Elves and Klout and Parties and Whiners

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These orders are 12 bloody hours old! -Said by Captain Tupolev (Stellan Skarsgård) of the Russian sub that was sent to capture Captain Rameus (Sean Connery) in “The Hunt For Red October.” Kind of how I feel right now, as I write this in hour-one of my 13 hour flight to Tokyo, (around 11:45am EST Thursday,) and I know I won’t be in a place to post it until Friday around 4:30am EST.) Come on, Continental! In-flight Internet! Argh! But anyhow…

As some of you know, I’m throwing a holiday party next week in New York City, in conjunction with the Venetian and Palazzo Hotels in Las Vegas, Haworth in Michigan, Vocus in Maryland, Klout in San Francisco, Jet Blue in New York City, Nolcha in New York City, and a bunch of other companies.

Yawn. People throw parties sponsored by companies wanting to reach influential people every day. What makes this one so special that the usual gang of whiners and ranters are getting sand in their already-too-tight underwear? (Or in some cases, thongs?)

Well, this party has chosen about 75% of the attendees based on the attendees engagement and influence, as calculated by Klout. For those who don’t know about Klout, a great primer can be read here.

Now, mind you, I knew this was going to happen. I expected exactly four whiners to comment. So far, three (four, now that I’ve landed in Tokyo) of them have. (Thanks, guys. The free publicity you continue to give me as you scream like four-year-olds hasn’t gone unnoticed. If you send me your address, I’d like to send you something for the holidays…)

But what I find so funny is the following – In general, they’re stomping their little feet about four issues:

1) How dare someone throw a party that only certain people get invited to! Wah!

2) How dare a bunch of sponsors use a system of their choosing to decide who to invite to their own party! Wah!

3) How dare I not get invited! Wah! (OK, only one whiner actually came out and said that, but come on – You gotta believe they were all thinking it.) Double Wah!

4) Finally, How dare sponsors use such a small system of measurement – Just Facebook and Twitter, when there are so many other ways to measure engagement and influence! Wah!

So… Let’s dissect. Because quite frankly, all four of those reasons are so thin, they’re bordering on anorexic.

1) How dare someone throw a party that only certain people get invited to! Wah! The easiest in the world to examine. The beauty of this country, is that with the exception of going out and punching people who really, really deserve it, we’re pretty much free to do whatever we want, as people, and as companies. As long as it doesn’t violate the law, we pretty much have carte blanche.

Want to start a company? Go for it. Want to advertise your company? Go for it. Want to make people happy who have already proven themselves fans of the industry in which you’re company is in? Go for it.

And, most importantly, want to monitor what people are saying about your industry, and invite those people for an evening of celebration and merriment? Go for it! Why not?

The problem with most of the whiners’ arguments, is that they’re saying that the invites are going out based on people’s Klout scores alone. Simply not true. First off, I didn’t choose 90% of these guests. They were chosen by the party sponsors, using Klout as their reference. That said, I’ve also said from the beginning that I’ve never cared about the Klout NUMBER itself, nor should companies. It’s as irrelevant as follower numbers. (Remember, I coined the phrase “Number of Twitter followers are the new penis envy.“) The invites went out by sponsors based on what those invited were TALKING ABOUT. What they’re experts on. And I challenge anyone to tell me how that doesn’t make sense. If I’m an airline, and a person talks about airlines, and is a frequent flier, and his friends and colleagues listen to him and choose who to fly based on his recommendations, why shouldn’t that person get invited? Really not seeing the argument against this. But then, the whiners probably can’t, either. They just like to make noise.

2) How dare a bunch of sponsors use a system of their choosing to decide who to invite to their own party! Wah! Yeah. Free will. It’s a bitch, huh? Those sponsors. How dare they choose their own way of inviting people to parties. How dare they try something that’s never been tried before. How dare they innovate, get great press from it, and be pioneers! Those bastards! They killed Kenny!

OK then. Isn’t innovation and trying new things how every company in the world was ever built? And more importantly, what’s wrong with that? What if it works? What if there’s an increased awareness of the clients, and an increased awareness of the brands sponsoring the event? And what if that leads to increased sales and more business for the companies? Oh, the horror!

Who SHOULD the sponsors invite? People who have never spoken about their companies or their industries? Or should they just shoot a dart onto a board, and hope they find someone close to relevant? Not if a better system exists. Is Klout perfect? Of course not – Nothing is. But short of someone going on and recording what every single person says on the two biggest platforms for listening out there, this seems like a pretty good way to do things.

