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Online Influence: Smoke and Mirrors?

There are certain words that make my skin crawl.  Here’s the short list:

Klout

Alexa

PageRank

Influencer

Brands are spending millions of dollars reaching out to online influencers to spread their message, hawk their wares, drive traffic to their sites, send consumers to their stores.

And many of them are paying for the Emperor’s New Clothes.

The fact is that influence is for sale…cheap.  I’ve watched as one friend on Twitter has quadrupled their number of followers by paying less a month than it would cost me to buy a coke at McDonald’s every day.  You want links back to your site to boost your Alexa?  You got $40?  Because there are plenty of companies out there that will pay pennies to the most random of sites to embed hidden text links to your blog, falsely boosting the amount of influence your site has on a number of statistics.

But how much influence does a blogger have over a bought audience?  And who is that audience?

Remember the blogger with the sudden Twitter fame?  That same blogger has complained how horrible the tweet stream is now that it is filled with random people who have nothing to do with the content of their blog.  It’s all marketers, life coaches, teenagers on their phones…spam.  So when that blogger puts their five digit Twitter follower up for a brand to see, what they’re really offering is access to a disengaged motley crew of spammers.  Nice!

And back to Klout.  Last year Jennifer James of Mom Bloggers Club wrote about Mom Bloggers with a high Klout score, a measure of online influence.  I was number one on the list…but didn’t tell my clients or add it to my Media Kit. Why?  Because these “measures of influence” come and go faster than my high school boyfriends and in my opinion, are easily manipulated. In fact, one blogger who almost never tweets and when she does, only tweets out links to her posts, showed me how she was able to greatly affect her own Klout score with just a few clicks.  When companies began to request my Klout score before working with me or even providing giveaways to my bloggers, I had to share my score, but it should really have an asterisk next to it like so many of these tools that are often the result of smoke and mirrors.

Before the trolls start in the comments, these are not the ramblings of a small number blogger.  Mine are real.  And they’re fabulous. And yes, I can put them in a pretty powerpoint, throw on the cute suit, and tell you that I am your dream come true.  But I’d much rather show you the results of my efforts for you than drag out the horse and pony show.

To those hoping to engage with the vast mom audience – and quite frankly, their buying power – it’s time to step away from the metrics. Ask yourself why a blogger came out of nowhere to have a huge and sudden audience.  Find out why someone whose blog is filled with typos and cut/pasted press releases is telling you they have pageviews that are out of this world.  Ask yourself what influence really means.

And try to see beyond the smoke and mirrors.


Comments

  1. 30

    Great writeup, Amy, as always. :-)

  2. 31

    I just realized not long ago what a joke Klout is. It’s so easily changed. I figured out how to get it higher not long ago by watching a more well known blogger who has clearly bought most of her followers. I did what she did and voila my number went up. Thing is, Klout tells me I am influenced and influencing people that I haven’t spoken with on twitter for more than a year..what does that tell you.

    As far as Twitter. I’ve been on there 2 years now and have yet to reach 10k. I will never pay to have someone else manage it, auto-follow, or join sites that claim to get you followers. I’ve tried various things here and there while looking for quality people to follow but I have had the most success by simply getting an email for each person who follows me and checking them out before I follow back. Yep, I look at every single person before I follow. crazy and way too time consuming but I’ve built the exact type of list I want and need.

    I know about all the other places as well that you can buy links back to your site etc but I assumed that google penalizes you for such behavior?

    If you look at my Alexa rating I’ve had the same 43 links forever but it doesn’t bother me. I love Alexa for one thing. It can tell you so much.. I love looking at those big bloggers sites on it and seeing what type of of “high impact search queries” they have. When you see things like “giveaway” and just the name of their site spelled 10 diff ways you know they don’t have much to offer as far as content.

    I am very happy that I took these past 2.5 years to go at it slow. I am just now starting to build a real following of highly engaged people. They’re not all on my blog either. Most are on Facebook and have no idea what giveaways are. I love that because I can interact with them in real time and they get to know me a little better, for all the right reasons.

    My only question.. what about those groups of Mom bloggers who band together and click links for each other and raise scores? Isn’t that sort of the same as buying links and followers? They post a thread and exchange clicks. I recently stumbled upon something like that and was amazed and sort of disappointed. It’s just like the Sweepers who vote for one another in the big contests. Most of the time the little normal every day guys have no idea it’s going on.
    Monica recently posted..DealPulp Deal Of The Day – 15 for 30 to Spend at CafePresscom

  3. 32

    I have to tell you how very much I love this! I’ve been in this blogging game for 8 years. I’ve seen the way bloggers are measured come and go. I totally do not understand buying followers. I’m only on Twitter etc for the interaction. If it’s minimal, I have little to say. If people follow or don’t at least I know a conversation is going to happen.
    Jenn recently posted..Everything I needed to know about life- I learned from 8 years of blogging No- not really but kind of a catchy title- no

  4. 33

    This is a tough one. I totally agree with this article, but it is kinda frustrating for bloggers who’ve been on the scene longer that get dismissed because there’s a new blogger on the block who gamed the system. It’s easy to start worrying about the numbers when being interesting just doesn’t pay the bills. As we know, many of us support our families as bloggers.

    There have been companies that have told other bloggers that they can’t pay them a certain price for work, but they will pay another blog with a larger following (who has gamed the system). Brand fail, yes. Kinda makes you feel sucky as a blogger who works hard and tries not to participate in schemes and tactics.

    I feel like there will always be shallow PR people and it’s gonna take a lot of preaching about influence vs. numbers for changes to take place. You do what you have to do to get noticed, I suppose. And whatever method you use to increase numbers, be prepared to make sure that what you offer is truly worth those numbers. And use them to not only benefit yourself, but help other people as well.
    Sheena recently posted..Repost- Playdate Therapy

  5. 34

    I want to thank you for this article. I’ve been a blogger for 4 years now. Back in August of 2010 I decided to just make a new blog after an 8 month hiatus due to a family illness. While I’m not a mommy blogger but more of a food blogger..most of my friends are in the mommy blogging world. It’s hard to see the kind of numbers they pull but I know that the ones I’m friends with have worked very very hard to get them that way. Other bloggers I have seen pay for followers. I couldn’t believe it. Is that not as bad a CEO telling everyone that the company is doing well when actually they are struggling? I have made it a policy to never make it a requirement or even an option for extra entries if they follow me or facebook me. I figure if you like me for real that’s nice but if not…oh well right? Some days its hard to look at someone with 34,000 twitter followers vs my 500 lol. This made me feel vindicated for doing it my way…what feels right to me.
    Christine Mack recently posted..Taking Care of Your BabyPlants from Seed to Sprouts!

  6. 35

    Oh, thank you for writing this! I’m fairly new and already weeding out spam everyday. And companies asking about ratings…Thank you!
    island girl recently posted..Food Revolution

  7. 36

    I’ve been accused of buying influence, which is hysterical since I’m a) poor and b) not that interested. But I am on the “twitter recommends list” which makes my twitter followers grow fast even though I’m not trying to make that happen (and I suspect why people think I buy followers). But I DO know that even though I have a high number of followers getting them to DO anything is impossible, unless it involves something super controversial.

  8. 37

    I’ve been accused of buying influence, which is hysterical since I’m a) poor and b) not that interested. But I am on the “twitter recommends list” which makes my twitter followers grow fast even though I’m not trying to make that happen (and I suspect why people think I buy followers). But I DO know that even though I have a high number of followers getting them to DO anything is impossible, unless it involves something super controversial.

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