Influence Peddling Down The Rabbit Hole

This post started out as a comment on Aaron Biebert’s post, grew some and ended up on this blog.

To Aaron et al.,
I am curious about a few things. Perhaps you and/or others, can clear it up for me.

Klout right now:

1) Klout’s Twitter centricity.

I know Klout now connects to other social networks but Twitter still seems to be the primary mover of Klout scores.
Have you tried ignoring twitter for 4-5 days and totally rocking it on Facebook? I suspect your Klout score will drop (as it did in my tests). Maybe Klout does not have access to Facebook’s walled garden.

I could be wrong though, so would like to hear from others; Anyone with a high Klout score who is NOT active (maybe tweeting a cpl of times a week) on Twitter?

2) Current social media trends

If #1 is true then your hypothesis would lose some steam.

Unless

  • Twitter is considered the most important social network
  • Everyone who is influential is expected to have an active twitter account

But really, even in the US what exactly is the %age of active twitter users among internet users? 13%?

3) Evolutionary trends in social media  and technology

  • New, emerging and/or competing social media networks could undermine or even grow more popular than twitter (e.g: Google +).
  • Will they open up to Klout? To what extent? e.g: Will the influence metrics within a private FB ‘group’  or G+ ‘circle’, like a high school or health-issue related community, be measured?
  • What about paradigm shifts in computing? More on this below.

4) Can there really be a single Standard of Influence?

Regardless of the above points, how do you reduce a concept like influence, which is inherently relative, to a couple of numbers? Data and analytics, currently measured by Klout are inadequate.
e.g.: I am more familiar with Mark Schaefer than with you. If @biebert has a Klout of 90 and if @markwschaefer has a klout of 75 , even if for the same subject (social media). And both of you gave a call to action on the same topic, I am more likely to respond to Mark’s call than yours.

I guess data and analytics at the micro level, a person-person influence meter rather than an absolute number, would be the way of the future. The current self-proclaimed ‘Standard’ of Influence is far from that and thus, imho, fatally flawed. Even misleading, if taken at what it proclaims to be.

I suppose, we could consider that Klout will be in beta mode for a while, while these things are figured out. You are after all, really talking about the future, Web 3.0

The Klout to come

5) Will you be out-klouted soon?

You already prefer to respond, to the Klout endowed over the poorly Klouted. You have derived conclusions about the growth of Klout from this behavioral shift.

If the growth of Klout (or similar) is inevitable (as you say), so then is the fact that organizations with sufficient resources will soon have higher Klout numbers than a blogger like @biebert or @markwschaefer. After all, most entities will have to make sure that adequate resources are allocated towards boosting Klout numbers. Data can be gamed.

Where will this rabbit hole lead to? Back to square one; systems of  ‘influence’ as it was before the ‘Trust agent‘? Where those with resources, again, become the most influential?

Will ‘Trust agents’ face a choice between obscurity and selling out to highest bidders? Will influence metrics then end the social media revolution?

6) Deeper down the rabbit hole

Right now, there is great global uncertainty in political, economic and social systems.  Aren’t all your assumptions on the future of influence metrics like Klout, made on the basis that these established systems remain mostly unchanged?.

What if coming changes force us NOT to rebuild the older pattern of ‘influence’. It did not work that well the last time. There is enough pain all around.

Seems like very shaky ground to build a case for an unsubstantiated and fuzzy metric like Klout.

What if Klout (and similar) is the disrupted instead of the disruptee (like you make it out to be)? What if cognitive computing changes the way online information is created and accessed?

Too many loose ends

The current validity of these influence metrics are ill defined. Their future utility is mired in the uncertainty of innumerable variables. Can you be sure, without any doubt whatsoever, that Klout  should and will matter as much as you say?

If you’re not that sure, should we let it matter, right now?

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jacobv

Vice President of Marketing @Fusebill | This Blog's Chief Content-Chef; words, images, analytics, some code | Google Analytics & AdWords | Martech Astute | Part-Time Moonshot Hunter | Hands-On Strategic Do-er of All Things Marketing

4 thoughts on “Influence Peddling Down The Rabbit Hole

  • Jacob, first of all, let me thank you for offering an intelligent rebuttal. We really don’t know what the future will hold for certain, and I get nervous when I don’t see valid alternatives.

    You have offered some brilliant thoughts here and I will be posting your link on my blog post as discussed.

    Let me respond as best I can in short order:

    1) You are right about ignoring Twitter while maintaining activity on Facebook. However, I will let you know that it works vice versa. I ignored Facebook for three days while rocking out Twitter and took a big hit.

    I would submit that it goes both ways to some extent. I think they are missing the value of Facebook pages, and they must go further if they want to achieve their objectives. Nevertheless, I believe it is a foregone conclusion that it will happen.

    2) I do believe that that Twitter is favored over personal Facebook profiles by most influencers I know. Nevertheless, I think that they will further integrate Facebook into Klout scores in the future so it may be a moot point.

    3) I believe that Klout will integrate with Google+, Disqus, LiveFyre and other platforms. I’m rather disturbed to see Instagram and Flickr finished first, but I understand they have limitations in manpower and Google+ doesn’t even have a public API yet. It’s coming though.

    4) Mark is brilliant and I would probably listen to him over myself too. 🙂

    I see your point about individual influence and I believe it will get to that point as they improve their data, integrate with +K type feedback information, and better analyze each of our networks. I think it’s possible and probable.

    With that said, I don’t think something needs to be correct on a micro level to be valuable. Credit scores are not correct on a micro level. I am a better credit risk to my mother than I am to my bank, yet I only have one type of credit score.

