Social Influence Does Not Equal SME Knowledge

By Christian Buckley posted 07-29-2013 19:17


In March 2013, I made a claim on my blog that Klout is the most interesting company on the planet. Now, just to clarify, I don't literally believe Klout is the most interesting company on the planet, but utilized a bit of sensationalism to draw attention to what is, I believe, an increasingly important topic: the value of social influence within the enterprise. I do not think Klout "owns" this category, nor do I think that what they are doing, and other firms with similar tools and algorithms, is hard science. The reality is that these measurements are much more subjective that people think. Or maybe they know this inherently, which is why so many people reacted negatively to the ideas I posed within my article.


In a related article, blogger Jonathan Phillips provided some deeper insight (or at least he tried) into the mechanics of Klout, and -- more importantly -- the value to the enterprise, specifically touching on the role of social influence in tracking and measuring outputs through system gamification.  It's a topic that I am very interested in, and have been personally researching for the last couple years. The article was posted right in the midst of an online conversation I was having via Twitter and Yammer on whether current social influence measurement tools (Klout, Kred, PeerIndex, etc.) could appropriately weight the value of that social influence, separating, for example, the activities of someone who simply sits on Twitter all day versus someone who is a subject-matter expert (SME) and is viewed as highly influential inside (or outside) an organization. I left a couple comments for Jonathan, and thought I'd expand on the ideas here.


The problem with the rise of tools like Klout is not whether or not the tool accurately measures actual subject matter expertise -knowledge in the enterprise (as of today, these tools do not), but that people automatically cling to any new stat as if it is “the” answer to the question (they are not). Personally, I put the people who instantly brush aside Klout and its contemporaries in the same bucket as those who drink the Klout kool-aid straight from the fire hose.


What makes Klout useful is its attempt to measure the depth of our social interactions (how far our message is amplified), not just the volume of our tweets (we call this spam). Like most stats, it’s not hard science of any specific point in time, but an indicator to help you identify trends over time. The value in these tools is in tracking the movement, not in the data at any given point in time. But none of that is in any way connected to the *quality* of those interactions -- such as what you'd expect from someone with deep SME knowledge. On the surface -- and through the social influence measurements as they stand today -- the typical SME would appear as a rarely-tweeting, low-influence employee. The true potential of these tools will come when they are folded into our SEO dashboard and toolsets, allowing us to see how our messages are amplified in real-time.


We have not even scratched the surface of how these tools might be utilized for internal systems. Klout has a business platform beta, on which I am anxiously waiting for an invite to participate. I’m interested to see how they integrate their algorithms with internal systems — that will be the key, I believe, to widespread adoption across the enterprise. They must address, somehow, the disconnect between SME and social influence. Until then, people should think of social influence as one piece of data in a field of metrics, not “the” piece of data that they should base all of their social measurements around, and certainly not as a way to identify true influence within the enterprise. For now, it is simply a measurement of the amplification of the public social channels.


Social influence measurement is all about amplification -- how many people hear your message, and take action on it. And like every other KPI your organization measures, people will learn how to manipulate it and shape it to best fit their own needs. Welcome to the world of statistics.


As social influence becomes more of a factor within the enterprise, and teams look to better leverage connected networks within the organization, the larger issue is not that employees will follow human nature and do everything possible to bend and shape the metrics that likely determine their bonus (because they will), but that employers will NOT take advantage of this new data insight and use it to their benefit. To be successful, orgs will need to regularly optimize it (just as they should every other KPI and metrics) to ensure the measurements reflect what is actually happening and that those who are identified as influencers match end user sentiment (to some degree) about who those influencers are -- ensuring SMEs are in the mix. 

#Collaboration #Collaboration #socialnetworking #enterprisesocialnetworking #subjectmatterexpertise #Klout #socialinfluence