Activity versus Outcomes: The Story of Influence


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I’m no analyst, so I haven’t had my head stuffed with vendor briefings. Frankly, I would go insane if I were to attempt to keep up with so many startups, failures, pivots and cocktail parties (if I had to mix it into my current schedule, anyway). Let’s face it; there are a million ideas out there – primarily due to the fact that technology is so inexpensive and accessible that everyone takes a stab at innovation and entrepreneurship. Now that we have added a social amplification layer on top of this new platform, we’ve exposed millions of narcissists who self-promote their personal brand all day and night. One might wonder if any real work is getting done.

This is kind of an old story, and a topic that was debated a number of years ago. For instance, I haven’t had a Klout account for years now (I deleted it). I found it fairly offensive that they could determine if I were influential based on tweets and Facebook posts. While I have some very influential friends, I don’t feel for one minute that I’m also influential – and don’t need to be reminded of it, thank you. I honestly don’t know how I would feel if I were truly influential; watching people take action on my suggestions. As a consultant, my clients often do, but those are one-on-one engagements and much time is spent building those relationships.

In the social world there are a number of problems with measuring influence:

  1. Companies are still struggling to tie a “Like” to actual, specific revenue. Without this tie-back, we have no way to determine whether a dollar we generated is profitable or repeatable. This is a common problem in traditional marketing, but certainly not insurmountable.
  2. We have no way to count what isn’t said on social media. I would estimate that 99.9% of what I say and think is never shared on social media – and given the limited time I have, will likely never exceed that. I have friends that spend a lot of time tweeting, but I also know they spend a lot of time reading and talking – which limits their high-quality output. It’s a Catch-22.
  3. We can only count activity. Returning to point #2, is there an algorithm that is weighting the quality of social media activity? I doubt the gaming systems that give you an influence score are able to do that with any degree of certainty. Returning to point #1, are they measuring the outcome of the activity?

As Paul Greenberg (a true influencer) said in a recent post, “Does my desire to go on vacation or to not tweet for a while have a single thing to do with my influence in CRM?” It certainly does not! Influence is tied to the results of (or outcomes from) engagement with others. I can scream until I’m blue in the face on Twitter, Facebook, G+ or Skype and it will not change my influence over those that are doomed to listen to me. Increasing the tempo simply doesn’t matter. There is something very intangible about influence; although I’m certain that someone in the social media world will write a wonderful 5 point blog post on what makes up influence. I won’t even try.

The bottom line, at least for me, is that until we measure the resulting actions people take once they’ve been exposed to the activity of an influencer, there will never be value in something as simplistic (and insulting to some) as a single score of one’s influence. One size does not fit all. This is true for Klout just as it’s true for Net Promoter Score; if you can’t break it down into meaningful segments based on my needs as a consumer of some service or activity, what has been accomplished? We’re just moving things around and not really creating value.

  • Facebook: Brand Likes
  • Klout: Tweet Counts
  • Net Promoter Score: Would you’s versus Did you’s

It doesn’t matter if we’re measuring brand activity or people activity, until we measure the desired outcomes (if any) from all of these activities I don’t feel we are any better off. Maybe Google or Amazon are closer to driving outcomes, but are they closer to measuring the influence of brands and people? Show me the money!

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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