Fun with Klout

I’m not going to bash Klout. plenty of others have done that already, and besides, I like getting free stuff, so, more power to them!  I just want to have fun with them.

A few weeks ago, I did a post about Wikipedia’s fundraising ads, entitled Jimmy Wales, Serial Killer?, which got retweeted by a few people. Well, thanks to that, Klout decided that “Wales” and “Serial Killer” were topics I was influential about (sorry, didn’t get a “before” snapshot). Now, they weren’t among my top 3, which were “Social Media”, “Internet Marketing” and “SEO”, but it was in my top 15.

I decided to have a little fun with it, so I posted on Twitter and Facebook, and sent out a shareholder mail on Empire Avenue, asking people to give me +K in “Wales” and “Serial Killer”. Within 5 minutes:



I think, though, I may have overdone it, because within an hour:


LOL! Oh well. makes for a great blog post. I wonder what kind of perks that’ll trigger for them to send me?

Feel free to +K me in Social Media and help me get back to normal. Or not. 🙂

UPDATE: In case you were wondering what happened to Klout, they got acquired by Lithium, which is now Khoros. They sunsetted Klout in 2018.

How to Create an Effective Internet Presence

This is a couple of years old, but still highly relevant and a great step-by-step guide/checklist.


How NOT to Launch a Social Media Marketing Agency

I’m not in the practice of being overly critical, and certainly not mean or snarky. But sometimes someone does something so completely, utterly incompetent or misguided that it’s worth pointing out, for their own good as well as being an example for the general public.

That happened yesterday. Short version of the story: an established PR and marketing agency is launching a new social media marketing agency – “Buzzphoria”. They announced themselves with an advertisement on HARO (Help A Reporter Out), an email newsletter with about 50,000 media-savvy subscribers.

Only problem is, they weren’t ready – not even close. Their blog (once you find it) still has the default WordPress “Hello, world!” post. They don’t have a Twitter account. They don’t have any social media links on their site to connect with them. They didn’t do themselves any favors with that ad.

For the full story, with screenshots, see Buzzphoria Social Media Reality Check on my personal blog.

Gender Differences in Networking – Live Call Tuesday, July 24

Do men and women network differently? I think we all intuitively know that there’s some truth to this, but what are the facts? What can men and women learn from each other to improve their networking skills, as well as how to relate to each other better in a business context?

On Tuesday, July 24, 1pm PST/4pm EST, I’ll be a guest on FCGM Small Business Radio, along with Lynn Terry of the Self-Starters Weekly Tips Forum and host Scharlene Redway of Full Circle Global Mentoring, discussing this issue.

You can listen as well as call in with live questions at (718) 664-9874 or

We’ll talk about some interesting survey results from ExecuNet that indicate there are some substantial differences, as well as the phenomenon that of top 50 connectors on LinkedIn, only two are women.

Hope to see you there!

Survey Findings: Transactional Trust in Social Commerce

I wrote last week about the initial findings of the survey on transactional trust in social commerce (eBay and other online auctions; craigslist and other classifieds; social networking, et al.) that I did for Rapleaf. Today we’re releasing the full findings:

Transactional Trust in Social Commerce
(PDF, 13 pages, 113K – Right-click and Save Link As or Save Target As to download)

The major conclusions from the study:

Transactional trust appears to be much more important to buyers than to sellers in a social commerce setting. The top four issues for buyers to determine trust all ranked higher in importance than the number one issue for sellers. The average of the top five issues was 18% more important to buyers than sellers. Sellers are also significantly less likely to research buyers prior to completing the transaction. And only 37% of sellers have ever decided not to do business with someone due to a lack of trust, versus 71% of buyers.

This seems to have a good basis in fact. Only 43% of sellers reported ever having any actual trouble with buyers, while 61% of buyers reported experiencing an actual problem with the seller.

The ways in which buyers and sellers determine trust is very similar, though. Ranking the nine factors considered for both buyers and sellers, not one single factor varied by more than two ranks between buyers and sellers (note: buyer rank excludes the two items not relevant to sellers):

Factors in determining trust
compared between buyers and sellers
Factor Buyer rank Seller rank
Posted ratings of the buyer 1 2
Reputation of the site or publication 2 3
Payment method you are using 3 1
Endorsements/testimonials 4 6
Intuition/gut-level reaction/prayer 5 4
E-mail or phone call with the buyer 6 5
Outside research of the buyer 7 8
Prior knowledge of the buyer 8 7
Personal appearance of the buyer 9 9

Payment – how the money is handled – is the highest priority for sellers. Recommended ways of improving payment trust included the use of PayPal, credit card or other secure payment method. For larger transactions in particular, many people wanted easier-to-use, more affordable escrow systems.

