Do Your Readers Have Klout?

We are all looking to spread the word about books and by now we’ve all realized that a significant part of this (if not most of it) happens online.

When I worked as a publicist (back when a fax machine was an essential tool) I often sent review copies not just to my media list but also to key people with influence who might be the catalyst for word of mouth. I think this was common practice even though it was difficult to measuring its efficacy. Did I send this book to the right people? Did they tell anyone about it?

But now, at least online, it is now easier to spot the right influencers.

You can look up how many Facebook friends or Twitter followers a person has, but this isn’t necessarily an indicator of whether someone is being listened to. But with the advent of Klout, PeerIndex and Twitter Grader, you can now tell how influential individuals are and on which topics. Companies are already on these social media analytics platforms looking up their audience members and customers to target those with the highest ranking.

Of course, it’s not without it’s critics. The New York Times pointed out:

To some, it’s an inspiring tool—one that’s encouraging the democratization of influence. No longer must you be a celebrity, a politician or a media personality to be considered influential. […] To critics, social scoring is a brave new technoworld, where your rating could help determine how well you are treated by everyone with whom you interact.

But it’s a useful tool nonetheless. Publishers and retailers need to identify key influencers and recognize the value of building especially strong relationships with these people. It sounds less cut-throat and utilitarian when you think of it as engaging with your most passionate audience members, those who spend time sharing opinions, news and sentiments on what is relevant to your business with their peers.

Technology Forum 2011 speaker and marketing visionary Mitch Joel had this to say last week:

Whether we like these new tools of measuring influence or even if we grapple with the true definition of what an influencer is, this is going to be an increasingly powerful way for brands and individuals to better understand who they’re connected to and what those groups of people do.

And I think publishers and retailers need to keep this in mind when interacting online and promoting books, events, contests and festivals. It’s not just the media and bloggers who will help spread the word – it’s regular people tweeting their little hearts out.