social scoring and its weaknesses

When it comes to new media marketing, the recent buzz tends to be how well you do on social rankings – as in how many followers you have on Twitter and how many “likes” you have on Facebook. Social scoring is the equivalent of a celebrity endorsement, but is this the wrong approach to marketing? Social scoring measures awareness. That’s it. Actions and reactions aren’t what makes a sale. Persuasion and influence, however, can have a major impact on whether or not a customer makes a purchase, uses a service, or tells a friend about it. Social scoring has its advantages, but there are also weaknesses worth considering.

Legitimate ‘Influencers’

Social scoring tools like KloutKred or PeerIndex basically measure influence. However, what happens when these influencers aren’t legitimate? You want people to say nice things about you online and tell others, but you still want positive reviews to be credible. Perhaps a competitor is having its employees appear influential in hopes of catching your attention? Online review sites such as Yelp and Yahoo! Local already make efforts to weed out clearly false reviews, but it’s almost impossible to tell if every “like” or new Twitter follower is legit. Some users aren’t going to be honest in terms of how much influence they have and filtering these users out isn’t easy.

Accurate Measuring of Social Scoring

Bing incorporates social scoring in its rankings, Google doesn’t. If Google does adjust its rankings, who’s to say they will follow the same criteria or how they will weigh these additional stats? There are plenty of methods and rules when it comes to SEO and how it applies to a particular website. This is not the case when it comes to social scoring. This could explain why some major marketing experts aren’t quite ready to embrace social scoring right now. Behavioral changing actions have a place in marketing, but there needs to be some fine-tuning when it comes to measuring the success of more tweets and blog references.

When Influence Turns Negative

Increasing awareness through social scoring is great, but it can be a double-edged sword. What happens when one of your influencers turns on you? Even if it is just a perceived slight, it’s not easy to change someone’s mind when they find a reason not to be happy with you. Those same users who have been encouraging others to buy your product, use your service, and visit your website could use their influence to tell people to stay away from your product, service, and website. Social scoring has potential, but it is also important to keep your influential customers happy.

In the end, social scoring has potential and isn’t likely to go away. It’s just a matter of how you use the concept and apply it to your marketing efforts. Getting “likes” and Twitter followers is a good first step, but the power to persuade shouldn’t be overlooked. Like all marketing approaches, there are some wrinkles to iron out – but the potential is there.

(image: wired.com)

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