equally by the people I ‘see’ online and the people I see offline.

    I’m not sure if that’s a scarey thought or not….

    However, I feel it is less scarey than being influenced by people you don’t choose to watch, like having TV influence you because ‘it’s on’ ( this is why I don’t have TV, as I don’t like the idea of my children being influenced by whatever pops up on the screen at that moment in time, Ad’s, tv shows, presenters. )

    What you wrote made me think of future generations and I do think that in schools it should be taught that there is some form of social decency needed in the online world, ( as it is needed offline) as the internet lasts forever, and something you write or post can be screen shot, or ‘shared’ in a second. And people do as you say ” make people decide whether they want to work with you or not” not only through social scoring, but who you are as a person.

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