On the social web, it is important to look at the details, including content publishing rights, communication “best practices,” influence theory, or a “Perks” package. For the past two weeks, many online personalities updated their Facebook and Twitter statuses declaring they had received their Klout Perks package. It has brought up the question of ethics. Will these influencers always reference the Perks program when touting their Klout?
In addition to becoming the preeminent influencer package of choice for businesses, it’s clear that Klout has a second agenda: Disseminate products into the marketplace via volunteer online influencers for their marketing clients. The sponsorship program is called Klout Perks. Certainly, at face value this seems like a reasonable way to monetize a database, and also cement influencer loyalty. Of course, given the questions that have arisen about the integrity of Klout’s algorithm, advertisers may not get the ideal result.
While Klout had a code of ethics around its Perks package and how participating will impact and individuals’ score, the larger question of ethics for the actual influencers still remains. How can an influencer who counsels others about online communications maintain their integrity and take the Klout Perks package?
At a bare minimum, according to the Federal Trade Commission, disclose needs to happen. Providing disclosure that one is a Klout Perks recipient every single time Klout came up in conversation would be a bit of an odious task. And even at that, one would then still have to question any statements made about Klout or other influence measurement packages.
From an ethical standpoint, perhaps the journalism profession can lend a hand. According the Society of Professional Journalists, “writers should ‘refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment…,’ so as not to ‘compromise journalistic integrity.’
Marketing, PR and social media folks don’t have the same kind of rigorous code of ethics, unfortunately. In this case, it would clearly provide guidance and enable a less inflated view of Klout on the public interwebs. Instead, clients, readers and friends are left to discern the truth in unclear waters.
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