I’ve got a ton of Klout. It says so on the card that came in the box that was delivered yesterday. Yep. Evidently, a ton of klout is worth at least 13 oz of Hershey’s chocolate spread. Heard of it? Maybe not. I hadn’t. That’s the point. Heard of Klout? The point of Klout is to spread the word, this time about spreadable (hazelnut-inspired?) chocolate. Advertising, and possibly the economy, is changing. Here we go again. I wonder where we’ll end up.
Because you’re reading this blog you’re partaking of social media. These free sites and services like WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, etc. can all be used for free, but we know that someone is paying for the people that make up the companies behind the logos. (Check out xkcd’s map to see the 2010 diversity.) Marketers and advertisers are happily gathering data that was inaccessible before the Internet. They’re paying for the services we use for free, because they hope to get us to pay for what they’re selling. Then, they take that money and pay to mine data (Wolfram Alpha will display your Facebook analysis. Type in “Facebook”.) and place ads – with the money we gave them. So, maybe these sites aren’t quite free.
I’m glad I was born at the right time to watch computers and the Internet grow and evolve. I saw the Internet was it was still the ArpaNet, and didn’t see any real use for it. Oops. But after www, html, and browsing were born I could see that it wouldn’t stop; but, it wasn’t obvious where it would go. I wish I followed through on some of my earliest intuitions. At least I bought AOL early, but that’s another story (which is in my book – Dream. Invest. Live.).
Remember print ads? Advertisers would place ads everywhere, hoping to catch our attention. It worked well on television, when there were only four channels. Talk to a lot of people and hope a precious few buy.
Yahoo realized it could make lot of money by creating a directory, and then letting advertisers place ads in front of self-collected audiences. A chat room about cars is an obvious place for car ads. No need to waste money broadcasting to the vast majority when a select minority organized themselves.
Google realized that people were more likely to search than to scroll through a directory. Keep track of the search terms and the most popular ones can be auctioned off to the highest paying advertisers, especially, if ads were tied to the searches. Cross-referencing search histories enabled even narrower, and hopefully more successful ad placements. Fewer ads for the same sales, or more, was a good deal.
Klout takes advertising one step further by using data mining to identify key people, influencers. Now that so many of us are reading and writing highly personalized lives on the Internet, particularly on social media, they can identify people whose reach is larger than it may appear. Instead of putting ads in front of them, go one step further and give them the product for a discount, or free. They know I’m likely to talk about a wide range of topics. Evidently, in addition to personal finance, Scotland, social media, and science they think I’ll talk about food. Okay. So far I’ve received coupons (and a nice lunch bag) for Tillamook yogurt , a coupon for a MacDonald’s Big Mac, and now Hershey’s new chocolate spread that appears to be a competitor to Nutella. Good advertising, bad advertising, they don’t care as long as I might say something, anything.
Free food? Thank you. Except for the yogurt, which isn’t for sale within 15 miles of my house; or, the Big Mac, which is more like 40 miles up the island.
For the food curious, and possibly for any Hershey person reading this blog: Yes, it looks and spreads like Nutella; but maybe I was wrong about the Nutella competition. Hershey’s spread isn’t quite just chocolate, but it isn’t implying that it is hazelnut. The packaging looks Nutella-ish, but the ingredients are quite different. Nutella claims over 50 hazelnuts per jar. Hershey has cocoa as the fourth and fifth ingredients, sugar is number one, and there’s also hydrogenated oil which a friend didn’t consider appealing. There is a reference to peanuts, almonds, and hazelnuts, but only as a list of allergens because of the processing equipment used. As for the taste – this would be fun with peanut butter; especially, if I was on a ski trip or was fourteen years old.
That’s why they do this. To get someone to say something, because now you are aware of the product whether you intend to use it or not. Considering the health consciousness of South Whidbey I don’t expect any of my friends to buy any.
Klout can seem innocuous, something to scoff at, then ignore. People did that with Google. People did that with Yahoo. People did that with the Internet. It turned out that the new ideas couldn’t be ignored.
Klout is an example of a possible new, alternative economy: a reputation based economy. So much of our lives are lived online, and the data generated is so valuable, that supply and demand forces are already at work. My posts about my life have not led to noticeable book sales, but evidently they have some tangible value. Hershey just spent a fair amount of money to ship me one jar of sandwich spread. One consequence is that I baked a loaf of Bob’s Red Mill Cinnamon Bread (gluten-free of course) so I’d have something to spread the Hershey’s on. I’ve been nibbling as I type.
If my Klout score was higher I’d probably get better stuff than a jar of chocolate. But oh, what could be better than chocolate? I don’t know if I’ll find out. My score is usually between 55-60. Getting to 70 is an order of magnitude harder, and I have enough other things to do. Maybe the perks are worth it. Maybe not.
I’m curious about what I might get, but I’m also curious about what Klout may be initiating. A reputation based economy trades influence instead of money for goods and services. Is this the ultimate exploitation or an appropriate appreciation? I know dozens of people who are influential, compassionate, and broke. If Klout expanded its influence to the same extent as Google, we could see an unexpected and favorable shift away from the nasty to the nice, from the over-paid to the overlooked.
The speed of change is speeding up, and we are in a need for change. I don’t know if a reputation economy will become pervasive. I don’t know if Klout is the first step. But I do know that I look forward to an economy that values reputation more than money.