Our Obsession With Social Tools Diverts Attention From Our Social Responsibility

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Two people I enjoy immensely in the social/digital/marketing arena, Jay Baer, and Mark Schaefer, both most recently discussed the use and influence of Klout. The commentary, as always, provides much value. Klout is a tool, to be used as any other might. In the hands of a master craftsman, a seasoned marketer, it can add value. To many others, it will lead to bruised knuckles, social missteps, business as usual. For example, what would and should happen when a high flying Klout personality gets front row tickets to a coveted rock concert, while a deserving veteran or sick child is denied the same seat? The blind use of Klout, or any other social scoring, must certainly be used in the context of a greater sensibility of purpose. Can Klout mean the same thing to everyone, when the Dalai Lama scores lower than Lady Gaga? God I hope not. Does Klout measure the influence of Walt Whitman, Martin Luther King, or Thoreau? Of course not. It is for the land of the living. Yet these men retain influence the world over. In the use of such technologies, we can’t delve into the core of what truly influences an individual, unless we attempt to measure them by their own words and behavior. And this will fall short, as it should.

My point is that our obsession with measuring alleged influence is showing a distinct effect of clouding the judgement of many companies.

Klout is and will be used for marketing goods and services, massaging customers, and the like. People shouldn’t get all twisted up about our new reality of measuring every little thing. Get over it. It is the future, happening right now. We have technology that measures pupil dilation, facial recognition/gesturing, and the like, that makes all this banter about social influence seem trivial. Some companies, through their marketing teams, are using essentially hidden cookies to track as much behavior as possible. Device fingerprinting is rampant. Google, Facebook, and the whole lot would love nothing more than to have you use them for all of your activities.

Why do we as so called marketing professionals so blindly waste our time on the tools, and lose sight of the social ramifications that we as willing conspirators force on customers?

It moves the equation beyond right message, right person, right time, to a place where the behavior of an individual becomes almost entirely predictable. And when a system becomes predictable, it can much more readily be controlled. What would Ray Bradbury think of this, and why do we as marketers and technologists not bring the writers, the poets, the artists, into the process of creating technologies that will become our reality?


That single sign on, a single web identity, makes life a bit easier, but we all give up so much freedom in the process. The consumer is already being literally stalked with many other marketing “tools” that frankly, we as marketing professionals should really be shunning, up in arms.

The question for me as a marketer isn’t whether a tool is sharp, but whether it should be used at all. I see very few marketers in positions of “influence” talking about that issue.