How ‘Social Profiling’ Will Work In The Real World

Update: May 27th 2013 Over a year later, the technology is starting to emerge for facial recognition and APIs.

Ready or not, new technologies will enable strangers to know your social scores even before you shake their hand.

Whether it’s on a job interview, before a meeting, a first date, and as you walk into a store, more disruptive technologies are on the horizon that will enable social data to be easily accessed and viewable in real world situations. Profiling, which has negative connotations in terms of race, law enforcement, and beyond, is commonly used by marketers (and humans sub-consciously) to sort people around us. Yet in our digital and social world, this same profiling technique will be applied to today’s modern world. In fact, this recent story from Wired shows how an unlucky marketer was unable to land a job due to having a low Klout score.


Mock View of Social Profiling
This simulated image illustrates how Google Googles could allow us to easily profile who has the most social capital –without them even knowing.

‘Social Profiling’ Defined, and the Technologies That Will Fuel It
What’s Social Profiling? Digital technologies that enable social data to easily be referenced in public by others using mobile, AR, or other technologies. New technologies are emerging that allow us to overlay digital content on top of the real world, called Augmented Reality, we’re expecting Google to launch their Google Goggles “Project Glass” this summer. Additionally, it’s expected that Apple’s next iPhone will have facial recognition features that will enable us to identify people, and it’s assumed we’ll be able to quickly pull digital content about them.

Don’t Overly Rely on Social Scores –Understand True Influence
Logic tells us that new mobile applications will emerge that will allow digital content about us, in fact, we should expect apps to emerge that instantly allow us to tell one’s Twitter follower count, Klout score, and Facebook fans. But before we jump to conclusions on how this could help us identify ‘influencers’ take Altimeter’s guidance in understanding that these tools don’t fully tell the whole story. In fact, you should first read my colleague Brian Solis’ report on digital influence, which shows why social scores are not telling the full story, as well as see his presentation he gave on this topic.

Social Profiling Will Impact Society, Business, and You.
We should expect that social profiling technologies and techniques will impact us in at least three ways:

1) Digital ‘influence’ scores will emerge in the public real world –like it not. The social dynamics of determining who a dominant member of society could change. The largest male, the richest female, may now rival that of the most ‘influential’ person in the room –and everyone will know it quickly. As a result, a new pecking order in business could emerge that breaks corporate hierarchy, wealth, or attractiveness.

2) Marketers will use this to prioritize and reward influencers. Brands have been attracted to influencers for decades, and now they’ve new tools to segment. Hotels like the Palms are already prioritizing guests with high Klout scores to receive special treatment, this will now cascade to hospitality, retail, and more. Expect those with higher scores to be offered special treatment (here’s a breakdown of how it will happen), whether they take the offers or not.

3) New business models will emerge to offer ‘digital grooming”. Like personal grooming in the bathroom, we’ll now have to prepare for our own digital grooming as we venture into the real world. Expect a new form of digital consultant to emerge that will help professionals manage, prune, and improve their digital self, much how image consultants assist those who want to appear their best.

Get ready for this new world where our digital lives will now be easily displayed around us in the physical world, forever changing the social dynamic in which we play, work, and love.

Update: Jason Falls, respected thought leader, likens Social Profiling to a new form of racism is this counter post.

  • http://twitter.com/jowyang Jeremiah Owyang

    Related:  Related:  Join Brian Solis on a live webinar discussing his latest research on digital influence  https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/947642338

  • http://www.socialnerdia.com Esteban Contreras

    Klout has done an amazing job. They have become a standard for online influence in the minds of many and they have created a site that looks and works great. There are issues with Klout, from privacy concerns to its inability to measure true influence offline, but I think they deserve some merit for what they’ve achieved. I do hope marketers and their trusted advisors don’t rely too much on this kind of scoring and “perking” though; common sense, research, deep industry knowledge and a little bit of skepticism always help.

  • http://www.socialnerdia.com Esteban Contreras

    Klout has done an amazing job. They have become a standard for online influence in the minds of many and they have created a site that looks and works great. There are issues with Klout, from privacy concerns to its inability to measure true influence offline, but I think they deserve some merit for what they’ve achieved. I do hope marketers and their trusted advisors don’t rely too much on this kind of scoring and “perking” though; common sense, research, deep industry knowledge and a little bit of skepticism always help.

  • http://www.djvassallo.com/ Delfin Vassallo

    Will this lead to a new form of discrimination? 

