You have friends, but do you have 'klout'?

POPULARITY CONTEST OR WAY OF THE FUTURE? Your online influence using social media is being measured and offered to big brand marketing types.
POPULARITY CONTEST OR WAY OF THE FUTURE? Your online influence using social media is being measured and offered to big brand marketing types.

WELCOME to the future, where everyone has a number.

This number, if high enough, grants you access to the best parties and hippest boutiques.

It's not quite the barcode implant that dystopian futurists predicted, but your online movements, the "followers" you have, the stuff you share, and the online transactions you make, are already being aggregated and spat out as an "online influence" index.

Meet the new breed of social analytics dealers: Klout, Kred and PeerIndex.

Klout (yes, clout with a K) the most popular of these influence brokers, measures your sway across several social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Your Klout score aims to reflect the impact social media users have on the people connected to them.

While many dismiss these scores as meaningless quotients for online narcissists, for savvy marketing directors who know the power of word-of-mouth marketing, it's a lucrative numbers game.

Brands such as Nike, Disney and Audi reward powerful online influencers with Klout Perks - anything from free coffee bean samples to VIP access into a Playboy bunny party.

Klout's slightly evangelical mission statement claims, "For centuries, influence had been in the hands of a few. Social media has allowed anyone to drive action to those around them, democratising influence."

However, Lismore marketing consultant and principal at Right Clicks Marketing Saadi Allan is sceptical about the authenticity and reliability of these social scores.

"Measurement of online influence is still in its infancy and Klout does a decent job of measuring the volume of social media interactions," Mr Allan says. "But influence is not that simple. Over-sharing on social sites or getting lots of low-quality followers may bump up your Klout a couple of points but it will likely harm your reputation with people that actually matter."

Like other social media commentators, Mr Allan says, despite Klout's shortcomings, reputation will be a big part of the future of the Web.

Sydney futurist and activist Rachel Botsman predicts that how you score online will be of increasing importance, but the important scores will be based on your trustworthiness and reliability online rather than a Klout-like popularity contest.

"I believe reputation capital will become a cornerstone of the 21st century economy, more powerful than our credit histories," says the author.

Receiving bad feedback on the way you left a rented apartment or failing to post an eBay item are already smears on your online persona.

Ms Botsman says that technology has fostered an economy of trust, honour, goodwill and social capital which can be quantified and used to gain access to an array of goods.

Forget what the bank manager reckons. In the future you will be able to rent a car on the merit of an aggregated trust score, based on the feedback from your online transactions.

The upshot is, what you do online - whether uploading a family portrait on Facebook or renting an apartment online - is being reviewed, measured and aggregated into a number for all to see.

It's happening already, so you'd best know the score.


Top Social Animals

Klout scores

Barack Obama: 99

Julia Gillard: 88

Paris Hilton: 88

The Northern Star Journo Dom Feain: 61

The Northern Star Journo Javier Encalada: 61

Average Klout score: 40


Facebook Friends

Cr Jenny Dowell: 2290

MP Janelle Saffin: 3113

Lock The Gate Alliance: 3743

Byron band Parkway Drive: 680,732

Topics:  social media

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