Let me start by disappointing you. I do not know the ultimate truth. I just wanted to grab your attention. That’s what you do with a post title now and then. However, now that you’re here: I promise this post will give you a clearer view on Klout, the use of it and the concept of influence from the social network perspective. Agree? Then, please read on.
What is Klout? It sells itself on its’ Twitter account as “The standard measure of online influence”.
In a definition of the Klout score, the company writes:
The Klout Score measures influence based on your ability to drive action. Every time you create content or engage you influence others. The Klout Score uses data from social networks in order to measure:
- How many people you influence (True Reach).
- How much you influence them (Amplification).
- How influential they are (Network Score).
This definition has some flaws (as does the technology and methodology obviously, perfection does not exist). The main one being that it says something about the degree of how influential you are. That’s too broad. Klout is not about you as a person but about what you do on social networks and how that impacts others. There’s a difference. Klout looks at reach, amplification probability, engagement and NETWORK influence. I guess you noticed I have put the word ‘network’ in capitals.
An example of a functional shortcoming (not a flaw) is that Klout only looks at social networks while people show a multi-channel behavior. However with the right tools, approach and interpretation of ‘influence’ in an online marketing context, you can easily solve this.
Another issue obviously is that people who connect their networks with Klout by definition rank higher than others while at the same time Klout gives a score to every Twitter user, as was mentioned in a post by Paul Gillin this week (and, yes, obviously Klout makes money with its’ Klout Perks).
In the mean time, Klout doesn’t care about all that, as it proudly announced it now has 100 million profiles, shouting “everyone has Klout”.
There are probably thousands of discussions and blog posts that question the significance and value of Klout, mostly from the methodology and ‘influence’ viewpoint.
If I was Joe Fernandez, the founder of Klout, I would be very happy with that.
Most of the people I work with use Klout. They don’t ask any questions about it. As always, the best way to look at it, is probably somewhere in the middle of the Klout bashers and the Klout users. So, here are some simple facts and, yes, even truths.
Klout is not about influence
I noticed this weekend someone added me to a list of “SEO reads”. I do write about SEO sometimes indeed, and it’s part of my profession. Thanks for adding me, my friend, to your SEO list, appreciate the appreciation. Now, what do I see in this list? I have the same Klout score as the social ‘presence’ of Search Engine Watch. Well, I am not nearly as influential about SEO nor in general as the people of SEW.
It gets worse. Bryan Eisenberg is in the list as well. He has a Klout score of 59, what a sucker he must be. Are you kidding me? Bryan has a thousands times more insights, experience and influence when it comes down to SEO, conversion and so much more. I’m working from home 99% of the time while Bryan writes books, speaks, travels, works for large corporations and probably makes a lot more money than I do, sitting in my attic and doing my stuff. I read the man’s books when I just started with online marketing for heaven’s sake.
OK, shall we agree that Klout is not an indication of influence but of social network activity and engagement? Thank you.
Klout (and influence) are no indication of personality
Klout groups people, or rather their social activities, in different “styles”. In other words, it says something about who you are in the social space. Today Klout says I am a pundit. My mom is proud. If I’m on holiday, I become a thought leader or a specialist. When I have a lot of spare time on my hands to chat, share and interact all day long, I’m a broadcaster or conversationalist. This reminds me of all these psychological profiling models.
Well, I have news for you:
- People are dynamic and so is their behavior.
- Classifications are labels, labels are simplifications.
- What you do on social networks might say something about your personality but nothing more that that.
By the way: Klout doesn’t claim to say something about who you are, people do.
Whether Klout makes sense or not is not up to Klout
Klout is what it is. And so is PeerIndex that claims to show you your ‘social capital’. Your Klout score will not pay the bills (that would be nice, wouldn’t it?) and it does not make you a better person.
It will maybe satisfy your ego a bit (and that’s fine, we’re all human, live and let live), get you some freebies (mainly in the US), and potentially it may even get you in a posh place, that’s only reserved for the ‘social savvy’ like in this case. If a business feels it must do that, so be it.
