Three Secrets to Improve Your Klout Score

Klout Amplification Probability

I was checking out Klout’s new beta layout, and liked how easy it was to see and understand. It really helped me get an understanding on how the whole system worked. And it made me realize I was on the right track with some of my strategies to improve my Klout.

I’m sure some people wonder why Klout is even important, or will dismiss it as nothing more than a popularity contest. But think of it as a way to show off your social media chops — quantifiable proof that you are awesome. Some marketers are even using Klout as a way to reach special influencers with their promotions. I’ve personally gotten some cool swag from TV studios that want me to watch their shows. Audi asked several Klouters to test drive their new A8, and TBS gave Sony PSP 3000s to key influencers. Plus, right or wrong, some employers are basing hiring decisions on Klout scores.

So here are three secrets you can use to improve your Klout score.

1. Reduce the number of followers.

This seems counter-intuitive at first, but it makes sense when you realize that one of Klout’s scores is your Amplification Probability, or “the likelihood that your content will be acted upon.” The more followers you have who are not acting on your tweets, the lower this score will be.

Think of it this way: if you have 2,000 followers, and 20 of them retweet something you send, you have a 1% retweet rate. But let’s say you drop that to 1,000 followers — eliminating people who haven’t used Twitter in a few months, spammers, and abandoned accounts — and you still get those 20 retweets, you now have a 2% retweet rate. Your Amplification Probability rate has doubled.

Tactic: Use ManageFlitter.com to find all people who have not tweeted within the last 2 months or longer, and unfollow them. This will get rid of the people who aren’t contributing anything to you, and cut out all the deadwood. They’re adding to your Following count, but aren’t doing anything at all, except dragging the value of your network down.

Tactic #2: Make sure you’re actually creating interesting stuff that people want to act on. See Secret #3 for more on that.

2. Engage mostly with people who are likely to engage with you.

Klout measures your True Reach, which is an indication of how engaged your network is. If they’re engaged with their own networks and are talking with people, not blasting and broadcasting, this adds value to your network, especially if they respond to you. It means they’re real people, not bots, not spammers, and not celebrities.

This doesn’t mean you should only follow people who are following you. There are some people who may have valuable information you want to get, and if you ignore them, you could be missing some important stuff. But it means you need to be selective about those people you follow. Don’t just follow people because you think they might be interesting. Be sure.

Tactic: I hate to say it, but drop all the celebrities you’re following (keep your favorite one or two). Also drop the news networks you’re not paying attention to. Block & Report for Spam anyone who is spamming out junk. And unfollow anyone whose sole Twitter contribution is nothing but motivational quotes. One or two quotes a day is fine, but when there are 10 a day, and nothing else, they don’t need to be in your Twitter stream.

Tactic #2: Use ManageFlitter to identify those people, and then use Formulists.com to keep that list clean. Formulists will show you people who have unfollowed you. Use the “Recently Unfollowed Me” list a few times a week to identify those spammers. It’s also a common tactic of spammers to follow a bunch of people, get those people to follow back, and then unfollow everyone. This lets them artificially boost their number. But Formulists lets you spot those people

Tactic #3: Pay close attention to your new followers. Don’t automatically follow everyone back. Ignore people who don’t have an avatar, a bio, or talk about helping people make money in their bio.

3. Make an impression on influencers.

I once asked Jason Falls what the secret was to getting a lot of readers on a blog, and he said, “Write good shit.” If you read his Social Media Explorer blog, you get a daily dose of good stuff, sometimes two or three articles in a single day. Doug Karr does the same thing with his Marketing Tech blog.

If you want to reach influencers — people with high Klout scores — you need to be innovative. Write about new ideas, new tools, new strategies, new ways of thinking. You can’t just aggregate the same old stuff that everyone else has seen.

Strategy: (This point is a whole strategy, not just a simple tactic). Your blog is the hub of your personal branding campaign. It needs to rock. You need to write your own good shit, and get a lot of people to notice it. If you get a lot of people interested in what you’re talking about, it will eventually catch the interest of the other influencers. As they catch on, your stuff will spread, and your Network Influence will grow.

