Monthly Archives: March 2011

Why We Need Social Scoring

The social scoring service Klout has been generating a lot of press lately, both good and bad. If you don’t know what Klout is, it is a service that assigns a single score (out of 100) to an individual as a measure of how influential they are online. Since Klout came onto the scene last year, a whole host of similar services have popped up. All claim to measure online influence, but they do so using different criteria and algorithms.

While some have embraced social scoring, others are wary of some of the potential implications social scoring will have for society going forward. One of those implications is the creation of a social media caste system. People are worried that businesses will discriminate against individuals with low social influence scores.

The idea is that marketers target those with the highest scores and provide them with perks, (like a better suite at the Palms in Las Vegas), in the hopes that they will spread the good will to their networks, resulting in more customers for that business. The only issue is that if you have a low Klout score, then you do not receive these perks or advantages.

Think of your Klout score as a credit score. Just as you are not entitled to those low levels of interest with a low credit score, you may not be entitled to certain perks at restaurants and hotels because you have a low Klout score.

That being said, society needs social scoring. Today we are living in an attention economy, where we face a continuing downpour of data and information. If we don’t figure out a effective method of sifting through all this information, we’ll drown.

That’s where social scoring comes in. When I want to find content that is relevant, useful, and/or entertaining, I turn to my friends, trusted publications, or people that I know are considered experts in their fields.Those are the new gatekeepers.

By creating or curating information that has relevance and value I am more likely to pay attention to them. I spend hours reading Mashable every week because I always learn something new. And I follow Brian Solis on Twitter for the same reason as well.

My attention is just like a currency, a currency I exchange for relevant information.

Of course, there were going to be attempts to measure online influence. Humans have always sought to align themselves with people more influential than they in order to achieve influence themselves. However, I believe that social scoring services like Klout should seek to measure influence only when it pertains to specific topics, such as SEO or dubstep.

A key component of online influence is relevance. Take Britney Spears who has millions of Twitter followers. She has a high Klout score but does she exert any influence in the SEO industry?

No.

But she might exert some influence when it comes to dubstep music, because her latest song has some dubstep elements, and you know there will be at least 200 dubstep remixes of any Britney Spears song.

Imagine if there were directories you could look up according to topic. At the top, you’d be able to see individuals, blogs, products, services, etc., with the highest influence scores. Then you’d be able to make a more informed decision depending on what you are looking for. It’s not that you or I are want less information. In fact, we want more. We just want it to be the best, most accurate, most relevant information we can get.

Does the concept of social scoring raise some legitimate issues? Yes, but ultimately I believe the benefits of social scoring will outweigh the costs.

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How I Spent My Spring Break (It Was Not In Punta Cana)

You know what’s really frustrating?

Being on Spring Break and seeing all the annoying Facebook and Twitter status updates that read, “Puntaaa Cannaaa”, and “We About to Get Loose!!!”, and “Shots, Shots, Shots!!!!”

Or something like that. Either way it’s been pretty annoying.

Or maybe it’s just sour grapes on my part because I didn’t do something wild and crazy for Spring Break. (Senior year I know right?)

Anyways, I decided to be productive and make some moves on my life after Duke.

While at home I reformatted my resume and wrote cover letters for a few job openings, but the single most important thing I did over Spring Break was network.

And my emphasis on networking yielded some fantastic results.

A week ago I met up with an older friend who works for the social media marketing agency M80, owned by media agency Mediacom.

It was probably one of the coolest experiences I’ve had to date.

I really loved the casual environment of the place. It was how I imagined a media agency to be.

Wide open spaces. Free food. Everything was laid back. There may have been one guy in a suit. Foul language was encouraged. But apparently not when using a brands Twitter account 🙂

ESPN was there doing a Lunch and Learn. (Foolishly I did not stay for lunch)

But those are just semantics. The real important part was talking to the employees. I was fortunate to have someone come up and talk to me and explain exactly what it was like to work in a social media marketing agency.

Here are some things I took away from my experience:

1. Think about using social media from a brand perspective.

When I first sat down to talk to my friend’s colleague, the first question he asked me was, “Why do you want to work in social media?”

I paused and thought for a moment. Why do I like social media?

I couldn’t really come up with a satisfactory response so I said, “Because I love connecting with people?”

Apparently this was not good enough, and I got a harsh reality check.

Just because I have a Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin account does not mean that I know how to utilize social media effectively. There is a big difference between using those channels for personal use and using them professionally for a Fortune 500 company.

Although to my credit, when he began telling me about their sentiment analysis tool, I brought up Dell’s social media command center and how difficult it was to measure sentiment. He was impressed.

2. The social media space is still evolving.

After getting thoroughly grilled, I was able to ask some questions of my own.

