Oh WIRED, you went and did it didn’t you? You published a big ol’ sexy article on Klout that’s going to make an even bigger mess of the icky topic of ‘influence’ in social media. Reading the article does just what I feared it would, it makes it sound like by investing in your Klout score you’re on your way to VIP seats at the nightclub of the week, free hotel upgrades and first class air travel, hot warm towels and all. Given the geekery of your readership (and I mean that with love) you’re adding another wall to the echo chamber of social media. You know, the place where everyone who uses it obsessively believes that everyone uses it obsessively.
Worse, and maybe you weren’t even aware of this, you basically portrayed Klout as a platform to be gamed. By tweeting more, spamming often, and adding to the noise – and by trying to do this as far and wide as possible – we can all up our K’s and live the lux life of true digerati. Sign up now!
The trouble is, people will. It’s going to be a mess when they do. Now all our friends will hammer harder, injecting more and more noise into the fray. They’ll try to be retweeted and to get our attention at any cost. They’ll go back to trying to gather as many followers as possible. You know who else does that? Advertisers. And most people find advertising somewhat annoying or at the very least actively try to tune it out.
Remember when Twitter went mass a few years ago and people thought getting as many followers as possible mattered most? People signed up with these slimey services that promised to get us all thousands of followers – quality be damned – if we added our username to the mix. That was gaming Twitter and it became popular for a while there until people realized that the number of followers didn’t matter as much as the quality of the relationship between follower and followee. They also got tired of the noise. Have you ever tried, really tried, to follow 500 people?
Klout is going to do the same thing if articles like the WIRED one find their way to the New York Times, People magazine and USA Today. Then it will be like a T-shirt gun at a baseball game. Everyone flailing about trying to increase their Klout score by whatever means necessary to get free swag. In the din, ‘klout’ will become as meaningless a word as ‘friend’ and ‘fan’ and ‘follower’ are now because of over- and miss use. We will realize (yet again) that many of the social tools we unleash are not most powerful when chasing quantitative measures but because of their ability to create meaningful exchanges between people (and brands) that are both transmitted and received.
We will be reminded that being influential isn’t measured by getting people to pass that simple, low, easily-hurdled barrier of clicking ‘follow’, but rather by being listened to and acted upon.
Until that day, and during the hurricane of white noise that’s coming, at least we can monitor the quality of our online brand standing through funny tools like Klouchebag.