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There’s been a lot of talk lately about online influence and how to measure it. This is always the case, but most recently the focus has been on Twitter and who is most influential on Twitter and why, which seems particularly absurd to me, since I don’t see how anybody could build Twitter as their exclusive platform anyway, even if we had an accurate tool to measure influence there. Anil Dash wrote another good post about the fact that follower counts are horseshit because of the “who to follow” function and suggested users when you sign up. Also, the new(ish) tool for measuring influence on Twitter, Klout, is attempting to gain ground by doing things like making deals with the Palms casino in Vegas and Virgin Airlines to give special VIP treatment according to Klout score, and rather than interpreting this for what it is — a marketing maneuver paid for by Klout (the Klout party at Blog World Expo was hosted at the Palms, and I’m guessing this was not a coincidence) — some bloggers are using this as evidence of Klout being the same thing as clout. Anyway, this whole thing got me thinking about influence and how it manifests itself, and how it could be measured, if it could be measured. Below are some disorganized thoughts on the topic.

1. My Klout score Is 31, and it was 28 before I registered on the Klout website.

A Klout score of 28 gives me the Klout authority, roughly, of your neighbor’s Persian cat. Maybe a little less Klout than your neighbor’s Persian cat, if your neighbor’s Persian cat happens to be featured on a lot. So, basically, I don’t have any Klout, but I was able to increase my score by 9% just by signing up with them, thank goodness. I wonder how they measure influence — other than buying into the idea of Klout, of course. Let’s see: retweets, and @replies, “amplification of message” and “engagement with influencers.” Hmmm. Well, that would be a tough one, huh? When you are somebody who tweets things that are, say, like this, in reaction to the behavior of one of the “influencers” in question:

You don’t tend to get a whole lot of “engagement” with the “influencers.” You also don’t get a lot of retweets, because people are too afraid to retweet that. But what you do get is a bunch of DMs going on behind the scenes, both to you and to other people. Does that count as influence? I don’t know. Because I have a Klout score of 28. So if I need to get a reservation at The Palms, I’m calling up this @800dailygiveaways woman and seeing if she can get me that suite with the basketball court.

2. The most influential statements are tough to retweet.

Not all retweets are created equal. It’s easy to retweet things that are shallow, just like it’s easy to comment on a post that is about something mundane or that directly asks for practical advice. If you tweet something thought-provoking or controversial, you are less likely to get a retweet or an @-reply because it’s more difficult to respond to those kinds of tweets, particularly on Twitter. There are only a handful of users who will respond to you on those things, and they will make up your core group. This does not mean you are not influencing people with those tweets. It also doesn’t mean that all of those retweets about “awesome, inspiring posts” denote influence whatsoever. The only thing they often denote is some effort to kiss ass or repay a previous retweet on the part of one user to another. It’s easy to retweet a post about zombies or bacon, but that doesn’t mean the person who originally tweeted it is influential.

3. Several of the people on the Klout list of mommybloggers are people I had to unfollow because of Twitter party spam.

This isn’t meant as a slam on the actual users themselves, because as far as I know they are great people. However, I question a means of measuring influence that marks several people as “influential” that I personally unfollowed *only* because the volume of sponsored tweets/Twitter party hashtag spam was so high that I couldn’t stand it anymore. They are being retweeted and engaged with because *they are paying people to do it*.

4. All lists are arbitrary, but this one annoys me because it pretends to be scientific.

Whenever there is a list released in the mommyblogosphere, there’s a problem. There are hurt feelings, people don’t understand why the same people are included, or why one person was left off. This one is uniquely annoying in that it uses some kind of algorithm that makes it seem as though it should be credible, but in reality it’s just as flawed as the others. Influence manifests itself in a variety of ways, some more public than others. Some people are influential in a very public way. People can see how influential somebody like Oprah is in, say, female populations, because there isn’t a lot of shame in saying you like Oprah. But what if you were to try to track Oprah’s influence in a male population? You’d still get an idea that she’s influential, but it wouldn’t be an accurate portrait of how influential she is, because there are huge sections of the male population who are simply not going to cop to being Oprah fans.

5. Best of lists and tools to measure influence in social media are just traffic grabs and/or tools for lazy brands and marketers.

At best, the “best of” mommyblogger lists lead to a huge rush of traffic for Babble (and all of the other websites that publish them on a semi-regular basis). At worst, they are a means of giving marketers an easy and inaccurate way of figuring out who these supposedly powerful mommybloggers are that they should be targeting for their pitches. So all of those awful PR pitches that people like to complain about, in effect, can be traced back to these kinds of lists. It’s annoying. Everything about it is annoying. Stop giving these people credibility by acting as if the process is legitimate.

Hey everybody, we’ve got a new featured blogger ad up and running! Please check out April’s ad for April’s Little Family in the sidebar ASAP! If you’d like to participate in the ABDPBT View definition in a new window Featured Bloggers Program, please email me and I’ll put you on the waiting list.

A few things have come up over the past few days that demand some sharpening of points, it seems.

First, it seems that my post about the $5 per sponsored tweet program at BlogHer has been interpreted as an indictment chiefly on the low market price per tweet. I suppose this is a semi-reasonable assumption, given the title of the piece, and the fact that it was linked in Mir’s piece today at Work It, Mom! on getting paid what you are worth.

I want to clarify my point, though, since there has been some confusion. When I say I don’t think it’s “worth it” to participate in a program that pays you $5 to tweet a sponsored placement, I am saying I don’t think the hit you are going to take is worth it. I don’t mean that the “work” you’re doing isn’t worth $5 or that I am so wonderfully privileged that $5 means nothing to me, and please pass me my diamond-encrusted knickers and all of that. What I am saying is: this is a blog for people who hope to turn their personal blogs into money making ventures. And that kind of a venture depends upon something I am calling trust capital View definition in a new window. And in my mind, trust capital is jeopardized by sponsored content regardless of how much you get paid for it and regardless of how well placed it is and regardless of whether or not you use the product being promoted or not. And that trust capital has a street value of far, far more than that. Far far more than anything that anybody can pay you for your content column. I am saying trust capital is so valuable, that you should possibly not ever (ever!) put anything sponsored in the content column of your own blog.

Putting an ad in your sidebar is very different from writing a sponsored post. That’s why you get paid so much more for a content column placement. I have seen it argued that some people only make $20 or less per month from their BlogHer View definition in a new window Ads, and believe me I don’t doubt this. I still don’t think it is worth it to do a sponsored tweet, provided you want to be a professional blogger, and provided you value your trust capital. Because I think trust capital — the value of your content column (and the content of your tweets, and your Facebook status message) is worth more than that in the long run. I just do. It has nothing to do with being paid “what you’re worth.”

This is my opinion. You might not like it. I don’t really like it myself, in fact. I have done sponsored content on my personal blog and I was not particularly happy with the results, and I cannot articulate why without getting back to this idea of trust capital. It just does not work on some blogs and in some spaces, and as much as I don’t want that to be the case, I am increasingly finding it to be true. I am seeing more and more sponsored content that sucks. So I’m saying: I think people should think long and hard before they do it, regardless of how much they are being paid for it — whether it’s $5 or $50,000 — because I believe that it is going to be expensive for their blogs in the long run. You are running the risk of pissing off your audience, in my opinion, and it is much harder to get a new audience than it is to find a new way to monetize. I am just one person who thinks this. You have my permission to disagree.

But as far as the “classist” and social climbing accusations go, I’m going to have to take exception. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that my position is somewhat privileged, but get off your high horse: nobody who is participating in the $5 sponsored tweet-a-thon is doing it because the $20 they’ll receive from BlogHer 45 days from now is the last thing between them and the Welfare office. If that were the case, there are far more expedient measures of getting food to their tables, and I really hope they would explore those options before exploring further experiments in monetizing social media. Furthermore, I maintain that, if anything, my behavior on Twitter has always served to push me further into the gutter of social isolation, and I don’t understand how any of it could have been interpreted as being devised as social climbing –social sinking, maybe.

Freelance writing is different from writing sponsored posts on your blog. Freelancing or writing for pay on a website that is not your own is a different thing entirely from what I discuss on this blog. I don’t know anything about freelancing. If you would like advice on freelancing, check with a freelancing website. This is a blog that discusses issues pertinent to the business of blogging. If you aren’t planning on becoming a professional blogger, or if you are paid by somebody else to provide content for their blog, then you have a different set of considerations when you decide how to govern your behavior in the social media space.

The other day, we were talking about PR and whether or not mommybloggers should bother with going to these absurd events. I talked about how I had found myself suckered into wasting several hours of my own time on an event View definition in a new window recently and I couldn’t really understand how it had happened. In the course of the conversation, a story about a then-unnamed blogger who had done a sponsored post for Kenmore came up. What I had thought, originally, had happened was that this blogger had received a free washer/dryer set in exchange for writing a post. In my mind, this would have been a decent business trade, because that would work out to be like $2,500 for one post. In my book, that’s a good barter, and I’m not one of those people who throws stones about getting paid in gift cards or whatever. After discussing the matter with some other bloggers who had worked with Kenmore, I know that *at least in some cases*, washer/dryers have been given to bloggers in exchange for working with Kenmore. This doesn’t mean that this is the deal they have with every blogger, but I do know for a fact that it is a deal they offer to some bloggers, so it is not unreasonable to assume it was one that might have been the case here.

But then I realized that the original post has said that the washers had been a temporary “loan,” that it had been a “tryout,” for that blogger. So, this was an absurd situation in my mind because of the logistics of it all (did they come and take the old set out and store it in the backyard? did they take it off site? why would anyone agree to this? etc.). Why wouldn’t Kenmore just give the blogger the damn set? Why would they want to come off looking so cheap? I don’t know a lot about Kenmore as a brand, but I cannot imagine that they are working with so many bloggers that they cannot afford to give a blogger a washer/dryer set. But the post said it was a loaner, and then Jessica tweeted that she went out and bought the same set, in a different color, which also supported the idea that they hadn’t given her the set.

