Inbound Marketing Week in Review: A Hard Look at Social Media Klout

Inbound Marketing and Social Media Perspective and Review

Introducing Klout, TweetPivot, and Spezify!

With the exception of a short stint in academia, I have been involved in sales, marketing, and building businesses for the past thirty-five years. Aside from a few years playing Indiana Jones, seriously, running around the rain forests of Central America, and buried in museums doing osteological research of one kind or another, I have been immersed in the life of an entrepreneur.

It has been an interesting life.

But what is really intriguing is witnessing, and being a part of, the latest trends in Internet-related, inbound marketing.

Over the past two years I have been immersed in all things Internet and have learned a great deal about online business, inbound marketing, and social media. Social media is everywhere today, from the nightly news to Criminal Minds and NCIS.

Facebook and Twitter are at the forefront of the latest social media craze, seemingly pushing MySpace aside, at least in the media, and Foursquare appears to be coming on strong. Foursquare is now one of a handful of applications that will push back information to Facebook Places.

So now, Foursquare’s future is still quite rosy. We will have to see how the big kid on the block, Facebook, behaves and what they are planning next.

One thing is certain when it comes to the Internet, and particularly social media:

Change!

The rate of change affecting the advertising and marketing world is staggering. The pace of change in business consulting, and in particular inbound marketing consulting, in all of its manifestations, is intensifying. The rate of change affecting the Internet and inbound marketing will continue for the foreseeable future.

In fact, Hubspot just announced today by way of a post written by Kip Bodnar, Another Sign of Outbound Marketing’s Death: Cable TV Sees First Ever Decline in Subscribers, that indeed cable subscriptions have dropped for the first time.

This is an interesting development and we will have to wait and see how it plays out but it is certainly something to watch.

The first question that comes immediately to mind is this:

Where are the viewers going?

Because that is where you want to be!

Inbound Marketing and Social Media

Social media management has quickly evolved as a subdiscipline of inbound marketing. And, if anything, social media is evolving at a quicker pace than inbound marketing proper. Significantly, social media is difficult enough for inbound marketing professionals to keep pace with, engaging in and properly measuring the results of, it is next to impossible for the average small business owner to properly integrate an effective social media campaign into their overall marketing strategy…and still have time to run their business.

If inbound marketing is difficult to keep pace with, and it certainly is for business owners having a hard enough time understanding and making the transition from old media, outbound marketing to a new media, inbound marketing, then social media is next to impossible to keep pace with.

To use social media adequately enough to monetize it?

It is next to impossible for most clients, unless they hire someone whose job is to manage social media from within the company, an expensive proposition for most businesses today…particularly in light of the economy.

Inbound marketing, and social media as an integral sub-discipline, is as fluid a marketing milieu as anything we have witnessed worldwide since the dawn of television.

From what was dubbed as permission marketing just a few short years ago, and remains so, to the inbound marketing of today, search-driven marketing is fully established as a sub-discipline of marketing proper, soon to entirely eclipse outbound marketing entirely.

In fact, many would argue the eclipse has already taken place…as noted in the citation above.

A Fundamental Shift and a Communications Central Hub

There can be little doubt that a fundamental shift has taken place from old media to new media, from an outbound marketing to inbound marketing, and the pace will accelerate as the Internet becomes the focal point of our lives.

The Internet is quickly becoming the communications hub for everything from email to the telephone and from video to television. From a connectivity standpoint, the Internet will be the dominant link in most of our lives within the next five to ten years…if it is not already.

The smaller the world, the more connected we are, the more dependent on the Internet we become, the more dependent businesses will be to get there and stay there with their company’s marketing message!

Social media, as a sub-discipline within inbound marketing, is fast becoming a dominant feature in its own right for big companies and small businesses across the United States and throughout much of the world. While social media’s role continues to evolve over time, I believe it will play a major role in our lives. Social media is a powerful medium for communication and will remain so.

The social media challenge, indeed the challenge for all of inbound marketing is:

How do we effectively engage our audience and track the results?

Several questions must be asked and answered, whether you are an inbound marketing consultant or specializing in social media management as a stand alone consultancy:

  • Is social media…social?
  • Can social media be managed?
  • What are the rules, if any, for using social media as a business marketing strategy?
  • How do we convey our brand and our marketing message via social media?
  • Is our social media campaign going to have a distinctive personality?
  • How do I track social media as part of an overarching inbound marketing strategy?
  • Can I apply a social media strategy and will it be effective without it being part of an overarching inbound marketing strategy?
  • How am I going to monetize social media?
  • Is social media going to be a customer service vehicle?
  • Is social media going to be managed within the company?
  • Is social media going to be managed as part of a comprehensive social media management package by an outside firm?
  • How effective is social media as an inbound marketing strategy?
  • How do we determine if and when to exit social media?
  • How much money do we invest in social media?
  • How do we determine our ROI?
  • Is our inbound marketing/social media strategy remarkable?

