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Klout CEO Joe Fernandez and Tom H C Anderson Discuss Influence

August 1st, 2011 · 9 Comments

One Digital Metric to Rule Them All - Social Influence


If you’re on Twitter or work with social media I’m sure you’ve heard of Klout. Klout has quickly become the social media influence metric of choice. A few weeks ago I was introduced to their CEO Joe Fernandez, and I thought I’d ask him a few questions here on the blog for those Next Gen market Researchers interested in better measuring and analyzing influence, or for those of you who are applying for a social media job and are listing your Klout score on your resume (it’s already happening)!

Before I get to the questions, a little more about Joe. He grew up in Las Vegas and attended University of Miami and Oxford University. Before Klout, Joe was Director of Innovation and Research at OnBoard Informatics, building large scale data solutions for the Real Estate industry. He also cofounded Evalulogix, which helped analyze special education testing data for over 5,000 school districts. He’s a web entrepreneur who says he loves building a great team and taking on the biggest challenges possible.

Tom: First of all let me say I love what you’re doing, and am fascinated by these types of analytics. You have quite an interesting background spanning from political science to business (finance) and computer science. Can you tell us a bit about what inspired you to start Klout back in 2008.

Joe: I had my jaw wired shut for 3 months in 2007. During that time I couldn’t talk and became deeply involved in social media as my main mode of communication. I became fascinated with the idea that there was real, measurable influence happening on the social web. Klout was born soon after.

Tom: I don’t think most marketing researchers quite understand the importance of what it is that you are doing. I believe it obviously goes far beyond what social media influence scores individuals have and may have a huge impact on how we view Advertising and PR. Can you tell me a bit about how if at all you think measuring influence may change the way we view Advertising and PR?

Joe: For the first time in history, influence of everyday people is very measurable. Your conversations with your friends and peers are happening publicly and online. Klout can measure that to understand who the influencers are in any location or topic. In essence we can now put a number behind a person’s word of mouth power.

Tom: Customer service is another critical area that may change of course. I’ve done a lot of work with hospitality companies like Starwood hotels on their customer satisfaction measurement and think adding this type of data would be super interesting.

Are there any customer service case examples you can tell us about. For instance, recently I tweeted something about a bad hotel stay and within a few minutes their CS contacted me and resolved the issue. I can’t help wondering if they may have had my Klout score?

Joe: Most social media clients now show Klout Scores and many businesses do use this as a factor when deciding who to respond to and how to do so. With Klout, businesses can factor in the network or word of mouth value of a customer instead of just their lifetime spend.

Tom: In regard to Klout Perks, one of the more noteworthy perks recently was the Spotify deal. Was it open to everyone on Klout or just users over a certain influence level?

Joe: All of our Perks are targeted based on a combination of Score, topic and location. This was no exception.

Tom: I was able to achieve the goal and get 5 folks to sign up for Klout and Spotify within a few hours, was this the norm? Can you say anything about how successful it was in terms of numbers.

Joe: You did very well then! Only the top influencers were able to get people to sign up that quickly.

Tom: What can you tell us about increasing Klout score, Mine seemed to jump around quite a bit, but now it won’t move no matter what I do.

Your Klout score is 4 points higher than mine yet you have several thousand fewer Twitter followers. What’s going on? Do I need to delete people to move up?

Joe: It really has nothing to do with followers. We believe influence is the ability to drive action so we focus on actions as opposed to friends or followers when measuring your Score.

For instance, getting your content retweeted or liked by top influencers is an indication of your influence.

Tom: Is it difficult to build a product around another co. like Twitter where you don’t have direct control. I know my Twitter account for instance often does not get picked up in the Twitter Search for whatever reason. Twitter doesn’t seem to have a customer service department to do anything about this. How do you deal with these types of issues?

Joe: We have been lucky in that we have a very close relationship with Twitter. They have been very helpful when we have issues.

Tom: I understand Klout Score index is 1-100. How does that fit into niche industries/professions like “marketing research” and “text analytics” for instance. It doesn’t seem fair to compare, say @TomHCAnderson Klout to Klout of movie stars like @AshtonKutcher?