Tactic: Get to know the influencers, offline if possible. Attend conferences and networking events. Have coffee or lunch with them. Interact with them online too. Set up your TweetDeck or Hootsuite app with columns and lists so you can keep track of your industry’s influencers. When you read their tweets, respond where appropriate.

Tactic #2: Don’t be afraid to ask your influencers to retweet your stuff once in a while. Don’t make it a regular thing. Once a week is probably too much. Once a month is okay. But — and this is a big one — make sure you’re retweeting their stuff a whole lot more. It shows that you have an interest in them and believe in what they say. While they don’t have to do it for you in return, it shows that you’re a giving person, which means other people will do it for you too. This is another reason you need to retweet those up-and-comers too — the people who have a lower score and less popularity than you.

This is not about gaming the system. This is about being a good social media citizen. If you tweet and write interesting stuff, maintain a strong network, make valuable contributions, and don’t feed the jackasses, your Klout score will naturally rise.

But if you engage in bad behavior like trying to artificially gain followers, tricking people into retweeting your stuff, or contributing nothing whatsoever of value (looking at you, random motivational quote generators!), then your Klout score will sink like a stone.

Personal Branding Twitter Chat on Friday, April 29 at 12 noon EDT

TweetChat window

I’m hosting my first Twitter chat on personal branding next week.

I participated in my first #PRWebChat last week, and had such a good time talking with other PR professionals that I want to host my own Twitter chat. In fact, I have to thank @prweb for hosting this, and hope they will join me on mine.

I will be hosting the first personal branding chat — use the hashtag #PBchat —on Friday, April 29 at 12 noon EDT. (It’s the day after #PRWebChat’s discussion with Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz — I know where I’m going to be that day!)

The easiest way to participate is to go to TweetChat.com, sign in using your Twitter account, and then enter pbchat in the hashtag window at the top of the page.

TweetChat window

Enter "pbchat" into the text box at the top of the window.

I will be posting pre-written questions about every 10 minutes, all about personal branding, and you can answer, discuss, debate, provide tips, or even ask your own questions. My questions are just guidelines, but you’ll be creating the conversation.

Whether it’s questions about job searching, networking, career advice, or even just growing your personal brand online and offline, we’ll be asking and answering over the lunch hour on April 29. (And if there’s enough interest from my West Coast friends, we’ll do one for them as well, at 12 noon PDT.)

So, please block out the time on your calendar, and join us for as long as you can.

5 Key Steps for Good Customer Service in B2B Social Media

A couple weeks ago, while we were on our way to Chicago, Erik wrote about how people — customers — can get good customer service by participating in B2B and B2C social media. He talked about how customers can get a company’s attention, why they shouldn’t whine, and how to make sure they’re taken seriously when they have a real complaint.

But companies also need to follow some customer service “best practices” in the social media realm, if they want to see what the customers are talking about, and to avoid a serious customer service meltdown. We manage a lot of customer service social media for our clients, and have been able to solve a lot of problems on their behalf. Here are five steps we follow in providing good customer service in B2B social media.

1. Find your Customer Playgrounds

Facebook is not the only game in town to manage b2c social media for a company. More often than not, you’ll find your customers participating on sites that are specific to your industry. Social media and business can be found on Twitter, Blogs, Forums and other Social Networks.

For example, in the travel industry, whether it’s an airline, hotel or car rental company, they can keep an eye on their customers by hanging out on Flyertalk, where everyone is talking about everything from airline miles, aircraft and the luggage they use. By focusing on specific discussions, they can keep abreast of what their customers are concerned about and pleased with.

Most industries have their playground where people are congregating and talking about what you are or are not doing right. Find yours and participate.

2. Create a Team.

You need a team to monitor your brand online. Your best bet is to create a tiger team of different people from different departments, rather than assigning one department like marketing or customer service to it. However, you need to appoint ONE person to be in charge of it. Don’t make it a committee, because nothing will get done. Customer service definitely needs a seat at the table. Also, create a plan to quickly address a bad Twitter post or Facebook post. This is where customer service needs to be at the forefront.

