Watch out for your social score

Several leading companies in the domain of social scoring are further refining their processes, using more nuanced methods to sift through vast data and evaluating as many social networks.  Klout has already announced its decision to incorporate LinkedIn profiles for the same. PeerIndex states that it is at the start of this long journey and expects it to reach more nuance and granularity during the journey.

And marketers are fast signing on. Many top brands are now using the data from Klout, which revealed of Audi beginning to offer promotions to Facebook users on basis of their Klout score. Virgin America has already used the company’s services for offering highly rated influencers free round-trip flights to select destinations.

Watch your influence scores

Describing the phenomenon, the Klout chief executive and co-founder, Joe Fernandez, has been quoted as saying, “We are all now for the first time on an even playing field. It’s simply not just the amount of money that you’ve or what you look like, which matters. It is important what and how you say.” A marketing expert associated with Rutgers University, Mark W. Schaefer, states:

“Now you are being assigned a number in a very public way, whether you want it or not. It’s going to be publicly accessible to the people you date, the people you work for. It’s fast becoming mainstream.”

Typically, influence scores are in range of 1 to 100. On Klout, one of the dominant players in this thriving space, the average score is usually in the range of high teens. On the one hand, a score in the 40s denotes a strong, albeit niche, following. On the other hand, a 100, on the other hand, would mean you are Justin Bieber. The median score on on PeerIndex is 19. According to the company, perfect 100 is ‘god-like’.

Are we building new ‘social walls’?

But not all are impressed with prevalent methods for democratization of online influence, claiming they are not foolproof. An analyst associated with digital-strategy consultancy Altimeter Group, Jeremiah Owyang mentioned that employing a single metric in order to evaluate influence is rather risky. He added that methods like those used by Klout lack ‘sentiment analysis’ – so a user generating incessant digital chatter might get a high score though what’s being talked about that user is overtly negative. A single metric can well be misleading: someone with precious little Twitter experience can end up snagging a higher score if they happen to host a video, which goes viral.

Broadly speaking, experts like Mr. Schaefer of Schaefer Marketing are concerned of the fact that we’re moving closer to building biased ‘social media caste systems’, wherein users with high scores receive preferential treatment. It is not surprising that some people are desperate to game their scores. Attaining real influence demands time, effort and commitment. And you cannot afford to ignore your digital self or else you will end up paying the price.