Social Media Is Becoming A Pressure Cooker That’s About To Explode

The social media industry is nothing like anything we’ve ever seen online before. Outside of high school and Hollywood, nothing else can compare to the pressures associated with “being popular.” This unique element affects speakers, authors, social media agencies and even the person looking for work. Between Klout scores and the size of your community of likes and followers, the pressures have become daunting for some. For the many who make their living in or around the social media industry, the pressure to be or at least appear to be an expert, the best, or just a player is reaching a boiling point.

An industry friend of mine started pushing me to write about this after reading my recent posts about industry experts, etc. She said “I really would love to see you do a post about the nature of the industry and how it puts pressure on people embrace these misleading/unethical practices in order to be competitive.” I promised I would and here it is.

Likened to sports, social media is truly competitive. The speaking gigs at conventions, the choice brand contracts as well as consulting  opportunities are all up for grabs. Rightly so, the folks who hire for these opportunities want the best they can get or afford. Those with huge communities, the most influence and recognized names are obvious choices. The pressure to be perceived as one of them is so great that many feel they must resort to performance enhancing drugs, so to speak, à la  Lance Armstrong.

Purchasing followers on twitter, likes for fanpages and gaming Klout to appear more influential is equivalent to athletes using performance enhancing drugs. In social media, the pressure to perform and win can be so great that many are resorting to these tactics in a desperate move to succeed. This goes for beginners wanting to build a name, brands themselves and worse than all else, the social media professional.

Even students fresh out of college looking for their first real career position are feeling the pressure. With misinformed employers making Klout scores a prerequisite for interviews and requesting social media logins and passwords, pressure on the unemployed continues to scale.

So where does it end and where do we go from here? In my humble opinion, the focus must change…

I think the Klout score has damaged this industry immensely. It has added an undefined metric to the game that has captured the focus of most newcomers and simultaneously derailed veterans from what should be important. I talk to so many people everyday in the social graph who are so enamored by my Klout score that they fail to hear me explain its irrelevance. They are so focused on their Klout score that they are spending hours upon hours every week DOING social media, yet have no real results to show for it.

Please hear my next statement:  When I am getting my best results, sales, revenue, click-throughs, software demos, etc., in other words, the things that really matter, or at least should matter, my Klout score declines. When I am not focused, am not doing my best work and am unable to spend the proper time on relationships, my Klout score goes UP! Further proof that Klout is being run by people who do not get social media or how and when it is effective and influential.

Ask yourself this – Do you want a high score that means nothing, or do you want tangible results that you expect from any other marketing medium?

How do we change the focus?

1) Stop focusing on your scores, your community size and your ego. – Provide value, have conversations with your target audience and build relationships that lead to ROI.

2) Stop adding focus on scores and community size. – Stop propping up the fake authors, speakers and “experts” by giving them your Klout, and buying their books, Look deeper to see if they are actually getting real results beyond book sales and speaking. Many are simply celebrities who have robbed the industry and led many astray through their celebrity status.

3) Focus on what is important. – Have a goal and a strategy to achieve it. If you are going to spend 8+ hours per day doing something, you’d better have a plan to show some real results for all that time spent doing it. If you have no real results in terms of clients and revenue, then get a job at McDonald’s instead. Your ego will suffer, but your bank account will do MUCH better.

The pressure to appear influential is off of your shoulders because now you have the knowledge you need to change this. The only pressure you should be experiencing is that of getting real results. And, I might add, when done properly, results are easier to achieve than a fake expertise and there is no risk of getting caught taking performance enhancing drugs.

67 thoughts on “Social Media Is Becoming A Pressure Cooker That’s About To Explode

  1. I agree with a lot of the sentiment here. I have less than 1,000 followers on twitter but every one of them is a “real” follower, people who add value to my twitter stream and while there are folks in social media who have thousands more than I in addition to far better klout scores, my work has been featured in books, magazines and the New York Times. All of this content has lead to real ROI, real sales and that is truly what matters because at the end of the day, hype that does not sell is little more than fame which as history has shown us does not always mean success.

  2. It has started! The only real number we have paid attention to is revenue, it is our true gauge of influence and worth, our clients speak with their contracts! Good Post Robert.

  3. Many marketers have always used impressions and turned their backs on results. This belief has migrated from traditional marketing (outbound) to now social media (inbound). Increase sales, repeat customers, etc. are the results not how many people you are connected with or your Klout score. Thanks for a calling out the naked emperor in the room.

    Leanne Hoagland-Smith
    Author of Be the Red Jacket in a Sea of Gray Suits

  4. Powerful post, Robert.
    It’s quite incredible how incestuous the social media community is. Then again, being so new, everyone looks for leaders and mentors to help them get a handle on it.

