The Seussification of Social Influence

 

I’d like to start out with a framing story by Dr. Seuss: The Sneetches.  This story is not as popular as some of Dr. Seuss’s other books so I am going to give you a summary, although I highly recommend reading the whole book.

The Sneetches are a society that lives on the beach. Some Sneetches have stars on their bellies and some do not have stars upon thars. (Seussism) The Sneetches with the stars on their bellies have frankfurter roasts on the beach and if you don’t have a star, you are not invited to the party.

One day Sylvester McMonkey McBean, the fix it up chappie, came to town with a machine that could put stars on your belly – for a fee of course.  The Sneetches without stars lined up to go through the machine and popped out at the end of the conveyor with stars on their bellies. This made the original star belly Sneetches very upset, how could they tell who to invite to their exclusive parties?

Well, of course Sylvester McMonkey McBean had a solution, the machine could take OFF the stars as well. Soon the Sneetches spent all their money putting stars on and off their bellies. No one knew who was who but Sylvester McMonkeyMcBean, amused at the folly of the Sneetches,  said “you can’t teach a Sneetch” and left town with all of the Sneetches money.

The Sneetches greed and need to be better than others caused their whole system to crash and in the end, they were all the same.

The Sneetches is an allegory for discrimination and I have been thinking about it as people continue to talk about influencers and classifying people as they see fit. Why are we so fixated on our social scores, number of followers, and mentions? Why are people being called influencers? What are the other people? Non-influencers?

I, for one, don’t want to be judged on a score, a floating algorithm or any arbitrary number. I’m not an influencer or someone to suck up to because you think it might help you. I’m a person just like you. Putting people on a pedestal is not healthy.

I urge you to think twice before taking all the social media influencing scores, grades and numbers too seriously. Think independently and be aware of your thinking. Don’t behave like a star belly Sneetch and think that you are better than someone else based on your number of followers, score or grade. It is a very slippery slope. Putting people into this box or that box is judging them.

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”  Albert Einstein

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What do you think of the constant discussion of influencers?

 

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Article by Peg Fitzpatrick

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Peg

Writer & Social media strategist
Co-author of The Art and Science of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users with Guy Kawasaki. Social media is my passion. And my job. I'm here sharing my professional experience working day to day in the trenches of social media, marketing, and blogging. I work with global brands and leaders in the social media sphere every day. I've spearheaded successful social-media campaigns for Motorola, Audi, Google, and Virgin as well as having been a brand ambassador for Kimpton Hotels. I work with the best brands and make them even better! I'll share tips and tricks, provide positive inspiration and answer social media questions through the content that I create and curate. What sets me apart? I'm an innovative idea girl that follows through and gets the job done. Social media is my career, not just a hobby.

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Comments

  1. says

    Peggy,

    I like the analogy that you use here with the “Sneetches”

    I’m probably less outraged about Klout than most because I’m not dependent on it for work.

    Having said that, I think total influence is the key and online only represents one dimension.

    I intend to opt-out of Klout because I don’t like that they are lying about their bigger purpose which is data mining.

    However, they aren’t the first and won’t be the last to gamify us.  We like to keep score.

    Sending you my best on this lovely Wednesday.

    D

    • says

      I agree Daniel that people who rely on the number for employment do have a different feeling about it, I didn’t have to explain my Klout “drop” to anyone in management.

      Agree with you also on the data mining. And us Type A people do like to keep score but important to not be carried away by it, right?

      Appreciate you reading and commenting. 
      Best to you always,

      Peggy

  2. says

    Daniel, I like your comment. This is a good read and I’ve facebook shared it. I wrote a couple blog posts on the topic recently. I’d love all your comments over there too: http://bit.ly/qwitKlout.

    I must state, however, that there are still people that like Klout and the freebees they get for using it. I can get free business cards elsewhere. But as far as the measurement, I’m going to do it in other, more meaningful ways: New clients, new non-virtual and virtual friends alike, and meaningful discussions.

  3. Shawn Roberts says

    Daniel, Thanks for your post. When we developed Kred, we were thinking less about stars on bellies (I grew up on Dr. Suess) than giving everyone a pair of magic glasses that lets them see the topics they are passionate and expert on.  Imagine entering a party or a trade show (or Twitter!) and being able to find the people who share your interests & affinities – and have a history of strong engagement with like-minded folks!  This is what we’re aiming for.
    We are always happy for ideas and suggestions from our community, so please always feel free to reach out to us.
    Cheers, Shawn

    • says

      Shawn,
      I appreciate that a Kred Rep commented on my blog. This is my blog – Dan just commented on it.I am going to check out Kred, as I mentioned, I am just feeling wary due to everything that is occurring with Klout. Klout turned into a star belly society, which I am sure was not their intention either. I think that competitive human nature plays a role and social media seems to amplify everything.