    In customer service, companies would give preference to a certain complaint because the customer has a high Klout score and might be a potential PR danger if he’s very vocal about it?

  • http://web-strategist.com/blog Jeremiah Owyang

    Thanks Delfin.  You can interchange “discrimination” with “prioritization”

    Why do I put a euphemism on it? It’s been happening for decades.  Companies already prioritize celebs and wealthy customers ahead of those that are not.  Top customers, black cards, VIP services are all common terms among retail, hospitality, tech, finance and more.

    In fact, here’s the FOUR ways companies should be prioritizing influence: 

    http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2010/02/03/matrix-companies-should-factor-social-influence-in-total-customer-lifetime-value/

  • http://web-strategist.com/blog Jeremiah Owyang

    Thanks Esteban, I always value your thoughts.  While I agree Klout has created a standard unlike anyone else has I do think they’ve major flaws.  It’s kind of like credit scores: Not perfect, but a form of a standard of financial trust. Brian Solis has indicated this in his last report on Digital Influence (link above).

  • Antoine

    Klout is a joke. A bad joke. 

  • http://twitter.com/markgr Mark Greenfield

    Thanks for the great post Jeremiah.

    As the Wired article mentions, what are the implications when a Klout score matters more than 15 years of accomplishments?   I know many very talented people who have never heard of Klout, especially in my field (higher education.) It would be a shame for both employers and employees if over emphasis of Klout scores negatively influenced hiring decisions.  It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

    FYI – I have no idea what my Klout score is.  Maybe I better I better take a look!

  • http://www.enmast.com/ Brad Farris

    Your point about not relying on just a number is a critical one — but in practice it’s almost impossible. Yes you can do it when you are interviewing candidates for a job, but when you are checking people into your hotel — you don’t have time. The number will win out. 

    Many folks want to fight it (“it’s evil”) but like credit scores they are here to stay. Can we influence how they are calculated and perceived? I hope so. 

  • http://web-strategist.com/blog Jeremiah Owyang

    It’s human to rely on one number:  Net worth, credit score, age.  We do it in many  ways as it’s the human reaction to have a simple understanding of a grey world. 

  • http://web-strategist.com/blog Jeremiah Owyang

    It’s human to rely on one number:  Net worth, credit score, age.  We do it in many  ways as it’s the human reaction to have a simple understanding of a grey world. 

  • http://web-strategist.com/blog Jeremiah Owyang

    It’s human to rely on one number:  Net worth, credit score, age.  We do it in many  ways as it’s the human reaction to have a simple understanding of a grey world. 

  • http://web-strategist.com/blog Jeremiah Owyang

    Thanks Mark.  I’m not here to argue the merits of Klout but to simply state that whatever system emerges (Fico, Klout, Net Worth, Peerindex, Twitter followers) it will soon be visible in using new technologies –as we move around the world. 

  • http://web-strategist.com/blog Jeremiah Owyang

    Thanks Mark.  I’m not here to argue the merits of Klout but to simply state that whatever system emerges (Fico, Klout, Net Worth, Peerindex, Twitter followers) it will soon be visible in using new technologies –as we move around the world. 

  • http://web-strategist.com/blog Jeremiah Owyang

    Thanks Mark.  I’m not here to argue the merits of Klout but to simply state that whatever system emerges (Fico, Klout, Net Worth, Peerindex, Twitter followers) it will soon be visible in using new technologies –as we move around the world. 

  • http://www.superdumbsupervillain.com/ superdumb

    There’s already too much reliance on influence scores that seem pretty arbitrary, on the whole. I’d like to see a way we can make them more relevant.

  • Rob Knapp

    Thanks Jeremiah.

    I’d actually never seen Klout with a “K” before reading this article. So, I went to their site and created an account. They started me off with an unimpressive score. For illustration purposes let’s say it was a 2.

    Should I score their web app? They could not connect to my Facebook account using Google Chrome.

    Eventually I got it to work using Firefox… It’s funny that there’s a service out there judging people online – and their software didn’t work with Google’s web browser.

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  • Sohini

    Very thought-provoking post, thank you! I followed the link to the unlucky marketer, and my first thought was maybe the problem was he didn’t know what Klout was. But one thing led to another, and I ended up writing a whole post on it. I appreciate what something like Klout offers, but I chafe at being reduced to a number. 

  • http://twitter.com/kerri9494 Kerri Hicks

    Interesting. I do hear lots of folks complaining about Klout scores — as though it measures your worth as a human being. But as Jeremiah mentions in the comments, there are plenty of numbers that measure things about us — credit score, age, GPA, weight, years of experience in X, number of songs on our iPods, cups of coffee we drink a day — which don’t carry meaning until someone places meaning on them. 

