Am I the only one who’s wondering when the whole concept of “Influence” totally just jumped the rails? Not that I ever credited Influence platforms like Klout and/or Kred much to begin with...ok, I didn’t credit them. At all. But lately? The whole concept of influence just seems to have gone from iffy to just downright crazy.
Take Klout. Their whole alleged point used to be that they were “the Standard for Online Influence.” Not that it meant anything at all, as it was easily game-able and a constantly moving target, but at least what the platform actually did sort of aligned with what it claimed to do: score people’s online influence by virtue of their activity and followings on various social media platforms. Then it awarded “perks” to those influential in whatever certain space (disclosure: as a known influencer of good nutrition choices, I have received Klout perks for McDonalds on several occasions, as well as a few other random ones, including my favorite leopard print scarf). So even if the way they defined influence and scored it was debatable, at least it was somewhat straightforward. Fast forward a few years until this February, when Klout changed from being “the standard for online influence” to, um, I’m not exactly what to call it. From Klout’s announcement about #NewKlout:
Klout now provides tools for not only measuring your online influence, but also increasing it. We’re unlocking the power of our data to help you create content that gets more reactions online.
So now, Klout is, I guess, a content scheduling and sharing platform. That somehow still has something to do with influence and somehow still awards me McDonalds perks, even though I never share content about McDonalds (although maybe it’s psychic, because I do, in fact, eat at McDonalds more frequently than I care to admit). The thing is, it’s not about sharing your own content, it’s just about sharing “content.” Then it measures the “impact” of that content. I give up trying to understand it, but apparently I’m wrong in dismissing it as useless since it was just acquired by Lithium for $200 million.
Then take Kred, a platform that invites users to “create your trusted influencer network” and build influence. Same-ish idea as old Klout, pretty much. I never really gave it much thought. That is, until recently when they began sending me email notifications that because of my Kred, I was now eligible for the very fancy and special new domain designation: dotCEO. Yep, I was surprised too, since I’m not, in actuality, a CEO, nor have I ever been...but no matter. For just $99, I could establish world dominance by purchasing MaggieMcGary.CEO. Tempting, but….not. Then I got another email last night with a “bonus early adopter” special: $30 off my dotCEO domain if I act now.
Is this what the much-lauded concept of “influence” has boiled down to? Spamming people with random offers? Selling companies on opportunities to “connect” with influencers or get them to spread the word about awesome services like dotCEO domains for non-CEOs? Getting people to use your platform as a content scheduling tool? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the concept has devolved into such a mishmash of randomness. The thing that does surprise me, though, is that one of these platforms would be worth $200 million even after it did a total about-face on its main purpose. Although I shouldn’t be surprised, because in the end, the valuation boils down to what everything seems to boil down to these days: user data.