Saturday, August 13, 2011

On Social Media and the Quantification of the Qualitative

One of the biggest movements in Social Media Marketing right now is the search for numbers. Marketers and and companies are flailing to find a way to drive business through Social Media efforts...and failing horribly. Earlier this year, Practical Matters reported that few sales are generated through Social Media.

Klout, EmpireAvenue, Twtrland, and a million other tools, both free and paid, promote themselves as ways to understand the influence your Social Media use has. In the end, few of these have value beyond garnering how many people see a thing and, perhaps, how many people reacted to it in the least possible way (Retweet, Like, Share, +1.)

Our response to all of this should be "Well, duh~." On Quora a number of people have put their finger squarely on the problem of "measuring influence."  Influence is not a number.

I love Klout, I really do. But there is a huge flaw at the center of Klout - and at the center of all influence measuring tools - they are measuring something that isn't quantitative. Klout tells me that they measure engagement - how likely a comment I make somewhere is likely to be responded to. But they don't (and can't) measure the quality of that engagement.

At the heart of Influence is human interaction. This is not a numbers game. Any marketer that talks to you about likes and votes and other quantitative measures, is missing the key point of Social Media being Social.

Social Media is about you reaching past your own self-interests. It's not as complicated as creating a "vote for your favorite charity to get some money (that we will claim on our taxes)" and it's not "for every $$ you spend, we will give ten cents to charity (that we will claim on our taxes.)" There's nothing social in corporate philanthropy, or telling the world how much your employees gave to charity. These are entirely self-serving numbers.

Social Media is about building relationships based on trust, credibility and from that, building influence. There are no numbers here. Your spouse is not a 72 (although this week, the number has been going up.) The friend who was there to help you move in is not a 60.

Set aside the numbers for a day, a week, a month. Don't check your Klout score. Don't look at your Radian6 dashboard. Ask a question and see what kind of response you get. Praise someone for their support and see who else chimes in. Reach out to help someone and see how many other hands reach with you. That's the measure of your Influence.

It's time to stop quantifying the qualitative. It's time for Social Media to be about people, not numbers.
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