    So much so that a whole industry has developed whose sole purpose is to exploit that industry and make sure that it remains a viable market for them.
    Klout is not about social media; it’s about influence marketing – yours (not yours personally) and personal branding. It rewards people who go to the same high school and get to sit at the “cool” table.

    Unfortunately, most businesses are so confused about how to integrate social media that they search out people have the most badges, whether that be books, followers or Klout/Kred or Peer Index scores.
    This is the recruitment model we’re used to. You’re judged by your degree(s), affiliations and reputation.

    Your last point on focussing on what’s important it is so relevant to businesses as well. Stop seeking out social media gurus and start looking for business consultants who understand where to place social media in the context of your business goals.
    Think we’re saying the same thing here. Just had to get t off my chest.
    Thanks. I needed that :-)

  5. Robert, thanks for another great post. I started using the StatusPeople site, at your suggestion, and have been amazed at the number of fake and inactive accounts many people have. I was happy to find that my account has 1% fake and 1% inactive…must be doing something right :-)
    But, I have found a number of high profile (high Klout scores) where it’s close to 50% or even more! It’s clearly time to start cleaning up the mess.

  6. Excellent article, Robert – couldn’t agree more!

    I, too, have found the Klout scores frustrating, distracting, and “quirky” to say the least. The more that I engage with real people, my Klout numbers drop, too. With their recent updates, my scores were mysteriously boosted by 10% which seemed odd. Then, two days ago, they went back to the pre-update numbers. I’m sorry, but my Klout numbers can’t be that different from day-to-day, which makes me suspicious of their algorithms in the first place!

    Those who love social media and what it can do for businesses, know the truth. Definable, measurable goals are critical, and all else is just a distraction!

  7. Timely post!

    I read an article about major corporations having ‘fake’ Twitter followers. You’d think that multi-billion dollar companies wouldn’t need to have ‘fake’ followers. I often wonder how people (besides celebrities) have over 20,000 Twitter followers. My guess is that most followers were bought instead of gained organically.

    According to an article I read, “Employee morale at Facebook has tumbled along with the stock price.” Imagine that. I often wonder if social media is a fad that will fade away in a few years. We’ll have to wait and see.

  8. Fantastic post! I have always said my bottom line means more than my Klout score, however, I do participate in Klout because I’m in the social media niche. It’s a double edged sword. With my local clients, I find they have no clue what Klout is and could care less. They just want me to show them how to increase profits using online marketing. With my online clients, they get obsessed with numbers because there is so much noise about it. The real truth is, if they are paying attention to the noise, they ain’t workin’ their biz! LOL

  9. Thank you a million times for putting this in writing, Robert! What a great post. I am still fairly new to the inbound and social media marketing world, but I knew how fierce the competition would be when I got into it.

    With that being said though, I completely agree that people are putting way too much focus on their Klout scores, etc, and losing sight of what’s really important – the customer.

    Definitely need to keep the focus where it belongs – thanks again for writing this!!!

  10. Fascinating post Robert. You have opened my eyes – I’ve been on Twitter and blogging for less than a year and didn’t realise it had got this competitive. You make some excellent suggestions as to how we can change this – lets hope they are effective!

  11. Wow! Thanks so much Robert for posting this. I can’t believe how many people put that much credence behind Klout. Those that dedicate that much time into increasing their score aren’t the true influencers – it’s those that have years of experience and have actually DONE something that are the real ones. Thanks again – hopefully more people realize this….

  12. Requesting social media logins and passwords???. Good grief. It would be great to see a follow up post on your suggestion to “look deeper to see if they actually get results”. Those that believe Klout scores may not know what to look for. Testimonials and case studies are a start, what else?

  13. Recently, when driving our daughter home from her grade school, she started talking about the mean girls at her school. She commented: “They are only popular amongst themselves.” I laughed b/c that statement immediately reminded me of so called ‘social media celebrities.’

  14. Couldn’t agree more. Just finished a gigantic social media strategic plan and audit for a big company that took months to complete. This, of course, put my Klout score in the toilet. Apparently I have my priorities all wrong. :)

  15. This is exactly we were discussing yesterday bro. Klout sucks big time and it is definitely more about reaching out interacting with people rather than just pumping out content for no use. It is surprising that you say ‘do you want a higher score that means or do you want want tangible results’. This is the exact same thing I was telling a friend yesterday who just created an account on Twitter :)

    Thanks for sharing your views here and I am sure more and more people will realize that it is not about those dumba** scores but rather connecting.


  16. It’s way past time that social media grow up and quite looking at just numbers of hits, followers, and silly scores like Klout. Those kinds of numbers are just to easy to manipulate. And by following those kinds of numbers currently social media is as you so rightly pointed out more about illusion than reality.

    That’s going to change soon as true analytics and monitoring will soon be demanded by the real users. And while we’ll always have scammers, spammers, and fakes we can most certainly not give them attention and ratings like they and their “accounts” were truly worth anything.

