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  • Let’s Focus More on Human Behavior, Less on Algorithms

    Over the last week or so, I’ve read a lot about posts from people trying to decipher what a statistical algorithm means about their influence and credibility.

    “Oh no. Klout says I’m a 49 but I thought I was a 55.”

    “My score went down. Should I be on Facebook more? Will Klout like me more if I’m there?”

    “Some guy says I should be on Tumblr because he theorizes Klout likes Tumblr.”

    Stop. Now. Breathe. And let’s gain some real perspective.

    I’m on and into the influence measurement sites just like many of you. I don’t completely discount them as irrelevant crud as others might. But I also don’t sit here and question my self-worth based on a single number created by someone far away who doesn’t know me, my business or my customer.

    I won’t allow anyone to do that. And neither should you.

    Instead, I see them for what they are – interesting tools that help provide a rough guideline of reach and impact in relation to others. But they aren’t everything.

    So rather than dismiss all influence scores with the wave of a hand, balance your thinking with the big picture, using these principles:

    1) It is a waste of time to try to outsmart algorithms.

    This is akin to people who think they know exactly what is in Google’s “brain.” They obsess over algorithms and think of how they can stay one step ahead of those algorithms.

    But while they’re doing all that obsessing over statistics, they forget about human behavior.

    You know – life. While some are thinking endlessly about getting their numbers up, other people are getting their meetings up and interacting. They’re taking meetings, learning about one another, seeing if they’re a good fit to do business with. They’re studying feelings, motivations and emotional reasons for why potential customers do the things they do – or don’t do.

    And along the way, business transactions are happening. Regardless of whether he’s ranked a “34” and she’s ranked a “63.”

    This is not to suggest at all that you should operate without any awareness of these statistics. It’s fine to make reasonable deductions and take actions based on how the algorithm behaves. For example, we know that Google tends to favor newer content rather than content that hasn’t been changed in a very long time. We can feel confident enough that a change won’t happen that calls that line of thinking into question but more importantly, we create new content because it’s good business for trying to build credibility and relationships.

    2) Stop focusing on elements outside of your control.

    Engineers in Silicon Valley are going to make changes to algorithms and that is going to affect you one way or another. Get used to that and accept it. But don’t let it define you. If you’re asking “what do I have to do to please you” to a website that scores you, you’re placing way too much importance on it.

    Remember, relationships are more stable and controllable by you. You can actively choose to pick up the phone, send an email, take a meeting and close a deal. Those can go up and down too, but at least you have more impact on the parties involved.

    3) People don’t buy algorithms. They buy people.

    Content and conversations is what I’m talking about. We make satisfying human connections based on what we write, we create, we present, we communicate with one another.

    I’ll grant that an algorithm such as the one belonging to Google may lead to a website in which you are found. But does that automatically translate into a relationship? Hardly. That still takes a person of talent, skill, charisma and understanding. Not a computer’s algorithm.

    Particularly within social media, we live in a world that is always thirsting for more science, more metrics and more definition for where we all belong. As we do, it can be fascinating and exciting.

    And yet, for all that stats that can describe us, if you’re trying to tell a great story of who you are, the core of that story will be built around how you made someone else’s life better through that personal interaction.

    I’d say that’s one compelling thing to be measured by.

    Dan Gershenson is a Chicago-based consultant focused on brand strategy and content marketing. Dan has guided a variety of CEOs and Marketing Directors at small to medium-sized companies, providing hundreds of strategic plans to help businesses identify their best niches and areas of opportunity. Dan blogs on Chicago Brander, mentors advertising students and cheers relentlessly for the Chicago Bears. Dan graduated from Drake University with a degree in Advertising

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