I recently joined Klout (I’m usually a few paces behind the real early adopters… intentionally) to see what it was all about. I entered my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and this blog. I came back as a ‘specialist’ with a supposedly strong core network. That’s all well and good. The more interesting thing happened when I looked at my Facebook friends’ Klout scores. Overwhelmingly they are in the single digits. Klout gives these folks feel-good titles like ‘Explorer’ but the real title is ‘marginal participant’.
By way of context for why this is important, I go to some lengths to keep my Facebook network focused on real-life friends while LinkedIn and Twitter are more professionally bent. This is both in terms of the content I share through these channels and the friends/followers/connections I seek out. In this sense, my Facebook friend set crosses all walks of life and does not index heavy for tech/social/net types (unlike my Twitter account which is stuffed with them because of the nature of Twitter and the type of people attracted to it – you know who you are you self-promoters you!).
So while this exercise is a far cry from a scientific sampling, when my Facebook friends consistently come back with very low Klout scores, it does make me wonder if the divide between the tech/social/net types who build these various applications and tools and the average users they think might adopt them, isn’t more significant than sometimes assumed. To look at Klout’s site, online influence is something really important to measure. Influencers are certainly desirable to advertisers. Most people, though, probably don’t care about Klout or clout or being or knowing an influencer.
(I also question the very methodology used for measuring influence online, but that’s a whole other post.)
I’ve observed a similar gap with the pervasiveness of the iPad. Taking a commuter train into NYC, it seems about one in ten people now have iPads. However, when I was in Washington D.C. a few weeks ago, I saw only a handful as is often the case when I’m traveling elsewhere. I don’t question that people are buying them – the sales figures are what they are – but I think opinions of market growth based on observing people in the metro NYC area are somewhat skewed by that rather unique and novelty-obsessed niche.
In my opinion the one recent social media rising star that has most successfully made the leap out of the echo chamber of the tech/social/net set and become a tool for everyone is Groupon. It’s worth noting here now that Groupon isn’t really about ‘connecting’ the way Klout, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Posterous, et. al. all circle around that word either enabling it or measuring it.
Groupon instead offers something useful that people want – savings. That’s interesting. It might be that the next wave of successful business influenced by social-technology won’t see the technology as the ends itself, but rather the means to offer something lots of people find useful. Like coupons.
Meanwhile the tech sector keeps cranking out new ways for us to connect online. My big question is, how dissatisfied are most people with what they already have? I know early adopters need a constant novelty fix, but I don’t get the sense my low-Klout Facebook friends have too many gripes with what they have. Sure, people will be curious and sign-up – there’s a low barrier to entry for these things – but will they stick around and use it? That’s the big question.
And now of course there’s the hullabaloo around Google+ to look into. Yup, yet another account. Right now, given that Google has said upfront that the invites went out to people with ‘strong social graphs’ I’m not surprised to find it full of my usual industry peers (nice to see you again at yet another URL folks!). The big question is, will those low-Klout friends of mine find it worth either moving camp from Facebook to Google+ or be willing to manage both sites? Either avenue is a lot of work. The big draw of Google+ is the ability to create overlapping friend sets for sharing. That may well be a useful app, but if it turns out to be valuable to average folks, can’t Facebook just replicate it? Technological advantage is very, very short lived these days. If I’ve already set up shop on Facebook, I can’t see pulling up stakes for that feature set alone. What, and wait for all my friends to join? And port over all those pictures and notes? And what about my Farmville (which while technies may despise it, is popular among many people)?
For me, the real test Google+ and others is whether my friends with the lousy Klout scores bother to not just sign up but to regularly participate – like they do on Facebook. Attracting social media fanboys is easy. We’re early adopters who are willing to tolerate having all these accounts and constantly switching from one technology to another.
The people with no Klout (and who, frankly, don’t care about having clout online) are the other 99%+ of the population that Facebook and Groupon continue to grab and largely satisfy as far as I can see. It’s these folks, characterized by low numbers of friends, low numbers of comments, low numbers of posts and low Klout scores, that set the high bar for being the next game-changing player in the space.
Groupon seems to get this. I’m not so sure some of the other ventures popping up do.