So, I thought I’d go to the source for three reasons: 1) to determine if the people at Kenmore are such fantastically smart marketing geniuses that they managed to get a Nielsen Power Mom to buy a set of washer/dryers based on a two month loaner period for which she wrote a long, otherwise uncompensated post on her blog; 2) to see if Jessica’s many claims of never working “for cheap or for free” are in fact true; and 3) because I know Jessica relishes hearing from me. So I wrote Jessica the following email:


I was hoping you could clear up some confusion regarding your relationship with Kenmore for a post I’m writing about compensation for working with brands. If you’d rather not, I of course understand. Here is what I’d like to know:

  • Did you get a washer/dryer set from them in exchange for working with them?
  • Was this a temporary loan situation, as is suggested by your post of March 11, 2010, or were you allowed to keep the washer/dryer set?
  • If it was temporary, how were the logistics of this worked out? Did they move your previous washer/dryer set into your backyard in the interim, or off site? Were arrangements made to put the set back into your home at the end of the trial period?
  • If the set was in fact a compensation for working with Kenmore, why did you suggest that it was a temporary loan? Also, why did you then purchase another of the same washer/dryer set model, and announce this on Twitter?

Thanks for all of your help on this matter.


Here’s her response:

Make something up.

You always do.

Blame my iPhone or my colluge

I made sure to confirm with her that it was OK to quote her on this, and she said sure. I also asked Kenmore to comment on the matter. After some back and forth about the actual content of my post, I finally just told the Kenmore representative that what I wanted to know was whether or not the washer/dryer set had been given to Gottlieb or not. (I don’t have clearance to post the email exchange here, or else I would). I did not get a comment one way or the other on that matter as of the time of this post; if one comes in, I will update the post to reflect it. I *would* like to note that whomever is running the @KenmoreConnect twitter account had an opportunity to correct any misconceptions when Gottlieb tweeted about it, but failed to do so.

Who Cares?

Here’s why I care about this: obviously there are many people who aren’t telling the truth here, which fine, not everybody has to disclose all of the details of the deals they make. But, practice what you preach. If you don’t want to be paid via barter, like you got on the Eleven Moms last year for doing with gift cards, then practice what you preach. If you want to be thought of as a good businessperson, then don’t work for free. Don’t just SAY that you don’t work for free — DON’T WORK FOR FREE. Do not, for example, write a long post about Lexus on your blog for which you are not being compensated (except being invited to go to a PR event). Do not let somebody put a washer/dryer set in your house for a few months and write a post about it and then go out buy the same set, and call yourself a good businesswoman. Because that’s a dumb deal. It’s a bad deal. That’s WORSE than working for free. That’s walking away from your relationship with a brand one blog post and $2,500 poorer.

Unless, of course, you DID get the set to keep, in which case — good for you. Just be honest about it.

If you DID get to keep the set, why on EARTH would you lie about it? And why on EARTH would Kenmore go along with it? Furthermore, why are you making your (god only knows who these people are) legions of followers read about Lexus if you’re not being paid by them? Are you trying to make them think that you are? And if you ARE being paid by Lexus, why are you not disclosing? Either you are working for free or you are breaking the law — you choose.

No more smoke and mirrors. The empress has no clothes. They’re still in her dryer. That she might have gotten for free. I’m still not sure.

UPDATE: This is in from Kenmore:

I can’t really refute information directly without knowing what the information is. But here are the facts:

  1. We loaned Jessica one of our new washer/dryer sets for two months to try out
  2. She donated her old top-load washer and dryer to (her friend @hardlynormal works there)
  3. She liked the washer/dryer and purchased a new set of the same model in a different color for herself (hence the tweet regarding purchasing a new set)
  4. Admittedly, the loan period did stretch longer than the planned two months, as Jessica didn’t have a chance to pick up her new machines and the plan was to pick up the test models when the new ones were delivered

For those of you playing at home, this means that all of Gottlieb’s claims about the washer relationship have (thankfully) been true. It also means that Kenmore is being truthful.

The claims about not working for “cheap or for free,” though, not so much. Because Kenmore lowballed her and she took the deal.

UPDATE: Here’s the You Tube video where Jessica shows us her laundry room that she’s having remodeled to accommodate her loaner set of washers from Kenmore:

FURTHER UPDATE: The receipt has now been posted by she who does not work for cheap or for free.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: I wrote this post without realizing that one of the many times Gottlieb had criticized bloggers working for free was with the Brand Ambassador Program for Sears (which owns Kenmore). Is that irony, or Alanis Irony? Or what? How many days have we been doing this now? Which way is up?

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