“What is the typical workday like?” I asked.

“Typical?” he responded. “There is no typical workday. Every day is different.”

I loved that answer. Basically what he meant is that there is currently no rulebook for practicing social media like there is for traditional marketing. These guys are making it up as they go along, seeing what works, what doesn’t, and adjusting accordingly.

Which is incredibly exciting (at least for me) because I can pave my own path to success in social media.

Which leads me to the third thing I learned,

3. Pick an area of expertise, and dominate it.

I wrote a post last week about finding a niche and owning it, and the same advice seems to keep popping up. It doesn’t matter what it is, it could be real estate or medicine.

By practicing social media in your own niche, you’ll be able to see what works, what doesn’t, and then you’ll be able to apply what you learned if you ever get hired as a social media marketing manager or whatever.


Millions and Millions of Eyeballs, And Everywhere A Niche

The other day in New York it was raining out. Hard.

Not like the annoying drizzles I’m used to experiencing in North Carolina.

This was a legit downpour.

Soaked, cold and clammy, I walked to the corner of 1st Avenue and 14th Street and entered the subway to get uptown.

Disclaimer: If you were the person I bumped into while walking down the stairs into the subway, I’m sorry. I had my headphones blasting and whatever curses you yelled my way I didn’t catch. My b.

Boarding the L train to 8th avenue, I sat down on one of the yellow seats and took a look around the train…

Stop.

Right there on that L train was a perfect snapshot of New York City.

There were children as young as 10 and adults as old as 70.

There were white people, black people, and Asian people.

There were people who were well-off, people who could be considered poor, and people in between.

But it wasn’t the differences in the people that I noted; it was the similarities.

In the hands of many on that train were smartphones of every kind (iPhones, Blackberrys, Android), gaming devices (PSPs, Nintendo DS’, iTouches), tablets and laptops.

And from what I could tell, each and every person was doing their own little thing, encased in their own little connected world.

Of course I had known our society was so connected. I read about it all the time on blogs such as TechCrunch and Mashable, and at Duke it seems like every student, professor, and employee has a smartphone or some connected device.

But those are my own little connected worlds and I guess it was enlightening to see everyday people using the same devices I was.

As I sat there on the metro, my thoughts (as they are wont to do) began whizzing, wondering, and whirling.

You know when some things don’t truly sink in until you see them or experience them for yourself?

Well that’s what happened to me on a dreary Monday evening in a NYC subway.

For the past four months, I’ve been reading up on thought leaders (like Seth Godin) in the online space who talk about finding a niche and then dominating it.

But I’ve always been like Screw that! I wanna rule the world!

Yet sitting there, cold and clammy on the metro, I realized how wise that advice is.

As I sat there, cold and clammy on the metro, my brain began multiplying the number of eyeballs glued to connected devices, times the number of trains running in NYC daily, times the number of trains running daily in metropolitan areas across the country, times the number of trains running daily all around the world.

My eyes widened.

Ohhh s**t! That’s a lot of eyeballs!!

Then I realized that I could find a niche, and still have potentially millions of eyeballs to attract to my blog or website.

Let’s say that I really love the game Farmville, (which I don’t) so I start a blog all about Farmville. I provide commentary on new add-ons to the game, in-game purchases, I provide FAQs and How-To guides, so on and so forth.

That might not sound like a viable niche for me to dominate.

Except when you consider that over 30 million people play Farmville.

Daily.

Obviously smarter people than I have realized this and capitalized.

Look at AllFacebook. All they talk about is Facebook. All the time.

Granted Facebook is huge (600 million and counting), but it just goes to show that you can be a niche site and still have a readership of millions.

So from now on, I’m going to be looking for those little nooks and crannies that I can squeeze my brain into and hope I can attract millions of eyeballs.

Are you thinking of or are already dominating a niche? If so, share your thoughts in the comments below.

The Facebook Commenting System: A Tool for the New Influential

There I sat, early morning, a warm egg McMuffin sandwich in hand, and some hot cocoa not far too away. Powering up the Mac Pro in front of me, I log onto my Google Reader and click on the latest posts from TechCrunch.

Hmm. I wonder what Techcrunch will declare dead today?

Not seeing any “death” posts, I ended up clicking on some article about venture capital investor Adressen Horowitz.

Bored, I cracked a yawn and reached for my hot chocolate. Taking a sip, I scrolled down to see the comments, and subsequently sprayed hot chocolate all over the shiny Mac Pro in front of me.

Instead of the Disqus commenting system I was so used to seeing, was now a brand-spanking new Facebook Commenting System.

Oh yeahhh. Facebook is releasing a new commenting system today. Duh.

After reading a few blog posts about Facebook’s new commenting system, I began to think about how the new system would affect people like us, the New Influential.

