Is Social Media Encouraging Narcissism?
Published by John Lovett on February 11, 2011.
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I’m a little worried about us. At first I was really psyched to see a tweet about my friend and business partner Eric appearing the the WSJ for his not-so-small side project, Twitalyzer. I eagerly clicked through from Tweetdeck to read all about the great strides that Twitalyzer was making in the marketplace only to be massively disappointed by the article, Wannabe Cool Kids Aim to Game the Web’s New Social Scorekeepers. This article is all about gaming the social system to increase influence scores from services like Klout and Twitalyzer and to personally benefit from doing so. Is this what we’re training kids to aspire towards today?
Have you Googled yourself lately…?
Okay, just admit it. At one point of another you’ve typed your own name into to Google just to see what shows up. Or perhaps, if you’re like me you’ve even created a proactive alert that informs you every time you or your business is mentioned in media outlets? It’s not that I’m vain, but I want to know when something or someone publishes about me or about our brand. Isn’t this the cost of putting yourself out there today? Social media has accelerated this exponentially.
I don’t fault people like the ones described in the WSJ article for working to improve their social influence scores as long as they’re genuine. It’s smart to understand how rankings are formulated and how you can improve your scores. That makes the difference between individuals who are building their personal brands with an entrepreneurial drive and those who simply aren’t tuned in enough to know how. Done right, that’s commendable. But understanding the system and rigging it to your favor is potentially where we’re headed in this age of social media. It’s an environment where your potential employer will check your Facebook page prior to extending that job offer; and they definitely will follow your Tweets after that offer is extended; and you can bet on the fact that they’ll be watching your social escapades after you’re hired to ensure that you don’t misconstrue ideas that are yours alone with those of your employer. Or heaven forbid you’re passed over for a consulting job because of a low Twitalyzer score, like the story Shel Israel foretells. But, this is business today, I just wonder if we’re encouraging an unhealthy level of narcissism?
What’s your Social Media Credit Score…?
One of the topics I’ve been researching lately is Social Media Profile Management. This started with the whitepaper that I authored for Unica called, True Profiles: A Contemporary Method for Managing Customer Data (download the paper next week) where I explored what it takes to integrate data streams from disparate sources. Yet, while that’s happening on the business side, consumers are in desperate need of managing their own social profiles. Services like Rapleaf, PeerIndex, Klout and Twitalyzer all reinforce the need to know how you’re portrayed as an individual in social circles and how much personal information about you is floating around out there.
Brian Solis talks about this as well in his compelling Lift presentation where he describes the sociology and psychology behind what we do in social media. He mentions that debt collectors are now visiting individual’s Facebook pages to track them down and sometimes publicly humiliate them into paying their debts. That’s absolutely frightening! But it’s a reality of the world we live in.
Managing your social credit score is important and undoubtedly we’ll see a burgeoning slew of services like Identity Mixer and others that allow you to manage what appears in the databases of companies like Spokeo.com and whitepages.com for all to see. You’re already being indexed, ranked and reported on whether you like it or not. I just can’t help from wondering if the way we (or at least some people) operate with the aid social profile management technologies is disingenuous?
What Should You Recommend To Your Business…?
Those of you who know anything about Web Analytics Demystified recognize that we’re not ones to take data and simply gaze at it in wonderment. We use data to make recommendations. More importantly, we encourage you to do this as well. So for all the measurers of social media out there, take into deep consideration the value you place on influence. I do believe that it’s a meaningful metric and I am optimistic about < foreshadowing > new developments on the horizon from Social Analytics vendors in this area < /foreshadowing >, yet you have to understand what your metrics are made of and how they’re calculated.
That’s the thing that irked me most about the WSJ article was that it implied in the subtitle that all the vendors out there keep their influence rankings secret. Twitalyzer doesn’t do this, in fact they expose all of the factors that go into their calculated metrics for all to see. While some metrics within the Twitalyzer dashboard do rely on scores from other technologies like PeerIndex and Klout, they’re labeled as such with nothing secret about them. I’m not bringing this up to tout the greatness of Twitalyzer, but more so to call out the fact that transparency in the metrics you use and rely on is critically important.
Hopefully, most of you are migrating away from counting measures like fans and followers that offer little more than a measure from an uncalibrated yardstick and adopting business value metrics that actually mean something to your organization. If you are working toward this end — and if influence is a measure that will factor into your marketing efforts — then take the time to see through inflated scores and popularity hounds that are gaming the system. It’s likely that you don’t want these people doing your bidding anyhow. Instead, use measures of success like Impact to correlate influence to action. When you begin to look at your social marketing efforts in this way, you may just find that those with the most “popular” profiles aren’t actually good for your business.
About John Lovett
John Lovett is a Senior Partner at Web Analytics Demystified, Inc. and the author of Social Media Metrics Secrets (Wiley, 2011). A former Forrester Research Analyst and current President of the Digital Analytics Association, John blogs about web analytics industry trends, strategy, business culture, and social analytics.
Want to speak with John? Contact Web Analytics Demystified