This is Episode 14 of the Social Pros Podcast : Real People Doing Real Work in Social Media. This episode features Jason Falls, the founder and principal of Social Media Explorer. Read on for insights from Jason, and more information about his Explore conferences that are happening around the country.
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Huge thanks to data-driven social media management software company Argyle Social for their presenting sponsorship, as well as Infusionsoft and Jim Kukral at DigitalBookLaunch. We use Argyle Social for our social engagement; we use Infusionsoft for our email; and Jim is our guest host for the podcast and a smart guy).
Social Pros Transcript For Your Reading Enjoyment, Thanks to Speechpad for the Transcription
Eric: Good afternoon or good night, depending on where and when you’re listening. My name is Eric Boggs, and welcome to Social Pros podcast, episode #14. Joining us today is the uncanny Jason Falls of Social Media Explorer, who probably requires no introduction to our listeners. Also pitch-hitting for Jay Baer is the venerable Jim Kukral of digitalbooklaunch.com.
Jim’s been a guest host with us before, and he’ll be chiming in shortly. Before we get going, special thanks to our sponsors, which includes my company, Argyle Social, developers of data driven social media marketing software; Infusionsoft, developers of email marketing automation software; and Jim. Jim Kukral of Digital Book Launch. Jim, while I’m thanking you as a sponsor, I guess it’s a good time to welcome you into the call.
Jim: Thank you. Please, go ahead and spell venerable.
Eric: Hey, man. This is not a spelling bee.
Eric: I lost a spelling bee in sixth grade because I misspelled Petunia, and that still sticks with me.
Jim: Now I’ve got to go look it up.
Eric: Normally we kick these shows off with Jay ranting about something. That is sort of a sacred thing for Jay. I’m too tired and not really in a ranting mood, so we’re going to skip right ahead to our special guest, Mr. Jason Falls, whom doesn’t require an introduction, but I will begin with an anecdote. The first time I ever met Jason was actually on a Skype call just like this. 30 seconds into the call, he made an incredibly offensive joke, and I’ve loved him ever since.
Special Guest: Jason Falls, Social Media Explorer
Jason: Now you’ve got to repeat the joke, I don’t even remember what it was.
Eric: No. I think this is the second or third time I’ve actually introduced you in front of a crowd, Jason, and I’m not going to repeat the joke. Sorry.
Jason: OK. That’s fine. I’m glad Jay starts off with a rant because that’s not beneath me. I would be more than happy to wax poetic on whatever you’d like me to rant on today.
Eric: Well, you have the floor. If you want to rant, we’ll just sit here and listen.
Jason: Well, we could. The thing that’s hot on my mind right now is what I blogged about today on Social Media Explorer, which is the problems with social profiling. It sparked a little bit of a discussion and debate because I think I probably, as I sometimes and want to do, took the point that I was trying to make a little further than I probably really meant to, or should have. That’s kind of one of the things I try to do is poke people so that they think a little differently and deeper about these issues. Jeremiah Owyang wrote a really nice post last week on what social profiling will do, how it will work in the real world. So, services like Klout and Kred that put a number to your social influence.
He was basically saying, with augmented reality and the technology that’s available today, we’re already seeing companies who are saying, OK. The customer in the back of the line has a Klout score of 75, the customer in the middle of the line has a Klout score of 17. We’re going to let the customer with 75 skip the line, because they’re more impactful online. I kind of went off on this post a little bit. It’s not a rant post. It’s actually well thought out, I think anyway, or at least most people have told me today that they thought it was well thought out. My position on Klout and other measurement services like that, that try to measure influence, it has always been that they are just one way of looking at the data. I’m not saying Klout is good, bad, or indifferent. I like a lot of what Klout has to offer, but services like Klout factor in six, eight, 10 data points, and put together an algorithm that scores them and ranks them, and so on and so forth, and gives you a number. Klout currently, I think, takes in, I don’t know, six, eight social networks.
Jason: …and tries to give you a score of how influential you are on social networking. That’s just one way of looking at the data of influence. I’m going to pick on Klout specifically, just a little bit here because that’s the one that everybody sort of seems to talk about. They’re the market leader.
