Don’t Fear The Influencer (Now With More Cowbell)

I was talking with some time Outsider and full time social smarts guy Mitch Lieberman via Twitter about Klout and why I think it is stupid.

I mean, it is important to think about your advocates and influencers – but how can we really standardize someone’s level of influence? I am not sure the Klout algorithm actually has the ability to scour public, private and semi-private customer networks. And, many people with only a few followers or a small sphere of influence may be terribly important to one company’s social strategy.

As more and more purpose-built communities and networks come in to play, thanks to platforms like Lithium, third-party tools like Klout can be less and less useful. This is because these purpose-built communities can capture and analyze data in a far more profound and useful way than the generic system Klout uses across public networks – in my humble opinion. A company can identify, nurture and work with its influencers more closely and gain so much more in an interactive platform like Lithium versus simply fearing potential “big follower list” influencers and kowtowing to their demands.

The latter model is just bad business. Or, I should say is a symptom that you have broken service models in place or simply are not as customer-centric as you think. I have blabbed ad nauseam about using social as a band-aid.

How do we stop fearing the potential damage to our brands on the part of influencers? For starters – create a consistent experience for all customers. Set expectations and apologize when you fall short.

If you truly believe in delighting customers, and do your best to see that happen, no influencer sending a few choice negative tweets or blog posts can do any real harm – the rest of your intelligent customer base will know the truth. And – if you can quickly manage the issue (by either addressing it on your community platform or pulling that influencer in and showing them you care) – the unhappy influencer can present an opportunity – not a problem.

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Martin Schneider is Director of Product Marketing at SugarCRM. In his role, Martin handles competitive intelligence, marketing positioning and analyst relations. Prior to joining SugarCRM, Martin held the position of senior analyst with technology industry research firm the 451 Group, headquartered in NYC. Martin covered the CRM landscape for the 451, analysing and consulting on such topics as Software-as-a-Service, business intelligence and open source applications. Martin also covered the CRM space as news editor with CRM Magazine in New York.