Social Media Strategy, Social CRM

Why Critics of Klout Are Missing the Big Picture

Hypnotist Why Critics of Klout Are Missing the Big PictureOther than signing book deals, the favorite sport of the social media punditry these days seems to be bashing Klout.

The pugilists are plentiful, and appear to be trying to win a merit badge for dismissiveness. The most recent example was from B2B social media thinker Paul Gillin who wrote a post unveiling the flaws in Klout’s ranking scheme. Paul Gillin is a smart, experienced guy (and I like his book) and he raised some valid points about how participatory breadth (having an account on a LOT of social networks) can increase Klout score – perhaps disproportionately. 

Gillin is sharp enough to see the underlying challenge of trying to attach a number to something as amorphous as online influence, and point it out to his readers. In fairness, Klout sees that challenge too, and has in my estimation always been very open to discussing it. I’ve seen Klout engage with a large number of bloggers and talking heads openly and honestly (without of course revealing the algorithmic secret sauce).

But most social media types aren’t Paul Gillin. Instead, they object to the very notion and existence of Klout. “How dare a company try to put a number on influence!” they shout. “It’s a bastardization! An impossibility! A farce!”

Offline Influence Doesn’t Have an Algorithm

Their slam on Klout is typically rooted in the fact that Klout doesn’t account for people’s offline influence (or even digital influence that isn’t expressed in social media). As Gillin pointed out, the fact that his own Klout score is markedly higher than Marc Andreessen’s (founder of Netscape) means Klout isn’t the “standard of influence” its tagline professes it to be. As a side note, if Klout just changed their tagline from “the standard of influence” to the more accurate “the standard of audience” it would take the tea kettle off the burner for a lot of people. Side note #2: it’s a bit of a straw man argument too, since Andreessen appears to have tweeted twice, ever.

But the reality is that Klout can only measure data points, and there’s no mathematical formula that says “give extra credit if the dude invented Netscape.” And guess what? You know who else doesn’t use offline factors in their scoring mechanism (because it’s impossible)? Google, which “ranks” Web pages. Facebook, which “ranks” status updates via EdgeRank. And Twitter, which “ranks” tweets to determine trending topics.

While we’re on the topic of crimes against math, let’s examine Nielsen ratings, which are used to set prices for billions of dollars of television advertising in this country. The research I did for The NOW Revolution found that in 2009 there were 1,147,910 households with a TV in metropolitan Charlotte. Number of Nielsen households among them? 619. That’s not math, that’s folly. Yet we’re not writing blog posts about Nielsen being an abomination.

How about Compete.com or Quantcast.com? We routinely quote website traffic figures from these services, despite the fact that site owners often say discrepancies are very large indeed.

My point, however, is not that Klout gets a free pass because we’ve willingly accepted other scoring mechanisms that have shortcomings. But I do find it interesting that reaction to Klout is so visceral, and that is of course because what it purports to measure is by definition personal. If CSI: Provo (or whatever city is next) gets a better rating than Law & Order: Illegal Left Turn you’ll likely do no more than shrug your shoulders. But realize that your Klout score is unexpectedly high or low, and you instantly go supernova because it’s not measuring Hollywood’s increasingly feeble attempt to entertain us en mass, it’s ostensibly measuring some dimension of YOU.

Do I wish Klout was more accurate and had fewer holes and could somehow magically incorporate all dimensions of our life into an airtight formula? Yes. I also wish everyone had a job, and enough to eat, and that tequila was rightly viewed as the most interesting of all spirits, instead of as a dorm room disaster. But we can’t have everything.

Influence Measures Help Business Create Order From Chaos

If Klout gets more sophisticated and more accurate, terrific. Even if it doesn’t, however, the anti-Klout brigade typically leaves out a major point in their argument, which is that companies desperately want this kind of data point. 

The smart money in the next five years in social media is not in the provision of information but rather in the interpretation of it. When every company of consequence has a free and open API, data becomes a commodity. Insights are never commoditized. 

Not only do companies want this kind of influence radar, they also need it. Much (too much, actually) was made of the Peter Shankman/Morton’s Steakhouse stunt a few weeks ago. So much so that people (presumably sober) proclaimed that this was the future of marketing. I don’t believe that to be true, but I do accept the premise that at some level many companies will move to a real-time mindset, scanning the interwebs looking for an opportunity to turn a customer into an advocate, or placate an angry shopper, or offer the just-in-time bon mot that turns a prospect into a sale.

How the hell does that work without something like Klout? It simply doesn’t.

Customers aren’t treated equally, and they never have been. Why do you think billions are invested every year in loyalty programs (tiered treatment) and credit scores (tiered treatment)? Why does Bob the house painter not get a steak from Morton’s delivered at the airport? Companies have to deliver the right type and amount of love to the right person at the right time. Especially now, when every customer is a potential reporter. You think Southwest Airlines would have liked a data feed that automatically appended Klout scores to passenger manifests before they kicked Kevin Smith off a flight? Damn right they would.

The problem is when companies use Klout or something similar blindly. Klout – and any algorithm-derived data point – should be used directionally and for trending purposes, not adhered to slavishly. It’s one piece of information that needs to be combined with (ideally) several others to do social CRM well. After all, the most important thing to know isn’t online “influence” but historical relationship between that customer and your company, and their corresponding lifetime value. I fear not that Klout is so inaccurate as to be baseless. I fear that lazy companies use it as a replacement for sound CRM and database marketing initiatives that bolt together multiple data points for better business intelligence. (Admittedly, doing this well isn’t easy today, although companies like janrain are getting there fast, and certainly SalesForce is eyeing it big-time with their Radian6 acquisition).

Whether the score is ultimately powered by Klout, someone else, or a cabal of competing providers isn’t the issue, and is of little importance. What’s important is to recognize that more and more and more and more of our behaviors (with whom we interact, what we read, even what restaurants we like now that Google has bought Zagat) occur online and often with the social media realm. And if companies are going to succeed in a chaotic, real-time environment, they need some mechanism – even a flawed one – to triage promotion and reaction.  

So yeah, Klout isn’t perfect. But instead of rehashing the same old “look how screwed up their formula is” argument, let’s focus instead on how advanced metrics will enable companies to deliver highly specific interactions with customers based on perceived influence.

(Disclosure: Klout sent me a bunch of free T-shirts we used as a giveaway for our book launch. I have received two or three Klout perks, including a DVD for a truly awful TV show. I am part of a very, very loose advisory group for Klout, for which I am not compensated in any way. Klout has not seen this post, and they did not know it was being written).

  • jmoriarty

    Klout’s an interesting beast. I don’t hate it, but I don’t think it will ever reached it’s supposed goal.

    First off, you just can’t reduce any complex system to a simple number. This isn’t a Klout issue, this is a complexity issue (for lack of a better term). You lose resolution, relevance, nuance, and detail as you simplify. “Very good play” might be an accurate summary of Hamlet, but a whole lot is missing.

    People and their interactions are about as complex as you can get in the social and business space. Even ignoring abstract complexity issue overall, can you hire a good salesman based on a Salesman Score? Or a good employee overall? Can you rate designers, engineers, managers, etc., all by a number? You need to look at performance, achievements, where they are in their career, where they want to go, etc. I’d fear for any company that started hiring based on an integer.

    That doesn’t stop them from wishing. Employers would probably love to have an Employee Score they could use when hiring, just like they would like an Influence Score to know who to interact with, but that doesn’t mean it will work. I totally get the desire for it, but I think Klout can at most get to be a finger in the wind. Brands who have people honestly interacting with their customers will find the influencers directly, and do far better. You still need to see Hamlet if you want the impact. “The play’s the thing,” after all.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @jmoriarty I’ll disagree on that. Thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of companies hire in part based on Myers-Briggs and other personality assessments. So for good or ill, the Salesman Score is alive and well.

      • jmoriarty

        Companies may include things like Myers-Briggs in final decisions, but I’ve never seen a company go to a score like that as their first round of selections. I see it come up much later in the process. If there are companies that use subjective scores as their initial round of hiring, I would love some info on them. Honestly. I’d love to see how that worked out for them.

  • tcar

    I get the logic behind the Klout Perks program, The scores are flawed, but they at least prove that anyone over a score of say 20 is on Twitter a lot. If a company wants to reach out and do something nice for those people, there’s not much harm in it. But I think a triage situation for handling negative comments is a horrible place to apply Klout.