Eric: It’s by far the biggest, and has raised the most money.
Jason: Absolutely. Joe Fernandez, I’ve talked to him about this, he’s their CEO, several times. I like Joe, and I think Joe understands where I’m coming from. I don’t think he disagrees with me. I’m probably a little bit more passionately skeptical about what they’re doing than he is, obviously. What you have to understand about Klout, and services like Klout, is Klout is limited to reaching residents on social networks online. It’s further only limited to a handful of them. It does not measure offline influence. It doesn’t measure your influence through email, through word-of-mouth marketing, through publishing, whether that be online or offline. It doesn’t factor in the influence that your company brings with it, behind your name, the name recognition of you or your company, and so on.
I make a point in the post, it doesn’t measure whether or not you’re connected to the Mafia. There’s so many different areas of influence that come into our lives that it doesn’t measure. We need to understand that going in. Which is why, I hear stories like that of Sam Fiorella, who was profiled in a piece in Wired Magazine, and also in Mark Schaefer‘s new book, “Return on Influence“. About how he lost out on a potential job at a marketing agency because his Klout score wasn’t high enough for the person that was actually filtering and hiring that position. When I hear stories like that, it makes me just slap my forehead. The data that you’re looking at for a Klout score or services like it, is so limited that there’s no way you could draw massive conclusions about a person, like whether or not they’re qualified for a job, based on that particular number. Go ahead.
Jim: It blows me away though, man. It just absolutely blows me away that someone would make that, sorry to interrupt you, but that someone would actually make that distinction. I come from the Internet marketing aspect of all of this stuff, and social media is a small part of what I do. At the end of the day, it’s about results, not scores and stuff. Klout is the Alexa ranking of social media. You know? Let’s be honest, if non-geeky Internet people don’t know what Alexa ranking is, it’s this metric system that is only quantified by this tool bar at .0001% of the world has. People walk around saying, “Hey, I’ve got a high Alexa score.” It’s like, “Yeah? Big deal.” It means nothing. This is the same exact thing I see here. I can’t believe people are doing that.
Jason: Yeah. It really is sad that there are, and actually Sam, in the comments today, actually came in and commented a little bit, and there are other companies that are doing it. He found a job posting, I think somewhere online, that one of the requirements was, Klout score will be factored into our decision. Which, I don’t necessarily think that factoring Klout score into the decision is altogether bad. I just hope you’re not basing the majority of the decision, or even a large part of the decision on that. It’s one piece of data.
Jim: Where’s that coming from? I’ve got to be honest, I teach social media for University of San Francisco. Where are these people who are creating these RFP’s getting that from? I can’t imagine that somebody taught them to do that.
Jason: Well, I think it’s just the fact that Klout, to Joe and his team’s credit, have done a very good job of sort of infiltrating the mainstream mindset. They have been written about and talked about in places like Fast Company and Wired, and so on and so forth. So, people who are not sort of in the echo-chamber, as it were, where we have a tendency to play and read blogs, and so on and so forth. They hear Klout and think, oh if you have a high Klout score, you are influential, because they see little mentions of Klout in very brief snippets. They would see a quick story on CNN that mentions, oh the Klout is doing this, and it measures your influence. If you have a high Klout score, you could get perks from American Airlines, or whatever, and they think, oh high Klout means that person is better. They don’t actually think, they don’t actually take the time. Again, it’s not just marketers and business owners, it’s everyone in the whole world right now. We are all looking for the easy button. We will not take the time to sit down and read the entire email, or click through and try to find out what is exactly behind this Klout score thing. We just take the media snippet and say, “oh high Klout means this person is more important, therefore I’m going to judge people based on their Klout score.”
Eric: I want to chime in briefly with a devil’s advocate position.
Eric: If people thought about credit scores the way they thought about Klout scores, we would have anarchy on our hands.
Eric: So, do you think this is a tempest in a teapot? A minute ago you said Klout’s sort of mainstream appeal. I would argue that their mainstream appeal is the mainstream of a very, very small, and very, very nerdy online marketing segment of the actual mainstream.
