Tag Archives: Klout

Are You Being Manipulated?

mind control

Social media has changed drastically in the past 5 or 6 years. Small tightly knit communities have grown to ubiquitous parts of our daily life. The exploration of online human interaction and its ramifications has created an immense conversational platform widely used for marketing and commercial purpose, with a huge group of participants whose contributions seem to be aimed at creating of specious influence and false celebrity.

The attraction of social spaces centered around the engagement of individuals for their mutual growth and benefit. And those of us who were active in the early days of this evolution in communication spent hours in conversation about social contracts, social objects, and social capital.  They were, simply put, the terms under which we engaged, the things we had in common which became the focus of conversation, and the acquisition and depletion of online goodwill. The center of much of the online activity for business centered around the concept of ” doing well by doing good” – contributing to the communities you participate in without expectation of a quid pro quo , anticipating that doing the right thing and being generous would be its own reward. It was a wonderful place to be an active participant, but as the landscape changed, many people seem to have lost their  way.

As the second and third wave of participants arrived, they seemed to confuse visibility with influence and pontification with authority.As people engage online with the intent of building a name or a brand,they seek the highest visibility, and the greatest acclamation. As Ryan Holiday says in his book “Trust Me I’m Lying:Confessions of a Media Manipulator” , “Media was once about protecting a name; on the web it is about building one”. We must be careful of what name we build.

In a recent conversation with a friend of mine, Leslie Ebersole, about a Facebook group we both are active in, she said ” If I share something with a person for their private use I don’t expect them to project it as their own work, that will in fact influence other people…. I honestly am dismayed by so much of what I see in social media. For example re-tweeting someone’s post feels almost like cheating unless you have interesting or useful commentary on it”

Leslie’s thoughts are spot on, and reflect the manner in which thoughtful confident  people interact. People that create, or effectively curate, don’t need to plagiarize in order to appear smart – they are smart. But in a world of smoke and shadows , where Klout scores are confused with actual influence, and every comment  made in a Facebook group is received as if it was an authoritative statement, we are in danger of following people that have no business leading.

I’ve been involved in a couple of conversation recently about Klout for example, and what influence means. To me, people who can create change in the physical world have influence. Not the circular sycophancy whose online engagement is “You’re Great, No You’re great, OK, We’re all great”, but people whose actions actually cause the change in behavior of large numbers of people. People who can make a call or a request and see something happen. That to me, is influence.

Authority to me? That comes from knowledge combined with experience, not from the number of times you tweet or the amount of time you spend interacting on a Facebook group. If you’re a real estate professional that listed 140 properties last year, I am more than willing to listen to what you did and how you did it. But if you aren’t exceptional in your actual performance or even just real world activities, your online visibility doesn’t impress me in the least.

To build social influence, social capital must be acquired. It has been years since Tara Hunt wrote her book “The Whuffie Factor: Using the Power of Social Networks to Build Your Business”  but the concepts of social cap[ital that she discusses is as valid today as it was then. Tara pointed out that acquiring good will online was a valuable way to integrate yourself into the community and that then, when you needed the good will of the community, they would in turn provide you with what you needed because of your good actions to that point. But when you do things that cause you to lose social capital – like appropriating the thoughts or work of others and portraying them as your own or betraying a confidence by using in public information gained in private, you lose credibility and your actions will begin to be met with negative reactions , causing you to lose social capital.

Holland says “..it is a world of many hustlers, and you are the mark. The con is to build a brand off the backs of others. Your attention and your credulity are what’s stolen.” And that is the danger of taking too much of the conversation at face value. Be thoughtful and know not only what is said, but who is saying it, and the basis they have for making their claim or statement.

Great personal brands are based on being real , being authentic, and being consistent, and giving value to the communities you belong to. They are built of ambition or plagiarism, or publishing popular cliches or memes. People want to be connected to people they can value. Think that’s not true? Back to Leslie again who said (in a private note to me that she has given permission for use here) , “I love the interaction and development of ideas that can happen with social media. I love sharing and doing whatever I can if I can help someone. But I am back to the idea of the importance of reciprocity and mutual effort when one is part of a community.”

So the good guys still exist, but you , the participant need to be willing to peek behind the curtain and differentiate between those that look like they know and do stuff , and those that actually know stuff and do stuff. I have faith you can do that, I just hope you will.

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Are We Seeing the End of Influence?

As businesses adjust to permission based marketing, the online conversation, and the impact of word of mouth advertising, they have become more and more interested in consumers that wield online influence.

Business models like Klout, celebrate the interaction of the online consumer, and laud the high traffic user by awarding them in a variety of ways. Klout congratulates you for the “score” calculated by algorithms utilizing the frequency of your online interactions. Then when you demonstrate enough online interaction, their clients award you “stuff”. Coupons, samples, memberships, schwag of every size and description. PeerIndex has joined that particular bandwagon by creating “Peer Perks” for people of sufficient score, and (find the airline here) has even offered access to their lounges in various airports for people with higher scores.