    You talk about the advantage would have had knowing Kevin Smith’s score before treating him the way they did. But I’d guess David Carrol didn’t have Kevin’s Klout score. Was it then more reasonable for United to not to fix his broken guitar? From a customer service standpoint, companies would be insane to use Klout to determine what level of service they are going to provide. Everyone deserves great customer service. Anyone could potentially become Internet famous overnight.

  • tcar

    I get the logic behind the Klout Perks program, The scores are flawed, but they at least prove that anyone over a score of say 20 is on Twitter a lot. If a company wants to reach out and do something nice for those people, there’s not much harm in it. But I think a triage situation for handling negative comments is a horrible place to apply Klout.

    You talk about the advantage Southwest would have had knowing Kevin Smith’s score before treating him the way they did. But I’d guess David Carrol didn’t have Kevin’s Klout score. Was it then more reasonable for United to not to fix his broken guitar? From a customer service standpoint, companies would be insane to use Klout to determine what level of service they are going to provide. Everyone deserves great customer service. Anyone could potentially become Internet famous overnight.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @tcar yes everyone deserves great customer service. but in a new world where customer service needs to be handled in real-time, not everyone will get great customer service.

  • Reson8_NZ

    I like the idea of measuring influence/audience. As tcar pointed out, it doesnt work well triaging a PR disaster but I think it works well identifying people with whom you’d like to have on board when rolling out a new product or service. jmoriarty is also correct that you lose a lot of nuance by reducing influence down to a number, but again if all you are doing is using Klout as an initial filter then nuance isnt required anyhow.

    Im sure that Klout regularly tweaks its algorithm – each iteration becoming more accurate. I liken it to search engines of the late 90′s. Today’s Klout is to measuring social influence as Excite was to search in 1999. It will only get better.

  • bkrudy

    Your point on other scoring systems like Neilson and compete.com is valid.

    The problem with Klout is that those with the most clout aren’t accurately counted for a few reasons. First, if you have several Twitter accounts, you can only list one. Think of Pete Cashmore who has a bunch of accounts. He can only count one. Same is true for those who run many and large facebook fan pages or groups. You can only list one, and can’t add groups.

    Lastly, those who share accounts can only have t counted by one person. Thus, one person is over counted and one undercounted.

    As a result of these factors, my Klout score is useless, though it should be much higher.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @bkrudy Yeah I’d like to see multiple accounts counted, definitely. It’s a more accurate reflection of reality.

  • dogwalkblog

    Who cares if Klout scores are inaccurate and unfair? Who cares if FICO scores are inaccurate and unfair. Oh, wait; potential employers, banks, car dealers, insurance companies… Klout — like FICO — WILL be applied blindly as authoritative in ways they were never intended. We should care about Klout Scores simply because they are being applied to measure what they were not intended to measure… or were they….

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @dogwalkblog Yes, that’s in fact the challenge. Mis-application of the data point.

  • TNOReality

    It’s a great tool, absolutely, and a decent guideline. But the formula is inherently flawed, so it cant be trusted yet to rank people’s social media engagement and reach. This could be a real issue for sponsored tweeting/posting, or for social media gurus trying to get contracts. If they could tell us what criteria they look at and in what weight, we could help guide them to a more accurate scoring system.

  • TNOReality

    It’s a great tool, absolutely, and a decent guideline. But the formula is inherently flawed, so it cant be trusted yet to rank people’s social media engagement and reach. As it stands, it seems as if ‘likes’ and ‘retweets’ count significantly more than comments or replies, despite the latter requiring more attention and involvement. This could be a real issue for sponsored tweeting/posting, or for social media gurus trying to get contracts. If they could tell us what criteria they look at and in what weight, we could help guide them to a more accurate scoring system.

  • TheBeanCast

    Let me state up front that I do like Klout. I like what they are trying to do and I think that ultimately they will get to a good place. But as dogwalkblog points out, the score is being used for things it was never intended to be used for (like hiring decisions) while Klout turns a blind eye. It’s not their responsibility, mind you, but they are building their own presence and influence on the backs of such practices and that creates an ethical dilemma for me.

    Further, the long term usefulness of Klout perks needs to be questioned, since we all agree that this single measurement alone is not enough to determine influence. In the search for profits, they may be selling at best a tool with fading effectiveness built on hype, or at worst pure snake oil.

    It’s a brilliant idea to tie the measurement of influence to an individual’s personal ego. As a business model it’s perfect. You get a measure to sell and an engine of growth and shareability. But we all know that personal Klout does not replace actual clout. And I believe we are hugely over-valuing this single measurement at the expense of all reason.

    While I think the Klout hate has gotten out of hand, Klout does need critics — both to force them to improve and mitigate the lazy adoption by marketers and others who use this information incorrectly.

    Bob Knorpp

    Host of The BeanCast Marketing Podcast

    • rebeccadenison

      @TheBeanCast Thank you for such a thoughtful comment! This made me think. Hard.

      I wonder if my own issues with Klout don’t stem more from anger with those who use it improperly or Klout not doing enough to prevent this. Is it really their job to police their users like that, though?

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @TheBeanCast Very well stated Bob. The score has flaws. We can all stipulate to that. But the bigger problem is how some companies utilize the score.

  • pbehnia

    Thanks for this post! I like the idea of Klout and I think we all agree that it can do better. Sometimes, however, I look at all of these scores and they remind me of the real estate bubble. They’re based on speculation, gaming (+K your friends everyday, e.g.) and a host of other things. What if someone is a valuable customer but they are a social media luddite? Or, what if someone prefers to talk to a live person instead of tweeting dissatisfaction? Do we treat them poorly for their personal choices? It’s a sticky wicket, for sure!

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @pbehnia I don’t know about treating them poorly. But I’d probably treat them differently. That’s the future of business, in my estimation.

  • http://wilsonellisconsulting.com Debra_Ellis

    Hi Jay,

    You make an excellent argument when comparing Klout to other tools that provide numerical justification with creative math. The noise surrounding Klout’s validity is too loud. My issue with Klout isn’t with the accuracy of their reporting. The problem is with the companies that are using this tool to spread their message instead of providing the level of service required to get influence organically. If they would invest in providing a quality customer experience and encourage their customers to share the information with friends and family, they wouldn’t need artificial influence.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @Debra_Ellis Such a great point Debra. Thanks for sharing it. Indeed, instead of relying upon Klout, maybe just make your company better. Sound advice.

  • ajinnashville

    Great post, Jay! Yup, it’s the METRICS, STUPID!

    Oh and yeah, I agree — Lone Star was the worst. ;)

  • AngelaCrocker

    Jay, I appreciate your reflection on Klout. I see value in the tool but take any metrics like this with a grain of salt. While there are many online & offline factors that aren’t part of the algorithm, the number gives a benchmark, a good sense of change and, perhaps, can motivate new action. The true value comes when that new action is meaningful and not just someone trying to game the system.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @AngelaCrocker It’s one number. It shouldn’t be THE number.

  • laurenamcmullen

    Thanks for shedding some light on that Jay. I have often wondered myself why all the big guys hate Klout. Could it be it does not take into account some unmeasurable reason they think they are more important than other people? I have always thought metrics from an algorithm is only a benchmark and not the whole picture so I wonder what the problem is?

  • jaybaer

    @DanielBud Thanks Daniel.

  • jaybaer

    @AndrewKnoc Thanks for that Andrew.

  • http://www.arielmarketinggroup.com/ AmyMccTobin

    Great post. Made me rethink – HARD – my opinion of Klout. What drives me crazy personally is how my score yo-yos daily which immediately invalidates it to me. You can’t measure anything daily – except maybe the stock market but you still don’t sell based on those wild fluctuations, if your smart.

    Also, the areas it deems anyone and expert of are questionable. I guess we need a measuring tool in some form, I just don’t put a lot of stock in this one just yet.

    • http://www.arielmarketinggroup.com/ AmyMccTobin

      Ok, so I wrote your instead of you’re and I can’t edit!! Uggh! :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/allisondevgroup EricaAllison

      @AmyMccTobin It’s kind of like weighing yourself daily, isn’t it? Too much room for fluctuation…not an accurate overall picture.

      • http://www.arielmarketinggroup.com/ AmyMccTobin

        @EricaAllison I do that too Erica, against my better judgement. :)

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @AmyMccTobin Yes Amy the frequency of score change (based a lot on participation level I think) is troubling.

