Thursday, October 27, 2011

Clout Is Spelled With a 'C'

Doesn't she look a little too excited for a Klout score of 38? 

Chasing a high Klout score to become influential is somewhat akin to chasing materialism as a way to achieve happiness. Both are bound to end in disappointment. Or at least that’s what the Dalai Lama would say if he knew about Klout.

Klout raised a huge furor yesterday when it changed its ranking algorithm. The scores of a majority of people on Twitter fell by at least 5-10 points, if not more. Klout’s blog post announcing the change in algorithms to reflect a “more transparent and accurate’ score, attracted a lot of angry (and some very entertaining) comments from people who were terribly upset about the steep drop in Klout scores. I joked on Twitter that the extreme reactions made it seem like the stock market had just crashed. But if Klout scores had gone up across the board, would the same people have been complaining? (Some of them definitely weren’t complaining when they got all those free Klout perks.)

Klout’s formula of influence itself has continued to shift as the company grew. It started off by only measuring people’s influence on Twitter and soon expanded to include other online networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, FourSquare and even blogging platforms. It seems that the change in algorithm now gives greater weight to Facebook than it did before. And as a result, most people on Twitter have found seen their Klout scores drop.

If you think about it, it makes good business sense. A LOT more people are on Facebook than on Twitter. More numbers = more revenue for Klout. So far, most people registered with  Klout have been Twitter users. Know anyone who is only on Facebook and knows/cares about Klout? It seems that this is exactly what Klout is looking to change by adding Facebook as a major variable in the influence game.

I absolutely agree that Klout is not an accurate measure of one’s influence, as many others have said before. It never was, even before they changed their algorithm. Case in point: Two of the top topics Klout believes I’m influential in, include ‘Congress’ and ‘Terrorism.’ As an outsider to the U.S., I am hardly knowledgeable enough to be influential in Congress. And as a Muslim...well, never mind.  Let's just say the existing stereotypes are damaging enough. (I’m just glad it’s possible to hide topics you don’t want to be considered influential in because it's really so off-base!)

The biggest lesson from the Klout debacle should be this: As Klout’s algorithms change, so will your score and your so-called 'influence.' Are you any less influential than you were yesterday even though your score has dropped? Of course not. That itself should speak volumes about the wisdom of focusing so narrowly on Klout as a barometer of influence.

That said, can we completely ignore Klout scores? It depends on who you ask. If you’re influential in the online and offline world – that is, you are well-known in social media circles, have plenty of connections and are widely recognized as an expert in your field – you can probably afford to ignore your Klout score, you have earned your influence and you don't need it to prove your worth. But if you’re a 22-year-old, looking for an entry-level job in social media, you will probably need a high Klout score, among other qualifications and skills, to have a good shot at getting a job in this market because recruiters and hiring managers are looking at your Klout score (hopefully, among other things.)

We can cry ourselves hoarse over the unfairness/foolishness of using Klout as a metric, but the truth is that as long as there are people who attach some degree of importance to Klout scores –companies giving out free products to influencers, recruiters, conference organizers looking for speakers with high Klout scores—there will be people paying attention to their scores and consciously looking to game/improve on them.

As Kellye Crane wisely said during yesterday’s #solopr chat, “Easy scores like Klout are for the lazy, IMO. We need to keep educating.” Hopefully, with time, there will be a greater understanding of Klout’s limitations and people will pay less attention to scores when reaching out to influencers or hiring new candidates. Till then, it’s worthwhile to remember that clout is spelled with a ‘C!’

What are your views on Klout? Love it, hate it, ignore it?

Some other recent Klout-related posts worth checking out:


  1. I never embraced the idea of Klout in the first place.  And I don't think I ever will. But it was really hilarious reading people's reaction on my timeline!

  2. It was definitely interesting to see everyone's reactions. Not sure if you saw Klout's blog post but it has a LOT of comments too:

    To place so much value on Klout's score is foolish. But it's sort of become this situation where everyone is playing along in the game because others are too and they don't want to be left behind. Nobody would have complained if their scores had gone up instead of down! 

  3. Farida, this is a very balanced assessment. The metrics for social media are not perfect, and while they can help to guide us in how and what we share to align with our business objectives, we should not take them too seriously. If you are using any of these numbers to measure your knowledge, value and worth, then you have much bigger problems than a change in algorithms! 

  4. Thanks for taking out the time to read and comment, Karen. It's just too easy to get caught up in the numbers game on Twitter. At first, it was all about follower count -- people were doing all sorts of crazy and even dubious things to get more followers. Once Klout entered the picture, it became more about the score and less about engaging with people because you enjoyed engaging with them.  (Thankfully, not everyone is so silly and there are so many genuine engagers like yourself out there.) If we take Klout too seriously, it's our own fault, not Klout's. Hopefully, this whole score drop episode will serve as a good wake-up call!

  5. Ah!  My score dropped a lot!  How dare they?   I did post a lot of negative links about them on Twitter just before my score dropped.  In all seriousness, I think tools like these are important to keep an eye on, there are some interesting marketing opportunities.  It has nothing to do with influence and everything to do with targeted social marketing.  Danny Brown has a lot to say about Klout and I've been following his posts on it -- for a flip side -- almost always a contrarian view, Mark W Schaefer has some interesting nearly pro-Klout posts on his blog. 

  6. Thanks for commenting, Frank. I circle Danny Brown on Google Plus so did read some of his posts. Though his concerns have been more privacy-related, it's interesting to hear views from both sides. Klout is hardly a good measure of influence (if it is at all possible to precisely measure something as complex and shifting as influence) but it's still pretty much the only (convenient) barometer most marketers have right now if they're looking to easily fish for 'influential' voices in the wide sea that is the online world. Whether we love it or hate it, it's not going to go away. On the positive side, after the score drop episode, a lot of people now seem to take their scores less seriously. I think it helped put things in perspective -- the whole futility of chasing a high score to become 'influential.' 


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