The social scoring service Klout has been generating a lot of press lately, both good and bad. If you don’t know what Klout is, it is a service that assigns a single score (out of 100) to an individual as a measure of how influential they are online. Since Klout came onto the scene last year, a whole host of similar services have popped up. All claim to measure online influence, but they do so using different criteria and algorithms.
While some have embraced social scoring, others are wary of some of the potential implications social scoring will have for society going forward. One of those implications is the creation of a social media caste system. People are worried that businesses will discriminate against individuals with low social influence scores.
The idea is that marketers target those with the highest scores and provide them with perks, (like a better suite at the Palms in Las Vegas), in the hopes that they will spread the good will to their networks, resulting in more customers for that business. The only issue is that if you have a low Klout score, then you do not receive these perks or advantages.
Think of your Klout score as a credit score. Just as you are not entitled to those low levels of interest with a low credit score, you may not be entitled to certain perks at restaurants and hotels because you have a low Klout score.
That being said, society needs social scoring. Today we are living in an attention economy, where we face a continuing downpour of data and information. If we don’t figure out a effective method of sifting through all this information, we’ll drown.
That’s where social scoring comes in. When I want to find content that is relevant, useful, and/or entertaining, I turn to my friends, trusted publications, or people that I know are considered experts in their fields.Those are the new gatekeepers.
By creating or curating information that has relevance and value I am more likely to pay attention to them. I spend hours reading Mashable every week because I always learn something new. And I follow Brian Solis on Twitter for the same reason as well.
My attention is just like a currency, a currency I exchange for relevant information.
Of course, there were going to be attempts to measure online influence. Humans have always sought to align themselves with people more influential than they in order to achieve influence themselves. However, I believe that social scoring services like Klout should seek to measure influence only when it pertains to specific topics, such as SEO or dubstep.
A key component of online influence is relevance. Take Britney Spears who has millions of Twitter followers. She has a high Klout score but does she exert any influence in the SEO industry?
But she might exert some influence when it comes to dubstep music, because her latest song has some dubstep elements, and you know there will be at least 200 dubstep remixes of any Britney Spears song.
Imagine if there were directories you could look up according to topic. At the top, you’d be able to see individuals, blogs, products, services, etc., with the highest influence scores. Then you’d be able to make a more informed decision depending on what you are looking for. It’s not that you or I are want less information. In fact, we want more. We just want it to be the best, most accurate, most relevant information we can get.
Does the concept of social scoring raise some legitimate issues? Yes, but ultimately I believe the benefits of social scoring will outweigh the costs.