  • RavenRequiem13

    Why Critics of Klout Are Missing the Big Picture | http://t.co/QUy2SGB via @jaybaer #socialmedia #marketing #Klout @RockTique @levispires

  • DanOnBranding

    Funny that the people who bash on these scores are always the people with very high scores. Klout, like PeerIndex or even Empire Avenue, is imperfect. But in a still young medium that social media is, where marketers desperately cry out for greater measurement, it nonetheless provides a good barometer of where their brands lie on the influence spectrum. Yes, they still have to connect some other networks (hello…Wordpress?). But what’s the alternative? Not having it? With the help of these sites, we can learn that we need to make adjustments to our activity, engage more with other influencers in the online community and if we’re creating the kind of content that’s compelling enough to build conversations. Sure, I scratch my head over Klout some days. But it’s not like I know every aspect of how the Google algorithm works either and I still trust that. They’re the best we have. And if something comes along that’s better and more advanced, we’ll use that instead. Isn’t that the pattern we’ve been following for quite some time now?I wrote on this very topic a couple months back that you might find interesting:http://chicagobrander.wordpress.com/2011/06/24/i-found-my-klout-on-empire-avenue-while-staring-at-the-peerindex/

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @DanOnBranding Right Dan. It’s not perfect, but it’s an evolving discipline and it’s what we have today.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_randall Lori_Randall

    Was nodding my head about how silly it is to complain over not being able to somehow measure offline influence while we’re discussing online activity, appreciate your points about how most metrics are wildly flawed, but you really lost me on the Tequila thing… It’s about potato vodka, Jay. ;)

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @Lori_Randall Hmmm. Potato vodka. I’ve had a couple. Will try more based on your recommendation Lori!

  • jacobvar

    Moral of the story: Companies NEED ‘Klout’, or similar, to make sense of social media. @markwschaefer said as much in his blog post today, in that the big ‘brands’ are using ‘Klout’ as a viable tool to negotiate the scary world of ‘social media’.

    I guess we should all just accept the inevitable…that Companies and Brands are what will make measurement of Social media influence/activity a ‘norm’. It does make sense from that perspective.

    What if we pull back the camera a bit on the ‘Big Picture’ to give it a wider scope. What about governments, dictators etc.? After all they have always wanted to have a good way to measure and control audiences.They have been doing it too with a mulitude of tools(including ranking and sentiment measuring) at their disposal. But one of the promises of technology is it’s ability to be disruptive, like social media platforms have been so far (ie.g: their roles in wikileaks, arab spring etc). Once it is known that you can ‘measure’ and ‘manipulate’ the message, ‘trust agents’ will be driven to technology that will NOT. Just like it happened with mainstream media. This is the reason Klout will not work beyond the commercialization potential you and Mark rightly point out. Klouts success could well mean its irrelevancy.

    Then again, you guys are the experts :).

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @jacobvar@markwschaefer Really interesting perspective. Thanks for the great comment.

  • douglaskarr

    @jaybaer I agree and disagree. The problem is in the marketing. If Klout were simply stating that they were a means of measuring some influence on social media, it would be one thing. However, their marketing of the score in addition to “True Reach” leaves a much different impression. The fact is that I have a ton of authority through my blog, podcast and email newsletter that’s NOT reflected in my Klout score. As a result, if a company was looking for influencers and believing what Klout is, they are going to miss an opportunity to promote with someone that actually had more influence than simply someone with high Klout scores. You and I understand that Klout is imperfect, but a great system… but those folks who aren’t as savvy could be investing money where they aren’t fully maximizing their spend.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @douglaskarr Yes, their present inability to count content creation as part of the score is a flaw.

  • AndreaDeee

    Had to share;a must read!RT @JasonFalls Why Critics of Klout Are Missing the Big Picture – Interesting take from @jaybaer: http://ar.gy/aP8

  • http://4thress.com/blog/ CarlThress

    My biggest concern with Klout is its misuse as a major factor in hiring decisions and a be-all-end-all for deciding who is worthy of attention and who isn’t when it comes to customer service situations. (The whole idea of deciding who deserves good customer service based on their influence over others crosses the line between customer service and PR. Not that PR is bad, but don’t call it great customer service, unless you’re willing to do the same for EVERY customer. As someone who has spent years in customer service, I believe everyone deserves great customer service, regardless of Klout score or Twitter following, but maybe I’m just naive.)

    An algorithm is only as good as the data it measures, so if someone has not taken the time to grant Klout access to all their social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.), their Klout score is lower than someone who has. (In my own experience, I saw my Klout score jump about 6 points when I added Facebook and a few more points when I added LinkedIn.) I realize Klout can only measure data it has access to, but marketers and decision makers need to keep that in mind when looking at someone’s Klout score and deciding whether or not they are worthy of their attention.

    Like @AmyMccTobin, I too have seen my Klout score fluctuate from day to day. Am I really more influential one day than the next, just because I feel more chatty on Twitter? I’ve also seen it actually change for the same date (i.e., 40 one day, then 38 that same date when looking back on the graph a few days later). I’m sure these changes are due to adjustments in the algorithm, but that just goes to show that Klout is not ready (at least yet) to be given so much credence as an authority on influence measurement.

    I guess my point is one that Jay made (probably far better than me in all my rambling): If you’re using Klout as a factor in business decisions, make sure it is one of many factors and not the whole enchilada.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @CarlThress I’ve never run across that myself Carl, but I’ve certainly heard stories of companies hiring based on Klout score. That is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.

      • http://4thress.com/blog/ CarlThress

        @JayBaer I’ve also only heard from others about the practice. I’ve never seen it firsthand. FWIW, I don’t think Klout is to blame for it. I can’t imagine that was ever their intent. It’s just laziness and craziness (as you note) on some hiring people’s part.

  • jaybaer

    @nickcicero thank you nick.

  • rebeccadenison

    I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not Klout’s biggest fan. I do think Joe and the group at Klout are wicked smart, and I respect what they’re trying to do. They’re bringing together metrics from all over your social presence, and that’s helpful. Many of the metrics they provide have helped me build a case for programs or for changing policies, and for that I will always love them.

    What I take issue with is their marketing. You said it, “if Klout just changed their tagline from “the standard of influence” to the more accurate “the standard of audience” it would take the tea kettle off the burner for a lot of people.” Perhaps this is just me being a grump, but I take issue with them claiming to be a standard of influence. They measure countless metrics and variables which may contribute to influence, but they do NOT measure influence. Period.

    I would never recommend using Compete or Quantcast due to the inaccuracy of their numbers, and I often find myself fighting battles to keep these numbers away. They do not measure what they claim to measure either. Nielsen uses sampling methods which are statistically accurate. You only need 609 households in Charlotte to be 99% confident that your results will be representative of the whole (and most researches will accept 90 or 95% accuracy). I’d trust most numbers from Nielsen for that reason.

    I find my reaction to Klout stems from it’s affect on people. More often than not, I find the people who are excited about Klout are using it as a shortcut or one-stop shop. I know you would never actually use Klout as a one and done solution (but it can be a GREAT start for research), but their marketing infuriates me as it only seems to drive lazy marketers to continue being lazy. And from a selfish perspective: it makes my life harder. I can tell you the top folks who influence your brand, and I can spend hours upon hours researching and searching and tying pieces together to make my case. But I can’t even guarantee that I’m 100% right. For an automated tool that puts a lot less care into their results to call themselves “the standard of influence” just drives me CRAZY.

    • rebeccadenison

      And @TheBeanCast has made me wonder: am I angrier at Klout for helping lazy people be lazy or at lazy people for being lazy? To what extent should Klout be responsible for how people use their score?I still dislike their aggressive marketing, but they are looking out for themselves. Ugh! Thanks for making me think this morning.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @rebeccadenison yes it’s a cheeky marketing plan, that’s for sure. But it certainly seems to be working for them.

      • rebeccadenison

        @JayBaer Yes….darn them!

  • jaybaer

    @JasonFalls Thanks for the RT big poppa. Great to see you in Cleveland. Wish we had more time.

    • JasonFalls

      @jaybaer I’m thinking a football Saturday with the fams should happen soon.

  • http://ryandsullivan.com/ ryandonsullivan

    I’ve been a closet Klout naysayer for quite a while, and finally vented publicly last week in a blog post. I was surprised at the number of people who agreed with me 100% and I’m pretty sure that everyone who strongly disagreed just stayed silent instead of chiming in.

    There are still things I don’t like about Klout, or how people choose to use it, but this post is SO solid Jay. Like, solid enough to make me change my point of view completely. I’m usually not wishy-washy when it comes to these discussions — maybe it’s the Irish blood — but I really do see the bigger picture you’re trying to paint here.

    I’m not saying that I’m going to mow a giant K into my front lawn and create a Klout theme song, but I understand the purpose at a higher level now.

