I Love You, I Hate You: The New Influence Economy

The world of customer relationship management and brand management is changing fast; again. This is going to be a shock to many companies.

Some businesses have only just started to remember that their customers might actually be right, others have only just got their heads around CRM and being “online”. Others continue blindy on trying to save money by passing the leg work on to their customers and annoying us all in the process.

Entering your mobile number at a call centre in a cue, only to be asked it three more times once you get through, is just one great example.

Rude retail staff, telephone operatives and n employees who can’t speak basic English or empathise with customers are others.

The Enlightenment: 2011

The more progressive companies are waking up to the new economy of influence – better known as social media.

Klout and PeerIndex as businesses both exist for a reason. They purport to measure “influence”.

The passionate and vocal devotees (or detractors) of your brand online are fast becoming the kingpins of the next 10 years of successful brand building.

Ratings scores like Klout and Peerindex will become a new currency in a world of social networking, online endorsement, virality and brand reputation. Even some credit score companies are already experimenting these scores in to account and providing third parties this data alongside traditional scoring methods.

Brands need to wake up fast to the fact that the price of a ticket is no longer necessarily the most reliable indicator of the “spending power” of a customer.

Klout and Peerindex scores are fast becoming the standards of "reputation" online; but how do they compare and what do they really mean? It's early days...

What is the on-going endorsement worth of a customer with an influence score of 59 but who travels economy, worth over an Upper Class passenger who keeps quiet and never endorses your brand?

I don’t have the right answer, but it’s certainly the right question.

Who do you think you are?

I’ve flown with Virgin Atlantic since my first ever transatlantic flight age 22, to sunny Los Angeles. Since then I’ve been a devotee; but as this article attests, last time I flew I was very disappointed.

I’m was left wondering if my friend Milo had been with me, whether I’d have had the same experience.

That time around a train had broken down or something, but despite my arriving very late we sailed through check-in just 30 minutes before departure and were upgraded, although at least he had got there on time. I however, had not, nor was I checked in. The difference is, at the time he was working for The Telegraph.

However in my own way to my own audience – and certainly in my industry – I have some influence:

  • I write for WIRED and do guest blog posts
  • My Klout score is reasonable as is my PeerIndex score.
  • I’ve invited friends to join Virgin Miles.
  • I can identify specifically at least 25 people who I’ve directly influenced to fly VA over other airlines in the last 24 months, because Virgin Atlantic has been a lovemark of mine.

As with most things we love, we naturally endorse them and want them to prosper. They represent part of me. As I said in this post about brand relationships and lovemarks:

.. when you as a brand [a lovemark] behave poorly I feel you’re attacking not just me as a customer but me as your brand.  Your bad performance means subconsciously I feel like I’ve performed badly, because a little bit of your brand has become me.

It is true that influence scores have their problems and on these the two specific companies mentioned (here’s another bloggers overview of PeerIndex and Klout) although they are the current market leaders, the jury is still out.

The Context of Influence Matters

Who are they the influencers of? If I have 10,000 followers on twitter who are all unemployed, or worse all spambot fake accounts, how influential is that? ..the answer is of course not very.

Both services (PeerIndex top radar image, Klout bottom list) try to work out WHAT I'm influential about. Klout lists me as influential about "Germany" ... clearly there is still some work to be done!

These things are changing though. They are becoming more sophisticated. This is inevitability; they will become more accurate.

Smell the coffee anyway

Consider where we are today in reputation scores as the AM radio of the early 20th Century; rough, low fidelity, all a bit hit and miss. We’re not going to have to wait 100 years for it to improve before we get to DAB digital Stereo radio. Try 5 years.

So listen up Virgin Atlantic when next time you give me crappy service, or maybe I’ll respond to that Executive Club email from British Airways, or maybe I’ll send tweets, or write a blog post. The inherent viral nature of social media means these outbursts can have disproportionate impact.

Not significant perhaps you might think, given that I’m just one passenger and I’ve probably only taken nudging thirty transatlantic flights in my life; and they weren’t even all Upper Class?

However, you must also consider the influence of the people I influence

To fully measure influence you need not just context but to understand the TRUE reach of an influencer. That becomes both computationally challenging and inherently hard.

What is my endorsement for the next 15 year’s worth to your brand?

What is it worth to your competition?

If your company’s brand does not get its head around the new economy of influence now, you’re at best missing an opportunity and at worst inviting persistent damage to your reputation; and therefore your profits.

On the horizon are even more advanced interpretations of brand popularity which take the influence of individuals and brands, combine it with a sentiment for popularity, public opinion or value within a virtual currency and publish it for all to see. Empire Avenue is just one of these new indexes, entirely virtual in nature based upon 1000’s of peoples social networks, virtual investments and reputation.

Microsoft is using Empire Avenue to profile the popularity of it's Xbox brand in Empire Avenues Social Stock Market

Brand ambassadors are the future of your business and will disproportionality impact your bottom line – that fact is here to stay.



2 thoughts on “I Love You, I Hate You: The New Influence Economy

  1. Virgin Atlantic: how one of my Lovemarks hurt me today. | Urban Horizon

  2. Thoroughly enjoyed finding your treatise (and intend to return to read others) and was motivated to write my own nuanced version (albeit less academic) on our website.
    Trust that you will not object to my naming you and referring our own subscribers to link to your article to appreciate the real thing.
    The more I see of convergence the more amazed I become. I just don’t see it potty training my kids; even though it orders the diapers on a “just in time” inventory database.
    Other than that …. Big Brother …. we a “liking” you.

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