This week Klout launched their most far reaching update to date, complete with a site redesign and algorithm overhaul. Your Klout score probably saw a change, one that Klout claims reflects your influence more accurately. The majority of users I’ve spoken to have saw an increase in their score, but many users who put the most stock in their presence on Klout lost points. If you still haven’t checked your own Klout score, I suggest you at least take a look so you’re aware of it.
My Klout score shot up to 79. In the past 2-3 months I have strongly urged my friends to stop wasting time trying to game their Klout scores. I have friends who spent hours every week participating in +K rings, decided who was worthy enough for a Twitter response via Klout, and posted updates on Facebook with the sole purpose of luring others into commenting. Meanwhile I ignored what I thought seemed ridiculous, used social media to converse with people who I like (despite their Klout score), and spent my hours maintaining and improving my blog (Socialmediasun.com), which in turn extended my real reach and influence.
I could actually notice my reach increasing, and the level of offers from other businesses, websites and individuals improving. Is it a coincidence that my first radio interview pertaining to Social Media Sun was recorded on the same day that Klout said they noticed that I was more influential than they previously thought? If you want a high Klout score and it will make you feel better, I want that for you. The disparity between tangible influence and some Klout scores a few weeks ago left me shaking my head though. Their latest update addressed that considerably; I’m not going to recommend that you spend an hour a day visiting the Klout site, but I do feel validated that they’ve placed a higher value on measureable influence.
Why Does it Matter?
If you are spending more than a couple of hours online each day, your purpose should either fall under work or leisure. Usually the users who are aware of Klout fall under the work category, even if they do not attribute that work to a paid job role. The most important thing is to ask yourself what your purpose is. Are you trying to establish yourself as an expert in a certain niche? Are you developing a website that needs to attract users? Are you campaigning online for a charitable cause? Why do you need online influence? Why is it important for you to generate the kind of response that reflects what Klout is trying to measure?
If you don’t have a purpose or tangible goals, you need to find something else to occupy yourself with. If you do have a purpose, but have found yourself more worried about how many re-tweets you got yesterday or about how high your Klout score is, you need to re-examine your goals and create a strategy that you can follow.
I highly recommend making a website your base of operations, and funneling people from social networks to a place you control. Facebook pages are great, but they are very limiting as a publishing platform. Social networks may be where Klout gets their measurements, but to create sustainable online influence that you have some say over, you’ll need to operate from a place you have some control over. If you’re just working on personal branding, buy a domain name for your name and set up a blog relating to your profession or hobby. There are users who wield considerable influence with a loose network of social profiles – but they’re the exception.
The people who find themselves at the helm of an active niche community are the ones who put the time in. You need to engage with the people who are interested in what you’re doing. If you’re really lucky, they’ll have similar projects and goals. One of the best examples I can think of is Gini Dietrich and her loyal minions at Spin Sucks (of which I proudly count myself). She has probably met a lot of the regulars on her site in person. She has conversations with her community over several different networks, and when she posts they get involved. The guest posts on her blog do not get near the feedback that her posts do, and it’s because her readers go there for Gini.
That’s the kind of immediate community that translated into support for her book tour. Her supporters also have supporters, and that is the essence of online influence. It’s the result of relationships built over time, giving more than taking, being able to relate to a wider audience, and just being nice to people.
Focus on your Content
If you’re being social and you’ve found your tribe, you’ve got the basic support that it takes to create reach. Your tribe is going to share your content, but to appeal to a wider audience you’ll need to put some effort into what you’re creating. Engineer content that will get shared, be unique, and employ your message. I can write the smartest E-book that was ever published, but if it isn’t easy to digest and share then it won’t make it too far out of my tribe. Your tribe is like a spark and top notch content is like gasoline; you can burn down a whole industry with that kind of firepower.
The half-life of quality content may be a week tops. You’ve just burned down a whole forest too, so mimicking your recent success too closely will ensure that you won’t have the fuel to be an arsonist twice. Be creative and set out on another topic, media channel or attach your name to someone else’s soup of the day. Whatever you do, you need to be consistent and remind people that they acknowledge you for a reason.
You won’t expand your influence by keeping the same routine on Facebook and Twitter every day. Don’t get me wrong, you need to have some sort of routine, but your strategy should be focused on constant advancement in addition to a consistent routine. The whole idea of analytics is to notice when something works so you can add it to your routine, and measure new tactics so you can move on if they don’t. If you’re a blogger, you should aim to be a blogger / author by this time next year. If you’re an author, you should be an author / television host by 2014. If you’re already on all available media channels, you need to innovate something entirely new. Guy Kawasaki and Seth Godin both developed awesome new websites after publishing several books (Squidoo and Alltop). They could have just kept on publishing books, but I can’t quickly name any of their contemporaries who held that strategy. Influence will grow as long as you can maintain relevance.
