Businesses have finally gotten the message. Their customers are online. If they want to move product or get people signing up for their services, then they need to be online too. The trouble is salespeople and social media managers are having trouble distinguishing picking the true social media leaders out from the crowd of posers. A new social measuring technology, called Klout, aims to solve this problem.
What is Klout?
Klout describes itself as, “the measure of online influence”. Basically, the site places all of your social media accounts in a blender, adds a generous helping of their algorithm, blends it all together, and produces a number between 1 and 100. This number is supposed to represent your social medial influence on the internet. In particular, it measures:
* How many people you influence through your social networking accounts
* How much you are able to influence them
* How influential the people in your network is
The site displays a graph for each of these points that detail where you sit on the influence continuum. However, the purpose of the number shown on your Klout profile is to provide an easy way for companies to determine if you are able to get their message to the masses. Theoretically, someone with a high Klout score could send thousands of eyeballs to a website with one tweet or Facebook status update.
Differing Views on Klout
The reactions in the blogosphere towards Klout range from dismissive to impressed to outright rage. But in the cacophony of voices, there were a few who made some interesting points both for and against the service.
People who don’t like Klout basically dismissed it as yet another meaningless social metric. They contend that Klout cannot really measure influence online because influence is much more than how you interact with people on social networking sites.
They point out that true influencers rank poorly on Klout, even though they are well-established in their fields as experts, simply because these people are not very social online. Conversely, people who have little to no expertise in anything are ranking very high because they are social butterflies who talk to everyone about everything.
On the opposite side of the fence, there are people feel a metric like Klout is needed online. They agree the site isn’t always accurate, but a lot of that is due to the newness of the technology. Although the social metric service was launched in September 2009, it’s still smoothing out the rough edges. In the beginning, they only measured social influence on Twitter but have recently included Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Posterous, and a few others in their algorithm.
But the point of Klout isn’t to measure total influence, proponents argue, it is to measure influence within the realm of social media. It exists to fill a need expressed by upper management types who demand numerical proof that social media marketing works.
And the proponents have the numbers on their side. A study conducted by Eloqua found that tweets by people with high Klout scores traveled further and gained more eyeballs than tweets by people with low scores.
One thing both sides could agree on, however, was that Klout could be gamed. A person could artificially increase their Klout score, but it is the same with everything else on the internet. Take Twitter, for instance. It used to be you could judge how influential a person was by how many followers he or she had. Then spammers and lazy marketers began increasing their follower count by creating hundreds of spam accounts and linking to their main account. Now the follower count is no longer a trustworthy metric of influence on Twitter.
I can see the value of Klout. If used in the correct spirit, it can help businesses find those influential marketers who will help them reach a wider pool of potential customers. However, the purpose of Klout should be kept in proper perspective. It is only a measurement of influence within the realm of social media. It does not, and cannot, measure influence as it is commonly thought of.
The score is only good for people who actually participate in the dissemination of informatio