Michael Silberman leads the Digital Mobilisation Lab at Greenpeace, a global team that works with Greenpeace and its allies in 42 countries to envision, develop, and test "people-powered" strategies to win campaigns. Follow @silbatron.
Tom is flying economy class from Hong Kong to San Francisco. After landing, he sees a text message from Cathay Pacific inviting him into their exclusive international lounge. He flashes his iPhone at the desk and proceeds to enjoy a hot shower and cold beer.
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Not more than a year ago, Tom started a popular Tumblr site to track and share ridiculous pictures of dogs wearing raincoats. The site -- and Tom's related twitter feed -- exploded in popularity after being featured on popular websites like Reddit. A Klout algorithm rapidly identified Tom as influential based on the high level of activity around his Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter feeds.
Tom's not real, but his story could be. That's because today a Klout score over 40 will open the doors to that same Cathay Lounge at SFO even if you didn't pay for a premium ticket.
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From shopping rewards to Facebook “likes,” we all generate treasure troves of data for businesses and anyone else interested in our time or money. Klout is just one company that mines this data with the aim of helping a user – along with businesses and organizations -- understand how "influential" he or she is. The point: to reward a user for their influence and to provide personal relevant information to marketers.
And this is just the beginning. It will only become harder to ignore the growing power of influence data. Here are three reasons marketers and campaigners should jump on the bandwagon.
1. All Data Matters
Like any good arms race, you can't afford not to collect available data on your users and supporters. Platforms like Salesforce, CoTweet, and Hootsuite already allow organizations and marketers to see Klout scores in their databases and in their social media flow.
Political campaigns in the U.S. have particularly obsessed over this type of data since the 2004 presidential election, when some entrepreneurial staffers on the George W. Bush campaign developed a micro-targeting strategy to identify influential voting blocs like the now-famous "independent soccer moms" based on hundreds of data points from consumer activity and voting histories.
In fact, in the last eight years, the amount of data that firms like TargetPoint and Catalist, which sell information to politicians, has tripled, from 300 unique data points on each voter in 2004 to more than 900 today.
Barack Obama's presidential campaign is reportedly on the brink of a related breakthrough in digital campaigning -- tying multiple data points together to provide more comprehensive profiles of voters to enable smarter campaigning. A project called Dashboard will integrate strands of voter, donor, and online supporter data typically housed in separate databases. If Dashboard works, the information a volunteer phone banker collects in a conversation with you about your likelihood to vote will be added to your donation history and email response history. A staffer will then be able to decide if you're worth including in a door-to-door canvass. The volunteer who knocks on your door could already have an idea of your passions and interests from the tweets linked to your database record.
The value path for this information may not be clear to every organization, but you can't play the game or experiment if you don't have the data.
2. Micro-targeting is the Future
As influence data becomes easier to access, organizations like NGOs and advocacy groups will have new incentives to get to know their supporters better. They'll engage known influencers for the same reasons that they'd seize the opportunity to bend the ear of a CEO or elected official's spouse: They are more likely than others to sway the opinion of a target.
When NGOs begin caring about their supporters' online influence, campaigners can upgrade their engagement strategies and begin building deeper, more productive relationships with segments of their supporter base.
Sure, most organizations know how to target subsets of their supporters. Most nonprofit digital directors should be able to tell you about their email list segmentation strategies, and about targeting communications based on number of actions taken or donation totals. Influence Data, however, means segmentation based on a range of behavioral data and expressed preferences, regardless of whether or not those preferences were expressed by a potential donor.
When these organizations learn more about visitors (and members/donors/activists) than they currently know, it means a richer experience for supporters. Just as Target uses customer data to provide pregnant moms with diaper deals, the NGOs you support could similarly be able to match up opportunities to make impact with people's ability and propensity to act. And more meaningful supporter experiences translate into all kinds of positive results -- bigger wins, higher supporter retention, and increased fundraising
3. Influence Networks Make Media
Another positive side effect of making so much data public about our relationships and connections (Zuckerberg's "social graph") is a campaigner's ability to map out and understand how media and information moves.
The first question that many campaigners asked after seeing Invisible Children's Kony 2012 video catapulted into the "most viral" video in history was “How.”
SocialFlow ran an analysis of the social media related to the video and found "dense clusters of activity that were essential to the message’s spread: Networks of youth that Invisible Children had been cultivating across the U.S. for years." The analysis also showed exactly how important celebrity tweets from people like Oprah and Justin Bieber were in making the video a viral success.
Similarly, Matt Stempeck at MIT was able to assess the role of the internet in making the Trayvon Martin shooting a national news story in the U.S..
Easy access to influence data and tools for analyzing that data gives new insight into how stories spread among key audiences and allows marketers to optimize their work. It won’t be long before communications directors are running automated network analyses to determine their outreach and organizing priorities.
This story originally published on Mashable here.