Joe: Topic definitely matters here. If you’re focused on your industry you should look at others in your topic areas instead of comparing yourself to Ashton Kutcher. When you combine the two data points you have something very powerful.

Tom: How much does usability vs. true influence play into the decisions you make about the formulas. In other words, if it were too difficult to move up in score at the bottom of the index I imagine Klout wouldn’t be nearly as popular among as broad an audience as you have. But can we make any actual inferences in regard to Klout Influence being linked to ability to drive sales of products?

Joe: Our number one goal is always accuracy. We are not building a Score so it can be gamed, we are working to become the standard for influence. As a part of becoming that standard, we are definitely working to make the Score intuitive as well.

Tom: I know you have plans to add other media streams including YouTube, Tumbler and Foursquare in the future. If someone isn’t active on say Foursquare, but wants to have the highest possible Klout score, should they add Foursquare even if they don’t plan to be tremendously active, or could this actually hurt their score in the long run?

Joe: We never penalize you for not being active or not connecting a given network.

Tom: As it’s a special focus of my business I know Klout also uses text analytics to some degree. How important is this in Klout algorithms currently, and how if at all do you see this changing in the future?

Joe: We use semantic analysis to understand the topics people are influential in.
This is key for discovering the top influencers in given areas.

Tom: So I have to ask you about LinkedIn, partly because of the Next Gen Market Research group I moderate there with 12,500+ members is the most active place for marketing research related discussion on the web, and the group is public, yet I understand Klout and other social media monitoring software really aren’t taking advantage of this. When if at all do you think LinkedIn groups will be taken into consideration?

Joe: This might happen in the future, but our real goal is to understand the influence of individuals so this isn’t on our immediate priority list.

Tom: Growing so quickly and getting VC funding is an amazing feat. For others who are reading thinking about putting their analytical knowledge to use in social media, what tip would you give them?

Joe: This sounds corny but the biggest thing is not to give up. It took me 10 months and nearly 100 VC pitches before I was able to raise the money necessary for Klout. People still tell me the idea is crazy or impossible and we just keep pushing.

Tom: Thanks a lot Joe, many of us are looking forward to incorporating better influence into our marketing analysis in the future.

I’d be curious to hear what you think about Klout and if anyone has included Klout Influence scores in their market research analysis yet?

@TomHCAnderson

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Tags: Advertising · Analytics · Anderson Analytics · Datamining · Influence · Interview · Linkedin · Market Research · Marketing Guru · Marketing Research Guru · Marketing research · OdinText · PR · SEO · Social Media · Social Media Marketing · Social networks · Spotify · Text Analytics · Tom H. C. Anderson · Twitter · klout · text mining · tomhcanderson

9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Chris // Aug 1, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    I think Klout is a good idea but very much a red herring for people running social media in the B2B space and even somewhat the B2C space. I’m definitely an open critic of Klout and its measurement. They over-simplify a very complex phenomenon. Also seems odd that a company would only reply to someone with a Klout score above a certain level. That company is effectively saying, anyone who isn’t influential in social media isn’t worth responding to. I have relatives that aren’t influential on social media but will happily complain on Facebook, Twitter, at coffee groups and among their vast networks of friends when they’re not happy. Not replying because their Klout score isn’t high enough is a big mistake because influence is far more expansive than a Tweet or Facebook update. That said, Klout has been very successful in getting people to buy into this so hats tipped to them and Joe.

  • 2 Lenny Murphy // Aug 1, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Nice one Tom; kudos for a very interesting and relevant interview with a great subject!

  • 3 Internet Privacy Made Simple // Aug 1, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    [...] elegant yet simple and beautiful chart above courtesy of FlowingData.com via Joe Fernandez (Klout [...]

  • 4 Meta Brown // Aug 1, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    The idea of measuring social media influence is an interesting and important one. It doesn’t seem to me that we’ve gotten very far along with this, though. Klout measures a rather narrow slice of social media in a narrow way, and doesn’t begin to touch the issue of what the influencer can actually persuade people to do. If the goal is to sell or educate, how would we measure that?