Providing people with some celebrity with products and cash in return for their endorsement is nothing new, and hasn’t been since merchants offered their wares to royalty in hopes of using that relationship to impress other potential customers. In fact  , and the FTC has even codified how bloggers need to handle such relationships, so there are some guidlelines, but what about the impact on consumers.

Consumers aren’t dumb. They know when a celebrity endorses something , the celebrity is being paid somehow, and the amount of trust they put in that endorsement is substantially less than it might have been a hundred years ago or so, when we were all a lot less sophisticated. How long will it be before we stop trusting our “friends”. Not the real, proper friends we have and know face to face, but those other friends. The ones we’ve never met. The ones we know only from our online interaction. The ones whose motivations we impute rater than know.

As companies try to find and utilize online influences, are they hastening the time when consumers will become as cynical about online endorsements as they are about those they see in magazines, on televisions and online? Will individual channels become less valued as users question the motivations of other participants?

We’ve already seen people delete their Klout profiles for various reasons.  Pam Moore, who deleted her Klout profile noted “We are the product of Klout, not the client”  and noted in her blog post the issue of conflicting agendas. As more sites emulate Klout’s successful business model, will they engender cynicism about recommendations made in other places? We pay less attention to promoted tweets and the PPC portion of Google’s search page already.

The concept of Klout or Peer Perks, is not in itself a bad thing, but it does encourage chatter for the sake of chatter since the main gauge of influence , and therefore the key to rewards is quantity of engagement, not the quality. If participation becomes a means to an end instead of the end in itself, will it devalue the messages it carries?As people are driven to participate for the positive feedback we feel when anyone gives us a good score at anything, or for the material rewards we might receive, are they polluting the very core of social media engagement? Will we create an era where grass roots support of products or services become less organic and more astro0-turf?

We rely on the recommendations of others because we believe that those recommendations are not influenced by the personal gain of the person making the recommendation. If the chatter becomes too loud, will the influence seekers and those who wish to use the influence they gain make the channels  suspect and the value of personal recommendations become diminished?

The question bothers me. How about you?


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Are You A Networkist?

Map of Online Communities 2  by xkcd

Map of Online Communities 2 by xkcd

At a recent meeting of some social media masterminds, the conversation got around to a new network being designed by one of the members, and how it interfaced with other social networks. The speaker mentioned that they were interfacing with MySpace and that led to a series of jokes about guitar strumming and “is that still around” . The thought sprang into my mind ” Is that a networkist remark?”

That led me to wonder about network snobbery. Is our involvement in online communities creating new “class distinctions”? Are our reactions to others being formed by their participation in or lack of participation in social networking?

With 900 million members, it sometimes seems that everyone we meet is on Facebook, but do you react with some surprise or condescension when you meet someone who prefers not to be part of Facebook nation? Do people that concentrate their social engagement on LinkedIn feel superior because they are productivity related? Do we see Twitter users as flighty or find them too crass and commercial because they are constantly pimping links to their content or product? Google+ users see themselves as more cutting edge than there brethren on Facebook, but do Facebook users see them as disconnected Uber-Geeks?

Will all of this lead to network wars? Armies invading virtual space and spreading their social propaganda and vision of the future? Or on a more serious note, has social media become so integral to our society that we have started to measure others by the networks they join?

It may seem silly, or a flight of fancy, but as our online involvement leads us from network to network, and from community to community, its hard not to generate preconceptions of the people in these communities. Its merely an extension of the thinking that led to the creation of sites like Klout and Kred, where algorithms are purported to tells us who people are, what influence they wield, and who they influence. In other words, these sites look at the online activities of individuals, and from the where, and what or their participation, claim to have some insight into who they are, what they know, and who they influence.

On a personal level, we perform these mental gymnastics without the benefit of mathematics or hard data, to come to the pre-judgement we might unconsciously make when we see the results of a Google search, indicating where and how our subject interacts online. Little or no information online? No social network involvement? We judge the subject to be less relevant than they might be, or less important that they should be. Lots of friends and fans and followers? Tons of online interaction? Before we even investigate the specifics of their interaction, we begin to have form a “model of a modern major general” (If my Gilbert & Sullivan reference is too obscure for you , click here!)

But prejudgement, of almost any kind, is not good. It may lead us to over or under estimate the potential contribution an individual might make to our cause, be it business, personal or philanthropic. In variably pre-judgement leads to mis-jdgement, and we might find ourselves following the banner of an “evangelist” without portfolio, whose rhetoric outpaces their knowledge. Or fail to follow the next great idea, because it comes from a surprising source.

Mom always said “You will be judged by the company you keep” and Mom was always right wasn’t she?

