At the beginning of this year, when the cult-like Klout fascination started to boil over, I wrote a post called Are You Worthy of My Follow? asking if those that I followed were in fact “follow-worthy”.
It was a tongue-in-cheek statement to illustrate my predictions on the changes in online behaviour that would result from us putting any weight in an online influence measurement.
I questioned the accuracy of any attempt to numerically quantify something as fluid and unpredictable as what influences a person. There are simply too many unknowns and immeasurable factors at play when determining the impact that one has on another’s actions.
For businesses, this is especially true since the psycho/demographic information of the “audience” that the supposed influencer has influence over, is completely absent from the equation.
However, the argument presented by a colleague at the time was: “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”. The point being, regardless of its accuracy, if everyone believes Klout is an accurate measurement of your real or perceived influence, then you better work on having a good one.
I challenged that with my faith in the wisdom of crowds; that we’d all understand such measurement cannot be accurately gauged and we’d not become sheep.
Um, We Are Sheep
Well clearly, my faith was ill placed. In our socially-connected world, where I still believe the “wisdom of crowds” is the only authority that we sheep follow, the crowds have decreed that Klout rankings matter, is accurate and that we should all make decisions based on it.
Business is flocking to offer “perks” to those with perceived influence over others. Companies like PopChips sends out boxes of their product (disclaimer: I received a box) with the expectation that the recipient will promote it. The belief is that followers of Klout-christened influencers hang on their every word and as a result, will quickly run to the stores and purchase that same product.
Or should that last statement read: “The HOPE is that followers of Klout-christened influencers hang on their every word….”. Given that Klout has no clue about the propensity of the anointed-influencer’s followers to purchase such a product, is not just hope? Or a blind guess?
Does it even matter?
I’m beginning to understand that it does not matter if such online influence measures are accurate. I’m not even sure Klout (or others like them) care if their score is a true measurement of a person’s real influence over another person’s actions. What matters is that we’re all sheep and will blindly follow the other sheep in our packs over the cliff. As long as there’s perceived influence, they’re happy. It’s about capturing the imagination of the masses. And when you’ve successful done that, you have:
- A marketing platform from which to promote your views, ads or sponsors – generating revenue along the way
- Personal activity and user-defined preferences from which to mine data and generate revenue from selling the metrics to businesses, research firms or others.
What Corporations Should Learn From Klout
The sheep’s acceptance (and sheer, cult-like devotion) of Klout’s metrics is a lesson in how to create a blind-trust following. It’s not about being authentic. It’s not about providing a product that really works.
It’s about playing on the insecurities and vanities of the public. Gamify you every engagement. Give them something that makes them feel good about themselves and they will repay you by following you…with other sheep in tow.
Is this a jaded point of view? Maybe.
Does it matter that Klout is inaccurate? No.
Follow on Sheep.
By Sam Fiorella
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego