Quick, what do Britney Spears and Cisco Systems have in common?
If you said loads of influence in social media, you'd be right. Spears and Cisco each have sky-high Klout scores—95 and 91, respectively.
Along with PeerIndex and others, Klout Inc. measures social media influence, which can be helpful in understanding how social media efforts are paying off in attracting leads. Traditionally, b-to-b marketers have had a difficult time measuring just how much social media contributes to lead generation; and, while it isn't a perfect metric for determining that, social media-influence scoring can be an important element in any marketing tool kit.
“I think a lot of people misunderstand what scores really do,” said Mark W. Schaefer, a marketing consultant, marketing professor at Rutgers University and author of “Return on Influence: The Revolutionary Power of Klout, Social Scoring, and Influence Marketing” (McGraw-Hill Cos., 2012). “What all these scores do is assess the ability to create content that moves on the Internet. It seems simple, but [it] is really insanely complex.”
However relating this to attracting leads—and ultimately making sales—can be even more difficult, Schaefer said.
“Almost every time I give a speech, I get a question like, "What good is this stuff? Does it really help sell anything?' ” Schaefer said.
The answer, he said, is a qualified yes.
“In the marketing mix, social media supplies small, consistent provocations and opportunities for people to engage with your company and products,” he said. “Hopefully that will lead to activity, trust, loyalty and eventually advocacy.”
At Marsden & Associates, a b-to-b marketing agency, all social media clients are tracked by Klout score, according to Sydney Graham, inbound marketing specialist at Marsden.
“It gives me insight into what is working and what isn't,” she said. “I keep track of what we did that week so we can understand what people responded to.”
Raising a Klout score to improve visibility is related to increasing a company's or person's relevance and activity on social media networks. That means that social postings are inspiring more retweets, more comments, more content and more interaction with followers.
Schaefer said it's relatively easy to raise a low Klout score, but raising an already high one is much harder and requires producing content that people respond to.
Graham said that when used in conjunction with other marketing tools, such as marketing automation apps, Klout's analytics are responsive enough to allow marketers to determine which pieces of content resonated most strongly across their social media networks, which social media networks worked the best and, ultimately, which performed best in attracting prospects, leads and conversions.
One issue with social media-influence scores is how to handle corporate versus personal accounts. It's easy enough to assess the social media influence score of a corporate entity. But with the lines between corporate social marketing and social thought leadership from individual employees increasingly blurring, determining how to leverage employees' social activity to attract leads becomes a question.
“We stress with clients that they should post on their personal pages when something big happens because that's more people they can reach,” Graham said.
On that topic, Schaefer gave an example from a talk he made to a large U.K. company. Before the talk, he pulled Klout scores on the company's employees, then listed them off to the audience. Later, the president of the company approached him and said, “Who are these people? I don't recognize any of them.”
One of the most influential people in the company was an IT employee who was active on social media and had contacted Schaefer through Shaefer's blog.
“So he was the face of the company on the Internet,” Schaefer said. “But shouldn't sales and PR also be on the list? It opened up a whole new world where they started thinking about employees in a whole new way” in attracting leads, he said.