Social Scoring Is Here…Like It Or Not

There has been quite a bit of noise around services measuring a users influence and overall impact within the social media space. Services such as Klout and SocialSprout, both of which I use, keep track of a users reach & influence within a network. While these ranking are extremely interesting (and I promise, you WILL get sucked in to reviewing your scores and scores of people you know), I think they may end up driving interactions in a direction counter to the goal of building true engagement.

An article by Mark Schafer (@markwschaefer) points out there are now real, tangible benefits to being seen as an influencer in the digital world. He provides examples of Vegas hotels giving perks to guests with high Klout scores, airlines providing free flights on new routes to people who can share trip details with their followers, and many others. At this stage, it makes sense to reward these social superstars. Their new-found influence is most likely authentic and the possibility of these people sharing ideas is strong. But as time goes on and social scoring matures, communities should be aware of the possibility that some may game the system and their relationships (and true influence) may not be as real as they seem. Hackers love a challenge…and this seems like a rewarding one.

To make things even more complex, major search engines appear to be giving additional ‘weight’ to links shared by people of influence. Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) confirmed this with both Bing and Google, stating that these ‘social signals’ are being used to increase rank of standard search results on both platforms. Where it used to be great to have an influencer retweet your link because of their reach, it seems it could also help that link rise within the search rankings…double the impact.

My main concern with these types of measurements is the possibility of going down the SEO road where clever technology is used to artificially drive up scores so users can reap physical benefits. There is real value to having a higher score – or appearing to have a high social score. And where there is an incentive, there will be takers.

Anyone else worried?

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Adriel Hampton

You bring up important points. However, the companies providing these scores have a business model that requires them to continually react to attempts to game the system, just like Google does with its search engine rankings. The competing pressures should ensure some value to the scoring mechanisms. Plus, who is going to hire an SEO expert to get them a free flight? The rewards are not as significant as something like a high Google ranking, and as this ecosystem grows, it becomes harder and harder to fake it because of the proliferation of places you would have to target.

Jeremy Greene

@adrielhampton I agree, my hope is that market forces keep these scores in check. Just as Google continues to evolve in it’s SEO algorithms, companies like Klout or PeerIndex will need to adapt or risk becoming obsolete.

However, as social media networks grow, I do indeed see people hiring experts to help them increase their social scores due to real money being at stake. SalesForce just announced that it will start rewarding employes (with bonuses) that score high on their Chatter analytics tool – all in an effort to spur engagement and sharing of ideas ( Also, as noted above by Danny Sullivan, Google and Bing are now driving links higher in their rankings if shared by someone of influence. If you can can help businesses drive their links higher in natural search results, you can expect to be compensated – almost like a celebrity endorsement…without being famous.

I’m not against these social scoring platforms like Klout, I just find these new incentives interesting and I’m anxiously watching the impact they have.