The Final Word on Klout?

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To be honest with you, in light of all of the recent blog posts and Twitter conversations about the subject, I never intended to write this blog post about Klout. But as I pointed out earlier in defense of Klout, it is one barometer of how active someone is in social media. Klout is in a never-ending battle to measure activity and display those that have actual influence with a higher number, and that is not an easy task as you can imagine. I’m not a fan of the debate among those in social media as to whether or not the changes are fair or not, so I wanted to remind others that the success of Klout doesn’t come down to listening to those blogging or complaining about it: It comes down to whether or not brands will accept the measurement or not.

Let me explain..

As you already know, Klout recently revised their algorithm which, based on my own personal experience and others I know in social media, brought many a score down. I’m not here to talk about my own score, because I really don’t care and have never posted a badge of it or thought of it as “social proof,” but I do want to look at Klout from a marketing perspective in light of these changes.

Brands depend on Klout being an objective measurement tool to signify who does, and who doesn’t, have social media influence.  Because many have tried to game the system by being more active on Twitter, for example, Klout made their changes in hopes of greater transparency and accurate measurement.

The interesting thing is that it seems those on Twitter that have been the biggest evangelizers of the service to measure social media influence are also those that had their scores go down the most. And a few are already looking at deleting their accounts altogether. At this juncture, I would imagine that Klout would want to become the default authority on the subject – and therefore want to be all-encompassing for everyone that participates in social media. But if their true goal is excellence in their algorithm, this is the decision they had to make.

All of this, though, is irrelevant.

At the end of the day, market economics will determine the success of Klout. Will brands feel that the new algorithm is better? Will those that they choose to be “influential” because of their Klout score “deliver” what they were looking for? One brand that I am working with realized that they did not even need to use Klout scores to determine potential influencers and merely reached out to a few people that they considered “influencers” and asked for their recommendations as to who had social influence in a particular sphere.

Perhaps some of the competition, such as PeerIndex and Kred, will look at this as an opportunity to gain influence (pun intended) with their services.

For social media marketers, having a selection of various metrics to choose from in measuring social media influence can only be a welcome addition to our toolbox. Just as brands will have to determine if they feel the new Klout algorithm is a step forward or not, we social media marketers will also need to determine which metrics we feel best justify “influence” or at least help us in our analysis of social media users.

I expect continued debate on this subject of social media influence and Klout, here and on Twitter, so here’s your chance: What’s your take?

Neal Schaffer
The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professionals strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

@nealschaffer

Author, @MaxYourSocial | Founder @msocialbusiness | Trilingual Social Media Strategy Consultant, Coach, and Speaker | 日米ソーシャルメディア専門家|G+: https://t.co/BqaJvubiP8
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Comments

  1. says

    My take is summed in two words: Who cares?

    The question you want to ask yourself is if you want a prospective employer to base a hiring decision on your Klout score… and if you want to work for someone who chooses your qualifications on such an irrelevant qualifier.

    • says

      I agree with you Ari – and that is why I wrote this blog post, to tell everyone to stop caring.

      As for your comment about potential employers hiring (or not hiring) you because of your Klout score, you probably wouldn’t want to work for such an employer in the first place!

  2. says

    Good post Neal. I think people take Klout far too seriously. A Klout score is no more the last word on a person than a Twitter search or Wikipedia entry is the last word on a topic. 

    And if you spend your time taking actions to improve your Klout score at the expense of activities that could build genuine relationships with people in the real world, then you’re a fool… and pretty soon you’ll be a broke (or fired) fool!

  3. says

    My Score went up – hoorah! However, so did that of my local peers that I was measuring myself against – boo! Mind you, I still barely understand what it means. Add to this the fact that very few business people I talk to have even heard of Klout. (Bare in mind, we are probably a little behind our US thought leaders over here in sunny UK).

    However, anyone making decisions based purely on Klout is surely not anybody to be taken seriously. Social media focus should be on your customers and your business. What else matters?