3. Monitor the Networks.

It’s not just enough to have a Twitter account that you check for mention of your name (although you need to do that too). You need to monitor a lot of the different networks and forums. There are several tools to help, including Lithium (formerly ScoutLabs), uberVu, Radian6, Vocus, and of course, Google Alerts.

There are more entering the social media monitoring market everyday, so the list is fluid. Find one that does what you need and stick with it. But be prepared to change, since the quality of the lists will often change.

4. Have a Plan to Respond.

Make sure you you always address the issue and deal with the customer. Don’t engage in an argument with them. Whether you think you’re wrong or they’re right, don’t engage in a public debate. If the customer is just dead wrong, address the issue privately, but solve their problems publicly. Let everyone see you’re taking care of your customers; this will help potential customers feel more at ease. But if you get into an argument with a customer publicly, you’re going to lose when everyone else sees you as a bully.

 

Step 1: Research the person who posted their comment.

    • Do they have Klout?
    • Have they identified themselves?
    • How much influence do they have?
    • Are they a troll? (There are individuals that go around and say bad things and try to extort you to remove the comment.  And, they may not even be a customer or have purchased your product).

Step 2: If they are legitimate, address their issue.

See how easy that is?

5. Communicate the effort, so you are demonstrating action is being taken.

Demonstrate that you are conversing with your customers and answering the questions. The passive aggressive behavior of online behavior quickly turns into appreciation, if the customer feels heard. Someone may complain “Smitty’s restaurant ruined my day. Put Swiss, not American, cheese on my cheeseburger. #FAIL,” but will backtrack and soften their complaint if you follow up with “I’m sorry for the error. We’ll buy your lunch the next time you’re in.”

Remember, social media is about having conversations with your customers online. Monitoring what people are saying allows you to get important feedback you would not otherwise get. Feedback is good, embrace it.

Three Secrets to Make Your Video Go Viral – A Warning to Corporations

I’ve been digging into a lot of social media case studies lately, especially those that involve a little guy going up against a large corporation and winning the battle of public sentiment. A lot of these studies involve videos, and I think I’ve figured out the secrets to why they’re going viral, and why large companies need to watch out for these situations.

One of the most memorable videos is Dave Carroll’s “United Breaks Guitars,” which he released after United Airlines mishandled his $3,000 Taylor guitar. Carroll released a song and video about his efforts in filing a claim against United and all the hoops he jumped through for a year before anyone would even listen to him.

Ten million views and three videos later, Dave not only got his satisfaction from United, but Taylor guitars gave him two new guitars. His efforts also netted enough negative press against United to give an entire PR department heart failure.

Other videos have had similar success getting the attention of the corporate giants, and getting them to take notice and fix their problem. The same is true with blogs, tweets, and other times people have gotten punked by . And I’ve identified a few things they have in common.

    • Viral videos are not straightforward rants. There needs to be an unusual hook, or something that makes it different/better than someone staring at the camera and talking about their complaint or issue. That’s why videos that involve music or acting gain a lot more traction than that talking head video you wanted to do.
    • Viral videos include something humorous. Dave Carroll’s video was musical and funny. Other complaint videos are also funny, or have a humorous element to them. People love to be entertained, and anything that’s humorous will gain more attention than something that’s serious. (Of course, this doesn’t work about serious issues — just ask Groupon — so choose your humor carefully. And if you have to resort to humor that is guaranteed to offend part of your audience, don’t use it. You don’t want your audience hating you.)
    • Viral complaint videos are always about David going up against Goliath. This is the big secret. I have yet to see a viral complaint video about two Davids fighting it out, or two Goliaths duking it out. It’s always the little guy going up against the big guy. Whether it’s Dave Carroll (a real David) fighting against the uncaring, careless United Airlines, or Dooce complaining about her Maytag (not a video, but a great example of the little guy fighting the big guy), people always cheer for the little guy. If there’s any indication that the big guy is screwing someone, we’ll watch the video, read the blog post, and retweet the tweet in order to help get the word out about the “epic struggle.”