Jason: Well, I think you’re right, but I also think when I say mainstream appeal, I think outside of that sort of nerdy echo-chamber. I think that they’ve done such a good job of getting publicity beyond the technology world, beyond the blogs that we read and the world that we sort of commiserate with other in. I don’t know that my mother-in-law right now, really knows what Klout is, but I bet my brother-in-law does, and he doesn’t read Tech Crunch and he’s not on Twitter, etc., etc. He probably knows what Klout is because he reads Wired and Fast Company, and so on and so forth.
Jason: So, he sees that and goes, oh well if I enhance my online footprint through my Facebook or my LinkedIn connections, or whatever, I could get a higher Klout score and I might be able to get a deal from Netflix or whatever as a result.
Jason: So, I think they’ve infiltrated a market that was it really smart to infiltrate quite frankly, from a market standpoint.
Jason: They’re getting a lot of clout with a C, in areas where they need to, in order to have a mainstream push. Which the people who are investing in them obviously like to see, because they don’t just want to be relevant to the tech sector.
Jason: I do think, to your question, this is a tempest in a teapot to a degree. Where I think I took my blog post today, sort of over the line a little bit, was that I likened social profiling of basically hearkening back to Jeremiah’s post. Where a clerk at a store can actually look through the viewfinder of their iPhone and through augmented reality a year or two from now and see everyone’s Klout score appearing above their head as they shop in the person’s store, I sort of likened that to racial profiling.
Jason: I basically say in the piece that if we are going to allow technology overlays to help us judge people based on their appearance, which is what this is.
Then I think we are inviting the legal system to tear us apart. We are inviting Congress to say, “You can’t do that.” Because every time in the history of the United States when we have had some sort of system set up to judge people based on how they look, Congress has come in and said, ”This is not right.” Quite frankly, rightfully so, they’ve come in and said, “You can’t do this. This is not fair. This is not right and this is not accurate, and Civil Rights laws apply here.” I think we could be, potentially, now I don’t think we are necessarily, but we could potentially be opening a can of worms here, that invites the legal system and Congress into our business.
Eric: I’ll tell you. If there ever was an inopportune time for online marketers to open yet another can of worms with Congress, it’s now. With all of the ending cookie legislation happening in the European Union and the beginnings of that starting to bubble up in the United States Congress, we don’t need more. We need less attention around online marketing.
Jim: They’re already in it. I’m on the affiliate side, and they’re in with Amazon and all of that stuff. They’ve got laws passed in states and they’re going for the gusto, man. Jason’s right. When you start opening that door, eventually. They’re looking for any possible crack in that door, so they can stick their foot in, because at the end of the day the government wants the money. They want a piece of everything that goes on in the Internet, and they’re not getting that.
Eric: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I love it. This is turning into the conspiracy theory episode of Social Pros. I want to keep pushing a little bit, Jason, and I think someone brought this up in one of the comments on your post. Marketers do segmentation and targeting based on things much more, either much better or much worse depending on your perspective, than an inaccurate social score. For example, when I was accepted into graduate school, evidently that showed up somewhere in my credit report or something. Even today, a couple years after graduation, I still get three credit card solicitations in the mail every single day. It’s because I have an advanced degree. That’s very personal, very private information that all of these credit agencies have access to, and of course all of these marketers have access to through God knows what sort of back channels exist. I’m sure it would be horrifying if we knew the whole story. So, is this not just a logical progression, this online influence, or is it really as sinister as you think?
Jason: Well, I think it’s a logical progression. I don’t think there’s a whole lot of sinister intent here, but keep in mind that anytime you put something in the hands of human beings, someone’s going to screw it up. Human beings are infinitely fallible, and there’s always someone out there with ulterior motives. While, yes I know, and this is again just an idea. I may be completely wrong here. I hope I am. But yes, marketers are currently using segmentation and targeting based on your income, your education, your lifestyle, and even your race quite frankly.