    Thanks for the insight.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @nomorebacon If I can get you to create a theme song, I’ll be pretty fired up about MY influence ;) Thanks for the great comment and open mind.

  • rebeccadenison

    @jasonfalls That @jaybaer made me think. I *do* have a strong reaction to Klout. Not sure it’s their fault, but I do dislike their marketing

  • contrapuntist

    Over the past few years, I’ve paid closer attention to Klout to see how it works. My issue with Klout is how quickly the score fluctuates, as if “influence” changes from one day to the next? You wrote a book, which by my estimation was well received, but suddenly not being online for a few days is supposed to lesson the fact that you have some influence in this space? Come on!

    My issue with Klout is that it can easily be gamed through participation. How? Twitter chats and conferences. All anyone has to do to game Klout is go to a conference where there is a lot of attention, like SXSW, and participate in several Twitter chats over a week to watch influence blossom. And when you decide to go back into your offline shell, watch the score slowly dwindle away. Help me understand how this is measuring influence?

    Having been a recipient to some perks, I can say there is a logical purpose for incorporating Klout as a marketing tool, but it needs to be a balanced inclusion. Amazingly, the perks were well targeted, all music based, which is appropriate since I’m a part-time music blogger. At the very least, you get an idea of who is using Twitter or other channels regularly.

    Klout is ultimately a gauge for tracking participation and response to participation, not influence. Although, some people who have high visibility, like celebrities and social media rock stars, will naturally have higher scores because of their offline (or alternative media) personas.

    Yes, Klout is a tool, but it is anything but a tool for metrics. When I talk to clients about Klout, I refer to is as a diagnostic tool to evaluate how to engage differently and review what’s working. It helps to highlight the need to change from broadcaster to conversationalist. I also couple using Klout with PeerIndex to find a balanced diagnostic of social activities since each takes different things into account.

    So Klout has a purpose, but it isn’t measuring influence.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @contrapuntist Well said. The participation part of it is a thorn for me too.

      • contrapuntist

        @JayBaer Thanks. It took me a while to figure out how to talk productively about Klout. The participation part is the most aggravating, honestly. If Klout modified it’s description, I think others would be more accepting of what it is and how to think about it.

      • http://www.SocialMediaForSmartPeople.com/ prosperitygal

        well why is participation a thorn? if someone who talk frequently garners more exposure for company using klout then score team. Isn’t that one of the things you want from a loyal community, frequency of conversation? @JayBaer @contrapuntist

        • contrapuntist

          @prosperitygal Participation as it relates to Klout is a thorn because influence has many aspects to it, but Klout puts greater emphasis on participation versus other more important factors.

          Just because I’ve been a social media participant for years, doesn’t mean I have a great amount of influence, it just means I’ve been tweeting for years. However, if I’m able to tweet and modify behavior from the people that follow me, read my blog, etc., then that carries more weight and should matter more. But this isn’t what Klout is “measuring”.

          Like anything in social media, I believe Klout has it’s place and that is finding people who are active and who have an active audience.

          I’d also add there is a major distinction between loyalty and influence. I think many look at influence based on audience size, not purchasing behavior. There is a difference. Frequency of conversation only matters if relevant and positive. Klout doesn’t measure volume around a topic or sentiment.

  • webby2001

    Anytime I speak about Klout, what gets retweeted is my criticism of the “scores,” and never anything else – like, for instance, that they are seriously honing in on “topic” and context. When I look at my Klout page, my topics of influence are Market Research, Social Media Measurement and B2B – I’ll take that. The “score” in and of itself is a bit silly as presented, though. My Klout is equal to Snooki’s. There isn’t a party, gathering or room in the world in which I would be equally influential to Snooki. There’s a good thought exercise for you. As long as that number is presented without context, I can’t hold Klout blameless here.

    No, my big issue with Klout isn’t with Klout at all – but how lazy marketers use it. You note that some kind of tier or triage system is beneficial to companies – and I couldn’t agree more. I’m Unobtanium level with Hilton Hotels. They can tier me based upon something that absolutely has meaning – purchase behavior. The day they treat me differently because of how I tweet, however, will be a dark day in Hilton history.

    Here, though, is the biggest reason why I rail against lazy marketers, and not Klout – when you treat me differentially because of my “influence” score, you are assuming facts not in evidence. I am not aware of any credible studies that demonstrate ANY tie between Klout score and the observation of some desired behavior BEYOND a mere retweet. There is no evidence that a message from an influencer has any impact on trial, usage, churn or customer satisfaction. Could such evidence be produced? Certainly – though it would be idiosyncratic to brand or possibly vertical. But no one *does the work*. So the Klout score is a poor proxy for…something. I doubt it’s influence.

    I guess I’m not smart enough to get my head around quantifying the business impact of marketing by Klout score. What I can get my head around is this: Klout can give you a list of people who at least “talk about” the category your brand might be interested in, and you can use follower counts to work into a poor man’s contextual reach and frequency. That has value. What has yet to be proven is the *business* impact of a “high scorer” talking about your product as compared to a “low scorer.” After all, people bash AT&T constantly on the Twitterz, but we keep renewing our contracts. There are just so many facts not in evidence – and so many offline variables – that, again, I’m just not smart enough to figure out what to *do* with the Klout score.

    Klout is on to something.They are iterating to something useful, and there is no shortage of smart people working on the problem. It just isn’t influence. To influence me, you must change my state. There is no evidence that a high Klout score correlates to this. Not yet. Color me skeptical, though not cynical.

    • rebeccadenison

      @webby2001 As always, you bring an experienced and reasonable perspective. I get so angry with Klout’s tagline, but I think you’re right. It’s the lazy marketers. And if they aren’t using Klout to be lazy, it would just be something else.

      Klout has value, and I love it as a jumping off point. I just wish so many folks weren’t irresponsible and lazy with their Klout.

      • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

        @rebeccadenison Leave it to Tom to be the voice of reason. Surprised he didn’t slam me for my Nielsen reference with his “sampling is magic” line. Next time. ;)

    • ericboggs

      @webby2001 +3 for the Unobtanium reference. :)

      • webby2001

        @ericboggs I used to be Mithril level, but I’m a climber.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @webby2001 Yes indeed. The problem with “influence” in general is the assumption that it ties to business value. The furthest I’m willing to go is to stipulate that “influence” can potentially boost awareness/impressions (hence my desire for Klout to change their tagline to “the standard of audience”). “Influencer marketing” pushes the same corporate buttons as measuring PR on advertising equivalency, or getting excited about the number of impressions your Google PPC generated, rather than clicks. It’s all rooted in the belief that visibility will inexorable yield revenue – which is the business equivalent of trickle down Voodoo economics.

      However, using a metric to determine RELATIVE influence and tier response appropriately is something I can get behind. But pulling human needles from a Twitter haystack based on an integer seems like a less than sound use of resources, regardless of the numerical accuracies or inaccuracies inherent in that approach.

      So what I’m saying is that I have no problem using Klout as an add-in to a CRM database (or even something like Hootsuite). I have more of a problem with Klout perks and programs of that ilk, but I have similar programs with influencer/blogger outreach in general when they are not carefully researched (blog post on the way about that).

      • cdginteractive

        @JayBaer@webby2001 Klout as a complement to CRM makes far more sense than as a predictor of purchase behavior. You hit the nail on the head with “After all, the most important thing to know isn’t online ‘influence’ but historical relationship between that customer and your company, and their corresponding lifetime value.”

        It will be very interesting to see where Salesforce takes Radian6. Many other companies, like Attensity, are also making a play for social media monitoring as a component of CRM, VOC and/or PR monitoring, not merely as a stand-alone activity.

  • goonth

    @JayBaer — you raise some very solid points (truisms really) about the analytics landscape in general, which is to say that standardization is a moving target. Fact is, Klout isn’t really an analytics company, it’s an event promotion company that uses social media activity as a basis to engage and activate consumer participation for things like live events and broadcast media. This is a smart play (it seems), but it does not make Klout a de facto player, for example, in how brands can actually make better business decisions… at least not operationally.

    The key paragraph in this piece for me is this:

    “The smart money in the next five years in social media is not in the provision of information but rather in the interpretation of it. When every company of consequence has a free and open API, data becomes a commodity. Insights are never commoditized.”

