It’s a corporate dream come true: imagine if a company could find out exactly which customers — and potential customers — could influence others.
If one could identify with precision those consumers who influence others in their buying decisions, one could make a fortune.
That’s the reasoning behind a number of new web-based projects that are basically watching all of us online, seeing what we do on Twitter and Facebook, and attempting to measure our influence.
These sites then find companies interested in knowing who are the “influencers” so they can tempt them with free samples and other perks.
But, as if often the case on the net, what was intended for one purpose can be used for an entirely different one. Take, for example, Klout (www.klout.com). Measuring our activity on Twitter, Facebook Linked In and other social networks, it rates every user on a scale from 0 to 100. The average rating, they say, is about 20. Super-famous celebrities can make it into the 80s or 90s.
Klout claims to measure “true reach” (how many people you influence), “amplification” (how much you influence them) and “network impact” (the influence of your network).
So, how are trade unions doing? Oddly enough, not badly. Topping the list of a random selection of a couple of dozen major unions are three based in the USA — the AFL-CIO (the American TUC), the Service Employees International Union, and Working America — an innovative community organizing project of the AFL-CIO. Those three are rated 70, 67 and 66.
But just below them are two British unions -— UNISON with 62 followed by PCS with 61. Unite is not far behind with 58. These are quite high numbers.
Toward the very bottom of the list — though still with above-average numbers — are global union federations like the IFJ (journalists), IMF (metal workers) and IUF (food workers), with ratings from 21-29. (The AWL rates higher than all of those, with a score of 33.)
In general the global trade union movement isn’t nearly as influential — according to Klout — as national unions. The International Trade Union Confederation, which represents 175 million workers, is rated as having less influence in social networks than LabourStart.
Unions that use the net well are considered more influential by Klout than unions that have massive numbers of members. So the tiny Industrial Workers of the World gets a high rating than the Canadian Auto Workers. But in the real world, the CAW is a far more influential group than the IWW.
Tools like Klout are going to get better, including more social networks (Linked In was only recently added). Unions will also get better about signing up their members a subscribers to their Twitter feeds and as fans of their Facebook pages.
When that happens, the gap between real-world influence and online “klout” will shrink.