    A Klout score simply reflects a particular set of metrics. The meaning that people place on a Klout score, on the other hand, and how well it predicts outcomes and behaviours, though, is the real ticket here. All a marketer needs to know is whether or not I’m a good investment in spreading their brand messages in a positive way. Sort of like giving swag bags to stars at the Oscars. They don’t give swag bags to the fans on the red carpet, they give them to the celebs, not simply because the celebs are famous, but because a famous person wearing your bracelet or weekending at your resort means your message may get amplified.

    Someone with a high Klout score may be a marketing tool (ha ha) that’s able to do the same.

  • http://about.me/johnrefford John Refford

    Great post Jeremiah,

    Google Project Glass + klout! Man that is a crazy future. I can imagine what that will do to face to face events.  What I’m thinking about is how personal scoring will affect corporations where you have an important team dynamic. Think about people acting as brands becoming normal behavior, what does this do to team dynamics or corporate branding?  Especially when you consider that Gen Y and Millennials already have a stereotype for being self-centric.I’m getting a bag of popcorn and sitting back to watch this unfold over the next few years.thanks,John @iamreff:twitter 

  • Anonymous

    I think the root of those Klout complaints is that the general digital public do view Klout as a measure of worth. Also, Klout has been very public with their scoring by never giving others the option to make their scores private.  Where as with a credit score, age, GPA, etc it is less public (meaning you have to dig for it, or have permission to access it in some way)
     
    If one day credit scores were made public, I guarantee there would be numerous complaints. Personally prefer PeerIndex as well.

  • http://www.theincslingers.com/blog Simon Salt

    Jeremiah,
    I completely agree with both your and Brian’s assessment of Klout and “influence” metrics. Klout scores only benefit Klout. They are there to drive online users to the site so that they in turn can attract brands to offer perks which in turn promotes Klout to other brands. I don’t fault their business model, Joe has hit on a sweet spot of vanity among online users. But here is where you and I diverge, online adults are not the whole of society, and of those who are online who actually know what a Klout score is and actually care is even smaller.
    We live in a tiny bubble in our “social media” world. We aren’t the majority, we are the minority. When you see stats like 22% of Americans don’t have internet access then you have to wonder really how relevant Klout will ever be, well to anyone but us geeks.

  • http://www.aussie-storage.co.uk/ Cheap Self Storage

    Social networking has become a new evolution nowadays. And its growing day by day too.

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  • http://twitter.com/sbhsbh Steve Hughes

    By no means are any of these social profiling platforms perfect, but they at least give you a “ballpark” of where your online influence lies.  Repeat online influence.  If your livelihood is in Social Media, Marketing, Technology, etc. it might be to your benefit to be aware of these platforms and your scores.  As mentioned, they are here to stay in the foreseeable future.  The early results show that brands are on-board.  

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  • http://whatleydude.com James Whatley

    That WIRED piece is misleading. The guy *didn’t know what Klout was* – I’d say that was more of a reason to pass over anything else.

  • http://twitter.com/benkunz Ben Kunz

    Jeremiah, you are right to hope that eventually all of us will have influence metrics just as we now have FICO scores. But there are big challenges to making that happen, namely how vast data sets beyond Twitter, FB and G+ would be combined to determine true influence. Marketing competition and consumer privacy are two huge barriers to that future.

    First, we all know Klout is baloney. The problem with Klout now is it only measures certain online connections and mentions, but not response actions. I was off Twitter all morning, so no one “influenced” me, yet that is not counted in Klout’s vapid score. And if I do take a real action — buying something — based on a social recommendation, Klout has no way to measure that. Klout overcounts online connections and undercounts results, and so its error rate is enormous.

    In a true social influence score, marketers would perform attribution modeling to know that Ben Kunz mentioning his new Wondercar led Jeremiah Owyang to buy a Wondercar as well. This would require extensive data connectivity, from my network (social media and offline), my communications to my friends, *and* how respondents’ actions are tied back to my influence. We’d need a vast tracking system far outside the scope of current social media. My verbal communications would need to be monitored. The Wondercar dealer would have to upload the sales data to the cloud tracking system to close the circle. The only solution would be for marketers to combine their sales data and consumers to chill out about privacy concerns. We are OK with such Orwellian systems in finance because financial monitoring is relatively easy — there are only handfuls of giant banks and credit card companies who can pool data — and the benefit to us is clear, since financial monitoring also reduces fraud. I don’t think product marketers, who now compete fiercely with each other, are going to share data as easily. And consumers who freak out about every minor FB interface update are not going to give up privacy concerns to allow such true, integrated social tracking.

