The Fallacy of the Democratization of Social Influence

Influence and the social web

When we currently think of influence, we probably think of social scoring platforms like Klout, Kred and PeerIndex. These are the early adopters to the social influence space and, as such, have built an impressive level of awareness around their platforms and definition of influence.

Proponents of social scoring have praised Klout, as the most popular platform, for democratizing influence – allowing anyone to be an influencer regardless of audience size, social standing and location.

While it’s true that social scoring can start the process of finding influencers, it’s not quite as clear cut when it comes to being democratic around influence itself.

Social Scoring Silos the Elite

The problem with any scoring system is that it only rewards those with a high number. Want to buy a car? Tough luck if your FICO score is under a certain amount.

The same goes for social scoring in the influence space. Want to have a new Cadillac to test drive for a weekend? You better have a score over X amount. Free flight or upgrade to first class hotel accommodation? Make sure your score is high enough.

This engenders an “us against them” mentality.

Jane Average may be a better person to drive conversation and foot traffic to a car dealership because she’s a gearhead yet Joe Average, who has no intent to buy that car brand but has a higher Klout score because he’s more active online, is the one that gets the car keys.

This elite rewards system now causes another problem – it begins to affect the natural tone of online conversations, as those below the fold realize they can change their language online and be identified as an industry influencer because they’re speaking about a certain brand more.

As the online language changes, the algorithms are rendered ineffective because now everyone truly is an influencer – and yet, they’re clearly not.

The True Definition of Influence

Which brings us to the real crux about influence – who truly impacts how a decision is made and at what point in the purchase cycle of a customer does this decision get made?

  • Is it as a result of a socially active broadcaster, or someone else completely?
  • And, if it’s someone else, do social scoring platforms have the ability to identify that person?

My belief is that social scoring is not true influence, and that’s why the democratization of influence through social scoring is a flawed, if worthy, ideal.

It’s one of the reasons that an early mover like Kred is moving away from scoring as a defining metric. There are bigger pictures and scenarios at play at every single touchpoint of a customer’s journey through an influence-led path, and the results of who actually influences their decision may surprise you.

Influence decision process Yet it’s these decisions that truly matter to a brand when it comes to influence marketing – because scores and amplification will only get you so far. No company can remain in business on the amount of retweets and Facebook Likes they received alone.

The conversation around the future of influence is just getting started – and it’s not about an elite partygoer trading on online noise and a grade…

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/65202873[/vimeo]

A version of this post first appeared on the Influence Marketing book blog.

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