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I considered Return on Influence for my fall 2015 social media class. But ultimately decided not to use it because I had 2 other great books I wanted to use: Likeable Social Media and Your Brand: The Next Media Company (Thanks to Karen Freberg for bringing Your Brand to my attention). Still, I think it is a great read and recommend it for a class. In fact, two of my students have read this book and both highly enjoyed it. There’s a high chance I will be implementing the book next Fall.
A Quick Summary of ROI
In ROI, Schaefer explores the notion of the citizen influencer and how social media has empowered everyday citizens. While we’re all familiar with this concept, the book explores the concept of influence with an aim to help one understand why we’re influenced, the type of person who influences us, and how influencers can be identified and leveraged.
Schaefer does the reader a solid by reviewing Robert Cialdini’s seminal work on the subject of influence, Influence: Science and Practice (Cialdini’s book was a favorite of mine in college. I highly recommend it). Specifically, Schaefer explores authority, likeability, consistency and scarcity, as well as social proof and reciprocity. He relays how these concepts relate to “your personal power and influence” online.
Towards the middle, Schaefer delves into the controversial industry of influence scoring, focusing primarily on Klout. He looks at the spark behind the company and provides a history of how the company came to be. Klout was an idea that few believed in when it was conceived.
Klout helped usher in a new era of influence marketing – the primary focus of the book. While influence marketing grew up with Jell-O and Tupperware, quick, easy, accessible social scoring by Klout and its competitors have proven a game changer. From TV shows to cars – the author provides several cases of companies harnessing Klout to identify influencers in a specific market niche, build relationships, and drive desired outcomes. Best practices are discussed. There are some very creative examples here and Schaefer helps the reader see just how powerful citizen influencers can be.
Of course, we’re all wondering – how do I raise my Klout score? Schaefer explores factors that influence Klout scores, those that try to game the system, how the system has evolved in response, and the pros and criticisms of how Klout scores are ranked.
In fact, a healthy portion of the book is dedicated to exploring criticisms and shortfalls with social scoring. After all, social scoring is still very new. The book ends with an exploration of the future of social scoring and some sobering thoughts on potential societal impacts of social scoring, asking whether such a system merely perpetuates of ‘rich get richer’ mentality.
Are we but the total of our Klout score? And if we are, is that a good thing?
A Few Thoughts on Using this Text in the Classroom
While buzz around Klout and other social scoring services seems to have died down a bit, there is much to learn from Return on Influence. Whether our students go on to use Klout scores to identify influencers or not, they stand to benefit from understanding the vital role of influencers in diffusing innovations on today’s social web.
As my students know, I’m a Paul Lazarsfeld fan! I discuss the notion of opinion leaders and the two-step (multi-step) flow of communication in my more introductory courses. I discuss diffusion in my social media class. And my campaigns students identify key influencers as part of their projects. As such, ROI is a natural extension of this part of their education, bridging tho idea of opinion leaders with the social web. In fact, I’ve discussed online influence and social scoring in my social media class. But students have expressed that they struggle with this concept. In this way, the text would add a great deal of value.
Lastly, throughout the book, a number of other familiar topics such as social capital and the strength of weak ties are discussed that may help students gain a better grasp on these subjects. I believe these important concepts of social networks are foundational knowledge in a social media class.
Taken together, Return on Influence is a great read for anyone wanting to learn more about the world of social scoring and its role in influence marketing today.
What are your thoughts on Klout and social scoring?