#OccupyINFLUENCE and the Social Arms Race

A guest post by Parry Headrick, Calypso Communications

121342367Have you heard? There is a public backlash against social influence ranking tools such as Klout, Peerindex and the myriad similar tools that are sprouting up with breakneck speed to measure your influence in social media.

It’s a slow motion riot, though, because nobody is sure exactly what these barometers will ultimately mean for themselves, for influencers and for agencies of all social stripes.

The arguments against these hierarchical tools are many, but the coherence of that message is diluted by the inconsistent gripes and grievances about said tools. Some want the algorithms changed; some want Klout killed; some are publicly renouncing their Klout citizenship.

But we do know this: much like “tax breaks for millionaires,” influential social media players benefit the most from these social rankings. For example, tweets from folks with higher Klout scores last up to 67 times longer than tweets from social commoners. Perhaps that’s why some folks like Jason Falls are coming out against the Klout naysayers. Read:Please Don’t Quit Klout. Or at Least Don’t Announce It.

“Guess what? 99.9 percent of the people you really care about in the world don’t measure you with a number,” Jason writes. “Neither do most people who have half a brain. So why be a 0.1 per center? Ignore the score.”

I think Jason (who I know a little bit and admire) makes fair points, but it’s what he does not say that resonates loudest to me. As it relates social influence dominance, he’s an elite among the elites – squarely in the 0.1 percent of influencers. If social media assets were property, he’d basically own Rhode Island.

He’s winning the Social Arms Race, one blog post at a time.

Therefore, theoretically folks like Jason have the most to lose – in terms of “perks” and the dissemination and longevity of his prolific content generation machine – than do people who simply dabble in social channels.

To be crystal clear, tools like Klout didn’t do jack to make Mr. Falls successful; his brain and ambition won that battle long ago. But back to that “tax break for fat cats analogy,” Klout and similar tools are just gravy for those who already enjoy the most influence in the social sphere. While the 99 percent scrambles and scrapes for crumbs of digital recognition, the folks at the top (deservedly, IMHO) are bellied up to the buffet of social benefits.

Just like corporate titans the elite social influencers were first, best, or more determined than you or I to win at the social game, and today they reap the rewards. Just as the uber wealthy consider themselves the “job creators,” the social elite are bona fide content creators that provide the brain droppings that are the lubricant of the social sharing machinery.

Don’t hate the playa, hate the game, right?

Which brings us back to the influence ranking tools themselves. They are proliferating. They are iterating. And the net result, I’d argue, will be a dilutive effect on the prevalence of any one service.


Source: Adweek

The democratization of influence is what the anti-Klout groups are fighting for, even if the message is thinly veiled as “flaws with the tool.” The 99 percent of social media users resent the 1 percent of social media kings like Jason Falls, who wishes everyone would quit whining and ignore the disparity, because it doesn’t matter much, anyway. Wink, wink.

As for me, I have a fairly respectable Klout score that toggles back and forth around the 50 mark. I get a few perks thrown my way – a coupon to this; a free pass to that. I’m not in David Armano or Brian Solis territory by any stretch, and I’m okay with that.

But I think I’m like most people who watch the Occupy Wall Street movement with a feeling of detachment. I feel the pain of folks who think the influence game is rigged, but I’m not suffering any discernable ill consequences from the disparity between the haves and the have-nots.

No, I’m content to keep working at providing great content so that I might increase engagement with my target audiences through my humble written offerings. I’ll never be in the 1 percent (unless Justin Bieber decides to make it his life’s mission to flog my content).

I will not opt out of Klout. I will not rail against its inherent flaws, or those of its competitors. I will instead put my head down and do great work, and know that the reward is in the doing, not in the getting.

Posted on: December 19, 2011 at 9:24 am By Todd Defren
9 Responses to “#OccupyINFLUENCE and the Social Arms Race”


  • Interesting post. As marketers we know how hard it is to quantify social media influence. Its good to keep in mind that tools like Klout have to be taken with a grain of salt. Ultimately it comes down to what another reader said above. Write great content and you’ll probably see great results – but if not still do great work to do just that. http://news.iceworldwide.com/blog/


    Klout and other influence tools have finally begun to highlight what has been an unspoken issue for too long. We’re all told to blog/post/tweet in order to gain influence – but the more people do it, the harder to achieve influence.