    Totally agree on the first part (the platform I co-Founded, Heardable, is based on this precept), the second part not so much. A big part of the Big Data debate is over the accumulation of good data, so that the data market itself can improve and the companies playing within it can procure better data, and therefore, get to better insight around that data (and understand things like customer behavior far better). In other words, data and insight become commodities when we don’t collectively establish their value, or understand the business context. Cases in point: Twitter, Facebook, Zynga and a host of others started to make revenue when third parties could leverage their data in ways that demonstrated clear business value — enriched insights around sharing, eCommerce and game behavior.

    The boon in all of this seems to be how companies can define their own proxies for growth by watching what the data market does, then adapt and contribute perspectives to those market dynamics that are unique. This is what Klout seems to be doing right, and perhaps now it can improve its offering by making the data it interprets better, using the platforms (live events, media) it works on.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @goonth Genius comment. I appreciate you taking the time. I’d like to get more info on Heardable too.

      • goonth

        @JayBaer Thank you for taking the time to write this! Heardable can be found here: http://heardable.com

        Also, here is a post I wrote a couple months back on how the platform provides business context (note: we’ve added a host of new features since then). We’d be thrilled to discuss this with you more at length ;)

        http://goonth.posterous.com/embracing-context-in-a-world-of-complexity-ma

        Talk soon…

        • http://www.SocialMediaForSmartPeople.com/ prosperitygal

          I wanna know more too, going to look now. Might need to book you on the radio show ;) @goonth @JayBaer Need another reason to get Jay on anyway ;)

  • http://www.SocialMediaForSmartPeople.com/ prosperitygal

    Guess what? Business are going to use decision making factors and they will not be worrying about whether you like them or not, they will not tell you.

    Instead of getting mad at klout, create a solution that fits what you think the market needs. Use your minds to develop a better solution.

    There is a place and a purpose for everything in our worlds.

    If this is ONE piece that allows companies to get a better handle on how they reach out to a slice of an audience then good for them.

    As Shakespeare or whoever said this ” Me things thou does protest too much”

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @prosperitygal Right. If companies are misusing Klout, is Klout to blame for that? If someone shoot someone with a Glock, is it Glock’s fault? (draconian example of course)

  • bobledrew

    Is the question whether we “like” Klout or anything else, or whether Klout’s flaws are so great that its utility is utterly limited?

  • PageRankSEO

    Regardless of whether we would view klout ‘s algorithm as the be all end all in assessing influence on social media, the real question is one of trust. This is true when assessing the value of a new follower’s / friend’s / connection’s social media profile (in large part this is an assessment of the advise and links in their timeline / stream / updates) or trusting a link on a search engine results page. Two weeks ago mattmcgee covered this in a post, “Trust: It Is, Was, and Always Will Be the #1 SEO Ranking Factor ” http://goo.gl/OOvoY . There are a myriad of sites providing reviews for local businesses — not to mention the roles played by Foursquare, Gowalla, etc. Facebook’s ‘Like’ and Google’s ‘+1′ have joined the foray. Just as a five star rating is a badge of trust, so is receiving a ‘Like’ or ‘+1′ endorsement. Both ‘Likes’ and ‘+1s’ are now also SEO ranking signals. To this we can add mmoffitt ‘s bitz which seeks to provide a barter system for social currency.

    One of the great features of Klout as well as some similar services, peerindex for instance, is to provide an ability to share topic lists of recommended users across multiple social networks.

  • http://southfloridafilmmaker.com/ danperezfilms

    The blogger’s best friend is a good Klout post, yes? They never fail to evoke debate, do they? This one makes some really good points (especially the one that customers aren’t treated equally; very true) but the critics of Klout also make several good points. The argument is akin to the ongoing “great taste” vs “less filling” – it will never have a clear winner.

    I see where for the social media “professional”, Klout has value (you ain’t gonna get my company’s social media business with a Klout score of 37) but the ultimate problem with Klout is that some unemployed 20 year-old living at home with his parents who has nothing better to do than spend hours upon hours on social media platforms is gonna have a Klout score in the “thought leader” range. Where I come from, junkies only influence other junkies so if Klout wants to call that influence, so be it.

    Lately, I’ve stumbled upon several quirky blogs whose posts generate an average of 80-100 comments but whose social media presence (twitter/facebook) affords them a Klout score only in the low 40s while I’ve seen bloggers with Klout scores in the 70s barely muster a handful of comments. You wanna talk influence? I believe that ultimately, many companies (with the exception, perhaps, of those companies that cater to 20 year-olds who live at home and have nothing better to do than spend hours upon hours on social media platforms) are gonna find they’re barking up the wrong tree when it comes to Klout and online influence and are gonna need to look at other metrics.

    But until then, it makes for great blog fodder :)

    • http://wilsonellisconsulting.com Debra_Ellis

      @danperezfilms Hi Dan,

      Are you suggesting that influence can be measured by the number of comments?

      • http://southfloridafilmmaker.com/ danperezfilms

        @Debra_Ellis What I’m saying is that their content (action) causes a noticeable reaction (comments). Isn’t that what “online influence” is? I think so…

        • http://wilsonellisconsulting.com Debra_Ellis

          @danperezfilms True, but creating content that gets comments can be as simple as writing a Klout or controversial post. What about the content that doesn’t generate a noticeable reaction in the form of comments, but sends customers and prospects to the company’s website to purchase products? The influence of the content is invisible to outsiders and much more powerful because it requires an investment from the participants.

        • http://www.SocialMediaForSmartPeople.com/ prosperitygal

          @danperezfilms@Debra_Ellis yes AND comments that are meaningless to a meaningless post are not an influence for any type of buy.

          Are we cross reaching? Is the purpose of Klout of even blogger’s communities and comments to drive only sales or to build trust. It is like comparing a fist full of dollars to a high touch Rolodex, which would you rather have?

          Me, the Rolodex because I can make more money with relationships that trust me than a one or two time sale.

        • http://wilsonellisconsulting.com Debra_Ellis

          @prosperitygal@danperezfilms I’m always going for the relationship because trust and sales go hand-in-hand. It’s possible to get a test sale (or two as Michele mentioned) without establishing trust but beyond that nothing will happen. My issue is with using the number of comments as an influence metric. The post that typically generate the most comments are all about the drama and not about establishing relationships. They take a lot of time to manage and respond. Business blogs need a return on their investment. If they don’t have advertising on their site that generates revenue, how does having tons of comments help their business?

          From a consulting standpoint, I have friends in the business whose billables are increasing every month that rarely get a comment on their posts. I also have friends begging for work who receive 50+ comments every post. It’s all about the individual relationships, not the public stream of thought.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @danperezfilms So it would appear. First time I’ve written about Klout other than a long time ago when they very first launched. Certainly seems to drive comments! The lack of content publishing in their formula is a real shortcoming, for sure.

      • mqtodd

        @JayBaer Are tweets and Facebook updates, You Tube videos, Flickr photos, blogger articles etc etc not “content”?

        • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

          @mqtodd Indeed they are. In that context, I was referring to freestanding and self-contained content like blog posts and the like.

        • mqtodd

          @JayBaer Well they are also covered as Blogger is connected and WordPress is about to be. As you probably realise Klout is not standing still and will continue to evolve

  • http://joemanna.me/ JoeManna

    Looks like you’ve been reading all my Tweets about Klout. ;-)

    My issues with Klout comes down to these points:

    1. Klout is not influence. It’s activity and likelihood of instilling engagement via an online audience. Arguably, one could say that’s influence, but when it comes down to it, it’s online engagement. I view Klout as a means to score a person’s engagement somewhat scientifically.

    2. It’s still too easy to game. Everyday, I get @-reply spammers and just happen to observe their Klout. Shockingly, they have more than 40. I find it hard to believe that a service that measures influence over a period of time could give anyone more than 10 when their account is just days old. It’s not practical that those people (or engagements) exist.

    3. Making business decisions solely based on Klout is shortsighted. This isn’t Klout’s fault; but when i see a brand “launch” a product or service to an ‘exclusive’ group of individuals based on their engagement. Audi is the best example. I know only a few credit-worthy people who would love to drive (and can afford) an Audi R8, but they just don’t engage online; whereas, a lot of people who engage heavily online couldn’t even afford a Ford Fiesta, let alone an Audi R8. I don’t know how anyone could call that campaign a success. Audi still hasn’t gotten back to me on the ROI of that. (Again, this isn’t Klout’s fault, rather brands who would rather pay to play, than simply play.)

    We love seeing ourselves improve, we desire meaning in our interactions and we love to see trends among our friends, communities and businesses. Klout very much provides this in ways that other free tracking services haven’t. However, Klout irks me because I know that the business leaders read the Wall Street Journal and tell their reports, “we need to do this,” without really considering the overall strategy. Then, soon enough, we’ll come right back to the game for the highest Klout score. This view is more personal and touches on what you’re summarizing as the criticism of Klout, the commoditization of our human interactions.