What Klout might “do” as well is bring you some priority treatment by brands that start panicking every time an ‘influential’ person thinks he deserves better than others because of his being ‘influential’, instead of building a strong, human and respected brand. No, this doesn’t mean brands should not listen, unfortunately also to creeps who use their ‘influence’ to attack the reputation of a brand or person.
What Klout might also do is result in higher conversions for your business. I’m not making that up. A test by Eloqua seems to show exactly that and, if you think about how Klout is perceived and the underlying data, it’s not even that weird. The question is in what degree the score is or is not related.
Finally, several of the online tools or solutions you use for your marketing efforts, will include Klout or another influence, ‘engagement’ or ‘reach’ ranking method. Use them but with care.
What you do with Klout is entirely up to you.
You are not a loser when you think Klout is important
There are four kinds of people when it comes down to Klout and influence:
- Those that never heard about Klout and will probably never read this post.
- Those that know it and don’t care. Look up the score of Bryan Eisenberg (59) but also that of people I learned a lot from when starting and that really are smart and influential such as Jim Sterne (51) to name just two. Jim is, among others, a celebrated author and chairman of the Web Analytics Association. He wrote a book on social media metrics! Am I more influential than he is? Of course not.
- Those that say they don’t care in public but really care a lot and are scared to say so or think it is beneath their level (a lot of those).
- Those that care for one or the other reason and just say so or just use it.
There are companies that look at Klout scores of, for instance, bloggers to use their ‘network influence’ for promotional purposes. Not my cup of tea, certainly when it’s not clear and thus in a way, forbidden. In general, I also think businesses would better focus on respecting their customers instead of pushing messages out.
However, hey, if you’re a blogger and can feed your kids with your blog, who am I to judge? When surviving is at play, ethics often become of lesser importance. Some people come together in hidden places to dance naked in the rain together. Some like to stand on their head now and then, and some use Klout. That’s cool, it doesn’t harm anyone, it doesn’t make you a loser as quite some ‘pundits’ (pun indented) will think or say out loud.
Klout and influence: a personal perspective
I use Klout as well. I don’t trick the system. Some do. If that’s what they think they should do, so be it. I have my social networks connected to Klout. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, you name it. You can also add Tumblr, Last.fm and Instagram (which I all don’t use) and soon Google+, WordPress, Yelp, Quora, Posterous and more.
It’s interesting to see how Klout integrates ever more networks, and I’m curious about how this landscape will evolve. I will not start using Instagram (unless they have an Android app maybe), Tumblr, Yelp, Quora or Posterous to raise my Klout. However, if it’s important for you, I won’t think bad of you if you do. Nor will I when you use +K, a way to kind of recommend people in Klout for specific topics and, obviously also gamed by some people to artificially raise their Klout score.
As a matter of fact, for the first time ever, I gave someone a K+ on Klout this weekend. Here is how it went. That person mentioned one of my posts and said he liked it and sent me a link to a similar post he did. I liked the post, so I tweeted it. Next, I checked his blog and found some interesting stuff. I noticed he had this button to give him a Klout K+. So, apparently, his Klout score matters to him. That’s cool with me. So I clicked the button because I respected him and thought he had good insights. In a way, Klout becomes a bit a weird mix of likes, recommendations and even a bit of social networking by itself. I won’t put such a button, but that doesn’t mean I judge those who do.
However, I’m interested to see if having a link to my blog once Klout enables it, for instance, will affect SEO. It’s my business. I’m also interested to see how Klout and comparable services will evolve and what businesses will use them for.
Klout gives an indication of how you engage people on social networks and how they like or debate what I do. And, yes, I do care about that. So what? However, Klout and influence are not the same thing. Can we remember that?
Then what is influence? It has to do with who you are, what you do and what you mean, especially in your relationships with others. But that’s for another post. Meanwhile, here is what a great man wrote about Klout and influence.
To summarize: Klout influence does not equal online influence does not equal influence.
PS: think well before retweeting this, you might increase my Klout. However, to rephraze the tweet by @cabosella , saying “klout or no klout, doesn’t really matter”, I would say: “To klout or not to klout, it might be a question but shouldn’t be such an issue”. It is what it is. Nothing more, nothing less. We’ll see what it becomes. What you do with it, is really up to you, your needs and your common sense.