Klout seems to generate conversation. Maybe its the name. After all it would be easy to assume that someone with a high score on a site named Klout actually has some real clout, which though defined as “A heavy blow with the hand or a hard object” is more often used in line with its informal usage ” pull; strong influence; muscle, especially political power: a wealthy campaign contributor with clout at city hall.”
The confusion is created when we imagine that somehow a high Klout score translates into real influence in the real world rather than being an arbitrary measurement of activity used to help businesses find people that are prolifically vocal about specific topics in their online engagement.
If you’re not familiar with Klout, it is a site that “measures” interaction of subscribers on various social sites, and determines a numeric score which, in the Klout world indicates how influential you are online. They then offer “Perks” to people that they believe to be influential on certain topics, based on their algorithms. From the beginning the sites was a controversial topic because their ranking was not transparent, and people in the interwebs are less than fond of “black box” calculations. In my own case, I have seen incomprehensible ups and downs in my Klout score that didn’t seem to relate to what I perceived as my interaction online. In addition, the topics that Klout says people are influential on seem somewhat e capricious to the individuals who are title influential by Klout. The latest changes to their algorithm seemed to have annoyed a few people and caused a bit of a furor online.
Recently there have been a number of posts from individuals who were deleting their Klout accounts (a process that seems to be really involved and annoying). The reasons varied from reactions to the new algorithms, to a protest against the “high school cafeteria ” mentality, to a protest of the implication that influence could be quantified. Oddly enough, these people wield the type of online influence Klout purports to measure. All of a sudden, Klouts was the target of some substantial negative influence.
Of course there were those who immediately came to the other side. One post spoke about all of the information collected by Klout, and the value you might derive by using it as a tool to find influencers to reach out to in your own marketing. Of course, that does presume that Klout’s score has validity. The post goes on to point out that Klout’s API will be sued in a variety of places, and that gives it additional weight. Though I like and respect the author of the post, I’m not sure that those are compelling arguments for Klout’s veracity. The controversy led to a post on the Klout Blog which attempts to explain their process and why its a valid measurement.And then a third post which admits that Klout may be flawed, but argues that we should each give it a chance.
I think that Klout has an interesting business model. I don’t think (if you are active on line) that you are damaged by having a Klout profile, nor do I believe that having a high Klout score really indicates anything significant about who you influence or how you influence them. Likewise, I’m not sure that having or not having a Klout profile is a statement about who you are or what you believe. Though I have a great deal of respect for a number of people who have deleted their Klout profile, I for example don’t really care enough about whether or not I have a Klout profile to take the time to delete one that I currently have – I’m not sure that makes me a Klout supporter or just lazy.
Perhaps the answer is a site like Flout.me whose site reads “Your social influence is too important to leave to others. Sites like Klout try to tell you how important you are. That’s ridiculous! Only you know how important you are. Flout lets you flaunt it to the world.”
I think that Jeff Turner said it really well when he said “If you need to look at my Klout score to determine if I have influence, I don’t”. Though I would add ” If you a foolish enough to use a Klout score to determine whether someone has clout with their community, you deserve the conclusion you reach”. The “science” of social media metrics and truly measuring online influence is in its infancy, and frankly I think any any site which claims to make such measurement needs to be approached
If you wanted to determine if someone was influential in a given industry or on a specific topic, a simple search online with any of a number of tools would give you a better indicator pretty quick. Remember folks, Klouts is essentially a product placement company – that’s where they make their money. And, in the words of my friend Gahlord Dewald, ” you probably don’t want to be making significant business decisions based on a product-placement company’s assessment of your influence.”
So what do you think? Thumbs up on Klout or thumbs down for you?
(Originally Posted on the SMMI Blog)