    And it’s articles like this one that can help start the trend. Thanks and hopefully soon some of the newbies, wannabe’s, and all the rest will finally “get it” and start realizing that much of the current social media ratings systems are snake oil and not worth a dime.

  17. I so wanted to post about Klout LOL I haven’t decided exactly what to do yet- But I wish to start a revolt. A “Get my name off Klout petition”. It bugs me that they have your name whether you give them permission or not, only to show a crap score. They know that human nature is competitive. So what do we do? Hey I need Klout- Then we post their website everywhere asking for more Klout LOL. I’m thinking…..Do you really have Klout if you have to ask for Klout? I’m guilty I’ve done it before. But honestly every number can be inflated on EVERY social media site. You can buy likes, shares, pins, tweets, followers, – everything. It’s pretty ridiculous. Great post.

  18. Amen! Totally singing off the same hymn sheet and fully behind the efforts to help businesses to focus on what is important to their bottom line rather than getting sidetracked by the misinformation that they are fed!

  19. Robert, bravo to you for publishing a controversial opinion piece on the influence scoring systems!

    On this subject, one of my fave posts is by Brian Solis on the “EGOsystem” — I left a comment there over a year ago and still feel the same way. I wouldn’t voluntarily opt out of the influence scoring systems, BUT I also take them all with a pinch of salt.

    Someone could be a huge leader in his/her community, yet hardly be active at all online… that doesn’t make them any less or more of an influencer than someone who tweets all day.

    My philosophy is get out there and do good, add value, engage authentically while still strategically growing your business, and the scores – if they even matter – will take care of themselves.

    1. Mari,

      Thank you so much for the comments and compliment. I agree for the most part, however these scores say they score social influence, not a persons life influence across the board. So if they are scoring social influence and that score can be “gamed” there is a huge problem. Additionally, a social scoring system which inherently IS online, it can’t and has never said it can take into account what/how someone is offline.

      I too agree with doing good, adding value and being authentic. Something I have never been accused of not being. :-)

      I think it’s time we actually spoke. Let me know if you have some time…


  20. I agree 100% with your sentiments Robert! Unfortunately, I think history has shown time and again, that the masses will almost always be seduced by the hype vs reason.

    This is definitely problematic considering that normally, the masses are where the consumers are, and especially for someone new breaking into a particular field, the pressure is hot and getting hotter by the day to be able to show numbers to ‘prove’ success, regardless if that success is fictitious or not, to potential buyers and/or fans.

    Personally, one thing I’m very proud of Nancy for is that she demands nothing short of being able to provide the best value possible, especially when her name is associated with it.

  21. Social Media is going nowhere and none of you have seen nothing yet…..sorry if you don’t want that but we are in infancy stages and klout is a startup so get used to them….

  22. Robert,

    Well done! Well said!!

    I too have experienced my score doing the opposite of what it should when I do what I should online. So, I stopped paying attention. Usually the only time I think about my score is when someone asks me about it.

    Interestingly enough, my answer includes a bit of what you said above, and now I mention you, and your string of posts.

    Glad we’re friends. Thank you for all you do to make my social space more enjoyable….and efficient.


  23. This is an Important post for writers to read. Not long ago I was pushing hard to raise my Klout score and it went down. I gave up in frustration and realized it wasn’t doing my writing any good. As soon as I backed off, it shot up 10 points, that’s when I knew it was not a real indicator of anything (for a long while they had me listed as an expert in juggling–where that came from beats me). lol So, thanks for this post.

    1. lol @ expert in Juggling. That made me laugh Cora. Yes, the score is worthless. My score is now well below many folks I am teaching social media to that have really no real influence yet. No algorithm can accurately score influence…

  24. Robert Louis Stevenson had it right about social media, over 150 years ago:

    “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”

    This is a quote that I use in my presentations about why content, and content marketing in general, is a way to be grounded and centered in this chaotic world we find ourselves.

  25. Robert, for me the most powerful quote I’ll remember from your post is what you say below. Thank you for the reminder of having a goal and producing results. “Have a goal and a strategy to achieve it. If you are going to spend 8+ hours per day doing something, you’d better have a plan to show some real results for all that time spent doing it”. This statement would also be a good tweet!

  26. “She said ‘I really would love to see you do a post about the nature of the industry and how it puts pressure on people embrace these misleading/unethical practices in order to be competitive.'”

    The practice of racking up followers/friends is embraced in large part because many social media apps focus heavily on the numbers.

    In most apps, the first thing you see is the number of followers, friends, subscribers, fans, circles or connections someone has accumulated.

    As long as apps continue to be designed/developed in this way, there will always be a focus on the numbers.

    This will only change if developers can figure out a way to measure the intangibles (level of engagement, contribution to the social media community, etc) instead of or in addition to the number of followers, friends, etc (Google has taken this approach to youtube in the past with percentages and votes).

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