As stated, inbound marketing, and in particular its sub-discipline social media, continues to intrigue small businesses and large corporations both here in the USA and abroad. Many businesses have jumped online with both feet and are now asking themselves if it is even possible to track return on investment (ROI).

The answer is yes…but!

The yes is relative to an intelligent, well-thoughtout inbound marketing strategy that fits with your brand and your overall marketing message.

The “but” is a little more complex and requires patience, something many companies are in short supply of given the current economy. Social media requires a long term commitment, which goes hand in hand with patience, and the ability to integrate and communicate your company’s marketing message, as well as your brand’s personality.

If you can’t communicate a distinct personality via social media, your marketing strategy will be viewed as sterile, just another spam account online…and that is the kiss of death in social media!

I will be posting a follow up and answering a few of the social media questions mentioned above later today.

First, I want to get to the resources and introduce you to a couple of amazing resources and raise a few issues regarding at least one of the resources introduced below.

Inbound Marketing and Social Media Resources

Klout

Note – I sent an email to Klout to ask them about some inconsistencies and flat of discrepancies in their data and, consequently, questioned how accurate their scoring is. Their marketing manager’s email response  can be found below. I felt, in all fairness, it only appropriate to have the entire picture and Klout’s response is part of this review.

On with the Klout

Klout is emerging quite rapidly as an important social media resource, particularly for Twitter users. Klout is receiving a lot of attention and a fair amount of press from Hubspot, TechCrunch, CNN, and a myriad of others. HootSuite is even integrating Klout into their system. And, Mashable reported that Virgin America and Starbucks were teaming with Klout…so I felt it necessary to at least take a look.

Interestingly, many of the top influencers in the fields of inbound marketing, generally, and social media, in particular, are talking about Klout as one of the key resources for tracking Twitter influence and impact. Many inbound marketing firms and social media management consultancies appear to be using it.

I am a bit concerned!

One area of concern is the apparent lag time between data posted on Twitter and data represented on Klout.

For example, the links tracked by Klout, a key metric in their influence or Klout Score, appear to be at least 3 weeks old…and some are as old as 2 months!

Additionally, the content Klout analyzes (i.e., @replies, retweets, links, etc) as part of their overall analysis of an individual user’s account, appears to have a significant lag time.

Examples from 8-23-2010

JohnZajaros – Twitter Following 27, 648 ~ Followers 25,561

Klout – Data 8-6-2010 Following 25,558 ~ Followers 24,794

TwitterCounter – 8-6-2010 Following 26,587 ~ Followers 24,843

IbndMktg Personality Following 14,131 ~ Followers 20,143

Klout – Data 7-1-2010 Following 10,846 ~ Followers 20,143

TwitterCounter – 7-1-2010 Following 13,073 ~ Followers 18,498

The numbers Klout reports for follows and followers are reported from August 6, 2010 but the JohnZajaros Twitter account went to 25,887 on July 27, 2010 and never dropped to the level reported by Klout again.

TweetCounter had numbers different from those reported by Klout for the same day. Given differences in data collection, this is to be expected….

But a 2000-4000 plus discrepancy between is not!

As noted above, another well known inbound marketing consultant has a 4,000 following disparity between today’s reported figures on Twitter and those revealed as part of his Klout analysis. Additionally, the figures for that particular marketing consultant’s Klout Score, to include True Reach, Amplification Score, and Network Score have not been updated since July 1, 2010 and still appear to be incorrect.

Interestingly, also noted above, while Klout shows 10,846 mutual follows for that Twitter account on July 1, 2010, TwitterCounter shows a very different figure for the date, 13,073 mutual follows.

Again, we have to allow for small variations in data reported as a consequence of variations in data collection methodology.

If that is hard for you to follow, it was hard for me as well…and that’s when I started looking deeper!

Hardly realiable, up-to-date data!

All that aside, Klout appears to have potential usefulness as a social media resource, a resource focused primarily on Twitter and the Twitter user’s influence across an array of variables.

Klout also appears to have some usefulness as a Facebook resource but due to time and space limitations we will look at Facebook resources next week.

Klout Summary for @JohnZajaros

The first page is what is referred to as the Klout Summary, an overarching look at your Twitter account across a number of variables.

At first glance it reminds one of a daily horoscope but there is more to it that.

Here is what it says about JohnZajaros:

@JohnZajaros is an Explorer

You actively engage in the social web, constantly trying out new ways to interact and network. You’re exploring the ecosystem and making it work for you. Your level of activity and engagement shows that you “get it”, we predict you’ll be moving up.