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12 Predictions You Can Count on in 2012

As we begin a new year, the future is foremost in our minds. What new trends will the this year bring? How can we take advantage of , or prepare for the changes that time inevitably brings?  Those thoughts, natural as they are generally bring forth a slew of posts about what the coming year will bring. But by the end of the year, we see that most of the forecasts miss their mark. In an effort to avoid that problem , I have compiled the following list of 12 things that WILL be part of the technology and social media landscape in 2012

  • Someone will write a blog post about the death of blogging
  • Someone will write a post that proclaims that Blogging is the heart of social media
  • Someone will write a post that proclaims that 2012 is the Year of Mobile
  • Someone will write a post that proclaims that 2012 is the Year of Video
  • Someone will write a post that proclaims that 2012 is the Year of Social Marketing
  • Someone will write a post that proclaims that 2012 is the Year of Location Based Services
  • Someone will write a post that proclaims Location Based Services are dangerous to use and serve no purpose.
  • Someone will publish a study that shows that Klout is the worst thing since the invention of the Internet
  • Someone will publish a study that shows that Klout is the greatest thing since  the invention of the Internet
  • A celebrity will, with great fanfare,  leave Twitter because they said something stupid
  • A celebrity will, with great fanfare,  leave Twitter because they believe someone else said something stupid
  • Someone will claim to have solved the secret of social media, and will share that secret with you for a small fee

With those predictions out of the way, I hope that you can concentrate on the things that will make your year better.  Working on improving your marketable skills, your product and your service. Figure out who your market is and then find out what they want while becoming a member of their community, on their terms. Determine what you can offer them that they value, and then determine what tools will help you do that. Oh, and while your at it, do something good for someone less fortunate – whether it helps your business or not, you’ll feel better doing it, and you will have accomplished something positive in the universe.

Try to enjoy yourself while you’re doing all of this will you ? Best wishes from all of us at SMMI for the healthiest, Happiest and most productive year possible.

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Should I Delete my Klout Profile? Who Cares?

klout OG Badge by ksablan

Screenshot from Flickr Commons Courtesy of Ksablan

Klout seems to generate conversation. Maybe its the name. After all it would be easy to assume that someone with a high score on a site named Klout actually has some real clout, which though  defined as “A heavy blow with the hand or a hard object” is more often used in line with its informal usage ” pull; strong influence; muscle, especially political power: a wealthy campaign contributor with clout at city hall.”

The confusion is created when we imagine that somehow  a high Klout score translates into real influence in the real world rather than being an arbitrary measurement of activity used to help businesses find people that are prolifically vocal about specific topics in their online engagement.

If you’re not familiar with Klout, it is a site that “measures” interaction of subscribers on various social sites, and determines a numeric score which, in the Klout world indicates how influential you are online. They then offer “Perks” to people that they believe to be influential on certain topics, based on their algorithms. From the beginning the sites was a controversial topic because their ranking was not transparent, and people in the interwebs are less than fond of “black box” calculations. In my own case, I have seen incomprehensible ups and downs in my Klout score that didn’t seem to relate to what I perceived as my interaction online. In addition, the topics that Klout says people are influential on seem somewhat e capricious to the individuals who are title influential by Klout.  The latest changes to their algorithm seemed to have annoyed a few people and caused a bit of a furor online.

Recently  there have been a number of posts from individuals who were deleting their Klout accounts (a process that seems to be really involved and annoying). The reasons varied from reactions to the new algorithms, to a protest against the “high school cafeteria ” mentality, to a protest of the  implication that influence could be quantified. Oddly enough, these people wield the type of online influence Klout purports to measure. All of a sudden, Klouts was the target of some substantial negative influence.

Of course there were those who immediately came to the other side. One post spoke about all of the information collected by Klout, and the value you might derive by using it as a tool to find influencers to reach out to in your own marketing. Of course, that does presume that Klout’s score has validity.  The post goes on to point out that Klout’s API will be sued in a variety of places, and that gives it additional weight. Though I like and respect the author of the post, I’m not sure that those are compelling arguments for Klout’s veracity. The controversy led to a post on the Klout Blog  which attempts to explain their process and why its a valid measurement.And then a third post which admits that Klout may be flawed, but argues that we should each give it a chance.

I think that Klout has an interesting business model. I don’t think (if you are active on line) that you are damaged by having a Klout profile, nor do I believe that having a high Klout score really indicates anything significant about who you influence or how you influence them. Likewise, I’m not sure that having or not having a Klout profile is a statement about who you are or what you believe. Though I have a great deal of respect for a number of people who have deleted their Klout profile, I for example don’t really care enough about whether or not I have a Klout profile to take the time to delete one that I currently have – I’m not sure that makes me a Klout supporter or just lazy.

Perhaps the answer is a site like Flout.me  whose site reads “Your social influence is too important to leave to others. Sites like Klout try to tell you how important you are. That’s ridiculous! Only you know how important you are. Flout lets you flaunt it to the world.”

I think that Jeff Turner said it really well when he said “If you need to look at my Klout score to determine if I have influence, I don’t”. Though I would add ” If you a foolish enough to use a Klout score to determine whether someone has clout with their community, you deserve the conclusion you reach”. The “science” of social media metrics and truly measuring online influence is in its infancy, and frankly I think any any site which claims to make such measurement needs to be approached

If you wanted to determine if someone was influential in a given industry or on a specific topic, a simple search online with any of a number of tools would give you a better indicator pretty quick. Remember folks, Klouts is essentially a product placement company – that’s where they make their money. And, in the words of  my friend Gahlord Dewald,  ” you probably don’t want to be making significant business decisions based on a product-placement company’s assessment of your influence.”

So what do you think? Thumbs up on Klout or thumbs down for you?

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