    I recall reading a column a couple of years ago by Suzy Welch (@suzywelch) in which she discussed her initial reservations about Twitter but ultimately embraced it and now relishes “being part of the conversation”. But Suzy Welch was always going to immediately become part of any conversation – with far less effort than it would require of everybody else.

    Social media merely emphasizes what has always been the reality of information sharing. If I jumped on a soapbox in Central Park to discuss my views of the world, few people would listen (or I’d have to go there every day for months and say very unique/inflammatory things before I’d get much attention). A celebrity or biz/political leader could plant the same soapbox in the same spot and draw a huge crowd in minutes.

    Admittedly, social media has democratized the process much more. Today someone among the 99% has a better chance of reaching a large audience than ever before. But, realistically, if you’re among the 99% (and have a day job) you’ll only gain a high Klout score at the cost of many other areas of your life that warrant your attention much more.

  • @rob, you make some good points; there are inherent flaws with tools such as these. But where I quibble with your celebrity analogy is that the most influential social media folks enjoy content with a longer shelf life, by sheer dint of how popular they are. Not sayin’ that’s bad, but it is what it is.

    So, to me a better analogy would be the way celebrities – and social gurus – can dominate a news cycle or “content cycle” (versus getting free bags of goodies).

    • Robert rose says:


      Exactly my point…. Look at Charlie Sheen or the aforementioned Lindsay… They can dominate a news cycle – and therefore their “content” has a longer shelf life… They are (ahem) #Winning!! The length of time their content stays around in the popular culture…. Despite their value to my brand….

      And that’s really it… I mean first of all – come on… 5 minutes vs. 25 minutes on Twitter is really a pretty inconsequential measure of “influence” in the scheme of life… But even that notwithstanding.. Let’s assume that it’s true across ALL future platforms as well… And that it translates to days or even months… The idea that my Tiger Woods tweet in June lasts until November when he erm… drives into a tree – is disconcerting to me as a brand manger…

      So what I’m saying is that if my goal is to be the Kim Kardashian or Snooki of Social Media – I can get there… I may have a high “celebrity” quotient – and I might be able to get paid doing it. Good for me…

      But – if you’re rather focused on the work and you want to be the Meryl Streep of Social Media… You can get there too…

      At the end of the day – they’re just choices we make….

  • Robert rose says:

    Interesting and thought provoking post for sure… I’m with Jason on this… Ultimately none of these scores will really mean very much – that is unless you’re both in the business of being a “celebrity” – and looking at it in the context of time.

    As a similar model let’s ask this: what influence does the Q Score have on Celebrities? It’s been around since 1963 – and measures the “familiarity” and “likeability” (and its opposite of course) of celebrities and brands.

    So – as an example – last year at the end of the Olympics Shaun White’s 41 Q Score was the same as John Madden. But also Apollo Anton Ohno had a 37 – and that tied him with Magic Johnson and Dr. J… Say What?? – Then, look at somebody like Lindsay Lohan and how her.. um… life – helps to fluctuate her Q Score… In short – Q Scores have become a valuable tool for endorsements – and little else. In short, for celebrities to get paid for *what they actually theoretically do* they must show up and do the work.

    In the end – Klout will have a short shelf life if it doesn’t start to take into account the qualitative attributes that Q has introduced. And, even then – becomes more like the Q Score. For example – if I look at Jason’s Klout Score at 69 and (just to put it into perspective) Lindsay Lohan at 74 (that’s a pretty poor indicator of who I’d want to be representing my brand). I know Jason’s gonna love that comparison (hehe).

    In the end, I don’t begrudge the big celebrities that get fancy gift bags from brands – and get special treatment at restaurants etc.. If that’s their gig – go have at it…. And, so too with the idea of Social Celebrities… If that’s the gig – god bless ya go get it… I can tell you from the experience of living in the town I’ve lived in, though, that can turn out to be a humbling road…

    Right now Klout – and others like it – measures reach and frequency…. It’s an indicator of little else… And as marketers, we should all know by now that focusing solely on reach and frequency is a short ride…

  • Good thoughts, Todd. I tend to agree. I’m not going to opt out, but I’m certainly not going to pay attention, either. I’ve written a few posts on Klout and my feelings about it. Then I decided to build a website to help people understand what their Klout scores really mean. You can find that at http://dowt.me.

    Strangely, there is a large group of SM types who really like Klout. Generally, their scores are pretty high. They ignore the flaws and use the service to their advantage. My fear is they convince others to think similarly. If we ever end up in a world that relies on Klout scores to determine anything of worth, we’re in real trouble.

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