Jason: And age, and so on and so forth. So marketers are using that information to segment and treat you differently than other prospective customers. What I think Klout and services like it do, social profiling. If it opens the door for legislators and government to come in and say, “Wait a minute. We don’t like the fact that you’re playing favorites here.” I think online influence metrics like Klout could open the door for the government to come in and do a full-scale war against marketing and say, ”You can’t use this at all for anything. You cannot racially profile, period. You cannot profile by age, period, whether it’s online or offline.”
I don’t know that that’s necessarily the wrong course of action for a government to take, quite frankly.
Jim: Hot dang. This is interesting.
Jason: I’m telling you the next 10 years are going to be really, really challenging for not just Internet marketers, but marketers.
Jason: …because this whole world of social media is new. Which means, the government, the courts, and legislation and what not, they’re always about 10 years behind the new waves.
Jason: OK? So the clue train was about 12 years ago, so social media marketing really sort of reached its initial implementations online about maybe 10 years ago, nine years ago. So now the courts are starting to catch up. We saw the court case, I think it was in Seattle or maybe in Portland, Portland I believe it was, earlier this year of the blogger who did not want to reveal the source.
Jason: Because they thought they should be protected like journalists. Unfortunately the young lady thought she didn’t need representation in a court of law and lost the case. We’re starting to see the courts get a hold of some of these hot button issues that cross and blur those lines in the legal world. I think online influence scoring is going to be one of those things that some Congress person somewhere is going to see that they have a 21 Klout score, and their opponent has a 54, and they’re going to lose their shit over it.
Jason: They’re going to enact some legislation that says, “This is inappropriate profiling.” Then, all of a sudden, if you think SOPA was a mess. Oh my God.
Eric: Oh, yeah.
Jason: Wait until some of these online marketing metrics and tactics, and what not even in the affiliate world, watch Congress get a hold of those and really investigate and understand what happens.
Jason: They will go ape nut crazy trying to legislate what we’re doing online.
Eric: Yeah. No one kills the golden goose more quickly than a marketer. I think you are exactly correct when you say that this is a natural progression, that quite honestly could be very powerful. If you talk to a lot of marketing academics, or people that have been in this business for a while, they have this really interesting perspective around marketing-as-service.
Eric: Really, marketing can be a service. I’m interested in buying a new car, for example. It might actually be useful for me to get targeted ads about specific new cars based on my personal information, my family’s information. Marketing through that lens can be viewed as a service. The reality is that most marketers aren’t that good.
Jason: That’s right.
Eric: You give them more data, you’re basically just giving them more rope to hang themselves.
Jason: That’s true. I think the other main problem, especially in the online marketing world, and Jim I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Is I think that what we’ve done, what websites, and marketers, and companies have done over the years, especially with Google, it makes more sense for Google to track your user behavior online so that they can present more relevant search results to you. I get that, we get that, we understand that from a marketing perspective. However, the mainstream general public doesn’t get that. They don’t understand that Google might be watching them. I don’t think Google or any other website service out there has ever done a very good job of letting people opt out.
Jason: They give them that option, but it’s always hidden on some 27th click-through in their settings. Now the Facebook privacy kerfuffles have sort of brought that to light for a lot of people. I bet you never thought you would hear the word kerfuffle on this show.
Eric: I’m pretty sure it’s been used before, but we did use venerable earlier.
Jason: That’s true.
Eric: …for some of you said.
Jason: The Facebook thing has brought that to light for a lot of people, but I still think the average website user, the average web user, social networking user, etc., etc., doesn’t get it. You have to make it really, really easy for them to understand, and then you have to hold their hand and walk them through it for them to understand, wait a minute. We’re tracking what you’re doing, and because of that we’re able to present more relevant advertisements, and offers, and content to you. Are you OK with that?
Jason: Most people don’t realize that Google and Facebook, and other websites are doing that. I think when the government realizes that web companies have not been as apparent and forth-coming as they should have been, to give people the option to opt-in rather than opt-out, then I think we’re going to be in a whole world of trouble too.
