I’m registered on a site called Klout which measures social influence on the internet. Basically it counts things like how many people engage with your posts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media and evaluates your influence on a scale from 0 to 100. My score hovers between 50 and 55 which means that by their criteria I am middling influential.
The site is growing and the gurus who write about such things say it is a useful indicator, but I wonder how Klout will fare when it comes to the word of mouth advertising that is the life blood of social networking. They keep prompting me to invite my friends and spread the word, but the truth is I am embarrassed to be a member in the first place. Surely it is the opposite of cool to care too much about the impression you are making. And there is something undignified about chasing a number like that. Shades of the Sally Fields “They like me, they really like me!” speech. It’s taken her decades to live that down.
Besides, I’m dubious that social influence can really be measured in likes and comments. An organization I work for has categorized their followers into snackers and lovers. The snackers are those who are attracted by a particularly buzzy blog post. They seek the quick hit and are fickle with their attention. They are the people who take a post viral, and make an unknown into a household name overnight. Then buzz off to find the next big thing. The lovers are those who really resonate with your message, and align with your mission. They are members of what Seth Godin calls your tribe and Chris Guillebeau calls your small army. Once they find you, their bonds are deep and long lasting and together you can do great things in the world.
Influence is an interesting topic. Name recognition gives one a certain amount of influence. The wider the circle of people who recognize your name, the more people are open to your influence. The more people interact with your posts, the more they demonstrate an interest in what you are putting out there. But real influence is more than just interest or engagement. To influence is to move or motivate another to shift their way of thinking, the decisions they make, the actions they take in the offline world. It takes trust and time. And it’s hard to measure that kind of klout by clicks.
Three morals in this story,
1. I want to extend my influence.
2. And be a positive force in the world.
3. But I have a feeling that tracking my Klout score isn’t cool.
Yours with creativity and imagination,
p.s. I’d love to hear your take on the question of influence, what it is and how it’s measured and whether sites that purport to measure influence are any use at all.