BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

Vive le Roi!

As readers of my main blog may recall, I attended a presentation by Mark W. Schaefer a few weeks back and talked about it (and did pictures!), I also got a chance to chat with him as a TweetUp the next day, and decided that I'd reach out to McGraw Hill for a review copy of his new book Return On Influence: The Revolutionary Power of Klout, Social Scoring, and Influence Marketing.

Contrary to the behavior evidenced by most authors out flogging their books, Schaefer's talk was less about the book than about the context from which it arose. I was, thereby somewhat surprised to find that some key bits of his speech did not appear in the book (I'm guessing that we got an amalgam of his consulting pitch and his classroom lectures, with a sprinkling of soundbites for the book), and how central Klout was to the text. Of course, being that it is “name-checked” in the subtitle, I should have had a clue).

However, although using Klout as a narrative axis, Return On Influence is really much more a general book on what he calls “influence marketing”, and (to judge by my “how many bookmarks did I stick in this?” scale), it is chock full of fascinating information. The book is split in half, with the first part discussing “The Roots of Influence” (there's a marketing geek's dream band name), laying the theoretical groundwork for the concepts, and the second part being on “Klout and the Social Scoring Revolution”. One of the main structuring elements here is spun out from a base of Cialdini's “weapons of influence”: Authority, Likeability, Consistency, and Scarcity, to which are added Social Proof and Reciprocity, and then “the seventh weapon”, Content. On this last point, Schaefer comes up with one of those mnemonic acronyms that he uses in his classes: R.I.T.E. - for content that is Relevant, Interesting, Timely, and Entertaining., which he suggests is a good way of making your content “part of the signal instead of the noise”.

Much of the second half of the book is based on discussions the author had with Klout founder Joe Fernandez. Here's a bit from a section where they're talking about how Klout developed:
“The importance of social networking broadly for individuals and companies has reached a tipping point, and we are in what I like to think of as an attention economy. With Facebook, people started using their real names, and as you start to use your own name online, your personal brand starts to matter. You can build your own influence like never before. All those things started happening around the same time Klout began its social credit score.”
Obviously, Klout taps into many divergent hard-wired behavior patterns, from the quantification inherent in having a numerical “score” (and the subsequent competitiveness that engenders), to pack/tribal “pecking order” perceptions. This, in the sociology spin, is the “social proof” influence, which is described thusly:
“Offline or online, when people are in a situation in which they are unsure of the correct way to behave, they often look to others for cues to the correct behavior. Social proof often leads not just to influence in the form of compliance but also to internalized acceptance as the belief that so many others must be correct becomes stronger.”
Needless to say, this is the element that gets the marketing community salivating … and passing out mega goodies to those identified as being “opinion leaders” in various fields. Schaefer talks about and to many of the top Klout scorers, and notes the downside of what is, essentially, creating a “caste society” where “influencers” get red-carpet treatment and the rest of us are left hoping we'll get a “Perk” coupon we're interested in using!

Speaking of Klout Perks, there is a section here based on material from Shripal Shah, who leads one PR agency's digital practice. He describes five key benefits that marketers get via ranked-influence marketing programs: 1. Authentic Advocacy – cozying up to somebody with a high Klout score in, say, knitting might produce far more enthusiastic message delivery than an ad ever could … 2. Cost-Effective Impressions – early research suggests that the CPM for these programs compare very favorably to traditional advertising, but with more “influence” … 3. Fresh Marketing Channel – most brands aren't going to drop their other vehicles for the “social scoring” platforms, but it adds another way to effectively reach consumers … 4. Consumer Feedback Loop – since social media is done largely “in public” and is trackable, it's much easier to get accurate fixes on how products, etc., are being perceived by various audiences … and, 5. Brand Buffer – companies marketing through the Perks program have their messages pushed through Klout and not directly to the consumer, so are less intrusive and typically seen more as a “pull” on their part.

Both halves of Return On Influence are filled with “case studies” and stories of how people have developed and wielded Influence, as well as how numerous companies have implemented marketing programs based on Twitter, Facebook, Klout, PeerIndex and other platforms. There is also a section on “How to Increase Your Klout Score”, which is not as helpful as one might have hoped having read the chapter heading (it basically boils down to three steps: 1 – develop a network, 2 – create great content, and 3 – suck up to other influencers … none of which are quick or easy), although it does included advice from numerous key players (such as Fernandez, who should know, chiming in with “You only have a high Klout score if you're creating good content”). My own Klout score (not that I'm blaming Schaefer) has slipped from the “magic number” of 50 (pretty much the dividing line for “being influential”) down to 46 since encountering this material, so it's certainly no “magic wand”!

In the penultimate chapter, the author “hands the mic over” to a selection of leading lights in the Influence Marketing game, letting them prognosticate on “The Future of Social Scoring”, along with his own thoughts, continued into a summary in the final chapter. The book closes with two very useful appendices, “The Social Media Primer” (which I suggested would make a nice promotional e-book) which gives late-to-the-game readers a general overview of the field, and a quite handy and informative listing of “Platforms that Measure Influence” (a surprising 19 of which are discussed).

Obviously, Return On Influence is not for everybody, but if you have an interest in marketing, or are a Social Media enthusiast, this is probably something that you'll want to get a hold of. Not only does it shine a rather detailed light on Klout, it provides solid philosophical contexts for the development of the field, and the seemingly “unfair elitism” which comes with it. This just came out a few months ago, so is likely to be in your local brick-and-mortar book vendor, and the on-line big boys have it at nearly 40% off of cover. I really enjoyed this one, and felt that I learned a lot, but the combination of social media and marketing put it one of my “sweet spots”, so, in the classic quip of Dennis Miller: “your mileage may vary” if these aren't “your things”.

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Tags: book review
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