Yesterday, I did something I didn’t think I’d ever feel comfortable doing: I tweeted and Tumbl’d a photo of my Klout score as it stands now — to make a point.
What you’re looking at here is the Score Analysis chart of my Klout Score as it appeared between December 29, 2011 and January 26, 2012 — or, from the time my employment wound down at KGO-TV, the ABC-owned local station in San Francisco, to the time of my employment at Reuters.
See that sharp, increasing line in the middle of the graph? That represents the time period in-between January 9, 2012 and January 10, 2012, when my employment at Reuters was made public through a formal announcement.
I wish I had the chart to show it, but my Klout score used to be in the upper-60s prior to my eight-month career with the Disney-ABC Television Group (prior to May 2011). It fell sharply to the low-to-mid-50s during my time there, but has steadily increased over the past two weeks that I’ve been with Reuters.
So what happened, and what does this all mean?
The ABC Era
One of the reasons I was hired by KGO-TV was due to this social media supplement I had attached to my resume during the application process (if you’re a digital journalist or a social media expert, and you don’t have a social media supplement, you should definitely create one). Their impression by both my social following and my reach to other audiences landed me the job.
But I found it difficult to balance out the day-to-day tasks of uploading wire stories to the web, cutting videos from shows, fixing errors in stories, transcribing reporter packages from a TiVo and maintaining a personal social brand. This difficulty was enhanced thanks to several discussions and emails with management at KGO, who were less than supportive of maintaining a personal brand (“I need you to cut down on the amount you’re tweeting while you’re working,” one email from management read. “I need you focused on your job.”).
There were several behind-closed-door discussions and back-and-forth emails about my Twitter methods, the sort of language I’d use in certain tweets, the frequency at which tweets went out and whether or not it was acceptable to mention or tweet competitors. In responding to the criticism, I made sure to let my managers know that I thought their viewpoints were valid, but I never suggested that I agreed with them.
I think the bureaucracy, mixed with stagnant progression on the perception of social media at Disney-ABC, led to a decline in influence by way of my personal brand on Twitter. That was definitely disappointing, as I had hoped it would be perceived as a benefit to the company and the station, not as a disturbance.
(I know this is mainly about Twitter and influence, but while we’re on the topic, there’s a misconception that needs to be cleared up: Management at KGO never told me I had to stop publishing to Tumblr. The company never said I couldn’t either, and I never said on Tumblr that they did. The reason I closed it is because, like Twitter, I wasn’t being encouraged to keep it up and I couldn’t dedicate enough time to the product. I don’t like ‘partially-doing’ things, I like making things work, and if I can’t dedicate time to a project, I’d rather not do it at all.)
I’m not saying Disney-ABC was bad to work for. In the end, we perceived things differently, and it just didn’t work out.
The Reuters Era
So why the sudden jump in Twitter influence, as measured by Klout?
I get the feeling it has to do less to do with the size and reputation of the organization, and more to do with the position I was hired for mixed in with the progressive attitude the company takes when it comes to its own journalists using social platforms.
The company gives its employees room to breathe. I’ve seen several colleagues tweet things at Reuters that would never be allowed at KGO and would be frowned upon by the higher-ups at Disney-ABC, but this company recognizes that a little heartburn is expected now and then with the trade-off of allowing your people to be people — with personalities, opinions and thoughts.
The trade-off works. People like Social Media Editor Anthony De Rosa (disclosure: my boss) and Director of News Product Alex Leo have created an amazing dotcom product and built a tremendous community on various social platforms — including their own. Their personality and transparency plays a large part in why people follow them, and why Reuters content does well when either of them tweet or Facebook or tumble it out.
Anthony, Alex and many other journalists at Reuters also act as the face of the brand — news consumers feel a connection with them as human beings, not as robots, because they’re allowed to be raw and transparent on their social products. The fact that they’re allowed to set aside time in their day to contribute to those products helps.
Another organization that has found similar success is NBC. The most visible individuals behind the brand on social platforms that aren’t on television include Anthony Quintano, Ryan Osborn and new hire Craig Kanalley. Each one brings a different personality to NBC’s social platforms — a colleague recently described Anthony as the rebel, Ryan as the diplomat and Craig as the strategist — and those personalities play out and attract follows and subscribers.
As it is with Reuters, all of that is good for NBC’s social media presence: A place where people are people yields better returns more than a policy where people are encouraged to be robotic. A place where, in this new age of social media, trust is built less through structure and more through raw, human interaction.
If you want proof of that, just look at my Klout score.
Food for thought: When you call a customer service line, do you want to spend five minutes sorting through an automated, robotic system or would you rather spend eight minutes speaking with a human being?