"Oh, great - so my business class lounge is going to be full of social media gurus now?" - this is a flippant paraphrasing of comments after an airline said it would be rewarding social media influencers.
American Airlines is opening up its Admiral Club services for 24 hours to anyone with a score of 55 or higher on the social media measurement service Klout.
Klout works out how "influential" an individual is by examining their presence in a range of social networks (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, etc) and how they share content and engage with other users.
So, for example, CNN leads the media organisations with a Klout Score of 99, whilst Bloomberg has 88; comedians Stephen Fry and Steve Carell have 90 and 86 respectively; in the travel world, blogger Matt Kepnes is at 72, Jen Leo at 65, Henry Hartveldt at 61.
You get the idea.
American Airlines is not alone - Cathay Pacific and Virgin America have both played with the Klout model.
American's lounge access promotion works well on a number of levels: it gets all the social-loving and Klout-obsessed media and blogs writing about the project; it demonstrates to the wider industry how in tune it is with a buzzy social media site; and will probably introduce a raft of new people to its normally rather exclusive services.
And therein, some suggest, lies a potential problem.
Not in my backyard
Should apparent influence in various social media channels give a passenger the same perks (i.e. access to a classy lounge) as someone who has, say, paid north of $3,000 for an air ticket?
It would appear not to some, thus the earlier comment in the opening line about having to share such facilities with folk not from these parts.
For American Airlines and others, perhaps they all see the trade-off in populating their normally exclusive services with social media-types and other celebrities as a worthwhile endeavour, despite potentially upsetting their regular, high-spending travellers?
Given that the AA offer is just a 24-hour pass to its Admiral Lounge, members will arguably either not realise or indeed care that they are hanging out with various Twitter and Facebook maniacs.
In a few months it will, of course, be interesting to see how the AA project has worked out.
- How many of those given access to the lounges did actually tweet about its presumed brilliance or share pictures around their respective social networks?
- What was the overall ROI of the initiative?
- Did any of those taking up the offer decide to become fully fledged members of its loyalty programme?
But perhaps a bigger question revolves around what REALLY is social media influence and does it have any long time value?
The idea behind the Klout system, depending on who you ask, is either knee-tremblingly awesome (!) or a complete waste of time, especially when the subjects users are supposedly influential in are examined.
The platform can be gamed (giving people the nod - a credit - for a particular subject matter is dead easy) and the results are often weird to say the least.
NB: the author was hugely influential, according to Klout, in "Lady Gaga" and "obesity" for a ridiculous length of time despite never having mentioned either in the two channels - Facebook and Twitter - that the service monitors
But Klout remains wildly popular and is clearly seen as a tool worth using by brands to get their message or services out to, well, influential people.
What's your impression?
Related directly to the Klout system is the concept of "social media impressions".
The term is used extensively by all sorts of organisations and individuals these days as a way of illustrating the apparent reach of activity in social media.
For example, content and other activity from last weekend's TBEX blogger conference in Canada supposedly had a "reach" of 19 million.
Meanwhile, the weekly #TTOT Twitter chat says it "reaches up to more than two million users" and achieves "impressions" of around 30 million.
The metric is usually worked out by calculating the number of people tweeting (or retweeting) with a particular hashtag, then counting the number of followers each has and then multiplying it by the number of tweets.
Going by the same formula, the reporting team members and the main account at Tnooz mentioning this article just once will give it upwards of 40,000 "impressions" on Twitter - this is before anyone amongst the general readership decides to do the same.
If, for example, just the Lonely Planet decided to mention the story in a tweet then the impression count would soar to 1.12 million.
For fear of doing Tnooz a disservice, using the example above, our stories are not being read by well over a million individuals every time. And even without LP's involvement, impression figures based on Twitter "reach" are nowhere near the actual hits on an article.
But it's a currency, especially when figures with the word "million" at end of them materialise, which sounds jaw-droppingly impressive, so it is therefore no surprise that is being used increasingly by marketers or PRs to demonstrate the impact of a message or conversation.
In short, however: it is completely impossible to say an "impression" is actually anything of value at all. It would be the most connected and engaged conversation of all time if every follower of an individual just happens to be logged on... reading every tweet... constantly.
Presumably most people can see beyond the mountain of zeros at the end of such figures to realise what is going on - it is, after all, just playing around with figures.
But as the trend grows, it demonstrates two things:
- So-called social media influence and impressions, as concepts and measurable marketing tools, remain as shaky as this author's knowledge of Lady Gaga.
- There is a real and urgent need for a more robust way of obtaining the GENUINE impact of activity in social media.
Until then, don't believe the hype.
NB:Influence image via Shutterstock.
NB2: Author's Klout score, for the record, is currently 66. Other Klout scores correct at time of writing.