Jim: You’re right. People don’t know. Here’s the other truth is, they really don’t care. Until it affects them in a way that’s negative, in terms of spam or some type of interruption. The truth is that, as an internet marketer you learn people just don’t want to be interrupted and they don’t want to have stuff given to them that’s not relevant. That’s where good marketing comes in, when you can deliver relevant, high quality content or ads or whatever to a person that needs or wants that. That’s my definition of doing good marketing. If I use the re-targeting ad, that one across three websites to give you an ad because I knew you were looking at Chevy Tahoes, then I think that’s fine.
Jim: The line comes when all of a sudden now I have your email address that I didn’t get. Obviously I’m spamming you. The other thing is Google Plus was invented specifically for the fact that Google didn’t have Facebook’s data. Facebook knew if you liked Coca-Cola and everything else in the world, and they can run targeted ads to you. Google said, “Wow, we have to have that. We can’t scrape that from Facebook.”
Jim: So that’s why they invented it. You’re exactly right, Jason. The future of search, as according to Matt Cutts and Google, is social recommendations. You are going to get results based upon what your friends in your circles that you’re connected with have shared. I see it every single day now. That’s why I always say, everybody’s got to have that Google Plus account.
Eric: Let’s change gears, but this is good stuff. It’ll be interesting to get Jay’s take. We might have to do a recap of this to get Jay’s two cents in the next episode. Jason, tell us a little bit about the conferences that you’ve got going on. I was at Explore Nashville. It was great. I know you’ve got some other ones coming up this year.
Jason: Yeah. We’ve tried to take a stab at giving people a different option in the sort of social media digital marketing conference out there. Our events are called Explore. We had Explore Nashville a couple weeks ago. We’ve got Explore Minneapolis coming up in Minnesota on August 16th and 17th. (editor’s note: Jay will be speaking) Then, we’ll be in Irvine, California in October, and then Portland, Oregon in November. Basically what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to push the thinking. That’s the challenge that I’ve given the speakers. That we don’t want to talk about the same stuff over and over again. We want to challenge marketers and business owners, and marketing decision makers out there, to not only produce better digital marketing and more meaningful digital marketing, but do it in more creative ways. Measure it more infinitely so that you can be able to optimize and tweak and be better at what you’re doing, trying to connect those audiences with your message and/or your product. I think we’ve started to strike a cord. A couple of the pieces of feedback that we’ve gotten from participants and sponsors alike is, this is a different event. It sounds different, it looks different, and we walk away from here feeling a little bit more energized than we have in a conference for a while. We know that conferences and events, there’s a ton of them out there. We know we’ve got a lot of competition, but we think we’re doing something a little neat and a little different. Pushing the thinking both from a speaker standpoint, so we’re challenging them to be better as speakers, and from an audience standpoint. People are walking away from the event I think thinking about digital marketing a little differently.
Eric: I’ve always been curious about the business behind the conference world.
Eric: Are you sort of throwing darts at the United States, picking these cities, or do you have anchor sponsors or anchor clients there? Are you strategically targeting Nashville and Minneapolis?
Jason: Honestly, what my philosophy has been in picking locations is I want to make social media and digital marketing expertise more accessible to people. Not that there’s not perfectly good experts and agencies and what not in all of these towns, because there are. I mean, hell, Minneapolis, they’ve got just a ton of smart people there.
Jason: Lee Odden and Arik Hanson, and so on and so forth. Albert Maruggi, I’m sure somebody’s going to yell at me for not mentioning him. What I wanted to do, is I wanted to go to cities where national conferences either aren’t or aren’t stopping, or they’re underserved by sort of the national touring speakers, if you will.
Jason: Obviously, the bigger the market, the more of an audience you have to choose from. So we started out in Dallas, we are doing Minneapolis, but instead of doing L.A., we thought, hey let’s go to the O.C. Let’s go down to Irvine because there’s a lot of companies there, there’s a lot of marketers there. But they often get told, well if you want to go to a conference like this, you have to come to L.A.
So we’re just going to go to Irvine.
Jason: It was really just trying to find cities that had a nice population base certainly, had some nice brands certainly. But we felt may be a little underserved by the type of content that we’re delivering.
