What you need to know about Facebook recommendations

I'm a member of many Facebook groups and something that seems to be happening a lot lately is that people are feeling really frustrated that people they've hired based on suggestions from Facebook groups have turned out to not be good hires at all. 

People are understandably annoyed and want to talk about the bad service they've received. Today I don't want to talk about what to do once you're unhappy, I want to talk about how you need to view online recommendations and what I believe you need to keep in mind when you're looking to hire someone new so that you aren't put in that position on the first place!

Asking for recommendations on social media

One of the reasons I love social media is because it's an amazing place to go and find information from people you know. It's how we recently started getting quotes for a new roof, it's how we found a plumber when our shower started leaking, it's how I find guests for my podcast, and so on and so forth.

Having the ability to go and ask people who you should talk to is AMAZING and takes out a lot of the research that I don't want to do.

But here's the thing - sometimes people just tag (when they put a person's name down and it links to their account or their Facebook page) someone they know who does the thing you're asking about and they have no personal experience with that person. They aren't saying "I've used this person, I had a great experience, here's why!" They're saying "I know a person!! This is who it is!" sometimes they're even saying "I know a person and I really like them - this is who it is!!"

It is your responsibility to then take those recommendations and decide how much more information you need to make a decision.

What do I do with the information I get?

A few years ago there were a lot of people getting really frustrated with the new LinkedIn system of endorsements. They felt that they were meaningless and that people were misusing them. It inspired me to write a blog post about them, to explain why I thought they were great. 

Here is a direct quote from the other blog post and I think, word for word, it applies here as well:

It is important not to think that these are testimonials.  Most of the people who endorse you haven’t even worked with you.  Instead it is a way to know if what you’re putting out into the world is what you want.  

What does that mean? It means that people are saying they know a person does a thing. 

If someone tags me as a business coach but has never worked with me, what they're saying is "Hey, I know Lara Wellman is a business coach!" not "I've worked with Lara and she was great because xyz."

It means I've done a good job at getting my name out there for what I do (yay!)

So when people start tagging names when you ask for a recommendation, don't think those tags are worthless - they're a great place for you to start digging in deeper!

Sometimes people HAVE worked with those people. Sometimes you know based on the volume of tags that someone clearly has a pretty good reputation (or has done a great job at getting their name out there about what they do - that's what you need to make sure you distinguish).

Use the tags to make a list of who to find out more information about. Make sure you then talk to people who have actually worked with those people to get references.

Someone getting lots of tags in a Facebook group is NOT enough information to go on to feel like you did your due diligence. 

The sad truth

The reason this post is being written is because I hear a lot of stories about people who hired someone based on a lot of Facebook tags and then they got really bad service. I get private messages from frustrated clients and friends who have hired people without getting actual references, and it turns out that there are many people out there who have great cheerleaders without the follow through of great work to go with it.

When you're hiring someone new, make sure you know

1) What you want to have delivered.

2) What information will make you feel comfortable about working with the person (is it expertise and knowledge? is it quality? is it meeting timelines? is it customer service?)

3) How much risk you're willing to take (you may decide to hire someone based just on a few name tags and a conversation with them - that's ok too, but know that digging further will give you more assurances.)

Using Facebook to get recommendations is something I'm always going to continue doing, but understanding the difference between a straight tag, even if lots of people tagged a person and an actual story of experience is really important - make sure you take that next step to protect yourself!

Have you ever asked for recommendations on Facebook? How did it go?

The standard for influence: just what does that mean?

Today, there are a lot of Klout users looking at their scores with mixed feelings.

  • Some are angry. It's unacceptable to pull the rug out from under them with little explanation.

  • Some are seeing the backlash and wondering if they should care.

  • Some don't care. It's a number that doesn't affect them.

  • Some are concerned. That number does affect them - customers sometimes base their hiring decision on it.

  • Some are happy that they dodged a bullet. They either benefited from a score that didn't change or it actually went higher.

I would say I'm in a couple of these groups. Though it doesn't affect me, the changes still concern me.

Full disclosure: I check my Klout score almost daily. I'm not at all dependent on my Klout score to entice clients, so my reason for checking it is purely out of curiosity. I know, generally, what my activity is on various networks day-to-day and I check Klout to see how it is reading my activity. For a few days a month ago, I was up to 72! And that baffled me. I knew exactly why my score was so high and it was (absolutely unintentional) Klout manipulation if I ever saw it. Long story short, a tweet of mine went viral - at least four other people tweeted the same thing and all of us had that viral experience. Beyond inciting others to share that tweet, we influenced absolutely nothing.

That one day of hundreds of people retweeting a joke sent my Klout score up by 6 points. That experience colours my view of Klout more than anything else. Especially since I maintained a fairly steadily low-70s score for a full 30 days when my score then dropped 4 points to the 68 it was yesterday before Klout flipped the switch that saw me sliding down to 58 for the first time in - I don't know - six months or so. I've tried for over two years to get a feel for Klout without much success. I've been a skeptic of its usefulness since I first heard of it and connected my accounts.

I want to start with defining influence. According to Dictionary.com, influence (noun, verb) is:

  1. the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others:

  2. the action or process of producing effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of another or others

Klout's importance is debated pretty much ad infinitum. Arguments about its relative usefulness and merits have been taking place since before I ever heard about it. Presumably, based on the definitions, an influencer has the power to get people to take action. But measuring that is a challenge. Without context, it's impossible to know just what someone is influencing or which direction. I've had people tell me that something I said influenced a decision for them - sometimes one that they didn't know they needed to make - but that isn't reflected in our interactions on any social network. To measure influence, Klout would have to somehow climb into the inner workings of the minds of all of my followers to see what they're thinking about the things I share. The variables are complex and numerous which makes influence, in my opinion, inherently unmeasurable.

Reach, however, is actually measurable. Klout does measure reach, but it brands itself as "the standard for influence", which far too many marketers take seriously. Actually, I'm not bothered by Klout's branding as much as I am the literal interpretation of it by companies looking to work with influential people. I can see the meeting about a blogger outreach campaign with a wishlist of bloggers with at least XX Klout score and XXXX Twitter followers with no thought given to the context of those numbers.

I routinely see people follow me who have thousands upon thousands of followers, very few tweets and a Klout score of at least 50 or 60 (depending on which algorithm is in use on a given day) and often no engagement with followers. To me, that's a perfect example of someone who has gamed the system with various tools that are out there. It's a tactic that is getting wider use as people have learned how Klout and other influence metrics apps work. It's misleading and actually hurts people who have that genuine, unmeasurable influence.

In a very short, succinct and incredibly effective post, cleverly entitled "Kloutpocalypse 2011" (that's totally the title I would've used if they hadn't used it already...darn) expressed my own hope about the outcome in just a few words:
"Can we now all agree that using Klout scores for things like hiring decisions, or how to triage customer service complaints, is goofy? This should be a simple data point. One of many, and a starting off point, not an end in and of itself."

Well said. Ultimately, it doesn't make sense to rely on numbers without context. The context in social media is a little more time-consuming to obtain, but the end result is worth it if you want to find the right people. As much as Klout would like to be the standard for influence, CustomScoop is right that it should only be one data point of many. Additionally, if the algorithm is going to change on a regular basis with new networks and changes in the calculations, marketers need to be aware of those changes and adjust expectations accordingly.

Did your Klout score go up, down or stay the same? Based on that, what are your thoughts about the changes to Klout's algorithm?