In the old economy that still lingers you could buy “Attention”. A large advertising budget could force you into the minds of others. But we are becoming numb to this assault. Increasingly we only trust people that we know. “Attention” is shifting from the Institution with the budget to the “Person” with personal reputation or “Clout”.
This transition from the Institution to the Personal is surely one of the most paradigm shifting aspects of the time we live in?
Here is the “Godfather” of the idea of the Attention Economy – Michael Goldhaber back in 1997 explaining this shift from Attention that you could buy to Attention that you could only Earn!
“.. money now flows along with attention, or, to put this in more general terms, when there is a transition between economies, the old kind of wealth easily flows to the holders of the new. Thus, when the market-based, proto-industrial economy first began to replace the feudal system of Western Europe, in which the prime form of wealth was aristocratic lineage and inheritance of land, both the noble titles and the lands that went with them soon ended up disproportionately in the hands of those who were good at obtaining what was then the new kind of wealth, namely money.
With considerable ease, the rising merchant and industrialist class could buy old titles, induce governments to grant them brand new ones, or marry into the old impoverished gentry. The parallel today, again, is that possessors of today’s rising kind of wealth, which is attention, and whom we label stars of every sort, have an easy time getting money.
But now let me point out that the other way round doesn’t work nearly as easily. Contrary to what you are sometimes urged to believe, money cannot reliably buy attention. Suppose it did work that way. Then you could have been paid to sit here and listen closely even if I were to read you something as boring as the phone book or an unabridged dictionary. Presumably it wouldn’t even matter if I kept repeating the same few syllables over and over. If money could reliably buy attention, all I would have to do is pay you the required amount and you would keep listening carefully through all that, not falling asleep en masse, nor allowing your minds to wander. In truth, even if you had been paid a huge sum, this would be most difficult, and if you did it, it would be a testament more to your own deep sense of principle than to a general condition in which another roomful of similar people could be expected to do equally well.
Someone who wants your attention just can’t rely on paying you money to get it, but has to do more, has to be interesting, that is must offer you illusory attention, in just about the same amounts as they would if you had instead been paying money to listen to them — which by the way is closer to the case here. Money flows to attention, and much less well does attention flow to money.”
Attention that people will trust – about an idea, a product, a service, a politician, will come from “Trusted” people in your life and in your network.
Defining and measuring Personal Clout will therefore be very important in the future.
That is why I wanted to speak to the CEO of Klout, Joe Fernandez who very kindly spent time with me on the phone yesterday talking about “Attention” what it is now – how it builds from Robin Dunbar’s research. We also touched on how today’s kids may be having their brains rewired to be able to use a much larger network than was possible face to face.
Here are some of the ideas that we batted around:
- It’s all about how you are as a person - Many newbies still think of Social Media as a big megaphone – they still shout out to the crowd – “look at me” aren’t I great!!!!” – But they most important aspect of the new world is what “Others say about you” and who those others are and how large your and their network is. To get their attention demands that you have something good to say and that you have also won their trust. This then is not easy environment. There can be no instant success.
- It’s all about how you are related in network terms – This is why Klout have set up their algorithms to measure True Reach or the value of your content - Amplification Probability or how we you are related to the people in your network – how large and diverse is your network – do they find you interesting, safe, or a bore - and Network Influence or do you influence people with influence. This makes a lot of sense to me. I think that Klout is trying to get a handle on the playing field. I also liked it that Joe kept reminding me that they are at the start of a voyage of discovery. That they may be ahead of others but know that there is so much to discover.
- The online world is likely larger than the personal world - Klout will fond out how much larger. The Dunbar numbers still operate in the personal world and for adults my age I think. But Joe made a case based on observation that he is seeing online Trusted Networks maxing out at about 500 (144 is the max Dunbar number) His own floats between 150 – 350 but he still relies on about 150. The really interesting point he made is that he is seeing a new world emerge with kids.
- Kids have a new social reality – they never lose a friend! – When I was a boy, we moved a lot. So at every move to a new place, a new school etc, I lost touch with 98% of the then friends. Over time they faded from memory. But now, a kid moves or changes school and stays in touch with most of her friends. Even now as an adult, I am regaining touch with old friends long lost. Joe and I thought that decades of staying connected must have an effect on the wiring of the brain. After all print had that effect by making the left hand side more powerful. The brain is very plastic and can change very quickly as we see with say stroke victims. It is very likely that a child of 5 today who is a keen user of social media, will have a very different brain than I do when they are 25.
This new world is literally unfolding before us. Joe thinks that Klout now is about where Google was in 1997 – the key algorithms are in their infancy but are already able to tell us interesting things. Much more will be possible over time – especially when there is more data to observe.
But 2 things are clear to me – understanding how Clout works is core to the new economy. And that measuring Clout as Klout is doing is going to be very important.
Your reputation is your capital. You and not the institution will have the power.