In our previous post we discussed some of the dramatic improvements to LinkedIn which have changed the popular business networking website into a more socially engaged platform. The changes have been so intensive that some are referring to LinkedIn as “the new Facebook” for business professionals as the site encourages the sharing of informatics between colleagues. Not only are you able to propel content through your networks and LinkedIn community groups, but you are also encouraged to share items and react or endorse by “liking” a post.
From the moment of Klout’s introduction it positioned itself as a reliable measure of social influence aggregating data from social media network activity to assign a score. According to Klout, the higher your score the more credibility you had, which was a particularly valuable endorsement for professionals engaged in digital marketing or social media business. The loose assumption formulated by Klout implied that anyone who had a high score was an expert in the area of online communications. Conversely a low score would imply lack of networking or sufficient online activity.
Klout is not the only social index available on the web. It is joined by gamified models such as Empire Avenue and Peer Index to name a few. All of them involve a valuation of online activity to arrive at a score. The higher the score the more perceived social influence an individual has, and in some sectors being recognised as a thought leader in a niche industry is valuable. It can (and has) created business opportunities for those with a high score.
After drawing in enterprise users and making itself popular to professionals around the world, Klout began to add in advertorial opportunities. With a captive audience keen on retaining their coveted high scores, Klout was able to define target groups by niche, and level of online engagement. This data naturally is very valuable to advertisers who jumped on board to offer “perks” or incentives to promote brands and services. Free samples, coupons and online offers were easily marketed using the data, and the Klout continued to sustain users by offering the possibility of free incentives.
What has drawn some criticism however is the presumption that a high score on Klout means something. If an individual has a score of 50 or more you can surmise that individual is sharing on multiple social networks on a daily basis. But does that individual have expertise? While the Klout algorithm measures activity and audience engagement (a recent change now gives points for calls-to-action) it does little to account for the qualitative value of the sharing. In other words even a child with five or more social media accounts and virtually little to know industry knowledge could “game” a high Klout score and be entitled to perks and benefits.
Klout does nothing to accurately measure professional credibility. Therefore any assumption that a high Klout score is indicative of reliable expertise is misleading. The level of activity without qualitative measurement cannot possibly reflect the value of an individual professionally. Establishing professional credibility is multi tiered and something that LinkedIn does very well.
One of my favourite examples is highlighting an individual with a very high Klout score, which upon further examination is in the topic of beer. Does this demonstrate core competencies in digital marketing, or suggest that arriving to work on Monday mornings might be challenging?
A professional LinkedIn profile provides a number of qualitative measurements that provide a more accurate picture of the individual and their professional contribution online and offline. The only quantitative measure on LinkedIn profiles are the number of followers in your network. Is this an accurate measurement of business acumen? Yes. Whether some of the individuals networked are friends or current colleagues, the indication that this person is known to a growing group of followers is a reliable and positive sign that they are engaged in professional development, in one way or another.
Individuals who are an authority or true thought leader within their niche will have extensive networks on LinkedIn. Unlike attributing expertise to number of social media posts, followers on Facebook or Twitter or other measurements that again can be gamed (remember you can buy followers to inflate those numbers) it is more difficult to do so on LinkedIn, where each follower has a detailed profile. And unlike other social media sites, you have to know who you are connecting to in an authentic way (and be recognised and approved) prior to joining the individual’s network.
There are a number of ways that LinkedIn out performs Klout as a reliable method of differentiating online expertise in a way that potential clients and employers can rely on. So how do you research the qualifications of an individual on LinkedIn?
View personal recommendations. What do others have to say about the individual?
Evaluate work history information (employers, titles and role descriptions)
Make note of the professional LinkedIn discussion groups they are involved in
Read their shared informatics. Are they informed? Do people engage with the content that is shared or ‘Like’ the posts?
Review portfolio items (if any)
Make note of the number of skill endorsements received
Given that LinkedIn is the “World’s Largest Business Networking Site” it may be hard for Klout to continue competing on the premise that it is a measure of influence or expertise. LinkedIn has an unquestionable authenticity and accepted legitimacy within the business world and will remain the best indicant of an individual’s professional development and knowledge base. If you are looking to work with someone or an employer researching a candidate, LinkedIn remains your best resource to get an accurate read on qualification.
Does that mean there is absolutely no use for Klout? No. Recent changes to its own interface have made it easier than ever to connect to new people based on niche activities. It is a particularly useful tool for expanding your network on Twitter, as you can now browse the engaged activity of followers and discover new businesses and individuals and follow directly through Klout.
In time Klout may reposition its stance to promoting authentically as an enterprise brand advertiser. People definitely enjoy free samples and other benefits and it can be a very effective tool. But a high Klout score is not absolutely indicative of the quality of a professional. It’s simply a measurement of people who like to talk online. Quite a lot.
Hello, thanks for visiting our blog. I spend far too much time online, messing around with Twitter, LinkedIn, Empire Avenue and pretty much any other platform that takes my attention. My role is to work with our customers to ensure they have a joined up objective based digital marketing strategy… No digital marketing strategy? Let’s talk…
Hello, thanks for visiting our blog. I spend far too much time online, messing around with Twitter, LinkedIn, Empire Avenue and pretty much any other platform that takes my attention. My role is to work with our customers to ensure they have a joined up objective based digital marketing strategy... No digital marketing strategy? Let's talk...
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