    This is surely a hot topic in the community. Can’t wait to read the comments from others. Linked below are two blog posts I wrote previously about Klout and social media influence. You might be interested in them:

    http://www.joemanna.com/blog/social-media-influence/

    http://www.joemanna.com/blog/konfusing-klout-with-kredit/

    ~Joe

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @JoeManna Exactly. #3 is the biggest problem. However, companies are also making decisions (and more of them) based on Facebook likes. We can’t save companies from their desire to take the mathematical easy road.

  • webby2001

    Also, Jay – the picture at the top of your blog post caused me to black out for an hour. You owe me $400. Also, when I woke up I was in the middle of the road, wearing a Mr. Met mascot uniform.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @webby2001 Do you have an Instagram of that?

  • danieleagee

    @jaybaer Wasn’t going to comment at all. Now, just not going to comment on the article.

    But, the implementation of Livefyre is no good. The lack of padding on the left and right of the comments is driving me crazy. Please. Bump them in 10-15 px on each side to make it match the rest of the site and give my eyeballs a break.

    Until next time good sir.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @danieleagee Thanks Daniel. Starting work on a redesign. Duly noted.

  • MirrorDotMe

    Thought-provoking post! I’m obviously biased, but I prefer Mirror.me over Klout because we don’t bother measuring influence for a lot of the reasons you say at the beginning of this post — it’s tough to build a reliable algorithm for online influence. Instead, Mirror.me measures (and visualizes!) your interest communities based on your social connections to help you understand your social network better. When you understand the intersection between your interests and another person’s, there’s a lot of opportunity for engagement there…and it doesn’t matter if one person is more “influential” than the other if the interest is consistent.

    The Morton’s Steak House example is interesting, too. Of course I’d be thrilled to have a restaurant follow through on such a whimsical, joking request, but I still think at the end of the day I’d be happier with connections to a business that cares about my tweets that aren’t @-replied directly to it as well.

    Thanks for the thoughts!

    –Jenn at Mirror.me

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @MirrorDotMe Thanks for the comment Jenn. I haven’t used mirror.me but I’ll check it out.

  • loudmouthman

    How about the fact that Klout do not make it easy for you to hide or remove your profile from their system; indeed they need you to email their support team who will take several days to achieve the result of removing you from their site. If a site cant manage to build a privacy feature into their user profiles I dont hold much clout with them doing anything else competently either.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @loudmouthman I wasn’t aware of that. Indeed, that’s annoying.

  • PainPoint

    Klout analysis of my 4,000 Twitter followers:http://pnpts.me/KloutAnalysis

  • conversionation

    Funny coiincidence? Same links, similar thoughts and same tagline message for Klout :) http://www.conversionation.net/2011/09/the-ultimate-truth-about-klout-and-influence/

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @conversionation Wow! That is a crazy coincidence, especially since you used the Paul Gillin example too. Wild. Mark Schaefer has a similar post today too. Something in the water.

      • conversionation

        I guess so. Maybe we’re all in a “wake up” and “stop being a snob” mood ;) Good night from Belgium!

        • mqtodd

          @conversionation Exactly.We are all waking up. This is the age of being open to everything and supportive. Not closed, critical and controlling

  • http://www.contentequalsmoney.com/ EmmaofCEM

    My question – and perhaps it’s a silly one – pertains to Klout’s unique attributes. What, precisely, differentiates Klout from other influence-monitoring services, like Sprout Social or Unilyzer? Is Klout more advantageous?

  • 40deuce

    Great piece Jay!

    I feel a lot of the same feelings you do for Klout. Do I think it’s perfect? No. But do I think that it’s a good starting point for some companies? Yes.

    You made a lot of great points in here and I don’t want to rehash them as a lot of them are similar to things I have said in the past about the company. The point that people need to understand is that scores like this (or even like Sysomos’ authority ranking) is that it’s a place to start. These numbers help to point in a direction of someone that you might be interested in as an “influencer” but from there it takes some real grunt work, thinking and pulling other metrics into the mix to determine if that “influencer” is right for you and what you’re trying to accomplish by reaching out to them.

    They’re also a great group of people that I’ve been fortunate to interact with on several occasions and for all the slack they take they manage to keep a smile on their faces and keep on going. I respect them for everything they do.

    Is it a be-all-end-all metric? No, but it’s a great place for people to start and if they don’t think so, they can go and try to figure these things out for themselves.

    Cheers,

    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

  • http://jennifersroberts.com/ Collectual

    Jay,

    Great post. I laughed out loud when I read “..tequila was rightly viewed as the most interesting of all spirits, instead of as a dorm room disaster.” Anyway onto the pt of the post, Klout like many other social media tools provides a unique perspective, an indicator that when combined with other metrics of merit can provide real insights. Social media adoption and usage is still just getting started, so it stands to reason that tools that attempt to assess a value to your social profile would be about as sophisticated. Let’s take another look at Klout or PeerIndex or Twitter and Facebook in a couple of years (or months, even) and see how their platforms have evolved as new applications for social media are introduced.

    Thanks for sharing!

    -Jennifer Collectual.

  • vknipper

    @ShopTalkSocial Thnx for the RT :)

    • ShopTalkSocial

      @vknipper Np. Always interested in hearing about Klout since I go back and forth on it myself.

  • jenzings

    I think the most telling line in this post is “companies desperately want this kind of data point.” It’s the desperation that I have an issue with. They are so desperate (and it isn’t just companies, it’s PR pros too) that they take a number and run with it instead of using it as one piece of the puzzle, a single data point. Taking Gillin’s excellent analysis of Klout’s weaknesses as an example, how many people do you think using Klout right now have ever thought to do that kind of gut-check analysis on it? How many just want a number–any number–preferably one that will get them out of having to do a lot of research? That’s the problem I have. Klout, and any other tool that purports to score influence, should be a starting point for hands-on research. Not an end point. For rapid triage like you’ve outlined above…maybe. But the idea that companies are hiring based on Klout scores, and that anyone would suggest treating a customer with a service issue differently because of a Klout score is slightly disturbing to me. The person who is rarely on Twitter but has a widely read blog can still cause a lot of problems for a company, and over relying on a Klout score would be a quick (and negative) way to find out, wouldn’t it?

  • markwschaefer

    @jdojc @jaybaer I didn’t know there was a digital chattering class. That trend passed me by! : )

  • jaybaer

    @jdojc personally I wouldn’t categorize my post as pro Klout so much as anti Klout bashing on algorithm-only grounds.

  • BrianCrouch

    @SEOcopy @jaybaer @JasonFalls What does it mean that a new user, famous via mass media, achieves higher Klout in a day than frequent users?

    • JasonFalls

      @briancrouch @seocopy @jaybaer Same thing that you can check in on Foursquare for the first time in weeks and see your score jump 5 points.

  • roniweiss

    Yep, we’re on the same page… I put up an “In Defense of Klout” post a couple weeks back. http://bit.ly/od9TQg

  • mqtodd

    I gave the post by Paul Gillin a good hammering yesterday Jay! :)

    I can simplify what you have said.

    “Focus on what is good and good will come”.

    Klout is much more than a score. The new content “leaderboard” for example is a brilliant resource as are the new lists.

    Well written.

    • mqtodd

      In fact you could well make your headline “Critics of anything fresh, new and evolving daily are missing the big picture”.

  • Livefyre

    @PageRankSEO Hey there, that comment was flagged as spam, but we’ve cleared it and it should be showing up on the page now! cc @jaybaer

    • jaybaer

      @Livefyre @PageRankSEO Thanks guys!

      • PageRankSEO

        @jaybaer @Livefyre Thx for the help & quick response. Comment is again visible.

  • jaybaer

    @engle Thanks Jesse. See you soon at #et11

  • BradEngle

    . @engle could be the most valuable handle on Twitter!

  • JennaTest

    testing will delete

  • dblacombe

    @ekzact Thanks for the RT David!

    • ekzact

      @dblacombe No problem.

  • dblacombe

    @tamarastecyk Thanks for the RT Tamara!

  • markofrespect

    @JonAkwue Hear hear

  • jasonmoriber

    @davidapatton The author is a thought-marketer for a living; not an objective voice. Klout is a ratings agency, and a game, all mixed up.

  • OnlineBusinesVA

    I feel that Social Media is the cheapest and the most effective option of connecting with potential customers. It is certainly here to stay. So rather than criticizing it we can find out ways which may give us good ROI.

