True Reach

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With the cyber world continuing to grow, bloggers increasing in numbers faster than bunnies in spring, and social media platforms dictating our (well) social and business lives, it was just a matter of time before we began finding ways to measure and quantify our perceived coolness. Enter Klout. Sure, I resented having to join yet “one more thing,” but I was quickly hooked. I enjoy clicking on pals and giving them their deserved kudos, and I am fascinated by the slight numeric changes in my own profile. I recognize there are ruthless algorithms underneath its cheerful exterior, but that intrigues the part of my brain sadly, rarely accessed – after all, it doesn’t take a math nerd to make a grilled cheese sandwich.

What Klout (and sites like it) do, is take our online presence from social media sites like Facebook, Youtube, blogs, and beyond, and pull numbers of views, hits, shares, followers, etc to determine the “real” level of your influence. I imagine it’s also somehow tied into search engine results for your name, identity, topics, and more. Folks can also log onto the site and give you “klout” in topics where the site determines you already have some sort of influence. All this data is then gathered to measure what they call “True Reach.” Isn’t that a wonderful term? “True Reach.” Is it really “true?” Wait, I thought we weren’t supposed to believe anything on the internet.

Whether true or not, “True Reach” is an interesting concept. I mean, I hope no one out there thought their thousands of followers actually read, watched, and shared whatever it is they post or tweet. We know that can’t be true, as we ourselves scroll at lightening speed past all that we “follow” to get to the juicy things which actually hold our interest. So, sure, it goes both ways. Personally I’m glad there is a way to measure (at some level) what kind of influence I might actually have, so I might grow that influence in different ways. [To begin with, I plan to use the word Klout as often as possible in this blog to, in fact, up my clout on “klout” … on Klout.]

But here is my question: can we ever, really measure our influence on the web or in life? Right now my Klout (Klout, Klout, Klout) score is 53 – not bad, not great. My “True Reach” has decreased by about 1000 in the last month, which makes sense, since I ignored cyberspace throughout the holiday. But let’s see: I still carry a strong influence in “Broadway,” a high level of influence in “Music” and “Disney,” and (hmmm) a very low influence in “Glamour,” which makes me feel like perhaps there are cameras in my house as I sit and type this article unshowered and in need of a root touch-up. (These guys are good!) But there it is … me … a socialmedia-blogging-mom-singer/actress-hyphenate-whirlwind. Or is it?

If that is “True Reach,” what is my real true reach … or yours? We affect and influence people and their behavior with our every action in every moment. You might be particularly kind to the cashier at your grocery store, it might brighten her mood, and she might go home and be a little more patient with her children … all because of you. That’s true. The opposite could also be true. But whatever the story, I’m fairly certain you never get a thank you note (or hate mail) from that woman’s children, so do you ever really know your effect and influence?

One thing I love and appreciate about what Georgia and I do for a living is that, on occasion, we may actually hear from someone about what kind of effect we have had on them. I don’t mean a fan letter or a terrible review in the New York Times. Both of those happen. That is the glamour and goop of show biz. No, what I mean in this instance is that totally unexpected letter or email that comes and changes what you believe is true about our reach as people.

I received this email just over a month ago. My only hesitation in sharing is that I don’t want this to seem self-congratulatory, rather my intention is to demonstrate how we never know our potential to affect others.
[note: Personal details are edited out to protect the privacy of the individual and his workplace.]

Dear Susan,
Hi, I'm a teacher over in the UK. I currently teach Year 4, which is made up of eight and nine year olds, in quite a rurally deprived area. The kids I teach don't have the opportunity to experience a wide variety of culture (for lots of different reasons) so to compensate for this we have 5 minutes after lunch everyday for them to just listen to different pieces of music, from lots of different cultures, composers and genres. Whilst they're listening they can just be still or they can draw what they hear or doodle. It calms them down whilst also giving them the opportunity to experience music they wouldn't normally listen to or have available at home.

I just thought I'd let you know that currently “Momsense” is the No.1 choice in class for their afternoon music! We played it to them last week and there was lots of laughter and then afterwards we discussed whether their mums ever said things like that to them – we had quite a long discussion. Today when I was searching my iPod for an applicable piece of music to listen to, lots of them shouted out “Momsense.” This time, instead of laughter we got complete silence as they were concentrating hard on to listen to all the lyrics and then when the song had finished they all dissolved into laughter. It was very cute! Then we had our first Christmas play rehearsal, which was less cute and rather appalling but that's another story.

Anyway, I just thought I'd share this with you just so that you know that your music is reaching an audience not just over in the U.S but also in the U.K and maybe in places where you might not imagine! I hope you don't mind me sharing your music with my class (they also like Taylor the Latte Boy as well!) – and I also hope you don't mind me sharing this experience with you!

This letter blew me away because not only did it come from an area where I never imagined my CD being played, but also because the topic: lack of funds for arts education, trying to help shape kids in the right direction – all this speaks to me as an artist and mom – they are soapbox topics for me.

Interestingly, around the same time, Anita Renfroe, the clever and hilarious comedienne who wrote the lyric to Momsense, had been in communication with me (via our representatives) about her concerns that I was singing her signature piece. While the laws of published/recorded material are crystal clear dictating I may record and perform the song as long as I pay her publishing fees (and I happily do!), I can understand that she feels an affinity for the brilliant tune she penned. While there wasn’t an opportunity to do so, I wanted to share this letter with her, because I think it demonstrates first that we have different demographics – I’m singing this for audiences she might not reach, just as she reaches crowds who care nothing of Broadway – so really there is no threat to her if I perform the song. On the contrary, I literally sing her praises and hope that people will go look her up and become fans. In essence, I hope I’m furthering her reach. But far more importantly, her song has connected with a young group of British school children, who have little access to the arts, and it has made them think, and laugh, and consider music in a way they hadn’t before. I cannot place a value on that, but it is beyond what I hoped for with the CD. Who knows how those kids might pay that forward? And even if they never listen to a song in that way again, it’s enough.
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But what struck me most was, what if this kind teacher had not taken the time to correspond with me, to extend his reach; I would never have known the story. I imagine most people never have the chance to actually sit down and write that letter – not to me  — and not to you for all you do. Face it, we aren’t thanked the vast majority of the time … but I don’t think we need to be. We should just remember that we all have reach, that it goes far, that it is immeasurable (sorry Klout), profound and very much true.

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