Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Calling BS on Klout and the Concept of Influencers

Can I just say that I will be very, very glad when the word "influencer" is struck from the vocabulary of every marketing, PR and social media person. Why? Because the whole concept of "influencer" based on stuff like Klout or stupid tools like Vitrue's Social Page Evaluator is absolute BS. Anyone can have a Twitter account, or dozens of them, and retweet the crap out of their own stuff, thereby increasing their Klout. Some social media management tools even have a built-in feature that lets you re-tweet your own post from an unlimited number of other accounts, making it look as if it were actually retweeted when in fact it was you who manufactured these retweets. For instance, take Spredfast: "On-site scheduling and voice management allows a single tweet to be sent out and then be retweeted, in slightly altered forms, by any number of other accounts over time, creating the illusion of a discussion."

In a world where anyone can easily create "the illusion of discussion" how can we seriously think that people can be accurately ranked by their online influence as gauged by an easily-duped system of pretend numbers? And what about stuff that happens off-line...like, for instance, most of life? If I tell 20 people how great my Toyota Venza is and they all end up buying one--that's less valuable than me tweeting about it to a bunch of strangers who don't actually know me? Or those people think about my recommendation for a minute, then check my Klout score and see it's only 17 and decide "forget it--her opinion doesn't count." Of course not.

And as I've blogged about before, brands or PR people who give special treatment to influencers and dismiss the less worthy do so at their own peril because among today's nobodies are, most certainly, tomorrow's A-listers. So what happens when you then go to pitch the next batch of influencers and none of them will give you the time of day because you didn't give it to them back when they were mere blips on Klout's scale? People who you didn't send fancy cupcakes to last year, or didn't invite to your super-special "secret" influencer party at the last blogger conference will remember being dissed, and they won't take kindly when you suddenly come sniffing around now that they're popular.

Glad to see I'm in good company with my disregard for Klout; if you don't want to take it from me, a nobody with low Klout, take it from Geoff Livingston, who probably was worthy of free PopChips.

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