Jim: Hey, Jason. I’ve got a question. Who’s the show for? Is it executives?
Is it for small business owners? Who’s the best target?
Jason: The best target is going to be the medium to large business marketing decision maker. That could be the CEO, it could be the CMO, it could be the Director of Marketing. We don’t usually use the term marketing decision maker in our literature because that’s kind of one of those sort of amorphous terms that you can apply in different situations. It’s the person who’s going to make decisions on your marketing, whether it’s how we’re going to strategically go to market, whether it’s what kind of tools we’re going to select and purchase to use. The person who’s going to make that call from a direction and a budgetary standpoint is, I think, who our ideal sweet spot person is. However, probably about 25 to 30% of our audience is made up of that person.
Then, we also certainly have a number of small businesses, a number of business owners, a number of community manager, social media manager, director types, aand then, sort of the gambit of the marketing professionals. So, your Directors of Marketing, maybe your Public Relations Director. There’s obviously going to be some agency and PR firm folks in the room, but it’s anyone who is involved with high-level decision making for marketing, PR, and communications campaigns, particularly in the digital world. We’ve had everyone from 101 nubes who have no clue what we’re talking about, who have walked away saying, “Man, I learned so much. I don’t understand it all, but I at least have, my brain is firing.”
Jason: Some of our speakers walk away from our events saying, “Man, I learned a ton today.” So, we’re pushing the envelope on even the expert level thinking. To a degree. I wouldn’t say that Jim Kukral is going to come to this thing and walk away with a whole new cadre of knowledge, but at the same time I think he’ll get some stuff out of it.
Jim: Well, I can’t wait to come. How come we didn’t start that other conference we hatched at dinner in Washington?
Jason: Oh, yeah. Was it the booze conference?
Jason: What was it called?
Jason: Drunkly. That’s right. We’re going to do a conference called Drunkly and it we’ll just get together and drink. Which is what most conferences end up being.
Eric: I was going to say that I’m pretty sure that’s why most people go to conferences. So, Jason I really appreciate you taking the time to be on the show. Well, one last question. We like to wrap things up asking our guests for a Social Pro’s shout out. Off the top of your head, give us two or three people you’re reading, books you’re reading, things that are making you think online.
Social Pros Shout Outs
Jason: Ooh, that’s good. OK. I’ve got to start out with Roger Dooley, who wrote a book and has a blog called “Brainfluence:100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Customers with Neuromarketing”. So, he gets into how your brain works, and why you make decisions, or why consumers make decisions, and how marketers can capitalize on that. I don’t read books very quickly. I read a chapter and then put it down for a week, and then come back and read another chapter. I’m working my way through Brainfluence right now, and I think it’s just flat awesome. Roger’s really, really smart.
I also am falling in love with another book that I’m piece mailing my reading of, “Small Town Rules”, which is by Barry Moltz and Becky McCray. I’m from a small town in Eastern Kentucky. A lot of what I’ve been preaching over the last few years on how you can take sort of that small town approach to just being a genuine member of the community. They’ve taken those ideas, not from me necessarily, because Becky lives in a small town too, and they’ve put it into a book. I think they’re subtitle is something along the lines of how brands and businesses can prosper in today’s economy, where you can have those sort of small town ethics and approach business. The principles in this book are like things my mom taught me growing up.
Jason: I’ve fallen in love with that book, and I just think it’s awesome. So I think those two books are the two big shout outs for me. That’s where my brain is right now.
Eric: Awesome. Very cool Thanks for sharing.
Jason: No. No problem.
Eric: We’ll wrap it up with that. Jim Kukral, thank you very much for guest hosting.
Jim: Thank you.
Eric: Jason Falls, thank you very much for being the super special, all star guest.
Jason: I’m super special in the short bus way, though. Right?
Eric: Exactly. Exactly. Next week our guest is Marcus Sheridan, also known as The Sales Lion. I’ve never met Marcus but look forward to doing the show with him. Special thanks to our sponsors, Jim Kukral, who was on the show today, Infusionsoft, and my beloved company, Argyle Social. Thanks, guys for tuning in and we’ll talk to you again soon.