Your influence, rated arbitrarily
If you've followed me on Twitter or friended me on Facebook, the chances are I've influenced you to commit a crime, move to New Zealand, purchase salmon, listen to Lady Gaga, or go surfing.
This may sound ridiculous to you, but I have empirical evidence that proves it beyond a doubt – I just created a Klout account, you see.
It's obvious that celebrities or public figures with massive online followings are going to make waves with every utterance, but ordinary people can also be influential, thanks to social media.
Now Klout, a four-year-old San Francisco start-up, has created a metric for determining just how influential social media users are, or so their site claims.
Klout works by plugging into your social media accounts, mainly Twitter and Facebook, but you can add others, and using an algorithm to determine how influential you are.
The algorithm is a secret – necessary for an industry advantage but a source of contention for some critics.
But it's at least partly based on the amount of Facebook posts that have been liked or commented on, or tweets that have been retweeted, replied to and marked as a favourite.
I've been trying to ignore the service, but on a whim I logged in at the weekend to see how I measured up.
I linked my Twitter and Facebook accounts, and crossed my fingers that I wasn't as pathetic as I feared.
It turns out I have a Klout score of 33.5 out of a possible 100, which sounds like an awful score, the equivalent of an "E" mark at university.
But after a bit of research, it looks like that's a modest level of influence, mercifully above the average of 20.
It's quite a strange thing to have your entire online social life summed up in a number – particularly such a small one.
What's more, upon logging in I saw a chart telling me that in fact my current score is down from what it used to be. On April 18 I was up to 34.43! So not only is my influence rather middling, but I've actually lost influence recently.
My Klout index is limping along, desperately trying to keep out of an influence recession.
Worse, I'm not influential about any of the things I actually want to be.
My top 10 topics of influence, in order: New Zealand, Crime, Animals, Video, Food, Coffee, Salmon, iPhone, Lady Gaga, Surfing.
Why can't I influence people to read the Nelson Mail, watch Star Wars or listen to Radiohead?
But strangely, as a human being born into an age of video games and score systems, I do feel an odd desire to grow that score, even as my rational side maintains it's means almost nothing.
I say "almost nothing" because marketers and companies have begun to take notice of Klout scores.
Influential Klouters overseas have found their hotel rooms upgraded and received free gifts, including the chance to test-drive an Audi.
Marketers are hoping these influencers will tweet positively about such experiences and drive sales, though I can't help but think a company like Audi has an optimistic view.
When was the last time you dropped thousands of dollars on a car because a guy on the internet said it was good?
On the other hand, there is at least one story of someone missing out on a job because their Klout was too low. Perhaps I should have kept mine quiet.
In some ways, services like Klout are a logical step in the evolution of the web.
Every time you post a link on a social media site, on some level you're doing so because you want people in your network to follow the link, and then click "like" or leave a comment, or share it themselves.
So why not try and measure this stuff? It's not like this is the first arbitrary number used to aid or impede us – what about a credit score?
But I do find the idea that marketers have begun to flock to the service worrying.
When you give people an arbitrary score, and then incentivise improving that score by offering gifts and prizes, how genuine are their Facebook posts and tweets going to become?
Isn't this a step along the way to ruining social media? Perhaps.
Now, for the record, I would just like to confirm, that I have received absolutely nothing from the crime, salmon, Lady Gaga or surfing industries as a result of my posts.
But then, I don't have a very high Klout score. Yet.
- © Fairfax NZ News