Under the Influence

Usually I find Klout perks quite lame, especially for those of us not based in the US. My highlight so far had been a ‘digital lottery ticket to play and share with friends’. But I have to admit that I did get quite excited when I read that my social media influence could be exchanged for free beer (well, for access to American Airlines’ business class lounge, including free wi-fi and free beer).  The airline is now offering those people with a Klout score of 55 or above a one-day pass to their fancy Admirals Club in 40 different airports. Perks also include snacks, showers to ‘unwind and relax’ and more importantly, the feel-good factor of climbing up the ladder of influence.

One can argue how accurate Klout is and if it means anything at all. There was an interesting article on Wired a while ago about Calvin Lee, a graphic designer from L.A, who, in order to keep his score up would tweet up to 45 times a day, to the extreme of worrying about his Klout score going down while on holiday. Lee’s current Klout score is 73 and yes, he has already claimed his AA lounge perk – instagraming it on the way. If we look at Lee’s Klout score and compare it with, let’s say, Warren Buffet’s, 61, does that mean Lee is more influential than Mr. Buffet?

The answer is obviously not. Many people think Klout is a big ego booster – we all want recognition from our work and our creations, and having a good score is a way of telling ourselves we’re doing well on social media, but online influence does matter and Klout can certainly help you understand the impact of your online presence – crucial especially for brands in today’s digital age. However, that does not mean that offline influence does not matter anymore. Writing a book, speaking at a conference, a recommendation, sharing expertise…they can all contribute to build influence and be a compelling force on the actions and opinions of other people – as I’m sure Warren Buffet would agree.

So if Klout is not the Holy Grail, then how can we measure influence overall? And from a marketing point of view, do the same principles matter for individuals as for brands?  Ipsos’ Influential Brands research has identified five key elements that build influence: being Leading Edge, Trust, Engagement, Presence and Corporate Citizenship.

–          Leading Edge: innovative brands stand out from the crowd and are often influential, being able to introduced consumers to something they never knew they needed.

–          Trust:  The consumer needs to feel confident that the brand is reliable and has consistent quality. Brands with high levels of trust are influential as they are more likely to be recommended to others due to their perceived reliability, fostering strong loyalty.

–          Engagement:  by achieving a true two-way relationship, brands can influence consumer behaviour and fuel conversations.

–          Presence: by being present in people’s everyday lives, either physically or through communications, brands increase their opportunities to exert their influence.

–          Corporate Citizenship:  as we’ve seen recently, more and more consumers are now expecting brands to be ethical on their behalf.  Showing that you care about society and displaying strong values can also increase a brand’s influence.

Building influence might not be as ‘easy’ as tweeting up to 45 times a day, but knowing the key pillars of influence is the first step towards a successful and lasting strategy. If brands get it right, the size of the prize can be even better than a one-day airport lounge pass (and free beer).

Ipsos MORI have researched the 100 leading brands in the UK to determine which brands indeed are the most influential. The top 10 brands will be announced at the Influential Brands event on Wednesday 15th May, 9am. Follow the event on Twitter  #IpsosIB2013

Ines Nadal is Head of Trends & Futures at Ipsos MORI. Follow her on Twitter @inesnadal

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