Klout isn’t only measuring us, it’s assessing us. It’s designed on behaviorist principles, with rewards and virtual pats on the head when we — ratlike, often not entirely sure what we did to warrant the praise — succeed on the terms its algorithm values, and framing losses in score with banners that proclaim, “Oh no! Your Klout has fallen -1 in the past 2 days!”
We are highly conditionable beings. Klout is conditioning us to care about Klout, and to value ourselves — in the identity economy of social media — in terms of it. It works to devalue the nature of many social media communities, particularly those whose networks and relationships aren’t based entirely in use value.
In the new Klout, I now get notices along the bottom of my screen about which of my contacts have gone down in score recently: in case I want to dump them, I assume, like dead weight. Bye, Mom! Farewell, shy cousin Ernie! Adios, infrequent Twitter user! It’s all business.
Social media wasn’t intended to be all business, especially business as usual. Social media is relational: Part of its phenomenal success is that it’s enabled people to connect on terms far beyond those of use-value networking.
But because Klout rewards use-value networking over other forms of engagement, it fosters an increasingly use-value environment. The peer-to-peer relationality of social media is undermined by the kind of behavior that cultivates status over relationships. Status is part of the game. But when it becomes the whole game, the broad, rhizomatic networks get boxed in and wither, and then we’re back to something a lot less interesting than social media. And like the new Google Reader, a lot less social.
Yes, there is a pattern here. We are gradually being directed away from sociality and toward businesslike behaviors by the business interests that design and profit from the platforms we use.
Social media, which was once a bit of a rogue blowing smoke at the establishment, is being taken in hand and given a tie and a briefcase. We’re like the rebel who’s been told s/he got the highest mark on a class test: We suddenly don’t know what to do with ourselves.
- Bonnie Stewart, Klout is bad for your soul
Stewart digs into Klout with real feeling, taking a highly detailed look at what social media ratings and rankings do to us, and it ain’t good.
- Klout’s Automatically Created Profiles Included Minors (nytimes.com)
- Out of Klout (nevillehobson.com)
These debates are both inevitable and unavoidable, since the continued expansion in the use of social networks completely flips the dynamic between customer and marketer, rendering many of the tried-and-true methods employed by the latter suddenly ineffective.
Many marketers don’t like it - at all. Nor do those who would like to consider (and advertise) themselves as ‘influential’ care to find that their Klout score is not as reflective of their perceived greatness as they’d like it to be.
So a backlash has begun. Which is also inevitable.
However, if one thinks it through, it becomes clear that while a 100% clear and documentable definition of ‘influence’ may never be agreed-upon (I suspect we might not even get to 50%) that the rise of Influence measurement has just begun.
Is Klout perfect? As Martijn Linssen tweeted yesterday, probably not. But as Judy Shapiro says in her AdAge piece referenced below, they were the first to stake their claim to actually measure social influence. That stake in the ground does not imply they will be the last or the definitive word, but they deserve credit for focusing the conversation and bringing the discussion into the mainstream.
Chasing the “Influencer” set is a long standing marketing strategy - not a novel concept newly minted from the social media revolution. We may have called them by different names 20 years ago - thought leaders, trend setters, early adopters – but we always understood their disproportionate power to drive business.
Back then, it was not hard to know who influencers were (usually confined to public personalities) but it was hard to determine which “influencer,” a.k.a. celebrity, was worth more than another. To solve the problem, a company called Marketing Evolutions introduced “Q Scores”, a well-known popularity metric as one way (albeit limited) to compare one personality’s influencer value from another.
Then, as social media “happened” - BOOM - brands had easy and really really cheap access to more influencers than ever before. The only trouble was sheer quantity made finding the “influencer diamonds in the rough” really - uh – rough.via adage.com
What we are about to see is an explosion of tools for measuring influence, sentiment and other key online metrics - most if not all of which will derive second-order ‘metrics’ from the massive data sets created by consumers on social networks.
- Who follows you?
- Who retweets you and how often?
- How influential are they?
- Who favorites you?
- How active are you?
- Who shares your content? Where? How Often?
These metrics, measures and scores will also evolve beyond the general and beyond the consumer, as a marketer at, say, IBM, cares much less about their influence relative to Justin Bieber and Barack Obama than they do in relation to Microsoft and Oracle. This is the problem we are working on at my company, Terametric.
As these tools, scores & metrics continue to evolve, the debates will get more frequent, in many cases louder, and in some cases angrier. But there is no turning back - the revolution is in full swing, and the customer has taken control of the conversation and isn’t giving it back.
My advice? Use the scores that work for you (and measure that too) but any attempt to deny that such a thing as Influence exists is denying a trend that is inevitable and only bound to accelerate.
As Josh Brown recently (and correctly) stated - Influence is the new Currency, for both consumers and for businesses. Like it or not (and many don’t), we’re already there.
Interesting post from David Armano today - a demonstration of how marketers are beginning to use Klout and other scoring engines such as PeerIndex to target ‘influential’ consumers.
We’re still quite far from marketing nirvana. For instance:
* His name is ‘David’ not ‘armano’
* He professes to have little to no interest in basketball
It seems likely that Nike simply decided to target some folks with very high Klout scores rather than along any more specific criteria, so it’s a bit of a stretch to say that this is truly ‘targeted’.
Sony seems to be running a similar campaign - http://twitter.com/#!/lizstrauss/status/31016290713862144 - there are undoubtedly others.
It’s clear that this type of targeting of ‘influentials’ is something we can expect to see MUCH more of going forward.
Why was I being targeted by Nike basketball? I never talk about sports, don’t follow teams and am not all that involved in local sports sans whatever my boys are interested in doing which at the moment is tennis. So why did the e-mail proclaim that I had “serious basketball klout”?
I don’t. What I do have is a larger than normal “social graph” that shows signs of life as measured by certain digital factors (and this is only Twitter and Facebook)
Read more at darmano.typepad.com
Klout’s scoring system is highly imperfect, BUT seeing the e-mail caught my attention because I realized that the future of tapping “influentials” will come down to targeting, and the quality of how well this gets executed. So when the next e-mail comes from something closer to my interests—I’ll know they are on to something. The future of harnessing influence will be highly targeted.