    And hey, no matter what the analysis says, I don’t really believe I am influential about Paris.

  • 5 Don Kincaid // Aug 2, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    Glad you two got together. Joe touched on the role of text analytics in topics. I’m interested in what Joe thought about improving their accuracy and if they are working at allowing user input on new topics as a signal to help refine the process.

  • 6 Edward Appleton // Aug 3, 2011 at 9:05 am

    Sorry if this is non-euphoric, but I know my Klout score, which is kinda average, monitor my twitter followers, my RT stufff - and so? My life hasn’t changed. Who either knows or cares about my online social influence, for what it is. To be provocative - what difference does it make if I write a blog that has, say 15 comments, and one that has zero comments? I don’t see one. Networking is a big word, but how often does it actually lead to something truly valuable, in what time frame, and with what effort level? I confess to being a sceptic. And influence? At the social media level? again, it’s a big word and for sure would exist at Celeb level - but for MR in my geographies? Hm.

  • 7 Tom H C Anderson // Aug 3, 2011 at 9:23 am

    @Don, Unfortunately, as you might expect, he didn’t seem to get into the models too much. But yes as I’ve understood it with the K+ they’re obviously looking at how to incorporate user input.

    @Edward, First my interest in Klout is not so much about my own score, though I do find it somewhat interesting as a relative measure of our social media marketing effectiveness, but rather as a research professional on behalf of our clients, I’m more interested in what these scores mean to us in aggregate.

    Just as I wouldn’t be to excited about one persons survey answers, I do get very excited when we have thousands of respondents which allow us to segment into groups, profile and make strategic decisions.

    On a tactical level too though, scoring like that of Klout can be very interesting, not just for large social media campaigns run on behalf of some of our clients, but even for our own smaller research companies.

    I’ll give you just one example. Last year we took Anderson Analytics CRM database from SalesForce with about 4,000 email records and merged it with social media data. I.e. I was able to sort and see which of our customers and leads were most ‘influential’ across various social media channels from Twitter to LinkedIn and Facebook to name just a few. We didn’t have a Klout Metric, so instead looked at Twitter Followers etc. By sorting the database I could quickly determine who was more influential on social media than others. Now of course there were some I certainly recognized, but to my surprise there were many who were extremely influential which I was not aware of. Subsequently we decided to reach out to some of these. Anyway, you start getting the picture.

    While many of us on Twitter like to talk about our own Klout Scores, yes unless you’re a Social Media expert like Scott Monty of Ford, and therefore feel the need to put your Klout score on your resume, the real value and true purpose of Klout is in allowing marketers, especially advertisers and PR firms to measure campaign effectiveness and make campaigns more powerful.

    This is something we as researchers should also be paying attention to. Including in customer segmentations etc

  • 8 Edward04 // Aug 7, 2011 at 6:52 am

    @tom I’m back with more scepticism. Just looked about what I was, according to Klout, meant to be influential about. Massively in first place: music, then vastly behind that business and Europe. Hm. I haven’t done much blip.fm stuff over the recent past, but plenty on eg. market research - no mention of that. Just how useful would my Klout score be to someone if once you dig a little deeper even to the person in question there seems unusual elements to the tool?

  • 9 Tom H C Anderson // Aug 7, 2011 at 11:59 am

    No I agree, the “Influential About” section with the user provided “K+” are new/in beta and K+ doesn’t count towards the score yet. I agree, the terms, some of them don’t make sense.

    I asked about text analytics, but this is not their core area of expertise, it looks like they need some help in this area. I’m sure I could improve their current system with OdinText ;)

    Also, I’ve looked across several accounts, and I’ve never found anyone above mid 50’s to 60’s in Klout score who is influential about “Analytics” of any sort. But I think it’s still very useful in a number of ways and will be improved further.

    Aggregate usefulness is obvious (see my previous post on Spotify), but I’ve got other examples where it can be very useful on a smaller level as well. For instance, if you get the Chrome Klout plugin and use that on Twitter I think you can quickly understand how it can be useful. If not contact me privately and I can give you some tips, can’t share all our secrets on the blog ;)

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