In the dark recesses of the social media mind (our collective or hive mind) lies the desire to be heard. Not just heard, but to be considered important and our words meaningful. Klout calls this “influence”. Is this real influence? Are you able to change someone else’s thoughts or buying patterns with a couple tweets or Facebook posts?
Over the weekend I had a couple Twitter conversations about Klout with @marketingm8 and @WishaDeal. Granted a sampling of 2 people is hardly scientific or authoritative but I still think it is somewhat representative of what people are thinking (I’d love you hear your thoughts in the comments below or by tweeting @lanevance). Especially after last weeks Klout algorithm change there seems to be a lot of skepticism that “influence” is real yet there is still a lot of interest in the concept and service.
The Influence of Spreading Yourself Thin
Previously Klout explained your score was based on which of your social networks you were most active or influential in. All other networks you connected were just gravy. Now it seems they expect those with influence to be active on a majority of the services they monitor. I don’t know about you, but my experience shows unless I can make my social media circles my focus during the day (forgetting about the day job) this is not realistic. Not only that, but if you are working all these different services how can you keep up with all the activity and still provide meaningful content? I know some are doing it but I suspect these are the people earning their living from social media and thus are able to make their day job keeping up.
The Influence of Peer Pressure
Are you susceptible to peer pressure? Most reasonable adults would probably like to think they have evolved past the petty days of high school and have been able to lay those social influences aside. In social media I believe there are 2 dominant forms of peer pressure. Replication and reciprocity.
Yes, I have a blog (yes, you are reading it right now). Does that make me influential about Blogging? I don’t think so, in fact I don’t write about blogging and most of my tweets are not really about blogging either. However, most of the recent +K I have received recently have been for Blogging. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy that people in the Socialverse have seen enough value in what I deliver to even consider giving me one of their +K’s.
When I receive a +K on a topic that is one of the top 3 topics (Blogging being number 1 now due to the +Ks) I wonder how much of that is influenced by seeing I am considered knowledgable in a topic. How does peer pressure, or seeing what Klout and others believe, affect the selection process? Are people just replicating what they see, or is it their true belief that I have influenced them in this topic? This isn’t bad, it’s just easy. If others believe this influence it must be true, right?
Secondly, the current dynamics of social media typically demands reciprocity because no one wants to look like an ass and not follow someone back or give a +K in exchange for a kind deed. Personally, I have been torn on the whole return-follow thing and am generally selective to avoid spammers and the like but because of that I also see how we tend to feel like a good deed has to be returned to keep the social wheels turning but when I leave a +K I really don’t expect one in return. Do you?
The Influence of Faith
Faith gives credence to a lot of things. It’s just how our mind works. Even if you believe in nothing, you have faith that nothing is true. By playing in to the Klout game you are giving Klout influence. Collectively we make our “influence” real by believing the Klout algorithm is representative of what we all hold true about what each of us is saying in social media. Do you have faith in the accuracy of the new Klout algorithm? Or the scoring system of other services? Is it, or has it ever, been representative of your real world influence? Can it be?
The Business of Influence
So, is this influence you hold real? In some ways, maybe. But in most, probably not. In general I think this influence is real for the few rather than the many. But, and this is a big but, Klout needs all of us to buy in to their influence because they are a business. They have gamified their service in many ways to ensure we are all hooked and want to do better. How does this benefit them? They need us to want to do better so we keep coming back and so they can continue to collect data on their flock of millions (us) and continue to offer Perks which advertisers pay handsomely to target based on our influence. Only this isn’t influence, it is what we are interested in based on content matches in our social streams. For Klout, influence is our drug of choice and we need it and crave more.
The Influence of Activity
In some ways I think activity is being confused for influence. Last week I set about to test this on Klout via my blog post “The Chupacabra Effect” and a lot of tweets discussing the chupacabra.Klout has yet to update the topics they consider me influential about but I am betting I will be quite the expert in the next few days. Just because I mention the word and have others discuss it with me in no way means I am influential about this topic. The few questions I have been asked about chupacabras have been answered via a quick Google search. In that regard, I am as influential about chupacabras as Google is.
I’m sure most of you also have been considered influential on a topic because of a random word in a tweet or some other innocent comment that means little to your influence. I used to be influential about Rodents because of some Mickey Mouse comments and someone I tweeted with told me they have been influential about Osaka because of a single tweet and yet another (@BrandInfluence) in Giants (not the football team he explained).
The Influence Dichotomy
This crossroads is interesting to say the least. Decision makers have concluded there is something to Klout and the score really matters, or so we believe. However, it seems some (many? most?) users don’t believe this “influence” is real. Or did we simply lose our faith when the rules changed? Honestly, I don’t know. I still like the idea of Klout, see the potential value in it, but I’m also very unsure of it’s relevance and accuracy. Is this social proof? Or just a company trying to make a few bucks by developing our faith in their gospel?
First, I really didn’t mean to come off negative about Klout. Or to tell you it is good or evil. Like most things in life it has the potential be to be both. My purpose here is not to convince you one way or the other of the legitimacy of Klout or similar services. At the end of the day, regardless of your views on social influence, just remember Klout is not scoring you out of the kindness of their heart. There is big money in play, just not necessarily for you. If it’s meaningful to you, then use it. However, don’t let it rule your thought or decision making process. Be you, not what a service says you are. If you can manage that, then your real world influence will grow regardless of what an arbitrary number says about you. You are epicenter of your influence.
Thoughts? Please let me know in the comments!