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With social media, one of the hardest things for businesses to figure out is who is influential and who isn’t. Just because someone has a high number of followers or is more chatty on social networks like Twitter does not mean that they are automatically influential. On the contrary, it could be that someone with only a few hundred followers is more influential than one with thousands or millions. Why? It could be the context of the conversations, the amount of times his/her tweets are retweeted or a flurry of other factors that could be attributed. The point is that the waters of influence are still quite murky and we never know. For businesses interested in reaching out to influencers, one way would be to take the long tedious process of looking at someone’s social profile and going through the data manually. Or, you could simply rely on the work done by Klout, an influence measurement service.

Klout offers a unique view on influence and they believe that “every individual who creates content has influence”. But just how much influence remains a mystery. Just recently, the service underwent a whole new transformation and extended its reach. Prior to that, the one way to determine your influence with the service was by simply entering in your Twitter username and a score became your output. It was this number, on a scale between 1-100, that determined your influence. The higher your score, the better your supposed influence was. But it wasn’t focused on just Twitter. In fact, Klout’s advantage was that all it needed was just your Twitter username and then it would parse through your social graph to give you a good understanding on what it thought would be your true score. This score is broken into three distinct categories: true reach, amplification and network score:

  • True Reach: the size of ones engaged audience which has a tendancy to be smaller than the current Twitter followers you have because they remove any spam or inactive accounts. This score is generated by looking at whether your tweets are interesting and informative for people to want to follow you and pay attention, how many people on Twitter have seen your message, whether you’re on any lists, how often your follows are reciprocated, and many other factors.
  • Amplification: likelihood that your content will be responded to. When you tweet, do your followers care about what’s being said or is it falling on deaf ears? Your message could be spread by determining whether you’re simply broadcasting or participating in the conversation. How fast/frequently are you tweeting and how many people are retweeting you? What’s the likelihood that your message is retweeted so that more people will see it?
  • Network Score: this is the influence level of your engaged audience. The more people interact with you through replies, follows and retweets, the better your score will be. It is this score that looks at external factors to see whether you’re tweeting to people of relative low scores or people with considerable influence that are paying attention to you.

Now that we know the basics of Klout, it’s time to kick it up a notch. The influence revolution is happening now!

Just last Friday, Klout underwent a new transformation, including a new logo, new website and now new features and analytics that will give you really good metrics to determine who is an influencer and who probably isn’t. As part of this revolution, the team has now started to release what they call “Klout Influence Reports” which is a comprehensive analysis on a person’s score, classification, network and content. Basically it’s like your school record – it’ll be a guide to tell you just what is good and bad about a person’s social graph. In fact, it seems that influence is pretty popular these days so Klout has been active in pursuing opportunities with other social networks and services to get their data already populated into it in order to offer a better understanding of just who you should really pay attention to online. Some of these services include popular Twitter applications like CoTweet, HootSuite, buzz monitoring service Attensity360 and also LiveIntent.

To help continue making influence much more relevant to people searching for it, the Klout team has also rolled out some new features that might be interesting such as:

  • New Classification Systems: there are now 16 influencer types. Now, instead of saying that John Doe and Jane Smith are “influencers”, you can categorize them differently. These classifications are defined through a machine, not by human and Klout claims that one is not inherently better than the other, but realistically each one has their own differences.
  • Achievements: I believe these are like FourSquare badges…you can get them for accomplishing a certain objective or reaching a certain milestone, like total retweets. Hey, if badges can show how cool people are on FourSquare, then it should work for Klout as well.
  • Percentile: This should help put your Klout score into context.

What I like about the new Klout interface is that it offers much more meaning behind the score. In fact, there’s a true sense of analytics behind the score instead of simply getting a number. For businesses trying to determine how to assess whether a score of 40 is better than a 45, they should look no further than on the Klout website. The numbers used to seem a bit misleading and people often wonder how to truly analyze influence. Klout has done that. I looked at my own score on Klout’s site and my influence has been determined to be a 56 out of a scale of 100. After looking more in-depth at my score, I was greeted with a trending graph that showed my influence pattern and a definition of it, saying that my ranking put me in “the top quartile of influencers and is able to drive conversations”. Now how’s that for meaning? That would be something community managers, public relation and marketing teams could take to their supervisors to help prove their case about who to target.

There is much more to be explored with Klout, but suffice it to say that the service is growing and has moved past simply giving out a number and saying that it’s relevant. We’re now on the revolution of influence and we will be given more value and meaning behind our scores – and it seems to be within Klout’s power to do just that.

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