3) How dare I not get invited! Wah! (OK, only one came out and said that, but come on – You gotta believe they were all thinking it.) Double Wah! Life’s a bitch. Man up and grow a pair. I’ve been trying to go to the Oscars for the past 10 years, and I still haven’t. But I don’t use that as an excuse to write a bitchy blog post. Want to get better invites to better parties and industry functions? Do things that will cause you to get better invites. Become relevant. Become useful. Stop sounding like a five-year-old. Stop being a douche. Say interesting and important things. Make people notice you for good things. Crying like a little girl, I can pretty much guarantee you, isn’t a good thing.

See? I only devoted one paragraph to that one.

4) Finally, How dare sponsors use such a small system of measurement, just Facebook and Twitter, when there are so many other ways to measure engagement and influence! Wah! This is the one that really irks me – Get a bunch of complainers in a room together and let them go to town complaining about something – You know what happens? You get multiple blogs using words like “relevance,” “measurement,” “engagement,” “influence,” etc. Why? I think because they like hearing themselves use big words. Essentially, they’re using really big words to annoyingly ask a really small question.

Well, I believe Casey Stengel said it best when asked how to win baseball games – “You hit ’em where they aren’t.” In the world of influencers, engagement, and social media, you do the opposite – You hit ’em where they are.

Yes, there are bloggers out there. And several large brands have done a great job, over the course of several years, identifying which bloggers have influence, and including them on panels workshops, focus groups, etc. (Think GM, Sears, Pampers, etc.) And that’s great. There are also other fractured forms of media, all hosting a list of experts a mile wide – if you have the resources, time, and dedication to find them.

I decided to throw this party about 45 days ago. Why? Because people like parties. But because everyone throws parties, I decided to see if I couldn’t make it more interesting. So I set out to. And you know what was staring me in the face the whole time, jumping up and down and saying “use me!!”? Klout. Klout tracks Facebook and Twitter, and was able to tell me sponsors “hey, these people are talking, on Facebook and Twitter, about things right up your alley. And that’s FOR NOW. Give it a year, and Klout will probably be much, much more broad. It’ll probably have the ability to measure your engagement not only from Facebook and Twitter, but through various other outlets, as well. And when it does, it’ll be a much more robust platform. And I’m sure we all look forward to it.

For now, though, they’re focusing on Twitter and Facebook. Why? BECAUSE THAT’S WHERE MOST OF THE PEOPLE THEY WANT TO REACH ARE. There’s total and complete logic in that, because it works.

Look at it this way – You have 1000 influencers in a giant meeting hall, and three influencers somewhere in the city of Chicago. You can go after all 1000 influencers in the meeting hall in one swoop, or you can send roving teams into Chicago for a month or two or a year or three, hoping to find the three of them, if you’re lucky. The 1000 influencers? People who have spoken about specific industries in the past, either via Facebook or Twitter (And keep in mind, both places could (and usually do) link to outside sources like blogs, etc.) all in one place, or three people who aren’t in that room, somewhere around the city. Until a better net is cast, I’m going to hang out and look for my content generators and thought leaders in places where most people are.

Oh – And don’t tell me that we only talk “to ourselves” as thought leaders and influencers – I call BS on that. Why? Because as thought leaders, we’re also the ones who are called upon, on a regular basis, to go on TV, radio, print media, and the like, and share our views. The guest list for my party reads like a rolodex of a CNN producer – Just because we’re considered influencers online, don’t for a second think that means we’re not influencers in the other world, as well.

And there you go.

You know what the funniest part is? I’d actually like to invite the four whiners. I’m not saying they have the same level of influence that the majority of my guests do, (hating rarely makes you influential – and when it does, it still doesn’t work out that well, see Germany, around 1943….) But I’m of the belief that life is too short to hate. You guys wanna come to my party? All you have to do is reach out. I’m peter at shankman dot com. But I’m guessing you knew that already.

PS: I just landed in Tokyo, and had a chance to read the fourth whiner post today by a sad, sad little man who deliberately waited to post his whine until I was in the air. My other three whiners are invited. This one… Well, I’m afraid there’s not much to be done for him anymore. It’s better to let him fade away and die off alone. And based on several emails I’ve received today, it would seem I’m not alone in that thinking.

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