Friday, June 22, 2012

Klout, social media, social status, and social class

Will Barratt, Ph.D.

I got an invitation to join Klout yesterday.  I had no idea what Klout was so I spent some time chatting on-line and in-person with colleagues and reading reviews of Klout.  Officially Klout is touted as “making influence measurable” by tracking your influence through social media.

Once I learned what Klout was I became fascinated by the social class implications of this  tracking software.  Klout may have been designed to help businesses track the extent to which their tweets are re-tweeted, or how often people click their Facebook profiles, but Klout is being marketed to individuals also.  One of my Twitter active colleagues noted, on Facebook of course, that “I monitor my score and prefer not to see it drop.”

Paying attention to the rules that Klout uses will shape your postings toward those which get you more Klout influence points.  Any game player, especially complex computer game players, will mold their behavior so that they can accumulate more points.  Klout, from one perspective, is a social media game that you can win.  Whether or not the rules of Klout actually reflect anything in reality is a matter for a discussion of measurement validity. 

Since Klout is not a zero sum game (if I win a point then you lose a point) losing has relative and not absolute meaning.  Winning, having more points, is still winning.  Now you can have a real-time assessment of your on -line influence.  Influence will be, for many people, equated with social status.  Influence will be, for many people, equated with social capital.  If you have a high score then you are a winner.  If you have a low score then you are a loser.

Which of us has not done a Google search on our own name and the name of someone else to compare our scores?  Which of us has not posted something to Twitter hoping that it will get Re-Tweeted?  Klout can calculate your popularity in social media in real time so that you can use it to judge your personal worth, your social status, and your social class.  Or not.

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