    Shilpi Singha Roy

    http://www.online-business-virtual-ssistant.com/

  • amorsel

    The slogan is “Standard for Influence.” I make that mistake all the time.

    Good post, although I’d expect nothing less from a member of the Klouterati.

  • freestyleint

    Great article Jay, Klout is the best we have and we should commend that they’ve been so innovative in trying to tackle this huge task of social media measurement. As you say, Klout is far from perfect (and community Twitter chats like #kloutchat) seem to suggest that they are working hard to rectify and improve.

  • EricaGlasier

    Instead of rehashing the same old “look how screwed up their formula is” argument, let’s decide if we want to live in the kind of world/web where people are ranked, assigned a “value” & treated accordingly, whether “accurate” or not. Neil Postman is rolling over in his grave.

    http://ericaglasier.com/2011/07/15/open-letter-to-google-team-please-dont-integrate-klout/

    • freestyleint

      We live in a world where ranking happens anyway, naive to think otherwise. The whole concept of society rest upon those having some form of social capital – whether that’s physical strength, wealth, knowledge or influence. It may not be pretty, and it certainly goes against our romantic notion of humanity but that’s the way our world works – particularly in business. It’s no surprise that Klout is seen as more useful by businesses then.

      I totally agree with you, it is callous and slightly callous to define people by numbers, but this is the business world we work in.

      In my mind Klout doesn’t really measure true influence, but rather a handy tool for measuring social activity. It’s useful for seeing who is more likely to respond to you, sure this is a form of influence but it isnt the whole package. The loudest in the room isn’t the most influential, but that doesn’t mean Klout is without it’s uses.

      Sean

      • EricaGlasier

        If we give up romantic notions of human value, then the machines have already won ;)

        • http://www.arielmarketinggroup.com/ AmyMccTobin

          @EricaGlasier I already liked you but now I’m going to be watching more closely because I LOVE THAT QUOTE. Stealing it.. but I’ll give credit:)

  • LisaThorell

    Thanks for writing this, Jay. Your post and commenters as well give a great current barometer reading on the state of Klout. I’d certainly agree that Klout’s growing list of marquee name Klout Perk partners make it clear that companies want this number.

    I will say I don’t share the view that there has been Klout bashing. Rather quite a number of quite comprehensive critiques of Klout’s technical issues have been written, for instance, this overview from BlogWorld http://www.blogworld.com/2011/02/24/32-brilliant-bloggers-talk-about-klout/. A few you certainly discussed here, but pls add (1)easily gamed per Adriaan Pelzer’s bot experiments, and ,related to this, (2) overweighting of frequency of tweeting over quality of content (itself related to lack of blog content input), as well as (3) the score’s continued high volality. These limitations viewed alongside that we have one company with a non-transparent algorithm controlling an individual’s published rating of their “social net worth” — and, well, it just has some people concerned enough to blog (not bash) about the meaning/accuracy of a Klout score.

    Most concerning: If you read the online influence studies, there are some which support the view (eg. see Duncan Watts and C. Christakis’ work) that influence is about – not big numbers, big networks – but smaller more tightly connected networks of easily influenced people — not the factors Klout seems to be measuring.

    Still, as you point out so well, Klout is a true marketing force to reckon with: It’s becoming the online Nielsen rating system for advertisers. (As @goonth wrote, in many ways its’ best seen as a promotional marketing company). To me, Klout’s popularity and growing ad partner array is working fabulously due to the Klout Perks program combined with human psychological factors, namely, the hope, the deep-seated need (and in some cases associated social pressure) to be a Big-I Influential. From a marketing and ad effectiveness perspective (and i say this with no disrespect to Klout whatsoever), the Klout score actually doesn’t need to be an accurate measure of online influence at all. It only needs to imply that it is (for instance, in the tagline) to connect High-Klout-Wannabees to advertiser-partners.

  • http://www.contentstrategyhub.com/ EugeneFarber

    I like Klout, I think it’s a cool idea. Actually one day I was thinking that it would be cool to have something like it and searched to see if it already existed, and it did.

    I have no problem with the fact that it is inaccurate, it’s still early and I’m sure they are improving. I had this discussion with Mark Schaefer and I can’t really disagree with him when he says it’s all about the trend.

    What I have a problem with, is people making decisions based on it. Again, I found out about this on Mark’s blog and it shocked me. And actually annoyed me a little. For companies to be basing decisions based on someone’s Klout score is absolutely ludicrous (especially at this point). First, because not everyone is focused enough on Klout to even create an account, and second because the score can be gamed if you really want to improve it.

    I’ve seen a few comparisons made between Klout score for social media and credit score for your finances. I think that’s off. Your credit score is based on your debts, how well you pay them off, and actual tangible financial data. Sure there can be glitches here and there, but I think its far more accurate than Klout score is (or possibly can ever be).

    The other problem is that, like you say “what it purports to measure is by definition personal.” And not only is it personal, but it is readily available to the public. And they’re creating a score for you whether you want one or not. It’s not a service you opt in to. For someone to see other personal information about you they have to pay for a background check, to see your Klout score they just have to go online. Again, this wouldn’t really be a problem if decisions weren’t being based on the score.

    • roniweiss

      @EugeneFarber What do you mean “create an account”? Klout has accounts for people that are totally unaware of it. It’s up to you to link your other social media, though.

      • http://www.contentstrategyhub.com/ EugeneFarber

        @roniweiss True, that was a bad phrasing on my part. It should have read “activate” not “create”.

  • WilliamWellsIII

    Great insight @JayBaer ! I think “Klout” is one of those things where if you’re using social media correctly, your Klout score will reflect that… and although I’m happy that I’m influential on the topics I WANT to be influential on… evidently I’m also influential about “jeopardy”, “coupons”, and “casinos”… not my strong suit… but I’ll view that as me being versatile.

    Being involved with the helping business on the Internet since 1993, I’ve never seen anything that’s “perfect”… never will. Klout is one of those. It’ll grow… change… be perfected. There will always be “cheaters” who know how to work the system. If they want to spend their time doing that… great. It’s fairly easy to tell who they are after a while. I’ll keep spending my time helping those who come to me. I’ll continue to follow and learn from those I respect… (not necessarily based on “Klout”)… and I’ll keep providing information in the manner I think is best and I’ll let the chips fall where they may… Oh… THERE’S where my “casino” Klout influence comes from!

  • gerardmclean

    So, imagine a world where brands start calculating the damages based on your Klout score. The higher the score, the more liability you incur with each RT or mention. Impossible? Unlikely? If I can think it possible, I guarantee some lawyer a whole lot smarter and malicious than I can make it stick with a judge. http://gerardmclean.com/are-your-tweets-retweets-and-blog-posts-complicit.html

    • roniweiss

      If you’re being slanderous, sure, why not?

      I would think that damages would change based on how much effect you have as a publisher.

  • EricaGlasier

    @Mike_Stelzner The big picture is “reducing human value to a number” & whether we want a web like that, not how groovy is Klout’s algorithm.

    • JanetStewartPR

      @EricaGlasier Good point, Erica.

      • EricaGlasier

        @JanetStewartPR Thanks. It’s like we just have to accept advertisers using this data because it exists. We don’t.

  • drothamel

    .@JustinWise @Mike_Stelzner the best critique of Klout I have read is by @ResPres http://t.co/0FGNLrX it is a game, created for marketers

  • colmcq

    @ast3v3nson bruv, dem boyz is bubblin. Keep it reel aye. peace.

  • DanOnBranding

    Klout’s not perfect and there might even be some kinks to work out so that people don’t “game” the system, but is it that bad and wildly inaccurate? No. I love it when people say broad things like, “Connect with the influencers of your industry.” OK, how do you suppose we do that if we don’t have a decent starting place to measure what an influencer looks like? Klout begins to give us that sense. PeerIndex begins to give us that. I think it’s silly to base too much on one score of anything, but when we can pick away at the imperfections of the tools we have without identifying strong replacements, I believe we’re doing ourselves more harm than good. Frankly, if Klout sucks so bad, find me or build me something better so I can use that. Until then, I’ll be integrating it into how I measure influence among other things and be on the lookout for either its continued evolution or the technology that’s a step up from it.

  • thatdrew

    @jeffnolan bah humbug. you can tweet 32434 links, it’s bullshit ;)

    • jeffnolan

      @thatdrew like I said, it does seem to skew to popularity… but that alone doesn’t make me discount it.

