By Jamie Anderson, Director, Global Solution Marketing, Web Channel & eCommerce Solutions, SAP
“You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you,” sang Carly Simon in her classic pop put-down to a former lover or, as she later divulged, a composite caricature of former lovers.
I wonder how many of them have poured over the lyrics looking for the clues or the parts that refer to them? It really is an interesting study in human behavior that a song released some 40 years ago (coincidentally in the same year that SAP was born) still generates debate over who actually inspired the title.
The fact that Simon has never publically revealed the name of her ‘inspiration’ is something that also fascinates me and again says something about human behavior.
You see, vanity is not something that many of us would like to admit to, although the vast majority of us (to varying degrees) possess this rather unattractive trait. And, in our new digital world of social networks and mobile technologies, it seems that our online vanity is not only amplified but also actively encouraged through influence monitoring tools such as Klout, Kred, PeerIndex, or SproutSocial.
In fact in the last few weeks I have been inundated with requests from friends and colleagues across various social networks to sign up to these tools to compare our influence. But to what end? Why do they feel it is important to now compare our ‘influence’?
Some of you may remember the good old analogue age when your partner/wife/girlfriend cared only for your opinion, and a time when that opinion would carry genuine influence. They would nervously call out to you from behind a fitting room curtain, wearing a new outfit, and enquire, “does my bum look big in this?”
Nowadays however, their ample gluteous maximus is published online for everyone to “Like”. Back then however, your answer, or rather the time taken between pausing to consider the question and the default answer ‘No’, would typically influence their purchase decision [FYI – Greater than a 3 second pause means ‘Yes’ anyway, even if you actually say ‘No’].
So, if ‘influence’ has gone digital in the consumer world, does this create opportunity for Businesses who serve this market? A hot topic in Marketing today focuses on the use of social profiling tools to identify the ‘influencers’ in customer communities. I think this is a noble aspiration when applied/matched to the appropriate customer-focused outcome. My concern is that the rapidly emerging, self-proclaimed ‘standard’ measure of influence is sadly flawed.
I’m not saying that measuring ‘online’ influence cannot be useful, of course it can. In the social realm there is useful insight that Marketers can turn into intelligence to improve messaging and more accurately target the right message to the right audience at the right time, even via the right device. Engaging the more ‘socially’ active customers within your customer-base can also reap benefits, but only so when it is aligned with an offer that the customer themselves feels is both relevant and valuable
In this very readable and insightful blog from Esteban Kolsky of thinkjar he counsels that we should be careful about making the distinction between popularity and influence. That is possibly one of the most insightful statements I have heard on this topic in a long time.
There is also a huge difference between what constitutes online influence and ‘real’ influence. To me, ‘real’ influence is a measure of an individual (or group’s) ability to change something for the better, or perhaps alter a flawed perception that is steeped in ignorance. It also is important that such influence drives attributable action, something which in many cases will happen ‘offline’. Where is the measure for that in such tools?
Esteban rounds on Klout in his criticism, questioning its efficacy as an adjunct tool in CRM systems for measuring customer influence. I love a good debate but find it difficult to argue, particularly when Klout supports such opinions with tweets like this:
Clearly this tells me that Michael is popular, and rightly so, but until I see a queue of fat kids standing outside in the rain, in Scotland, waiting for the local public swimming baths to open I will reserve judgement on just how much of an influence he is. Now, if Michael were to use his popularity to stand behind a campaign, traveling the world, promoting exercise and healthy eating aimed at tackling childhood obesity then that could be influence. The thing is, that’s unlikely to boost his Klout score.
So, for now at least Klout is here to stay, and it’s popularity continues to grow. I guess when all is said and done its popularity is rooted somewhere in our vanity, our desire for digital affirmation. And I say that because I know many, many people who are obsessed with being seen as an ‘influencer’ and who obsess over their Klout scores, and the scores of those around and above them in the rankings who ‘have only written one decent blog’.
Don’t worry I won’t name you, but suffice it to say, you’re so vain you probably think this blog is about you!
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