Beyond Social Scoring – The Situational Factor of Influence

Influence marketing

If you thought influence marketing was a hot topic at the moment for marketers and brands, it’s only just beginning to really take shape.

While much of the conversation both here on this blog and across various networks has concentrated on where social influence is today, this is a just the prelude to where influence marketing will be tomorrow and beyond.

In the next few weeks, our book will be released and we’re excited to share the concepts and methodologies that we’ve come up with in both our research for the book as well as real-life case studies we’re documenting with our clients, using our framework.

Our goal with the book is simple – while early movers in the social influence space have provided a starting point for brands to understand this tactic, the real business value requires actions and solutions that go deeper than a score and an “influencer” based on amplification and popularity.

Additionally, online influence is just one component of a very large picture, and only paints a small part of that same picture. Let’s talk about that a little more today.

Decisions Based on Limited Information

Social influence data as it stands today is based primarily on one core metric: public social profiles and footprints. So if you have your Twitter account set to public, then companies like Klout and Kred will create you a “profile” and allocate you a score, based on their algorithm.

If you sign up and connect your other accounts, like Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+, the score will change, since these companies now have more information about you. So far, so good.

The problem comes when the accounts aren’t set to public, or you have different privacy settings for different accounts. So, Twitter and Google+ may be public, but Facebook may be primarily for friends, so your sharing method on that network is very different.

But let’s say it’s these private conversations where the decisions on the majority of the choices you make are made, when it comes to making a purchase.

These choices are the ones that are defining the influence factor at that time:

  • Is it situational, where your current situation (financial, need for a product or service, etc) comes into play?
  • Is it emotional, where the desire for something outweighs the logic of not actually needing it?
  • Is it personal, where your partner/wife/husband puts the foot down and says no?

These are three simple factors that can’t be measured directly – and yet they have a direct impact on you as a person, because they influence your decision.

Because this process isn’t measured by public scoring algorithms, it can lead to distortion of data when measuring a brand influencer program.

You may have initially shown positive signs of interest in a new product launch, as featured on an influential blog, and that would go down as a success metric. But the truth is, the real influence was exerted when the situation came into play in your private conversation(s).

It’s this missed data that (currently) limits the reporting metrics on some of today’s platforms.

The Offline Influence Equation

Another part of this equation is the fact that most influence platforms don’t take into account what happens offline – they simply measure online noise and conversations.

While this approach still allows for a lot of data to be collated about someone and their influence, as well as who and what influences them in return, it’s still only half the big picture.

As Pierre-Loic Assayag mentioned when we interviewed him about the approach his Traackr platform takes, imagine trying to decide a large bank loan with only half the financial information about a person available to you – you just wouldn’t make that call.

In fairness, this limitation is being recognized by the influence platform developers. Kred, for example, allows you to upload your offline achievements (although they don’t validate them so you could still upload false information), while Appinions measures reactions and opinions from traditional media as well as online publications.

However, as much as we try and measure how offline decisions impact measurable public conversations online, there’s still the question of what truly impacted the decision to take an action or decide to pass at this moment in time?

To get to that stage, we need to move beyond just public personas when it comes to influence, and begin to look at the macro and micro influencer level, and where they sit in the influence circle around each of us.

In the next few weeks, we’ll be doing just that. We look forward to sharing with you.

A version of this post originally appeared on the official Influence Marketing blog.

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  1. says

    It’s hard to argue with this logic but how practical is this?  To flesh your model out, you would need real-time psychographic and personal data on every single person viewing the message to figure out what is really going on. Even in an era of big data, it’s probably not realistic that we’re going to know that somebody didn;t make a purchase decision because they just had an argument with their wife.
    I think the benefit of many of the social scoring platforms is that they give a useful shortcut indicator, like a credit score. Does a credit score indicate why somebody didn’t pay back a loan? No. We will never have the data to know why they didn’t pay back the loan, but the credit score is a at least a shortcut that is used profitably by many businesses. The feedback loop from some of these social influence companies is far from perfect and always will be, but it is better than the feedback loop we have with traditional advertising, which is zero, so let’s look at the glass half full : ) 
    Thanks for the thought-provoking post Danny!

    • says

      markwschaefer Hi there Mark,
      You wouldn’t necessarily need to track everyone – this is the current social scoring model (find 1,000 “influencers”, give them a freebie, see who does what”).
      Instead, you concentrate on the micro and macro influencers, who you’ve already highlighted, and gauge what happens with these guys. Some of this can be done now, via tools like GetSqueeze combined with your chosen platform of influence. Add in the methodologies that SamFiorella and I share in the book (which have already been tested with clients and the mix of solutions and frameworks we talk about, based on each campaign), and it’s achievable now.
      You hit the nail on the head about shortcuts, which is why there’s (so far) been a distinct lack of sharing of successful case studies with some of these platforms (at least in any worthwhile number). FICO isn’t comparable, because that industry is regulated, while social scoring isn’t. So to define someone by a score, which could impact their career opportunities, opens up a bigger discussion than how effective they are at early stage influence.
      Cheers for dropping by!

  2. says

    Thanks for the post Danny – I am looking forward to reading the forthcoming articles.
    I think we can all reflect on personal experiences that relate to your post. Some additional factors that I know have impacted my decisions are:
    – reputation of the organisation (or the influencer) and if you trust and believe them
    – and the response of peers/friends/your community/your colleagues e.g. what would friends say if you made that purchase.

    • says

      KrishnaDe Thanks, Krishna, and the peer/professional one is definitely another key factor, and one we delve into in the book. Such a large, complex topic that a singular approach can’t hope to convey. :)

  3. says

    I have estimated that 98% or more of human communication is private. That in itself says a lot about Klout and Kred. For every Facebook status update (which may or may not be public) there are 173 Text messages sent. I recall a high school student will update their facebook page between 100 and 300 times a month. But they send 3000 SMS texts. All private. But I kind of don’t feel sorry for suckers any more as you saw my last blustery email.

    BTW I just got a bitchin Nike Stay Dry Running Shirt that says Chobani so you had better have some in your fridge!

    • says

      HowieG Chobani The minute anyone starts messing with my private text messages is the minute the Four Horsemen will be unleashed! 😉
      Solid point, though, and perfect example of why influence is such a complex topic. We can measure what we know, and (depending on buy-in from public) some of what we don’t currently know, but could, based on relationship tracking. But until then, we need to put legwork in, understand what’s missing and how to fill the gaps. Then we can start to move beyond today’s generic scoring based on very limited data points.

      • says

        Danny Brown HowieG Chobani personally I think identifying your strongest fans is most important. What they do online is moot. They will get the job done for you. Would rather have me convincing people in the market to bu Chibani than me saying hi on twitter everytime.

  4. DannyBrown says

    elizonthego Thanks, Elizabeth – the bigger conversation is just about to get started. :) #influencemktg

    • elizonthego says

      DannyBrown I think this next year it will all be redefined, no more guessing, no manipulated measures, nor fluff. #influencemktg

  5. PrimOutsourcing says

    Interesting! I’m excited to read the book, I want to know more how you guys will determine the impact of offline decisions. This study is kinda vague and impossible to do but with your curious mind, I know this will result to something that every social marketer can use.

    • says

      PrimOutsourcing There are two chapters in the book that delve very deeply into the situational factors of decision-making, and how you can measure where that impacts online decisions. They’re very in-depth and offer a results-driven way to make better business decisions. Of course, the framework is what we provide – the technology is where the information comes from. Some are close, and a couple will be really close to the data needed within the next few months – interesting times. :)