Merriam-Webster ascribes roughly 3 definitions to the word “vanity”: conceit, emptiness (or meaninglessness), and a piece of furniture to assist in grooming. Congratulations then to Klout, which has simultaneously managed to fit these disparate criteria in one offering.
Created in 2009 as an ostensibly objective way to measure one’s online influence (the three criteria – reach, amplification and network – appear reasonably convincing), the service quickly degenerates into a game among users to get the highest score. Lucky you if you’ve never fallen victim to such absurdity. Check off the first definition.
The service quickly preys on this competitive psychology, rewarding users to do ridiculous things like “give Klout” to others; consequently, of course, their Klout goes up. Now we quickly see that “true reach” and “amplification” simply signifies an action of digital masturbation equates with “influence.” Definition #2: check.
Then Klout deemed its users worthy of “perks” for simply using the service. Rewarding loyalty? Sure, if you consider personally advertising on behalf of other products as rewarding. “Influencers” get the “privilege” of test driving cars (including Chevys, nonetheless), and can then raise their scores by broadcasting these “rewards” (bonus Klout for blasting out photos of you and your friends with nothing better to do than test drive a crappy car). Remember, the only thing you get is a lost day spending time driving the dealer’s car and doing their advertising for them. I think this counts closely enough for Definition #3.
Oh, and who gets paid? Why Klout, of course. Unless you assign some monetary value to that mysterious number you hope to raise….which some have indeed done, under the assumption that touting Chiquita Banana bikes and hair gel are worth one’s time and personal social capital.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a value exchange here. It’s between brands and Klout. But for you, the Influencer? Why, you have the privilege of making it all happen! Plus a nice big Klout score too…provided you advertise for them and their customers heavily enough.
For my part, I think I’ll keep my Sunday afternoons free for the time being. Klout score = 54 at this writing 😉