This last point is what corporations need to beware of. All it takes is one irate customer with some creativity and a Flip camera to make your PR people sweat blood trying to overcome the tens of thousands of views of that video and subsequent complaints, plus any negative press that came about from their video. Dave Carroll’s epic struggle was picked up by the global press, making sure the United name got plenty of mentions in the press.

Even for companies who don’t want to be on social media, they need to at least have a presence so they can monitor customer complaints. They shouldn’t be caught off guard by videos, because they’re already behind the 8-ball when it comes to social media. The little guy is ready to complain about the big guy, and everyone else is ready to support them and carry their torch for them.

How Social Media Veterans Succeed Where Others Fail

Lately I’ve been writing and talking about the importance of businesses working with or hiring social media veterans instead of social media rookies to manage their social media campaigns. I’ve talked about why social media is not an entry level position, and why it’s important for companies to hire people with several years of work experience to manage their entire social media campaign.

The State of Social Media for Business 2010

Last November, SmartBlog on Social Media released a report called “The State of Social Media for Business,” asking whether social media veterans or rookies — companies that have been using social media for several years compared to a few months — are doing a better job of social media.

While the report is about companies that use social media, not individuals, the same ideas apply to people — especially those who have used it for a few years for clients — versus the people who have only used it for a few months, but think their 100 hours playing Farmville and leaving cookie haikus on the Oreo Facebook page somehow qualifies them to be a social media consultant.

For their report, SmartBlog surveyed readers from a variety of industries and companies, and editor Jesse Stanchak pulled some of the best results from the report. (Disclosure: Yesterday, SmartBlog published my article about six social media tools to monitor your personal brand, and Jesse was my editor on the piece.)

SmartBlog found that companies with more than three years of social media experience — compared to companies with less than six months — are more likely to:

  • Say they have a fully developed or well-developed social-media strategy (65.7% of veterans compared with 13% of rookies)
  • Measure the return on investment of their social-media efforts (36.1% of veterans compared with 9.6% of rookies)
  • Say they would not be able to operate without a strong presence in social media (27.9% of veterans compared with 3.6% of rookies)

(It’s this last sin — operating without a strong presence in social media — that many marketing agencies and PR firms commit when they offer social media services to their clients without practicing it themselves. They claim they can manage clients’ social media campaigns, but have 300 Twitter followers and still run their entire website on Flash, which can’t be indexed by search engines.)

Stanchak attributes these differences in veterans’ performance to five key areas, veterans invest more in social media, have support from their leadership, diversify their tools, and use social media for more than just marketing.

But it’s the fifth point that really caught my eye: Veterans are more likely to listen.

Stanchak said that while both groups are almost as likely to use social media to put out news releases and maintain fan pages, it’s the veterans who are more likely to listen, experiment, and measure. (Stanchak didn’t say measure; I threw that one in myself. But he would have, because he’s smart that way.)

Social media veterans will listen to their networks, their customers, and their colleagues in the industry. They’ll experiment with new tools and new campaigns. Then they’ll measure the results, and make the necessary adjustments and measure again. They’ll make sure it’s the right thing to do, and they’ll use it the right way.

The problem most social media veterans face is the influx of rookies who read a book on social media and get hired by companies who believe social media is for young people.

While I don’t have a problem with social media rookies — after all, everyone has to start somewhere. We were even rookies once — my concern is that too many companies accept their advice. Then, when things go wrong, the companies blame social media and say it was a mistake to ever get started, while the rookie walks away from the problem and finds a new client or employer.

On the other hand, the smart rookie will figure out the problem by listening, experimenting, and measuring, making the necessary changes on the way. The smart rookie has identified mentors and teachers who will show them how to become smart veterans.

For businesses who are looking to hire a social media agency or employee, whether it’s for business blogging or social media management, check their pedigree and history. Ask them how long they’ve been doing social media. Ask them about past campaigns and how they dealt with problems. Ask them about their past failures. (And if they say they’ve never had any, they’re either lying to you, or they’re too new in the business to have any real experience.)

