Klout, Retweets, and Why Neither One Really “Matters”
At the bottom of this post is a link to listen to a segment from last Saturday’s episode of Married to the Game. This segment discusses thoughts on Klout and Twitter and old school “RT’s” versus the “new retweet”.
The text in this post is meant as a supplement to flesh out some of the thoughts shared in that segment. While this post, in its whole, is designed for you to both read the text and listen to the audio, it is possible to take something away from just doing one or the other. Feel free to read and/or listen at your leisure.
A curious change has been taking place on Twitter over the past six months. It used to be that in Conservative circles on Twitter, when people wanted to stand out, they would try to make sound and logical arguments, and they would interact with as many people as they could to share them. It was the very definition of grassroots, and that mentality is one reason that I believe Conservatives were able to so soundly defeat Progressives in the midterm elections. For lack of a better term, Twitter was organic, and most of the discussions felt natural. But as with most good things, it seems that that more natural order of Twitter is in danger of coming to an end.
And who do I blame?
I say FavStar, but that might not be fair. It’s more like the “FavStar” mentality. And what is FavStar, you might ask? It’s a handy website that tells you which of your tweets have been favorited and/or retweeted. It also has a counter to tell you how many times each tweet has received this treatment. While FavStar is tremendously popular on Twitter as a whole, it’s very rare that you’ll see someone of the #TCOT persuasion actually invoke the name of this service. While they don’t say “FavStar”, specifically, they do seem to put a lot of stock into the statistics that FavStar tracks, such as favorites and retweets.
While “FavStar” may not be in the average Conservative’s lexicon, Klout, most likely, is. Klout is a service that tries to determine how influential of a personality on social media you are. You sign into it with your various social media accounts, and it spits out a number that tells you how “important” you are. It sounds like I’m being facetious, but if you listen to an excerpt from my radio show below, you’ll see that having a high Klout score can grant you special privileges like renting luxury cars for “free”.
So, why would Conservatives want you to pay attention to their Klout scores or how many times they’ve been retweeted? To put it shortly, there are THOUSANDS, if not tens of thousands of Conservatives on Twitter vying to have their voices heard. A few years ago, it was fairly easy to follow all of the really “good” Conservative tweeps and not be overwhelmed. But today, you can follow nearly 2000 tweeters and still be missing out on solid voices. It gets to a point where you simply cannot keep up with it all. And a lot of influential tweeters know this. So they tell you that they are the ones you should listen to, and their high Klout scores or the number of times they’ve been retweeted are proof of this.
The problem is that, while they are trying to find a way to distinguish themselves, they’re practically knocking the ladder down before other good tweeters can reach a similar point of prominence that they enjoy. Now there is a small catch to this: Prominent people who have been trying to knock the ladder down *do* help some smaller tweeters up the ladder. The problem is that they are generally only willing to help someone up who basically parrots their views. They do this for two reasons:
1. Brown nosing has been the quickest path to the top since the dawn of time.
2. They create more power for themselves in the process. The person who parrots them knows where their meal ticket is, so they will continue to parrot the prominent tweeter’s views effectively “forever”. And the more influence this smaller person gains, the more useful they are as a parrot. In a lot of ways, this scenario resembles crony capitalism, or just general cronyism.
So, why should you care? If you use social media sparingly and you have no ambition of ever becoming prominent yourself, then you have very little reason to care. You still do have reason to care, but not as much as some other people would. However, if you have a website to promote, or you want to feel like you’re effecting conversation, then it helps to develop some sort of prominence for yourself. As recently as a year ago, you could do this fairly easily by just talking to people and making good points. It was as simple as that. Today, it seems that the only way to amass any amount of prominence is to have an already established person vouch for you. This can be done in many ways, but when you boil it, it usually comes down to some variant of brown nosing. This is not to say that you can’t develop prominence on your own, but if Twitter is a marketing tool to you, then it will really only be useful if you can get the bigger fish to help get your links clicked. (or your thoughts heard)
The text in this post was written as a supplement to the audio in the link below. While I don’t expect this message to be received with open arms by everyone, this is definitely something that has been discussed (privately) for a while. Last week’s article, where TechCrunch founder, Michael Arrington, espoused on why he now supports Klout was the real motivating factor for me expressing these views out loud. As more and more people join social media and become politically involved, the scenario that I’ve outlined above and below will only become more of a problem. As I said on the show, right now we’re witnessing a snowball that is rolling down a hill and soon to become a boulder. I’m speaking out now, before that boulder has a chance to knock some really good tweeps out.