Klout Score – 26: The Klout Score is a measure of the Twitter user’s overall influence.

@JohnZajaros is influential to a tightly formed network that is growing larger.

The Klout Score is said to be a factor of over 25 variables broken down and analyzed across three categories:

  1. True Reach – Your True Reach is measured by examining followers and friends, taking into account spam accounts, dead accounts, etc. They fail to explain the etcetera but OK…for now.
  2. Amplification Score – Amplification Score is the likelihood that your tweets will stimulate conversation and be retweeted.
  3. Network Score – You Network Score is based on how many of your engaged followers are highly influential.

@JohnZajaros has worked very hard to successfuly build a large, highly engaged network

@JohnZajaros has the ability to generate retweets and other actions

@JohnZajaros engages with a good mix of influentials and friends

The Klout score is said to be a compilation of the above mentioned variables and sub-scores and viewed in the context of link clicks, comments, and RTs.

In total, Klout claims to measure influence, your Klout (clout), across 25 variables.

Because I don’t have access to the complete picture, and what I did find was somewhat dated, I can’t tell you how objective this tool is.

However, it does seem to be a powerful tool, providing they get the data right, for several reasons:

  • Klout allows you to target influencial Twitter users and follow them, thus increasing your overall score if you match up well and if you can engage them socially via tweets, retweets, and link clicks…and if they respond. As you may already know, that is often easier said than done.
  • Klout gives you an objective view of just how active your Twitter followers are and how much dead weight you are carrying by way of its True Reach Score. This is quite useful when you are trying to measure how effective your individual tweets are in the context of both retweets and the links embedded in them.

Again, Klout has the potential to be quite useful…if they can get the data right and up to speed!

The Klout Score may be a useful measure of how effective your overall social media strategy is as well. Meaning, if your followers are actively engaged and are passing along your tweets, there is a very good chance that other social media followers on other social media sites are responding in similar fashion.

Conversely, if you find there are holes in your Twitter strategy, there is an excellent chance that the same is true for Facebook and other social media platforms you are developing.

Yes, every social media site has its own distinctive personality and its own idiosyncrasies but it is one more way to view a very complex whole.

Ultimately, the jury is still out on Klout!

Klout’s gap between real world data and what is being reported is huge and a major flaw!

Social media is changing rapidly and data that is being applied for analysis today must be up-to-date and reliable to be an effective measure. There is some question about both here.

We will see as we continue to watch Klout and report on any adjustments or updates.

Indeed, if Klout is to have any real “Clout,” capital C, it must be up-to-date and its data reporting accurate and above reproach…reliable!

Not so, so far!

But, as stated above, we’ll see.   I will watch Klout for a while and let you know what I think. If you are using it, understand there are discrepancies and use it, or not, accordingly.

See Below for today’s “Klout update” results.

TweetPivot

TweetPivot is a very interesting resource.

TweetPivot is an extension of Microsoft Live Labs’ Pivot. Pivot, as the parent site notes, “makes it easier to interact with massive amounts of data in ways that are powerful, informative, and fun.

TweetPivot uses data from Twitter and the power of Pivot to assemble an incredible amount of data, by way of a massive amount of visual information, at one time. TweetPivot then makes the data immediately available in a variety of ways.

Pivot refers to this collection of images, naturally enough, as a Collection.

This resource actually deserves its own spot in a newsletter because the possibilites for Pivot aside from social media are endless and incredibly exciting.

However, we are discussing TweetPivot as an expression of Pivot and as a social media resource, so we will wait to jump in with both feet…covering Pivot later.

Many of TweetPivot’s measures are based on the Klout Score, and that appears to be something of an issue at present!

We will just have to wait and see….

Interestingly, TweetPivot offers the ability to target influencers and build the overall influence for your Twitter presence by understanding and engaging the interests of influencers already following you…and targeting new ones, thus expanding your reach.

Below are two videos dealing with TweetPivot and Pivot. Both videos are short but provide an excellent introduction, I recommend them.

As stated in the the video, TweetPivot takes a large amount of Twitter data and allows the viewer to look at it graphically.

This is very exciting and provided they get the whole Klout thing worked out, very useful.

Right now the major drawback to TweetPivot, aside from its heavy reliance on Klout, is that it can only handle 1000 friends/followers.

This is something of a problem for those users with larger Twitter follower/following numbers.

However, once TweetPivot overcomes this limitation, and we figure out what is going on with Klout, the possibilites are really pretty exciting for inbound marketing consultants, social media managers, and anyone else who takes Twitter seriously.

