Here’s a minor caution on any scoring mechanism. I mention Klout because it’s got mindshare, but it applies to anything which attempts to rate people by influence.

Innovation has a low Klout score.

You won’t spot the next hottest thing by Klout score. Like all scoring mechanisms of its kind, Klout scores are trailing indicators, which means that by the time the score is high enough for you to notice, it’s too late to get in on the ground floor of an opportunity. It’s just like a stock price in many ways – by the time the stock price is high enough to be really valuable and noticeable, it’s too late to buy in and reap the early adopter rewards.

The same is true for case studies. If you’re waiting for the definitive case study of how to be the market leader, then the market leader isn’t going to be you. The case study is a trailing indicator of success, not a leading indicator.

Trailing indicators are great – they tell you what has worked, they help you to refine processes and fix things that are broken in your current processes. These are invaluable attributes that make them an essential part of your marketing mix. Klout score, PageRank, stock price, AdAge 150 listing, web analytics data – all of these are very effective at telling you what has happened.

The problem is, if you’re looking for what is going to happen, what the clues are to the future, and how you can be ahead of the competition, none of these numbers will be of help. Here’s an obvious example: Spotify.

Spotify | Klout Influence Report

Suppose you are a music blogger who wanted to find the next trend in music marketing. On July 5 (assuming you hadn’t been following the news and were just trolling Klout scores), if you had been looking for influencers of a score of 75 or more as an indicator of future music trends, you would have missed Spotify. The only reason Spotify was even scored highly at all was that it had already launched in Europe and other parts of the world.

Imagine what’s out there right now that’s scoring in the low 20s and 30s on Klout: startups in near-stealth mode, new ventures, a brand new social service that is just beginning to get a bit of mindshare. The bottom line is, you won’t find them with Klout or any other rear-facing, trailing indicator – and the opportunity to get in early will pass you by.

Does that mean you should abandon trailing indicators? Of course not. But if you want to find the future, you have to instead be looking at trendspotters, listening and watching to people who are experimenting with new stuff all the time. The only way to find what’s innovative and new is to listen a lot, explore, and try new things.

Who knows? Perhaps you’ll discover the next big thing – and 6 months after it launches and you’re the industry expert on it, your Klout score might go up, too.


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