For buyers, relevant history – a track record, a reputation – is most important. Three of the top four issues for buyers are related to this (two related to the individual seller and one to the agent site handling the advertisement or transaction).

In the free-form responses as to what could best be done to improve transactional trust in social commerce, everything is centered on having a persistent, verifiable identity and history. While anonymity may feel safer for buyers and some sellers, it’s not conducive to building trust. Ideally, buyers and sellers both want to see:
– Verified identity
– Valid contact information – street address, phone, web site and e-mail
– Online social presence
– Feedback from others you’re done business with
– Ratings as a simple way to aggregate that feedback

If you’re not prepared to provide all that, you may not be prepared for social commerce in the coming years.

Rapleaf Transactional Trust Survey Results

My focus is normally on how people build trust over the course of virtual relationships, but the fact of the matter is that millions of transactions occur online every day between complete strangers, initiated through sites like craigslist, Elance, and dozens of other online auctions, classifieds, social networking sites, and so on. It’s one thing to do business with a well-established brand like Amazon or Best Buy, but how do people create “transactional trust” in these person-to-person situations, when they have so little to go on?

I was recently commissioned by Rapleaf, creators of a portable reputation system that allows you to develop and show your reputation across multiple sites, to conduct a survey to answer exactly that question. The following is a press release going out today that highlights some of the findings of the survey:

Survey Shows Ratings Are the #1 Way Classified and Auction Buyers Determine Trust (When Available)

In an independent survey of users of online classifieds, auctions and social networking sites commissioned by Rapleaf, buyers said that posted ratings are the most important factor in determining their level of trust in sellers.

“I like to see seller ratings and reviews,” said one buyer. “The social proof is very valuable.”

Among buyers, 67% selected ratings of the seller as “very important”, with an additional 25% labeling it “somewhat important”. The reputation of the site itself, rather than of the individual seller, was also an important factor for determining trust, with 63% rating it as “very important”. The payment method being used was a close third. Other factors considered included the quality of the ad, an e-mail or phone call with the seller, endorsements and testimonials, web research of the seller, and intuition/prayer/gut reaction.

For sellers, the payment method being used was the most important factor, with 81% rating it as somewhat or very important. Posted ratings of the buyer was a close second at 77%.

Trust is definitely a challenge for these sites. Over 70% of buyers reported not doing business with a seller because they didn’t get a good sense of trust. 50% of buyers reported an experience in which the product wasn’t accurately pictured or described. Rudeness, defective goods and non-delivery of goods were each cited by more than 20% of buyers.

“Credibility is key,” wrote one respondent, “and I think it’s difficult to establish in a classified ad. How can you develop trust in you, your product, your service, in just a few lines?”

For some, the trust issues prevent their participation entirely:

“I have never done it because I am afraid,” said one respondent. “Not only do I worry that I will lose my money, but I am not sure of the quality of the product or that I will even get the product delivered. Anything that will remove fear, ensure quality, build trust into the transaction would help!”

Sellers also frequently experience problems with buyers. Almost 50% of sellers reported having an experience with flakey buyers. Other top problems sellers cited included rudeness (38%), refusal to pay previously negotiated price (32%), and harassment (19%).

Several respondents expressed a desire to have ratings be available across sites. In response to the question, “What one or two things do you feel could be done to best increase the trust between buyers and sellers,” replies included:

“I like eBay’s feedback concept, although I wish there was a centralized version of this, so I could see how their feedback looks from other places (craigslist sales, Barnes and Nobles used book sales, etc.) and so people could take their feedback scores with them.”

“Reputations systems are important, and being able to understand a person’s reputation across multiple sites would be a boon (in other words, to blend, say, MySpace ratings and eBay ratings).”

“Some sort of due diligence, much like eBay’s rating system. I think also that it would be good to have some sort of overall trusted vendor rating for use on the entire internet.”

“People want to build trust with those that they buy, sell, and barter with,” said Auren Hoffman, CEO of Rapleaf. “Ratings are a proven way of doing that. We rate books on Amazon, electronics on, and restaurants on Yelp. As more and more business is done between individuals on the Internet, rather than just with large e-tailers, rating people is the natural next step.”

Rapleaf is a free portable reputation system for e-commerce that allows buyers and sellers to rate one another. Getting rated and getting a Rapleaf score can help facilitate a greater level of trust among other buyers and sellers.