What about you? What have you seen from a social media veteran or rookie? What lessons have you learned? What are you hoping to learn? And if you’re a rookie, am I way off base? How are you making sure you don’t make the same mistakes of your predecessors?

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on Amazon.com, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

Five Online Reputation Management Tactics

Your 15 minutes of fame will last a lifetime on the Internet.

Former Indiana deputy Attorney General found this out a couple weeks ago, when he was fired for posting tweets that called for the use of live ammunition against the Wisconsin protesters. I had the chance to appear on WISH TV the day Cox was fired to talk about the importance of managing one’s personal brand on social media.

Tweet from Indiana deputy Attorney General Jeff Cox

Tweet from Indiana deputy Attorney General Jeff Cox

I told WISH anchor Debby Knox, “Unfortunately, this sort of thing will follow him around forever. When someone, like a new employer, Googles his name — even 10 years from now — this story will forever be associated with it.”

The problem is, as a lot of people are learning the hard way, what you say on the Internet, even something as small as a 140-character tweet or keg-stand photo, will be around forever. And if the wrong people find it, you’ll be crucified with it. Whether that’s a potential employer or someone from the media, you can be guaranteed you’ll be found out.

Here are five online reputation management tactics you need if you’re concerned about your personal brand.

1. Know What The Internet Is Saying About You

We worked with one guy whose name was nearly identical to someone convicted of real estate fraud in the same state. The felon’s name would always appear first in a Google search if you just typed in our guy’s name. Anyone who knew him knew the difference, but when it came to potential clients, they would probably worry that they were going to hire a convicted felon.

Anyone who is named Jeffrey Cox is going to have a similar problem. A quick Google search showed that there are a lot of guys named Jeffrey Cox, even here in Indiana. Imagine the problems they’re going to have for the next several months or few years when people try to find them…

To know what people are saying about you, sign up for Google News Alerts, and have an alert set for your own name, your company name, and even your Twitter handle. Monitor this closely, and pay attention to any mention of your name that’s not on your own blog or website.

2. Know Your Influence

Whether you prefer Klout or Twitalyzer, or any of the myriad of other influence analysis tools out there, you need to know how many people are paying attention to you. If you want to positively manage your reputation, then you need to have that number as high as you can possibly get it. I prefer Klout, only because that’s what everyone is using, and so it’s easier to compare my reach by using the same stats as everyone else.

3. Practice Search Engine Optimization

Normally this is a website-/blog-only technique. If you want to get your blog or website to the top of the search engines, you need to optimize it so Google and the other search engines know exactly what your blog (and each individual post) is about.

This becomes more important if you want to knock something off Google’s front page. If you made a mistake and something is appearing at the top of Google, you need to focus on a couple of properties, like a blog, and optimize it so it sits at the top of the search rankings.

This practice is called reverse search engine optimization, and it’s becoming more important as companies and individuals realize they either made one mistake they don’t want following them around, or in a few cases, someone shares a name with a convicted felon (see below).

4. Use YouTube and Flickr/Picasa

Photos and videos are an excellent SEO tool. Not only do they boost your search rankings, but your photos and videos will often show up in your search results. If you have another result you need to boot off Google, photos and videos can help. Sign up for (and use!) YouTube and either Flickr or Picasa.

I prefer Picasa only because Google owns it, and it’s easier to integrate with my other Google properties, but Flickr is by far the more popular photo sharing site.

The best way to use photos and videos is to embed the code into a blog post, rather than uploading the photo or video to your own blog. Not only does it take up server space, but you don’t get as much search engine juice for an uploaded video as you do for an embedded one.

5. Join a Niche Social Network

If you’re trying to find a new job or establish your expertise in an industry, join a social network that’s specific to that industry. Or join one geared toward your local community. I first started connecting with people on Smaller Indiana, an Indiana-based network for people who live and work in the state. Even now, when my name appears in Google searches, there are a few results from Smaller Indiana that appear in the results.