I noticed that there were essentially two sides to the debate: readers vs. the websites and companies and brands that operate them.

From a brand or company perspective, the new commenting system makes a lot of sense. With the Facebook commenting system, readers are using their real identities, so anything they post gets traced back to them.

The new system means less trolls and livelier, more interesting discussion. It also means that brands have more face time yours and your friend’s newsfeeds.

There seem to be two major gripes by readers however. One, readers are skeptical of granting more third-party companies access to their private data on Facebook, and two, since whatever comments you post on a site like Techcrunch are also posted to Facebook, readers fear certain people reading their comments. Maybe you don’t want your girlfriend to see that comment on Askmen.com about the 25 hottest women in sports.

Personally, I think that the new Facebook commenting system will be a boon for the New Influential.

It is hard to build online influence if you are not authentic, and Facebook comments is a great way to show who you are, and what you care about. If you provide helpful and/or entertaining comments, people are likely to follow you around the internet and hear what you have to say.

Another benefit is Facebook’s 600 million person user base. By integrating Facebook comments on your site, it increases the likelihood of your content going viral.

I can think of two scenarios where the new Facebook commenting system might help.

Imagine if you were a fashion blogger, and you just posted a positive review of a new pair of Jordans released by Nike. Your post receives dozens of positive comments from “real” people, a few buy the shoes, and you get affiliate fees. Your readers’ Facebook friends also see the comments in their newsfeed, and are curious to see what shoes their friends are looking at. Clicking on the link, they visit your blog, and decide that they want to buy shoes as well.

Voila! Influence.

Or what if you were holding a contest that allowed readers to come up with a clever tag line for your new product. You ask your readers to write their own tag lines in the comments. Your reader’s friends see this, and decide that they want to join as well, and now you have more participants and readers than you did before.

The new Facebook commenting system is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination (no Twitter or Google integration. or the voting system), but the potential is there.

I can’t wait for the reaction I get when my comments on TechCrunch start showing up in my newsfeed.

What do you think of the new Facebook commenting system? Do you think it helps from a branding perspective?


Is the Concept of Online Influence Overrated?

If you’ve been following me around the Interwebs lately (why would you? That’s called stalking. Unless you’re a marketer of course) then you would know that the subject of online influence really gets me going.

Wanna know how I’m obsessed?

It all started when I had to create a class blog on online influence.

I called it The New Influential.

I thought (still do think) it was brilliant.

So brilliant that I had to make it my Twitter handle. And now I obsess over Klout scores and PeerIndex scores, and like a drug fiend, I zip through my Google Reader, trying to get the latest fix on online influence.

But today Tom Webster wrote a post on Social Media Today titled, “The Limits of Online Influence”. Webster discusses how he enlisted the support of A-List influencers like Chris Brogan and Ed Shahzade to help raise awareness for the earthquake disaster in New Zealand.

He wanted people to create a simple 20 second message, and hoped that his influential friends, which have hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers, would cause an outpouring of 20 second messages.

With a little help from his friends, Webster’s message had a combined reach of 308,000, and generated over 400,000 impressions.

Those might seem like big numbers, except when you consider that only 389 people clicked on the actual link, and only 10 left a message.

Wow. Talk about disappointing.

So does this mean that the idea of online influence is overrated? Webster would think so:

“What this experience suggests to me, however, is that if you thought online influence has been a bit oversold, you are wrong. It’s been exponentially oversold.”

I would say yes and no.

First of all, how we define influence as it pertains to the web is still ongoing. Is influence the same as popularity? Is Lady Gaga influential because she is popular?

Well, it depends.

When it comes to music, definitely.

But when it comes to online marketing, probably not.

It also depends how much work, planning, and preparation is put into making an influencer outreach program work. In his post, Webster talks about his good friend Matt Riding, who rattled off three things that Webster could have done differently to engage more people.

I guess it served as a wake up call to me because I figured you could just rely on the inherent potential Twitter and Facebook to carry your message and influence the masses.

Apparently not.

Lastly, I think it’s important to say that we are just beginning to live in the digital age. Remember 6 years ago when services like Facebook and Twitter did not exist, and blogging was not for moms?

I do.

Society is still not at a point where social media is absolutely essential. I mean c’mon, most companies still haven’t figured out how to get a ROI from social media. How are they supposed to know how to run influencer campaigns?

I believe that as society grows more comfortable with these new tools marketers can then create more effective influencer campaigns. There will be more data available, and better tools for collecting and analyzing that data so that a formula is established.

So to say that the concept of online influence is overrated is shortsighted.

A service like Klout might be pretty meaningless to Joe the Plumber in 2011, but what about in 2025, when there will be billions of people connected to the internet?

Just something to chew on.