Friend of mine just sent me this interesting post by Leslie Campisi. It’s yet another Klout-bashing post (at this point, I can’t tell whether these posts are helping or hurting the causes they claim to rail against), but I think Leslie makes some interesting points.
While I don’t agree with everything Leslie says here (for example, I don’t agree that technology doesn’t have a role in helping make sense of this massive, open, oft-chaotic new world - after all we at Traackr are playing in important role in this), I really like the insight she brings near then end of the post. Here’s what she says:
Turning social media into a game diminishes its potential – and might lead to a backlash. I can imagine a scenario, in several months’ time, where Klout’s gamification of social media turns against the PR world. If you’ve been in this industry long enough, you can recall the long march it took to convince brands (b-to-c and particularly b-to-b) that social media wasn’t the domain of interns and 13-year-olds.
Having now turned that corner, I cringe to imagine the conversation that might happen next:
“Social media? That’s just a bunch of weirdos pumping up their Klout scores for coupons. Oh sure, our last agency boosted our entire sales team’s Klout scores to X. Thought leadership and so on. That’s in the Klout magic quadrant, you know. But it didn’t mean a damn thing. We didn’t meet our sales goals, and in fact I laid them all off. And the influencers we ended up ‘engaging’ with? Yeah, turns out they were more interested in freebies than actually becoming, you know, actual customers. So no, I don’t think we’ll be doing any Twitter campaigns anytime soon.”
Leslie is one of the few people to really understand what Klout is — a game. It’s a game built for the benefit of the advertisers. Period. Nothing more. It’s not an influence measurement…it’s a game.
But what I like about Leslie’s insights is that she not only recognized Klout for what it is, a game, but she also recognized the ultimate danger of this game. And it’s something I’ve worried about for a while. The game that Klout has created has the potential of throwing social media into a very dark age.
What I’ve always loved about social media, and what has made it so great, is the freedom it has given people to join & contribute to communities built around the things in which they are most passionate. To this point, social media has been an ecosystem built around pockets of passion. Genuine passion.
Games like Klout threaten this foundation. Instead of being driven by genuine passion, we are coming to a place where most of social media activity is being driven mainly by the passion for free shit (& shallow ego stroking). And that’s a dark, ugly place. An ecosystem of beggars looking for handouts. A place where connections aren’t real, but means to a selfish end. Not really a place I want to hang. And I’m afraid, we’re heading pretty quickly in that direction. Some of this is the inevitable clash of business & human nature. And some of it is due to the irresponsible acts of Klout & others like it.
But…I’m an optimist. And social media is incredibly young. I see this kind of hiccup as part of the natural evolution of a young system. Do I feel like we’re heading in a dark period of social media? Yeah, I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better. But will we be there forever? No, I don’t think so. Eventually, the disingenuous will fade away and we’ll end up with an even stronger, more powerful form of social media on the other side.
At least that’s what I hope :)