For the complete results of the survey or more information on Rapleaf, contact:

Auren Hoffman
(415) 578-4562

UPDATE 7/21/2006: The full report of the survey has now been published:
Transactional Trust in Social Commerce

Are You Googling Your Privacy Away?

Eric Shahinian wrote some detailed notes on last night’s panel on “Are You Googling Your Privacy Away?” for the New York County Lawyers’ Association / Cyberspace Law Committee.

Mark Grossman, Partner, Dewitt Grossman, P.L.

(To stay current with tech law issues, ask Mark Grossman to add you to his mailing newsletter. His email is mgrossman (at) )

To discuss recent news, let’s look at the new Sprint Family Locator. Who is concerned? Doubtful. Many of you probably feel that it’s a sign of relief, that now I will know where my spouse or kid is in an instant. But it’s more serious. Think divorce litigation. You claimed to be at work, but your phone says you were at the Holiday Inn. Curious. I wonder what you could’ve been doing. Many issues come up as to: is my provider allowed to disclose information if I don’t want them to? Is there any way to stop them? This is only the beginning.

To add on to the discussion of the actual cost to store this information, we are talking a tremendous amount of space. This information therefore must be worth it, and it is. It is worth an incredible amount.

The EU operates differently than the U.S. In Spain, this isn’t an issue. We are in a different culture, people easily spread their information. is a great example. 75 million users and growing, all of which have given out readily accessible information, that can deduce other information that can say so very much.

There are tons of things to improve in the industry, but we need to focus on one thing in particular, and politics has a great deal to do with it. I am a moderate Democrat, and my views reflect that position. This is truly a debate on choice. Yes, some people prefer to have their information known in order for companies not to waste their time by trying to sell a consumer things that person does not want. That is fine. As I will say again, the question is, if you didn’t want your information shared, could you stop it? No. If the information was lost or stolen, would you want to know? Yes. Could you? Probably not.

I recommend Webwasher and as useful tools to combat the concerns.

I would love it if the bookstore owner knew what I wanted and would pick out books for me. It is the same thing now. But it isn’t one piece of data, they are compiling vast amounts of information.

Harry Valetk, Director, Privacy Online, Entertainment Software Rating Board

Everything can be tracked. This isn’t just web pages here. This concerns call records, email records, search queries. It is all saved, it is never really deleted. Google doesn’t delete a thing. They have compiled detailed profiles of every imaginable characteristic.

What has emerged as the controversy over internet cache is truly, how can they sell this to someone? This is private information. But now think back 20 years. Often times a business’ greatest asset was their mailing list. Especially for a marketer. It is the crux of their modern marketing business.

Raj Goel, CTO, Brainlink International, Inc.

What I find most fascinating, something that most people don’t catch on to, is who would want this information from people, aside from marketers and thief’s? Easy to answer: the government. Surprising how most people never realize they provide the demand for most of this information.

A good analogy of this industry and discussion is to the automotive industry. We are at the equivalent right now of having just got a new Cadillac (picture this 40 years ago), driving 90 mph, and this was years and years before seatbelts and airbags. What a dangerous situation indeed.

What is most frightening about Google is not their basic search, it is Gmail. Does anyone have Google? Who got an invitation? It is invitation only. But wait, look at this, if you provide your cell phone number, they will send you an invitation? Ever realize they could easily just give you an invitation on the website? They want your number. Google doesn’t want to be a search engine. It wants to be the largest database in the world. They already know more about you than you may know. Under legislation email must be kept private, under legal documentation, Gmail isn’t an email account, it is a database. Notice how the top link in Gmail happens to work very nicely with your tastes. Something in your email revealed that. Check the fine print.

So what’s worse than Gmail? Google Desktop. Yeah it’s great, and efficient. But it gives Google “the keys to your life”. You make yourself so vulnerable to issues. Ever realize how you can view deleted emails from a long time ago, or find web pages you may have view briefly? All which has been “deleted” truly was not. It is saved for many, many years.

Remember the litigation facing Google, in which they refused to give over user data? Don’t feel safe, it is because it is too valuable to them, not you. But what is not discussed is the National Security Letter they likely received, forcing them to give over the information, and forcing them not to discuss the situation.

To hit home, I know most people have medical information they don’t want disclosed. I did work for a healthcare provider, and trust me, your information, minus any psych evaluation, is in at least 5 countries.

Cleaning Up the Board

The Washington Post had an interesting article last week, Cleaning Up the Board, about how and other sites are cleaning up sexually-oriented content on their sites in order to appease advertisers and investors.