      I have heard really good things about Kred from my friends Jure Callas and Kelly Kim.
      Thanks for your thoughts!
      Positively,

      Peggy

  4. says

    The Klout things has me totally wary of trying anything else. I personally have never checked my scores and do believe I am much much more than a score. HA! my try at rhyming. Thanks for the post, made me smile.

  5. Lois Creamer says

    Who else but you could connect Dr. Suess to Kred and Klout scores! I love it! I also agree that we need to have some perspective as we consider social media scores as to influence. I’m sitting back watching it all play out, and that is my strategic plan for awhile! Happy holidays to one of my favs on social media!

  6. says

    Peggy, nice post…
    Measuring “social” and “influence” is nearly impossible. Psychologists have been working at this for over 100 years. The slope is slippery because who and what is influential in one camp is not interesting at all to another. Anyone who hires a consultant based on a score developed by external algorithm is in for a rude awakening. And anyone who pitches their expertise based on same said score will always be in a position of handing their power and expertise away to an arbitrary construct that can be changed and ripped out from them at any time.
    Stay away from reputation share cropping and quantifying qualities that take years to hone, develop, and showcase the real value we bring to the table.
    Dr. Suess was a smart dude…

  7. says

    I was almost OVER Klout when I began to look again. They sucked me back in thinking it was maybe really an improvement. Then recent dips and ups in mine and friend’s scores defied logic. I’m not done and I’m with you, Peg. I know who’s cool and who’s not. YOU are on the cool side, whatever your score is and I haven’t checked yours either ’cause I know you matter!

    • says

      Ahhh I read that wrong and I thought it said I’m done with you Peg…yikes..my little heart broke.

      I always appreciate your point of view on things Bruce – scores don’t judge friendships and people to me.
      You are fabulous!
      Peggy 

  8. Anonymous says

    Hey Peggy, 

    nice post with great vision. I agree with you people should not be judged by the numbers, but unfortunately we are, every day. Not only online same happening to us offline too.  

    Klout use to be fun, but is not anymore, they dominate the market and try to change the landscape of social media. This can happen only if we allow them to do so. I still remember their Advertising over the summer on facebook. Would you date someone with lover Klout Score… This was the turning point for me. 

    But before we go and measure influence lets make definition of what online influence really is and if we can make true measurements. 

    As for Kred, i like their vision, as they dont focus on “advertisers” and their competitor but purely on understanding the communities. Their is no penalties in their system. 

    If people will display their scores, of course they will coz for many people this is an ego thing and many really don’t understand what influence is. 

    For me Klout represents popularity contest and nothing more.
      

  9. stephanhov says

    Outstanding parallel, Peg. This goes beyond just the Klout (and other) scores; when you constantly see people touting others as “rockstars” and “gurus” and other labels when they talk about them, it’s a turn-off. How is this type of behavior encouraging to people who may feel they have something of value to add to a conversation, but feel intimidated by all the “rockstar ninja gurus” talking amongst themselves? I’m with you, I’m just a person, let’s keep it that way.

  10. ltsailiata says

    I’ve been working on a blog post all week. [The slow-cooker method] About my Klout score…I don’t think we can deny it. It is posted on our HootSuite profile whether we visit Klout.com or not. Is it the most accurate or meaningful metric in the world? Absolutely not. I think I can have a near unanimous head nod on that.

    …But. It is easy to understand and convenient. There in lies it’s power. Not the free biz cards.

    And in a rough way, that can be enough under certain circumstances. 

    It’s a tool. An imperfect tool. If folks are using it to ill effect, I think the blame goes to the users not the tool.

    Klout doesn’t care about how many people who Circle me on Google Plus. I don’t know if Google cares either. It just cares how many people I can Circle…as in an upper limit. 

    Does that Circle Count mean anything then? I think it does. I value active engagers over sheer numbers. But I use those numbers to check myself…see if I’m doing okay on whatever social channel I’m on.

    I spend nearly 75% of my social media time on Google Plus. The Plus only accounts for about 10% of my Klout score. Will that make me put more social media time into FaceBook? Hell, no. Twitter, yes. 

    But not at the expense of Google Plus because I get so much more out of it that the Klout score could reveal.

  11. says

    stephanhov I also worry about how it makes other people feel too. This is the time of year when all the top whatever lists come out and then everyone updates their site to say they are a Blah Blah top influencer. 

    Social media doesn’t have to be a competition sport. You can do well and that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to do well.

  12. says

    ltsailiata I get a nice Klout perk now and then but the number doesn’t truly mean anything. For some reason Klout doesn’t count Google+ very much. I have no idea what their algorithm is but Facebook, Instagram and Twitter count much.

    I think that we know that we are making a difference with our social media on Google+. I can’t weigh in if CircleCount means anything. It seems to be an accurate measure of what you do on Google+ done in a fair way.

