Our Sad Obsession With Influence


kloutHave you checked your Klout score lately? How about your Empire Avenue share price? Or how many people have friended you on Facebook and follow you on Twitter?

Suddenly everybody talks about influence.

Hotels look at Klout scores to decide who gets past the velvet rope. Brands can now engage Facebook fans based on Klout scores. And Peter Shankman had an invite list to an exclusive holiday bash based on Klout scores.

Clearly, the world has gone mad.

While I write this, all over the world brands and lonely people in basements use their HootSuite and Kloiut dashboards to filter anyone with a Klout score of above 50 or so into a special list they will name “Influencers”, “VIP” or “Thebestestofthebestest.” Once they’ve done that, they will focus all their work and effort on getting the attention of these people. And they will pop the champagne once @chrisbrogan or @armano retweets them. Or if others will mention their brand.

This is proof the world has gone mad.

Sure, when somebody like @chrisbrogan retweets you, you get a lot of reach. Suddenly your blog gets a lot more traffic than usual, people will chime in talking about your brand. But this doesn’t last. This reach evaporates very quickly. And you have to start this vicious Sisyphus-like cycle all over again.

So, let’s say your business is colorful T-shirts. You can try all day long to get the attention of an “A-lister”. One day a person with a Klout score of 83 (the range is 1-100) mentions your product. You will get a spike in traffic to your site, additional new fans and followers. Sales? Not sure.

People like @armano or @chrisbrogan have this high Klout score and are called by others influencers because they create interesting content. They take and took the time to be an active part of the community they serve. They don’t use influencers to get the word out, they show people their value through their content.

Let’s get back to the owner of the colorful T-shirt business. He gave up on influencers and started to build a dedicated community of interested people. People that love colorful shirts, that love to express their personality through colorful T-shirts. They can be security guards, CEO’s, admin assistants – it doesn’t matter. That aforementioned security guard is working in a mall and one day he starts talking to the buyer of a major department store about these colorful T-shirts. And the buyer checks them out and orders 2,000 pieces.

But the security guard has a Klout score of 12. Who cares about him?

We need to save the world from this influencer garbage.

The owner of the T-shirt business cares. Because he understood that these numbering schemes redefined popularity and called it influence.

Here’s the truth:

  • Forget about influencers.
  • Don’t mistake popularity for influence.
  • Become your own influencer.
  • It’s going to be hard.
  • It’s going to be exhausting work.
  • It’s going to take time.

One last advice.

Influence comes from the strangest places. Sometimes it comes from people you would never talk to or be friends with.

A guy has an interesting way of dancing to music. We don’t know his Klout score. We don’t know his Twitter follower count. We know that one person joins him and within seconds we have a movement.

If interesting-way-of-dancing-guy can do it, you can do it.

About Uwe Hook

Uwe Hook (@uwehook) is the CEO and Co-Founder of BatesHook, Inc. (bateshook.com) and a veteran of the advertising and marketing industry with the goal of building connections between people and brands. Uwe can be reached at uwe@bateshook.com.



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