    The way to take the power out of the Klout score is to give it less credence. I vote we stop talking about it now.

  4. says

    It seems to me that as social marketers, we need a tool (or not) that can better drill down into those “specific spheres” that you mention. I know there are categories, but no one seems to really have nailed that part of measuring influence yet. We find ourselves (At PerkettPR) supplementing such tools by manually doing this as well most of the time – to find the best, well-connected, amplifying and influential media, bloggers, social media celebs and analysts in any particular area/topic. And, building relationships with them that we treat with ongoing care – not just taking a look at their score and reaching out when we need something. If you’re a good social marketer, you have those relationships in place already and although you might like to see someone’s score, you already know for the most part who is influential in any particular sphere.

    Thanks for getting the wheels turning on this one!
    @missusP:twitter
    Christine Perkett

    • says

      Thanks Christine – I couldn’t agree with you more. And, yes, as social marketers there will always be a manual sanity check because no one digital algorithm can measure something so precisely as the analog concept of human influence – not yet, at least… 

  5. says

    Good post.

    I think the trouble is that there are two markets out there with two distinctly different conceptions of Klout’s value.

    The first sees a Klout score as an indicator of online influence. Anything that makes that indicator more accurate is good, so the algorithm change is okay.

    The second group sees a Klout score as the product of hard work and determination in getting that score up. Anything that drives the score down is bad, so the new algorithm is bad.

    Of course, Klout’s very intention was to make the service more valueable to the first group while poking a finger in the eye of the second group. They were the ones gaming the system and seeing the Klout score as a cause of popularity rather than an effect.

    Good on Klout for not letting public whimpering get in the way of improving their product, which has strategic value way beyond the shortsightedness of that second group.

    • says

      I agree Jay – it was a risky move, but just as Twitter and others have made similar moves against their early adopters, it was something that Klout had to do in order for them to grow.

  6. says

    When I first was introduced to Klout my thought was no program, service, or company can accurately grade influence.  I still feel that way today.  I do however think it gives you a ballpark gauge of your online presence and influence.  When they changed the “algo” everybody nuts (and most probably care more then they want to admit) because most went down, and some very dramatically.  The change was so big, it makes you wonder what the real motivating factor was here.  Was Klout that far “off” with their original “algo”? I think with most services in SoMe you take it with a grain of salt.  If Social Media pays the bills, you should probably care a touch more.  Klout is well funded and seems to at least making an ongoing attempt to improve.  PeerIndex and Kred don’t even have a pulse right now.  My score is falling like a rock since the “algo”, probably rightly so, but a poor reason to quit in my book.

    • says

      Klout is what it is – and it is one measure of activity, although this recent algorithm change no doubt tried to de-emphasize “activity” as being part of your measure of “influence.”

      I agree that it doesn’t make sense to quit the service, especially if you are a social media marketer.  Just realize that in the greater scope of things, the concept that you could have “gamed” your perceived influence on people is a bizarre one. Now, we’re back to normal.

  7. says

    Yesterday I shared a story about people putting the K score on resumes, complaining it’s all gone too far. My score dropped via the changes, vacation, lack of caring (yet I keep reading, commenting, not opting out). It would count my FB activity (if I let it) but it doesn’t measure the real sources of my online presence – my blog, comments. It’s a flawed metric of social activity, just one of many that needs to be considered along side a wealth of other factors, namely how well you get actual work done. FWIW.

    • says

      Agree Davine. I never went as far as putting my Klout badge on this blog because I never thought of it as social proof of being influential. My feeling has not changed, and as you say it is flawed in that it doesn’t take into account one’s blog, which is a source of influence for many.

  8. says

    No single metric will ever capture everything needed – and often no metric can capture it. If someone goes to the doctor they might have their blood pressure, temperature, and pulse taken, but this does not capture the state of their health. You could have a football sized tumor in your leg and according to the “metrics” you are fine.

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