    One thing I would add however, is that we probably need more of an average of several scores, versus just one single standard. There is too much room for corruption, error, etc in a monopoly. Hence my call for more discussion on that topic: http://bit.ly/oYILuz. It truly makes me nervous.

    5) I respond to nearly every non-spammy person on Twitter/Facebook/Google+/etc., although I do make priority decisions based on Klout score. I don’t even use social media to sell anything, but I can imagine what is going on with those who use it for commerce. I know that I am not alone.

    I do agree with you that resources put into increasing a Klout score will indeed raise a Klout score. However, isn’t that the entire point of advertising budgets? Would it not be true that a company that spends money attracting @mentions, retweets, clicks, follows, etc would be more influential than someone who doesn’t? That doesn’t bother me because it is a reflection of reality.

    I trust that people will Klout will choose to validate other valid people/companies/brands so that they don’t jeopardize their own influence. People’s BS meters are only getting better. We will flee from people who are validating BS.

    That trust makes me comfortable with the future of social media.

    6) I agree that there is much uncertainty in many things going on in the world. However, I believe that while times change, people don’t.

    People will always look to their leaders for guidance. Right now people are choosing their leaders (political and otherwise) and I don’t see that changing any time soon. I think we are safe for now.

    Cognitive computing will be a huge step forward, but nothing will ever compete with the creativity and complexity of the human brain. Nothing.

    Summary:

    Jacob, I really appreciate your intelligent dialogue and believe you have offered some very reasonable alternatives to my take on Web 3.0 and Klout-like metrics. I am honored by your response and look forward to continued dialogue.

    Have a great night!

    [email protected]

    • Hi Aaron,
      Thank you for your exceedingly gracious comment and the accompanying effort to clarify your position.

      I think we need to dig a bit deeper into your points

      1) Facebook and Google+ and Klout integration: Data from Facebook pages is just fluff as far as person-person networking and influence is concerned.

      e.g: Are interactions between members of closed, private groups measured? Think a private global Facebook group discussing cancer or any other health-related issue. The members may not want to discuss matters in public although some members could be highly influential to others and/or to the topic (e.g: cancer treatment) even in the public sphere. If G+ or Facebook provides Klout access, to interactions behind these secured areas, will there be ethical concerns that are bad for FB or G+?
      Will they be inclined to give Klout access to these vital bits of info? Too many minefields.

      2) If by influencers who prefer twitter, you mean politicians, marketers and technologists? You are right.
      On the other hand,what about educators, scientists, artists, activists etc? There is a much bigger world out there.
      All the Scobleizering could not help Quora beyond a certain point.

      3) Will be interesting to see what the API will hold

      4) When you equate Credit scores with Klout numbers, imho, you are treading a very slippery slope.
      Credit scores work best when they work with finitely calculable elements like numbers. However, they are not infallible, even ‘flawed’, as far as finance and banking are concerned.
      As soon as financial activity show a bias to move into immeasurable territory like ‘trust’, ‘perception’ and ‘speculation’, the seemingly rock-stable bulwarks of measurement of financial health are unable to prevent downgrades, double-dips and bubbles.

      Besides, unlike ‘Credit Scores’, ‘Influence’ cannot be derived from finite numbers since these numbers and data are NOT the primary movers of Influence. Your mother’s assessment of your credit worthiness is NOT measurable in finite variables.
      Let me provide another example.
      Barack Obama and Sarah Palin are highly influential to American politics. However, Obama is a ‘Muslim destroyer of America’ to some and Palin is an ‘Ignorant, bigoted, crusading redneck’ to others. As such their influence on certain groups is negative. This negative measure is based on immeasurable , similar to your mothers positive (hopefully :)), but immeasurable assessment of your credit worthiness.

      I could go on and on. Who is more influential about religion, the Pope or the Grand Mufti? And to who? etc. Who is more ‘influential’ about ‘truth’ or ‘God’? You see? The more you move into immeasurable territory of abstracts, the murkier it gets.
      ‘Influence’ IS based on too many ‘abstracts’. So is the ‘Universal Truth’. If you can measure one you can measure the other. Right?

      5) I was probably not lucid enough earlier, but you have just made my point

      However, isn’t that the entire point of advertising budgets?

      Exactly! Social media is not about ‘advertising’. Was that not the whole premise of social media? To be different from what was? Individual empowerment, access and influence? The more it becomes about advertising the less the ‘trust’ factor. So in effect, I do not think social media will become about advertising. More here http://bit.ly/dOj63C. That’s why, Klout will fail (imo) and should not matter.
      Your points of about people using Klout as a validator of ‘trust’ is conditional to the ability of Klout to be a reliable measure (which it is not, even to power users of social media)
      Like you say our BS meters are getting better. Read below why technology itself may ensure that our current standards of measurement and systems are soon obsolete.

      6) Whether it be Wall street, Mainstreet, Washington, Libya or Britan. People are changing and demanding that things change. I do not think they are looking for leaders who promise more of the same old. They are demanding a change in systems and practices. I think we are living in an age of awakening (abetted by access to information).
      Cognitive computing: You said

      …nothing will ever compete with the creativity and complexity of the human brain. Nothing.

      From the link in my main post.

      IBM’s so-called cognitive computing chips could one day simulate and emulate the brain’s ability to sense, perceive, interact and recognize — all tasks that humans can currently do much better than computers can

      IMO, technology like this will seek to redefine and sort out the fuzzy metrics, most probably by killing it :). After all the human brain has still to decide on the final answer about abstracts like ‘Universal Truth’, ‘God’ etc.

      In conclusion; I know there are as many opinions as there are alternatives. Points and counter-points will be made and that is one certainty that I am glad to be part of 🙂

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