The Value of Klout -- Digital Echidna Head2Head

Graphic representation of Jay Menard and Brian Blatnicki in a Street Fighter-like pose.

At Digital Echidna, we all work together – with our clients – to find the best business solutions for their particular needs. There is no one-size-fits-all approach that works, so it’s important that we listen to all opinions, identify needs, and – most importantly – talk.

Even here, in the cozy confines of Echidna, we don’t always agree 100 per cent. So we thought we’d start sharing those moments with you. From the mild differences of opinion to the drag-out brawls, here’s the first in (hopefully) many more “All-in-one-blog-debates!”

Today’s topic: Does Klout suck? In the red corner, Digital Echidna Project Manager and Consultant Brian Blatnicki! And in the black corner, Digital Echidna’s Content Strategist Jay Ménard!

The day you never thought would arrive has finally come! You demanded it, we answered! Sound the bell, touch gloves, and let’s get this started!

BRIAN BLATNICKI

My associate sent me an interesting email the other morning bearing the subject line: "Why Klout Sucks. It read... "So I have one Tweet blow up on the Interwebs on Monday and my Klout score jumps from 61 to 65… I’m all of the sudden that much more influential after one day?"

That email began a back-and-forth exchange that uncovered the fact that our views, thoughts, and opinions on Klout don't really align -- which inevitably led to this blog.

I do agree with Jay on some points - and you can do a quick online search which will reveal that many agree. Many of these posts and the people behind them have raised some really solid points about how Klout's scoring works, while others, even if it's a smaller number see the value that I do in this tool.

I feel a part of the fixation people have with Klout, whether they're bashing it, or discussing its merits, is that "scoring" is such an innate thing. People are naturally curious and we love to compare and compete.

For the last 1,000 years or so, we've never really had a way of looking at someone and assigning them with some sort of value (at least not beyond appearance-based judgments). More recently, we've been able to judge (even stereotype) people based on numbers: how much money does someone make; how much someone weighs; what kind of car do they drive; how big a house they have; etc.

Now with the arrival of the Internet and, more specifically, social networks, people of the web have become a bit obsessed: Klout scores, followers, likes, clicks, page views, and so on. Note: the majority of this info is public.  Now that people have found a way to use all this data to make money and exploit it, people are getting angry and feel that being scored is somehow dirty.

I don’t really think Klout or any influence scoring platforms I've seen or tested out there are a true measurement of someone’s online influence. Instead I think Klout and its competitors do a good job in giving us a measure of a person's ability to create or curate content that is shared and creates a reaction. So things like the number of retweets, mentions, shares, comments, etc. What it's still missing is a level of context. Are these moments positive or negative? Did they caused any sort of meaningful reaction, like a purchase or a visit to a brick-and-mortar store?

We live in a truly amazing time, where personal power has been enabled through our ability to publish content across the web. Influence online is very different than in the offline world. It is vital businesses and individuals recognize this.

Social scoring is far from perfect, but over time, this is an assessment that is beginning to be refined. At the moment, the relative ability to move content can be something that is very useful to companies and brands who want to find people who can create buzz on a topic or product. And hopefully soon we'll see these tools and platforms evolve into measuring true influence which would important incorporates factors like the degree of relationships, context of engagement and sentiment.

JAY MENARD

I’m not against Klout, per se. I just think we need a little perspective on the service to compensate for its innate lack of perspective.

I’m that aforementioned colleague. Last week, my personal Klout score jumped from 61 to 65 in one day, largely due to the influence of a Tweet that stated, “Asking what’s wrong with the world? Watch blast vid. Notice how many run towards it. To help. That’s what’s right with world #bostonmarathon.” At last count it received 5,726 retweets and 1,385 favourites.

So am I any more influential than I was the weeks or months previous where I held steady in the 60-62 range? No. I was just lucky to encapsulate the positivity that many people were searching for in the chaos.

At one point, Justin Beiber had a perfect Klout score (100 – though now he’s a paltry 93). Rihanna (93) and Lady Gaga (93) are up there too. US President Barack Obama (99), at one point last year, was slightly less “influential” than that trio of singers (92 during Biebs’ perfect score days).

Simply put, Klout rewards generalized mass popularity. However, that runs counter to where the true value of Social Media is – and that’s getting access and insights from people (including experts) in topics that matter to you.

To you.

Those are the key words. Klout can measure generalized influence, but it fails miserably at measuring who’s most influential to you.

For example, I don’t know a lot about fishing (other than I’m deathly allergic to the fruits of those labours), yet I know of Bob Izumi (@bobizumi). He’s a Canadian fishing icon. He has a Klout score of 52. Chef Martin Yan – who introduced many of us to the idea of celebrity chefs with this “If Yan can cook, so can you!” enthusiasm, also is a 52. I’ve almost caught up to our province’s Premier, Kathleen Wynne (@Kathleen_Wynne), who sits at 69.

So I’m one well-received Tweet away from being as “influential” as the leader of a province of nearly 13 million? Hey, I have an ego, but even I think that’s a little far-fetched.

Klout and other ranking services like Kred are interesting tools. But like social media as a whole, they shouldn’t be looked at as the be-all-and-end-all. Some places use Klout scores as a baseline threshold for hiring purposes. That’s crazy. These are tools and part of a greater tool belt.

We all need to trust our inner Klout. Maybe you’ve stumbled upon the Buddha of Twitter, sitting alone, follower-less, but extolling Twitter wisdom that resonates deep in to your soul. So what if he or she has a Klout of 2. To you, that level of influence is 100 or greater.

Leave the high 90s to the news agencies and pop stars. True Klout doesn’t start with a K – it’s the c in content that makes it go. If it resonates for you, that’s all that matters.

NOW YOU

OK, you’ve read our takes on the situation. What are your thoughts? Share your opinions in the comments section below! And if you have any other topics you’d like to see hashed out by any of Digital Echidna’s keyboard pugilists, feel free to let us know.

Questions Answered

What is Klout?

How should I use Klout?

What is social influence?

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