  13. KatherineKotaw says

    Hi Peg, and Happy New Year again!  When I saw “Seuss” in the title of your blog, I knew it would be amazing… and I was right!  Dr. Seuss will always be my favorite author because he  taught me the magic of words.  The lesson in the Sneeches — and your blog — teaches something equally important: not to discriminate against others and not to suck up to others based off of trivial appearance-based aspects, such as stars on bellies or number of +1s.  As you said, we are all people and we don’t want to liked or disliked for superficial reasons.  Social media — and human interaction — should be about connecting on a human level.  We either ALL have stars or we ALL don’t.  Then we can form connections based on something more genuine, like kindness :)

  14. stephanhov says

    PegFitzpatrick exactly! To be honest, it got very uncomfortable around the holidays with all the +mentioning people for Thanksgiving, New Year’s, etc. Just reach out privately, or go with a blanket statement of thanks that also adds some value to the people who are going to take the time to read it.

    And as far as competition goes, just lead by example, you’ll come out ahead every time.

  15. Jodee Weiland says

    Happy New Year and great post, Peg! I love Dr. Seuss and his book, The Sneetches! It was a favorite with my children when they were young. Most of all, I love this post. So many of Dr. Seuss’s books were written to teach a lesson and said so much more than just words to entertain. When I approach social media, I do so in a way that I know must irritate some people or may even be misread by others.  The fact is I truly promote only what really appeals to me, or what truly helps me learn something new.  I actually read posts before I comment, like, or re-share…it honestly makes no difference to me who originated it, if I find it to be what interests me. What’s great about that is I find so many new and interesting people to connect with every day.  Sometimes, I find someone through an interesting comment they make on a post.  I guess what I’m saying is this: I don’t care who is doing the talking…I care about what they have to say! I believe in being authentic, sincere, and kind! That to me is real influence, not numbers! That’s why I subscribe to your updates!

  16. says

    Thanks for this flash from the past, Peg.
    I used to read this story to my kids when they were small but haven’t come across it since.

    Ironically, Peg, you are an influencer precisely because you create valuable content like this that is infused with your personality. 

    I don’t ever remember checking out your KLOUT score, I don’t need to as it’s totally irrelevant.

    The reason you influence me is due to your generousity, both with your expertise and your “humanness”.
    A person who shares the former without the latter is simply a resource.

    Unfortunately, influence ranking is hard baked into Google search algorithm and KLOUT scores are taken into account by companies hiring as well as people deciding to follow you or not.
    People still give value to numbers, as evidenced by the flood of Circles Sharing we’re seeing.

    I used to pay attention to my KLOUT score, but haven’t for months now.
    However, it still appears on my Hootsuite profile because I know other people do pay attention to it. 
    If it dips a bit, I know I have to post more on Facebook. 

    You’re right, G+ doesn’t get a lot of respect from KLOUT.

    We can’t escape the power that influence has on the digital space, but we can do our best to be sure that whatever influence we do have, is earned organically, by providing help and leadership to those who seek it.

  17. says

    KatherineKotaw  Happy New Year, Katherine!

    I’m so glad you liked it. The Sneetches is such a classic example of human interaction and you (and Dr. Seuss) are so right “We either ALL have stars or we ALL don’t. ”

    The danger of inviting only the sneetches with stars on their bellies is creating a culture that classifies people and excludes people based on judgement.

  18. says

    Jodee Weiland What a fantastic comment and compliment, Jodee! I love the way that you’re doing social media in your one way and sharing what truly appeals to you. I read everything that I share too and put a lot of thought into where to share things.

    Thank you for your support and having your own spin on social – that’s important!

  19. says

    newraycom  All true true true! I learned a long time ago that when I did what I felt was right, just like ignoring SEO, what I did with my social media was “what Klout liked.” I think my score was much stronger when I was on Twitter and Facebook the most.”

    Google+ shows as like 8 or 9% of my Klout score and Instagram shows as 10% even though I don’t even post there once a day so clearly that isn’t a true gauge of anything. And, yes, Facebook is the place to go for post for more of a Klout boost so pull yourself away from a fantastic conversation with colleagues and possible clients to share a photo for some likes. So silly, right?

    Thank you for these kind words “Ironically, Peg, you are an influencer precisely because you create valuable content like this that is infused with your personality. 
    I don’t ever remember checking out your KLOUT score, I don’t need to as it’s totally irrelevant.

    The reason you influence me is due to your generosity, both with your expertise and your “humanness”.” So happy I met you on Google+!

  20. says

    Great point Peg! I love when people on social media act like themselves and write from their own persona instead of trying to get stars on their bellies. Love how you found such a valid point from such a great source. Dr. Seuss was quite clever! 
    I whole heartedly agree with newraycom! I found about you PegFitzpatrick because of your great content that you share and your personality that you let shine through. It’s so important, we all need to be stimulated on an intellectual and human level. Klout score, number of Twitter followers? Not sure if my Klout score will fulfill me as my online and offline relationships do.

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