Monetizing influence will destroy the fabric of social media

What is influence? It’s a massive question in the world of social media. Thousands of man hours are being pumped into companies who are trying to solve the problem in the hope that one day, you’ll be able to search a category and an application will spit out exactly the 5 top influencers you need to be communicating with to push your product.
I’m in the lucky position whereby I could be classed as an ‘influencer’ in a field (not social, sadly!), so I can quickly decipher which tools work and which don’t. I’ve tried blog ranking systems, I’ve had a go on Klout and I’ve used bespoke services. The commonality between all of them?

They’re all useless.

It’s not their fault though. It’s the fault of online influence and all its amazing intricacies / variables. The simple fact is that you’ll never be able to have a perfect system that analyses influence; you’ll always need human intervention. Why? Because anything that has an algorithm involved can be gamed and is open to error (the banking industry felt the full force of over dependence on algorithms first hand).

I don’t want to share the dark arts of social media with you; needless to say, with a bit of elbow grease and some solid hours, you can quickly create the impression you’re an influencer on various platforms. Why would you want to do that? Well, now businesses know that the power of recommendation is a powerful marketing tool, they want to montize that.

For me, this goes against the basic fundamentals of social media. It’s the one area of marketing where a business had to become better if they wanted to engage with people. It’s been a land mark business leveller that once again put the customer in control of the relationship, now I fear we’re endangering that power by allowing ourselves to become part of the machine. Klout and their long term vision of rewarding influencers for talking about their products with gifts, vouchers and treats is a horrible concept.

We’ve seen first-hand that people don’t like being sold to by celebrities when they’re flogging chocolate bars via their Twitter accounts. I felt kind of betrayed when Jack Wilshere insisted on plugging a computer game via his Twitter account before Christmas. How would I feel if my friends were plugging high street coffee? Disgusted.

Dave from Chafford Hundred might have a lot of friends in my social network, but please, don’t think he has a clue when it comes to coffee, and don’t think because he’s recommended it in a status update I’m going to rush out to Starbucks, regardless of what his Klout score says. Creating a game out of influence wedges a block of mistrust into an arena that has predominantly, resisted marketing messages unless they were relevant and well thought out.

My hope is that influence is left in the hands of those who truly are influencers in their field. I hope that we don’t pay people to sell to their friends and I hope that we just accept that sometimes, the human eye is a more powerful tool than a fancy algorithm when it comes to identifying what is important to people.

@PeterWood33 from @SteakLondon