Citizen +K: The Rise of Social Influence
A review of ROI: Return on Influence, by Mark W. Schaefer
Orson Welles’ classic movie Citizen Kane tells of a once neglected and discarded child who grows to great influence as a king of content, but who fails to find lasting happiness. Reading Mark Schaefer’s description of Citizen Influencers in his book ROI: Return on Influence, I couldn’t help but wonder if, in a world where clout for a few is reportedly giving way to Klout for the masses, we aren’t all going to be gasping “Rosebud” with our last breath, devastated by the inevitable drop in our Klout score once our 15 minutes of self-induced online “fame” is over?
OK, so, like the movie, I’m being a bit dramatic here, but all to make a point. Online influence measurement, as with Klout, Kred and PeerIndex, is generating real love-it-or-loathe it reactions, and Schaefer’s book makes a reasonable case as to why we should learn to, if not love it, at least live with the trend and leverage it.
Social Scoring: The Creation of a New Social Caste System?
Schaefer contends that “We are at the dawn of the creation of a new social media caste system determined by how and when you tweet, connect, share and comment.” [page xvii] Lest you think this is merely another social media guru rushing to gush over the latest shiny object, Schaefer also takes pains throughout the book to examine the inherent failings of current social scoring systems and the potential downsides (“The trappings of social proof implied by the number of Twitter followers or Facebook “like” may be more important signs of accomplishments to many people than a lifetime of real accomplishments.”)
The first part of the book is an overview of social scoring: what it is, how it’s developing, who the players are. The second part of the book is all about the dominate player in the space, Klout, and, while not quite intended as a “how to” book in the manner of his popular mini-manual “The Tao of Twitter,” it gives Schaefer’s typically concise, practical take on how to use Klout, that is., how to boost one’s score, how to earn Klout perks, etcetera.
Influencer Marketing, or Marketing to Humans?
I’m glad to see Schaefer emphasize some of his favorite themes here, particularly the encouragement to “Be real, be honest…” (and yes, he uses the “authenticity” word, which I have lately attempted to pronounce dead for marketing use… but at least he is good enough to define what he means by this beaten-to-death buzzword). He also describes how Klout et al can be gamed, but makes the following case as to why and how social scoring can nonetheless be an important indicator and tool:
“Although badges can be gamed, humanity cannot. Building social proof is important, but nurturing true authority through authenticity, meaningful content and an engaged group of followers will lead to lasting influence and business benefits.”
I’d Have Reservations about Social Scoring (But My Klout Score May Not Be High Enough to Get Me Good Reservations for Anything)
My Little-Luddite-Within must confess: I cringe when I hear folks like Jeremiah Owyang predict (on Six Pixels of Separation) that one day, when we all wear Google Glass, we’ll be able to see someone’s (everyone’s) Klout score above their head… and, given human nature, accept or reject them before any more personal impression can be made.
And it worries me that, after reading both of Schaefer’s books, I was able to nearly double my Klout score, to a high of 57, almost exclusively by dint of aggressive tweeting. Or perhaps it worries me more that, as I tweet less incessantly, my Klout score has dropped several points, even as I proceed to make more meaningful relationships via my social and other media activities, and reach larger audiences via my Branding magazine articles, which Klout does not factor in.
Whether you are on the love or loathe side of the Klout fence, ROI: Return on Influence is a worthwhile read on a subject of increasing importance and no little controversy. Of course, for all of you who aspire to be Citizen +K I also recommend watching Citizen Kane as a primer on how not to play your part in this unfolding drama.