Keep from Limiting Yourself
The primary reason that Social Media Sun grew so quickly is because I had experience using multiple promotion techniques. I didn’t neglect SEO to focus only on social media, and I didn’t discount any groups or networks just because someone else told me to. I’m also always on the lookout for new promotion channels, and did my first radio interview related to the website earlier this week. I was a little nervous (it was for an AM radio show in Dallas, and in case you didn’t know I have a southern accent thicker than glacier ice), but I’ll do it again next month. Don’t spread yourself too thin, but don’t fall victim to your own bias or let insecurities hold you back.
Do You Like Yourself?
Here’s an exercise for you: pick out the three worst things you’ve done in public over the past six months. It could be anything from getting a little heated in a discussion over global warming to parking in a handicapped parking spot. Now, ask yourself if you’d support and vouch for someone if all you knew about them was concerning those three incidents. Flip the script and if you were saying global warming is real, think that your hypothetical stranger was challenging it. Do you communicate in a way that doesn’t seem at all hostile or antagonistic? Now, write those three incidents down on paper and put a fake name at the top. Find three other people who you consider influential and ask them if they would be inclined to respect the person you’ve written about.
Everyone makes mistakes, and I’m not the best person to teach you this lesson, but communication is the very basis of online influence. If you communicate poorly, you’re at a disadvantage from the start. If you were truly objective, most people aren’t going to have a flattering picture painted for this exercise. You’re actually better off than you think – I’ve found that communities like to identify with mistakes. Being able to own up to your shortcomings makes you way more relatable than someone who does little more than re-post motivational quotes. At the same time, you need to communicate effectively as possible. Respect everyone’s right to speak, validate their opinion, and enjoy the fact that by clearing up your own communication you’re becoming more accessible and limiting the poor communication you’re receiving from others. Sharing your thoughts and opinions is a mandatory part of online influence so I suggest working on your conversation tact at every opportunity.
Influence and Success Trumps Klout
By focusing on the things that started you on your social media journey you’ll most definitely build influence. As long as Klout succeeds in refining their algorithm, it will always net you a positive gain with them. Better yet, you’re going to be so overwhelmed with accomplishment that you’ll stop worrying so much about your Klout score.
So basically my advice for increasing your Klout score is to ignore your Klout score. Klout’s purpose is to accurately measure online influence. To do this they need to discount users who are trying to inflate their scores. Every time they make their application better it’s going to make it harder to affect your score with basic tactics; you’re going to need tangible influence which is a product of respect and reach.
Instead of spending 300 hours operating a +K ring this month, write a book about the subject you’re wanting to be influential about. Resist the temptation to add ‘Red Bull’ to your list of topics just because Klout is giving away Red Bull T-Shirts. Focus on the things that brought you to Klout in the first place and making yourself an authority in that area. Dedicate your online time investment to making unique content of the highest quality. Klout isn’t accurate, but there are practical applications for its use. That doesn’t mean you can ignore or be mean to people with a Klout score of 25. Your interaction is still a story, and if the story is fantastic enough, it will eventually find its way to users ranging from 50-90.
So What Does Klout Equate to Influence?
No matter how much I say that building your real influence over time is the best way to increase your Klout score, some people are still going to look for a quick fix. Joe Fernandez’s first observation is as true as ever. The components of online influence are your Network, your Reach, and the Amplification factor you can derive from that.
Network: How influential are the people in your immediate network, and more importantly who respects you enough that they are willing to submit to your influence? How many people in your network will vouch for you?
Reach: How far can your message spread? Your network extends outwards like a root system. The whole idea is to increase the number of people who get the message from you – the rest is dependent on your niche and how well it resonates with the general population.
Amplification: This boils down to your content. If your name is attached to something, make it as helpful, entertaining, authoritative and unique as possible. High quality content gets shared regardless of how close to the source it is.
You cannot choose who you truly influence. You aren’t going to be everybody’s cup of tea. Be grateful when you connect with someone that you clique with. To weed out gamers Klout has placed more importance on reaching a broad audience and real world influence. Having a large group of friends with high Klout scores isn’t going to propel your score into the stratosphere like it once did. Creating content that inspires sharing will though.
Finally, I would like to quote Klout to make this real to you. “The best strategy for obtaining a high Klout Score is to simply create great content that your network wants to share and engage with.” –Understanding the Klout Score