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Social Capital Death Match: Brands vs. People

There is no doubt that brands are investing big time in social media based on some articles of late.  Here are just a few of the articles which have gotten me thinking about the influence of companies/brands in social.

The other interesting thing I keep getting a bunch of questions on is, what is the right set of metrics to track in social media.  So with the recent emergence of social capital scoring as the topic du jour, I was thinking maybe this could be a good metric, at least for better understanding context.    These new social capital scoring providers however, have loftier goals beyond relative context, from Klout’s website:

The Klout Score is the measurement of your overall online influence. The scores range from 1 to 100 with higher scores representing a wider and stronger sphere of influence. Klout uses over 35 variables on Facebook and Twitter to measure True Reach, Amplification Probability, and Network Score.

These new providers are competing for mind share about who’s number is best or what is the best way to even approach social influence.  Since there are multiple providers out there, I decided to look at multiple providers to get a balanced view into social capital for this post, but I really only found 2 which would work.

The main two in the marketplace are Peer Index and Klout, but there are others I guess like Twitter Grader which seems to have a simplistic view of rankings, since all the twitter accounts I analyzed for this piece had a score of 100 which didn’t really help much.   Another source I tried to include was PostRank, but not all the sources analyzed had blogs, so I had to throw that one aside as well.

Net-Net, these emerging social capital scoring sites promise to potentially be the FICO of social, which is certainly intriguing and they are gaining more visibility and in some folks minds credibility, but not in all, as you can see based on the titles of the articles below:

So with all this investment  by companies in social media and the potential to get paid more, then this social capital must be worth something, right?  In fact, it just might be a way for companies and brands to manage their online properties and identities to achieve better results, right?

Markets and Buyers are Changing

No matter what markets you service, the same old stuff isn’t working anymore and there is this really hyped up thing called social media, but what is the best approach for you, your products and your company?  While to many of us in the trenches, it is obvious that marketing is changing it would be hard to see that based on the brands and the brand centric approaches many companies are taking with social.

Where it used to be enough to be a “traditional marketer” who knows “pretty things” and how to position brands – things now require a more pointed approach which targets buyers and leverages domain expertise/product familiarity to quickly achieve results in the market.   If this is something you doubt, check out April’s pitch from Amsterdam – (Marketing is Dead).  If the trend of moving away from big brand approaches is happening, how is this impacting social and how should companies adjust their approach?

So I’ve did a little more digging around and found some compelling research that most people don’t read most of your tweets and how can this impact brands and products trying to break through the noise.  So I decided it’s time for some research/an experiment.   So seeing these three trends: social investment, movement away from brand marketing and the assertion that most tweets just echo out in the ether, I decided to synthesize these trends into something interesting and see what lessons might be gleaned.

Brands vs. People: Social Influence

So I first started with the 5 top retail brands who used Twitter on Black Friday and 5 people who I have actually broken bread with or discussed something with and they needed to also “influence” me in some way.  I could have easily picked 5 “rock stars” or social media ninjas and rigged it, but I thought it was important to put a constraint that they be in my network and that I personally have engaged with these folks IRL.  So the experiment is to look at both of these groups and compare both their Klout scores and their Peer Index scores to see based on some magical influence math who has more social capital – Brands or People in social media.

By using both Peer Index and Klout, I believe I have addressed some of the hub bub on the interwebs with the math concerns specifically, how Klout can’t detect robots well and Peer Index uses a “real” metric, which I assume addresses in some way tweet velocity, @ replies and conversations.  The other item is that Peer Index scores for some are radically different, so I used averages across both services for both the brands and the people.

Social Capital Death Match: Brands vs. People.

Conclusions and Questions

As with all data, once you frame it and dig in you typically have more questions than answers on the first cut.  So the conclusions I have are actually more in the form of questions, than conclusions:

  1. Should there be Two Algorithms – one for businesses and one for people? Think FICO vs. Dun & Bradstreet.
  2. Are people becoming more relevant for brands and companies, much in the way products and product marketing are increasingly more relevant to buyers?
  3. Is being real, just really knowing the buyers and the market segment and being able to engage in meaningful discussions and the sharing relevant information with the buyers in the segment?
  4. Can a single algorithm really measure an intangible?
  5. If there isn’t a single metric, will “camps” develop around what score to trust?
  6. Could there soon be such as thing as a “Klout Coach” to help people and companies to increase their capital?

not to get all cliche and stuff, but maybe a brand’s best asset is their people when it comes to social.

Dozens, Hundrends and Thousands OH MY!

I was talking to some friends of mine the other day and pondering what I should do here on this blog, mainly for input, since I can’t seem to figure it out myself.   Ultimately I find myself continuously in search of an original idea – not a whole lot of those out there these days, if any. It’s not so much the amount of available content, as it is the amount of non-original content centered on the modest number of content opportunities which exist. So I’ve been on this particular task for a couple of weeks since I realized that I want to participate online differently – specifically on a more personal level.

The main reason for the discussion in general, was my current ability to scale. I’m personally finding it difficult to scale with quality. In general, I think social media has a scale issue, not just from a technology framework perspective, but also as you focus on it as a topic theme. I think in general most topics/areas of focus have content scale issues, but the issue in social media is more acute.

A quick content analysis of key folks appears to validate that there are just a good deal on non-events and events which are leveraged to go back to the bag of tricks and highlight a key concept. Not a bad thing, in fact upon review some of the best writers in the social media space are effectively recycling content every 3-6 months in context of the latest Twitter outage or which new platform is where the cool kids should hang out at.

Back to the task…

Fundamentally how to scale a set of activities is always an interesting thought experiment and made for an interesting afternoon for the group. We circled the topic for a while and I paused to check twitter – glad I did. Wouldn’t ya know – the Gods of the Twitterverse presented a series of tweets by Amanda Chapel in the stream which addressed the scale issue. I have to paraphrase the tweet in question with over 140 characters, since the back function is disabled due to Twitter “stressing out”/service issues.

The cost of obtaining a customer/the profitability of the initial transaction is greatly diluted by the cost of service delivery over time. The delivery of customer service doesn’t scale.

True Enough! Sales transactions are the easy things for the most part of any initiative. We actually discussed this tweet for a while in and out of the context of blogging. A very productive exchange – each had their personal insights on the topic with a mix of varying industry experiences, company sizes and diverse set of current roles: operational, strategic and creative. So this one cat offers up the following:

Technology businesses are aren’t about the transactions, but the repeatable transactions and supportability of the revenue. Anyone can sell something to dozens, some folks can sell to hundreds, but the market leaders can sell AND support 1000’s.

So I’ve realized I’ve encountered a scale issue with how I’m participating online and I’ve seen a great number of businesses which have the same issues. Great ideas, great product, crazy transactional revenues, but no ability to scale the business. With the general realization/acceptance that blogging is no different, I’ll contiue my gedankenexperiment on focusing my content, but at least I have 3 questions I’m going to work:

  1. What content do I consume and where do I participate online? Quick quick scan indicates technology, people & the environment.
  2. What passions do I have? Family, politics, education and science.
  3. Where are there 1000’s? Where are there 1000’s of things to track? 1000’s of interested people?