Tag Archives: Social influence

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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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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