Twitter is still evolving and it will be some time before we discover its ultimate expression. However, Twitter is an important networking tool that has many other applications.

Some of the more obvious uses of Twitter include:

  • Social Networking
  • Search
  • Customer Service and Support
  • Brand Building
  • List Building
  • And much more

TweetPivot allows an inbound marketing consulting firm and/or a social media management consultancy to drill down into virtually any Twitter users account and discover who are their followers of influence and target those individuals, over time, with a relationship building strategy.

The possibilities really are limitless!

Limitless once TweetPivot gets past this 1000 following/follower hurdle they are currently dealing with…and we see how the Klout issue is going to pan out!

TweetPivot is an innovative combination of ingenuity and software application, to produce a resource that offers immense possibilities for the future.

But again, and I hate to beast this to death, we will see as Klout deals with their apparent data collection lag and reporting issues; and, how soon TweetPivot gets past their software restrictions.

Spezify

The analysis of this next resource is a decidedly positive one!

Spezify was founded by Felix af Eekenstam and Per Persson, both from Stockholm, Sweden.

Spezify is still in the development stages. It is only a little over a year old , with the beta version released in late April of 2009. The first official version of Spezify went online June 15, 2009. Spezify “collects websites” and is focusing on relevant, free, and open API’s to generate an impressive array of search results.

Spezify is a search tool presenting results from a large number of websites in different visual ways.

Spezify claims a more intuitive experience and it would seem so. Spezify provides a solid overview of virtually any search term. It also offers an array of media choices and some thought-provoking images.

I would say Spezify’s approach is anthropological, in that they focus on a glimpse of the whole rather than focusing solely on one segment or medium of expression. It is very interesting and has the potential to be quite useful…a term I use a lot and for good reason.

Spezify mixes:

  • Blogs
  • Videos
  • Microblogs
  • Images

All to build the big picture.

The anthropology of search!

Spezify offers easy navigation, the ability to save searches to Favorites (favourites), link to items, change settings by modifying how the interface and search results are displayed, a zoom feature, and media designation.

In other words, you can target a particular medium, you can link and share your searches, and you can save them locally on your computer via cookies.

Just type in a word and watch what happens!

You can direct your search according to additional terms offered, “Related words,” or you can focus on the “Hot searches.”

Spezify is like a suggestive StumpleUpon for search!

Spezify is interesting and may have solid applications for inbound marketing consultants. Take a tour and see for yourself. But make sure you have a little time put aside because, while useful, it can also be a bit distracting.

So far?

So good!

Not only is Spezify a fun toy but a very useful resource for marketers. Given its current array of offerings, it seems certain Spezify will continue to develop their offerings and, as a result, its usefulness along with them.

Thank you for taking the time to read The Inbound Marketing Week in Review.

Please take a just a moment and leave your impressions, comments, feedback, etc!

John Zajaros
The Ultimate Internet Image
Lakewood, Ohio
216-712-7004

PS, I would like to thank my assistant William for his research and following up with Klout in an attempt to be fair and get the entire picture before publication. I apologize to our readers but we wanted to make sure we had a response before we went forward with our review. Thank you for your patience.

The response I got from Klout can be found below and my findings based on today’s update.

Hey John,

Thanks for reaching out, happy to give you more information.

Any user can update their own profile every 6 days by hitting the refresh score button on the lower right of their Klout report. Also, if there are any accounts you’d like to see updated for your newsletter, I can take care of that for you.

We use a very in-depth process to analyze a Twitter account, looking at every @message and RT, all your status messages, and every connection between you and each individual follower. This process does take time, and since we process over 10 million accounts, not all of them are up to date at any given time. Improving the recency and accuracy of our reports is our highest priority at Klout and you’ll notice some changes in the next few months as we move to a new platform.

Another thing to note, is that influence generally doesn’t change overnight. Having a hundred more followers or a few more retweets is not going to impact your score (followers is not something we include in our scoring since it is not a good metric of influence) so even scores that are not updated recently are generally accurate.

The marketing manager went on to sign the email and leave contact information which is not relevant here.

Klout Follow Up: I updated my Klout profile today and, because I track my own results diligently, I can tell you several of Klout’s findings are still off…drastically off!

Several areas didn’t change at all and several of the links embedded in tweets were reported to have had little or no activity are still 3 weeks old. The data from bit.ly is in direct contradiction to Klout’s report and I track that with every tweet, post, article, video, etc.

Because Klout uses this data to determine their individual scores, and the overall Klout Score, I am sorry to say I find Klout sorely lacking and, at least at this point, does not seem reliable.

Again, I will watch this and reexamine my data to be sure.

However, as of right now? I will not be using Klout and you need to be careful about using and/or relying on it.

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