As social tools evolve, they naturally accumulate increasing amounts of data about users. This data is often used to feed back into the site or service, say, for the purpose of showing overall use, leaderboards, social rankings (top users, recommended users, etc). It provides users with a helpful and interesting view of population trends from a perspective no single user could possibly obtain.
This social data makes sense only if presented in a meaningful format. For that, much social data is presented using cultural idioms — many of them drawn from traditional mass media formats. Polls, surveys, rankings, trends — these are not social media inventions but have long-standing cultural meaning.
In systems terms — and social media are a form of social system — social data presented back to a user population as such can be called a second order observation. It’s data gleaned from observing first order activity. With each order of observation, new and different insights are made possible.
We’re in the age of meta social, wherein social activity is summarized and presented back to us as social metrics. Interestingly, meta social data seems most in demand as data about individual users. Klout would be a perfect example of this. Klout measures individual activity on connected social networks and calculates a Klout score (using comparisons against an overall population).
Why is there no social meta social data? Is it simply because we’re now and evermore interested primarily in ourselves? Is it a limitation of the metrics? Is it a phase — after which social meta social might come along.
Imagine Klout scores for Circles on Google+, for example. Or group Klout scores for networking groups. Might sound a bit strange. But I could see advertisers finding this pretty compelling. After all, they’re interested in leveraging social distribution — to have a social score representing one’s most frequent and active online interactions would be of real benefit to social marketers.
Meta social data is already feeding back into the activity of many users. People do what they need to do to move up their Klout. Activity online becomes secondary, or subordinate in some cases, to an influencer’s agenda. So we know that meta social data is not only informative, but for some users also motivating.
I wonder what social meta social date would do to inform and shape user behaviors, and social dynamics. It’s an interesting thought. If for no other reason than to point out that when meta data is available on one’s activity, and when presented in a format that’s meaningful personally and socially (only online users get Klout), it becomes a form of data that is reintegrated into activity. I’m not proposing Klout for Circles — repercussions would likely spawn some social ugly in/out activity. But I could see it on an advertiser’s marketing dashboard.