    The novel Super Sad True Love Story tells of a future where everyone is instantly identified by their net worth, social status, education, attractiveness, intelligence, and F-ability. It’s a fun theory. The barriers of market competition and consumer worries of privacy seem to prevent that future ideal.

  • Kristi Colvin

    Read this from Simon as many times as it takes you for it to sink in:

    Klout scores only benefit Klout.
    Klout scores only benefit Klout.
    Klout scores only benefit Klout.

    Read the rest of his post too – SPOT ON! Then go sell something to someone not in the SM/Marketing industry. We all need to get over ourselves. I am against Klout and other faux “tools” like it.

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  • http://twitter.com/jeremywright Jeremy Wright

    Huh? As marketers, any segmentation data is better than none. If there is none, it gets made up on white boards around the world. Yeah, Klout is flawed, no I don’t use or believe in it, but to imagine that segmentation and profiling isn’t happening with your data on an HOURLY basis TODAY is just foolishness.

  • http://twitter.com/neilperkin neilperkin

    I agree with Ben Kunz. The march towards greater sophistication in marketing attribution *is* inevitable. Progression towards social profiling becoming the norm is not. 

  • http://twitter.com/neilperkin neilperkin

    I agree with Ben Kunz. The march towards greater sophistication in marketing attribution *is* inevitable. Progression towards social profiling becoming the norm is not. 

  • http://blog.intelligistgroup.com/ Alan Berkson

    The irony is that behind a large portion of social media is a desire to be heard and recognized. It’s naive to think you won’t also be judged. In many respects social media provides increased transparency yet tools like Klout are a symptom of society’s desire for mass production, shortcuts and fast food. Klout is a (perceived) shortcut in an evaluation process. Part of the fault lies with Klout for the lofty claim of “standard of influence” but the lion’s share lies with those who believe its more than what it really is, a measure of some data points on a portion of your social graph. Another case of looking for answers before you know the right questions. We should be thinking less about the tools and media, and more about the psychology that drives acceptance and exaggerated value of these same tools and media. 
     

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Philip-Beeching/596366920 Philip Beeching

    The online influencers who are having the greatest impact on their peers in society are those striving for political freedom in the Middle East and elsewhere – show me their Klout and Peer Index scores; this might sound a bit a fatuous I know but it makes the point.

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  • Anonymous

    Brad, CRM companies are already beginning to build in scoring and metrix related to social media activities.  This will connect such scoring to real-world environments very readily.  Best Buy already has a score on me as a “Jill with a profitability multiple of 4 out of 5″ and can adjust my customer service treatment accordingly….I can see clearly that it won’t be such a stretch to do this with other types of scoring methods – and agree with Jeremiah’s assertion that this is “human”. 

    I think most people agree here that there are many inherent flaws in Klout.  The day my twitter-only based Klout score dove from 70 something to 40 was a day when I had unbelievable DM and phone conversations with some of the most influential people I may ever meet in my lifetime.  I know that some of the most truly bright folks in my field are not self-promoting in social media — but they’re out doing REAL WORK — remarkable stuff.   So, I monitor Klout, but I don’t feed the beast because I know where true influence lies.

    Getting too comfortable with “numbers” may very well lead to the underestimation of those around us.  ;-)    I intend to be one of those people.  Ultimately,  what Klout seems to ignore is the fact that today — ANYONE – with the right tools and the right story — can become influential (online and offline) overnight.  Case in point?  Dave Caroll – United Breaks Guitars. 

  • http://twitter.com/taracoomans Tara Coomans

    Great comments here. One way to do this and to tie influence to off-line transactions, rather than monitoring conversations, would be tie a social graph to actual transactions from debit/credit cards and look for pattens of influencers. That would keep the online influence score (Klout in this discussion) in balance. 

    However, your considerations of data connectivity, privacy and accessibility of this data are still concerns with the use of a social graph in this way. Still its possible to do this and probable that something similar will happen, but like much of today’s market research it will only be available to the companies who can afford such expensive data.

    The downside of this data being expensive is that smaller companies will continue to rely on lesser methods to make (potentially flawed) business decisions. 

  • http://chondeal.com/ khuyen mai

    Thanks for helpful article. I need it for my campaign marketing

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