Additionally, participating in that network will make you more visible to the other people on it. If you’re trying to make your name known in an industry, contributing a lot of valuable content to the network will accomplish this for you. Answer questions, write valuable information, and forward interesting articles to your fellow network members, and they’ll come to rely on you as someone valuable and worth working with or even hiring.

How are you managing your online reputation? Any tools or tricks we should know about? Leave a comment and let us know.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on Amazon.com, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

Indiana Deputy AG Learns Hard Lesson About Social Media & Job Security

Tweet from Indiana deputy Attorney General Jeff Cox

You wouldn’t think someone would be fired for 3 words.

But Jeffrey Cox, Indiana deputy Attorney General, was terminated by the Indiana Attorney General for a number of offensive tweets he sent out on February 19th.

We were surprised in the Indianapolis community, not only by the quickness of the developments — Cox was investigated on the morning of Feb. 23, and fired that same afternoon — but also because such a public figure as a deputy AG would make such publicly heinous statements.

According to an article on the Mother Jones website, Cox tweeted that he believed Madison police should “use live ammunition” when dealing with protesters at Wisconsin’s state capitol.

Tweet from Indiana deputy Attorney General Jeff Cox

Tweet from Indiana deputy Attorney General Jeff Cox

What Cox failed to understand is that social media is public and permanent. If you put out good stuff, and are helpful and supportive, it can prove valuable later on. But if you say something hateful and nasty, it may come back to haunt you, sooner rather than later.

It can hurt your reputation, you can lose your job, and in some cases, you could badly damage, or even end, your career. Even if you try to keep a wall between your personal life and your professional life, social media has broken it down. Something you say in private can become a problem for your work life, and vice versa.

In short, be true to who you are, but if that you is a jerk, then you don’t need change your online behavior. You need to rethink your whole approach to life.

The fact is, social media has tripped up people making rather awful statements, exposing what people think are private jokes or “only a little mean.” What you might see as snarky, or even a bad attempt at dark humor, can end badly. It can be something as minor as public embarrassment, or something as major as being fired in as public a manner as possible, and being a story on the 11:00 news, as well as making headlines in the London Daily Mail.

I was interviewed by WISH TV and Debby Knox (@Debby_Knox) last night for the 11:00 news, and asked about the potential damage Cox did to himself because of his public missteps.

“Unfortunately, this sort of thing will follow him around forever,” I said. “When someone, like a new employer, Googles his name — even 10 years from now — this story will forever be associated with it.”

I don’t know if this is irony or just an odd coincidence, but nearly 10 hours earlier, I had spoken to the Young Professionals of Central Indiana — including several attorneys — about the reasons they need to be on social media, personal branding being the biggest reason of all.

Social Media Affects Personal Branding

What that means for anyone who uses social media is that we need to remember that recruiters are searching for us online. If they find you tweeted about how police should shoot fellow citizens, you can guarantee you’ll be dropped from the candidate pool immediately. If you post your “Spring Break” photos on Facebook, they’ll be held against you. If you write blog post after blog post calling the other political party a bunch of Socialists or Fascists, people won’t want to work with you.

Social media does not let people whisper dirty jokes or make offensive statements among friends. Social media blasts out everyone’s messages, and exposes character flaws and moments of indiscretion.

Cox says this is a matter of his First Amendment rights being quashed. And that this was satire, and he “wanted to make people think.” While that may be the case, it’s also a matter of his reputation, now horribly stained and tarnished. Sure, you’re free to say these sorts of things, but when you’re a public servant in a visible agency and position, you should be held to a higher standard.

The lesson here is be careful of what you say online. A career you spent ten years growing can be undone in mere seconds. Things you meant for a few people can become widespread in a matter of hours, or even minutes. In Cox’s case, 3 words, and the subsequent deeper-hole-digging tweets, became an international story, and resulted in him losing his job in the most embarrassing manner possible.

The things that make social media awesome also make it dangerous. It’s a double-edged sword, so handle it with care.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on Amazon.com, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.