Social influence and social media activism

I want to call-out this villainous company who is distiliing our personal information and peddling it to companies as “influence” without our permission. This is what they are doing:

  • Taking our social media information and content — and in many cases PRIVATE messages and even emails — and using this information to help brands sell their stuff.
  • Making money off of our backs, off our content and goodwill.
  • There is no opt-in.  If you use the service, you are in. No compromise.

If you think this is about Klout, you’re wrong. It’s about Facebook. And Google. And Yahoo.

In fact, this is the fundamental economic model of the Internet: Collect as much personal information as possible and deliver it to brands so they can sell you more stuff through ads and promotions.

We have been de-sensitized into not caring about this. The rules of the game on Facebook are … if you’re on the platform, you completely give up your privacy. In fact not only do they slice, dice, and dissect every word, photo and video you post in order to present you to advertisers, they OWN your information. Scary stuff. Orwellian, no?

Why is there such a huge stir about the business model of Klout when every social media platform operates essentially the same way — or worse?

Because we all see it. The big difference is that Klout’s assessment is public. Facebook and Google are certainly assigning you a number — probably LOTS of them! — you just don’t know it. So there is a psychological ickiness of being rated in public.

The psychology of an “F” — Klout changed their grading system and many people’s scores precipitously declined. Why did this bring out such a violent out-pouring of emotion, especially if the score stayed the same on a relative level?  Here’s my theory. Last week my score was an 82.  That’s a “B.”  This week I’m a 63. That’s an “F.”  After a decade or more in traditional school systems, we are hard-wired to associate these numbers with grades, and grades are associated with our egos. All of a sudden somebody gave you and “F?”  Well that will stir things up won’t it?

Privacy complications — Somewhere along the line Klout royally screwed up by opting-in minors and committing other privacy violations. Good grief.  You just can’t do that. If this happened to you, you have a right to be mad.

Since I wrote my post last week trying to assert some rational thought into the Klout re-set, there is a small movement among some bloggers to remove themselves from Klout.

I sincerely honor anybody’s right to quit anything they like and make a statement of activism. But as a digital marketing professional, why would I disconnect myself from one of the most significant marketing developments in our field? Is that activist position really going to have an impact on anything 12 months from now?

Are you quitting other platforms as well to make a statement? No company in the world poses a bigger threat to privacy and personal safety than Facebook. People are committing suicide over Facebook. People are divorcing because of Facebook. Facebook routinely and accidentally divulges our most personal information and connections to people who should not have it. They are the world’s biggest hacking target. It is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when, we will be facing a Facebook privacy disaster.

Now that’s something to blog about. Klout is comparatively trivial.

If you quit Klout to make a statement, that’s cool.  But as social scoring matures and the dots are connected between online conversations and offline buying behavior, aren’t you putting yourself at a professional disadvantage by not staying connected to the trend?

Are we protesting against the grasshopper when the lion is about to eat us all?

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