While Tribe started as a more “open” site, last December they implemented a new, strictier Terms of Service and began policing profiles more closely (and many would say inconsistently). This prompted some of the long-time members to start their own open-source, unrestricted (well, no child porn, no stalking, etc.) site,

“Our advertisers and our investors aren’t particularly happy with the adult content there,” said Darian Patchin, spokesman for Tribe Networks Inc., which runs the Web site. “We needed to do something that enables us to be a successful business and that our investors are okay with.”

In the I-told-you-so category, when we first profiled Tribe more than two years ago, we wrote:

Tribe’s biggest challenge is in creating effective and appropriate boundaries for business networking. On the one hand, they obviously want to encourage and support business networking, as demonstrated by the substantial professional profile section.

On the other hand, while it is possible to designate profiles and tribes as mature content, many that probably should be designated as such are not. Profanity and sexuality are not at all uncommon, even in seemingly unlikely places, and “trolling” (posting deliberately irrelevant and/or inflammatory message) is far more common here than on other business-oriented networks. One member, in response to a serious business question on the Bloggers tribe, responded to the poster with, “You, sir, resemble a cream puff.”

This may be a non-issue for the predominantly young male tech-savvy Californians, but “it won’t play in Poughkeepsie,” as the saying goes.

MySpace went through a similar cleanup recently, again for the wrong reason.

I’m glad there are sites like around, and I wish they didn’t feel like they needed to go outside the U.S. for hosting. Censorship is bad. On the other hand, for most people, explicit photos and pictures don’t mix well with business (unless that is their business). This shouldn’t have taken 2-3 years to figure out.

Curious about customers and colleagues

According to a new study from Harris Interactive and metasearch engine Dogpile, 23 percent of U.S. adults have used the Internet to search for information about their customers, co-workers, potential employees, and supervisors.

Reasons for Searching Employees
Why did you search for
information about the
following person or people?
Curiosity 52%
Researching the background
of a job candidate
Looking for specific information
(i.e. address or phone number)
Researching to find a new job
or prepare for a job interview
Checking out a rumor 21%
Other 17%
Base: Respondents who have searched
for an employee or potential employee.
Source: Harris Interactive/ Dogpile

While I suppose I’m not really surprised that the number is so low, I’m thinking, “What the heck is everybody else doing?” — particularly when it comes to potential hires (only 10 percent do this). I can’t even conceive of hiring somebody without doing an Internet search on them, and yet 90% of employers don’t. That’s insane. It takes all of five minutes and may tell you all kinds of information about them that’s not on their resume — both good and bad.

What was particularly interesting, though, is that the most common reason people do this is not as background checks or looking for contact information, but mere curiosity. Curiosity is all well and good, but again, I’m just amazed that more people aren’t more purposeful in what they’re doing. Less than half of the respondents did it for background research or to prepare for a job interview. Again, that’s just crazy. Never go into a job interview, or a sales presentation, without getting every bit of information you can on the company in general and the specific people you’re meeting with.

It’s cliché, I know, but knowledge really is power.

Paying to pump up your profile

An article (subscription required) in Monday’s Wall Street Journal tells of the new virtual cottage industry that has grown up around helping people present themselves better in online dating sites.

Services like,, and are getting anywhere from $60 to $120 for online profile make-overs. is growing like crazy offering professional portrait photography optimized for online presentation for a very affordable $129.

We’ve written before extensively about the parallels between online dating and online business networking. Trends on the business side seem to follow trends on the romance side by 6-12 months.

The first signs are already there. LookBetterOnline is doing more and more business headshots and recently entered a co-branding deal with Ryze. Free peer reviews of profiles have become very popular on the Using Ryze Effectively Network, and have even sparked a dedicated Profile Critique Club on Ecademy.

I caught some flak from some people when I wrote back in April that education is the next big thing in online social networking. People thought I was just being self-promotional. 😉 Now, I’ve got folks like Mitchell Levy, Flip Filipowski, and the execs at LinkedIn, Ecademy, and several other sites agreeing with me. This is the direction we’re headed.

If there’s any business value at all in using online social networking tools, then there’s going to be a need (and corresponding business opportunity) for training on the topic — everything from over-hauling your Ryze profile to making effective email introductions to referral netiquette on LinkedIn and Spoke, etc. There’s especially going to be an opportunity around training for particular business functions and career objectives: business development, marketing, sales, job search, etc.

As I was discussing with Mitchell Levy today, a mature marketplace ends up with not only the core products/services for sale, but a robust eco-system of complementary adjunct products and services around it, a la eBay, and now online dating. Mark my words, you’ll see the same thing on the business side of online networking maturing in the next 6-12 months, and I’ll be there.

Oops, I just gave away my business plan…