Social media will make tits out of all of us

The new online trend for measuring influence is damaging to privacy, filling the web with more crap and wasting everyone's time

Social media will make tits out of all of us

I don’t mean Facebook or Twitter per se when I say this. I mean the way the industry is starting to leverage these platforms – usually (of course) in attempts for financial gain.

And that, is currently about influence and networks. How these new platforms make it much easier to see the connections between people and - to a degree - the different levels of influence that we have over each other too.

The information that we share on these places gets hoovered up and used in all kinds of ways. And this will only get more sophisticated and invasive. Personally I feel really uncomfortable with this – maybe it’s a generational thing? The innocent pleasure of sharing some holiday snaps with your friends has frankly, been soiled.

I’d like to define a new phrase – data blackmailing. To mean the increasing number of websites that mandate that you use your Facebook or Twitter log-in and password to use them. I came across this one yesterday.

No way to check out if it’s any good without first ponying up my Facebook details and by extension allowing the company to know all kinds of stuff about me. It’s like going on a blind date with someone and having to tell them all about your relationship hangups, your friends and your quirks and foibles before you even have time to work out if you like them enough to see them again.

Frankly, you can sod off.

Perhaps the most insidious example of this I’ve come across is the influence score app Klout. If you want to know more about Klout read this great piece in Wired magazine. Basically you have to sign up to Klout with either Twitter or Facebook and are then encouraged to connect it with all your other social networking sites like Linked In, your blog, etc etc. It then uses an algorithm to give you an influence score. (Based on for example how many people you follow on twitter compared with how many follow you, how often your friends on Facebook re-share things that you have posted etc)

It’s immensely powerful as a concept. Let’s say you’re selling a new kind of super-light backpack, ideal for gap year travellers. There are stacks of travel bloggers out there talking to this kind of audience. Who to try and work with? If they all had Klout scores you could make the decision really easily. The higher their score, the higher their level of influence and the more likely they are to be able to generate additional sales for you.

Assuming of course Klout actually works.

Klout is frankly very rudimentary – it’s very gameable. A key way to up your score is tweet more frequently about a more tightly defined subject. There’s a hilarious story in that Wired feature I linked to, about a guy who started to feel worried whilst on holiday for 2 weeks because there was no internet connection so he couldn’t tweet – which would mean his Klout score would go down. How incredibly sad and stupid. How vacuous.

But it’s taken hold regardless. In the US, people with high Klout scores are getting all kinds of attention – free stuff to trial, better job opportunities. The Wired piece I linked to starts with a story about a guy who got turned down for a job on the basis of his Klout score!

Call me old fashioned but I simply don’t believe technology can (should?) define the value of the relationships I have with other people or their intrinsic worth. Can you imagine a world where everyone is trying to increase some random score about themselves to gain greater prestige and advantage? Mental.

This social media trend isn’t just about people either – it’s companies too. Increasingly companies are trying to up the number of Facebook fans they have by running competitions that require people to ‘like’ the company’s Facebook page.

And, we’re seeing a similar trend in SEO. Social signals are now the big noise for SEO-types. The more ‘likes’ and ‘+1’s a page has the higher it will rank in search results (apparently). So, again, companies are looking for ways to generate more ‘like’s and ‘+1’s for their pages. Expect a deluge of quirky videos, dumb competitions and ‘clever’ infographics going forward. How tedious.

Everyone online seems to be screaming ‘like me, like me, like me’!

I’m a huge believer in doing less, better. I’m a huge believer in real relationships. The way you influence people is by getting to know them and understanding what makes them tick. It’s an immensely human activity.

Technology won’t replace this and to assume it will is stupid and lazy. Agree?

Pic credit: lauralewis23

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