      • thatdrew

        @jeffnolan i got 99 problems, and klout’s 98 of em.

        • jeffnolan

          @thatdrew 98.79 me thinks :)

  • kcclaveria

    Klout’s algorithm isn’t perfect, that’s for sure. But unless a better system comes along, businesses have no choice but to accept it as the standard of influence (or of audience).

    Another way Klout can lose its relevance right now is if companies are able to better tie in CRM with their social media efforts. That will take some time, so for the time being, Klout is a good short cut.

    • http://about.me/peder.hedeby pederhedeby

      @kcclaveria Great summary that puts everything in perspective. “Quicker to take the train before it was the opportunity to fly, than to still go by horse and wagon and complain that the train is not as fast as IF you could fly.”

  • Twel5

    Well said, Jay. Complaining about the Klout scoring system is like floating in the ocean and complaining that your life jacket is too snug.

    Klout is not perfect but companies and agencies are desperate for a number like this. We were so desperate and so intrigued by the idea that Klout was able to secure key partnerships that have insured its rise, at least for the time-being. I wrote about that in my own blog. Check out my Klout article if you’d like. It’s older now and a lot has changed since July but some of my points still hold water. http://timpwelsh.com/2011/07/06/why-klout-will-be-huge/

  • http://www.mitchneff.com MitchNeff

    Well put. I think that the most important thing that Klout has done is to make people think about HOW they are using social media. Whether the result is good or bad, users are now more concerned with what they are doing in the social sphere.

    Some argue that if the algorithm were exposed, Klout would be more credible – I know that prebynski and I have discussed this many times. I don’t think most people would understand the algorithm and that people discussing it would only serve to increase gamification. The point is that the “mystery” of Klout makes it more effective and those concerned with their score tend to consider their social habits in that light.

    “It’s one piece of information that needs to be combined with (ideally) several others to do social CRM well.” It seems that Klout-fever is easy to catch as it gives an already over-loaded marketer a short-cut of sorts. If I had a magic service that let me put in a keyword and gave me the top influencers in the world on the topic, then I would use the hell out of it… the problem is that Klout, like the people that created it’s algorithm, is not perfect. But many marketers feel it is the best thing available for the time they have to dedicate to influencer identification. Let me put it this way – I would be surprised to find many Radian 6 shops using Klout for influencer identification…

    (Disclosure: I have interviewed Joe Fernandez of Klout for my own blog and received a few low dollar “Klout Rewards” and other swag like t-shirts and stickers from the company)

  • pomegranate02

    @venessapaech I don’t like Klout or PeerIndex either – I’m interested in what it is that you loathe?

  • znmeb

    “Yet we’re not writing blog posts about Nielsen being an abomination.” No, we aren’t – *now*. But back when Nielsen was competing for its place in a growing market for television ratings services, the equivalent of blogs, trade magazines, featured articles about how bogus Nielsen’s methodologies were – and how bogus the methodologies of Nielsen’s competitors were.

    “Influence Measures Help Business Create Order From Chaos”. No, actually, they don’t. What creates order out of chaos is a *discipline* called, for want of a better name, quantitative marketing. You have to know what data to collect, data cleansing technologies, *solid* statistical methodologies, market life cycle models and a whole bunch of other quantitative tools.

  • jmarkestijn

    @digitalie volgens mij heeft klout een valide businessmodel. Alleen niet helemaal duidelijk wat de gebruiker er aan heeft

    • digitalie

      @jmarkestijn Denk dat het voor de gemiddelde gebruiker helemaal niet interessant is. Voor bedrijven misschien wel, zolang ze het niet 1/2

    • digitalie

      @jmarkestijn als een godsdienst gaan zien, maar inzien dat het ook nog niet perfect is. Je hebt iig kans je influencers te vinden.

  • letstalkandchat

    If you’re looking for webinar software, then check out Evergreen Business System. Its perfect for marketers and let’s you automate the scheduling of your webinars, build your list, and even follow up with your webinar registrants. If you’re going to buy Evergreen Business System, then you might as well get a free bonus! So check out http://www.mikelmurphy.com/evergreen-business-system-bonus-webinar-software/ and you’ll get a great bonus that tells you how to create a webinar, what is a webinar, and a blueprint for making a successful one. None of the other people offering bonuses are offering this. Hurry in case the guy (some dude that worked on Lord of the RIngs) offering the bonus decides to pull it down.

  • jeffculliton

    @AxiomSound always handy with a good article….my boy! #Dwypad is my oracle for all that is social.

    • AxiomSound

      @jeffculliton And you are my monocle for all that is Banana Republic.

      • jeffculliton

        @AxiomSound I don’t know how to take that, so I will take it as a compliment.

    • AxiomSound

      @jeffculliton I was kidding you know…You have a keen eye for fashion.

      • jeffculliton

        @AxiomSound I get it now. You’re so nice to me.

        • AxiomSound

          @jeffculliton I’m just jealous because I only shop at OldNavy.

        • jeffculliton

          @AxiomSound but #youwearitwell. That’s a good Rod Stewart song. #lookitup

  • karenswim

    Thanks @farida_h for sharing @jaybaer post re @Klout, very valid points about scoring systems cc @jgombita

  • jaybaer

    @AmyL_Bishop Thanks Amy. Trying to keep it real.

  • http://seanmcginnis.me/ deleted_91832_Sean McGinnis

    Great post Jay. Probably one of the best on the subject, regardless of what Dan Perez thinks. ;)

    I’ve done nothing to hide my contempt for Klout.

    Like Tom Webster, I believe Klout enables a lazy type of marketing. Despite the “promise” of the technology, the way in which Klout is used is tantamount, in many ways, to professional spam. I won’t repeat those arguments, as Tom deftly addressed them below. I will, however, quibble with his assertion that Klout is moving in the right direction by assessing context. I agree that context helps provide shape and meaning to the numbers, but when I last checked, Klout was still not getting that aspect right. Not even close. Perhaps they’ve made strides in the last several weeks since deleted my account.

    My other issue with Klout is pretty abstract. I believe algorithmic solutions to business problems are best used when the issue of scale creates the need to use a complex mathematical solution. Google is a great example of this principle. The sheer scale of billions of queries a month searching for meaning among the trillions of web documents necessitates the need for a highly complex and speedy solution. Think of the other end of the spectrum – if I know Tom Webster has an answer to a questions I have – am I better off calling Tom on the phone and asking the question of him or Googling it? 9 times out of 10 I’d make the call or send an e-mail, assuming I have the relationship too call on.

    In the case of Klout, I would argue that a well meaning marketer can create a better list of bloggers to reach out to with a few days worth of work. Not only that, the grunt work and front end research put into the effort will better prepare me to actually reach out and contact those bloggers in my blogger outreach program. At least once a week I see a post lamenting the quality of blogger outreach programs among PR firms and companies – and irony of ironies, this week’s was penned by the inimitable Danny Brown and the subject was Klout itself! LMAO!

    In short, I believe Klout is a solution in search of a problem – but a solution that need not exist and one that is robbing us of a critical skill we often complain about – because of the way it is used by lazy marketers and brands.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @Sean McGinnis I agree with you that manually creating blogger lists and such can be effective – if the agencies and companies in question are willing to do the effort. For reasons too numerous to go into here, they often are not. Where I see Klout (and similar) playing a bigger/better role is in real-time assessing of potential impact, enabling companies to triage response and interactions based on “influence”. If you think about Klout (and similar) as a river instead of a lake, I think the opportunities and use case gets a lot more interesting – and important. To me, the Klout Perks stuff is just a revenue waystation. The real play is baking Klout (or similar) into every CRM, email, and related platform. See Linkedin’s purchase of Rapportive last week as a mini example of what I foresee.

      • http://seanmcginnis.me/ deleted_91832_Sean McGinnis

        @JayBaer The irony is that Klout has created it’s own problems. Regardless the business model Klout pursues nearly every issue would disappear if they eliminated the game layer and stopped exposing the scoring to the public. Of course, they needed that layer to achieve a public awareness of the business and brand.

        I agree with you that a behind the scenes customer triage based on some scoring makes sense. The customer need not know that score for that model to succeed.

  • http://www.arielmarketinggroup.com/ AmyMccTobin

    What should happen is that another company smarter than Klout should develop a scoring system that makes sense. I deleted my account months ago when Danny Brown exposed the security issues related to a minor’s Facebook account information being taken and a Klout account being set up. But that was after months of frustration when I would watch my score swing wildly – 10 points per day. (I actually started taking screen shots daily to try to make sense of it). AND I was being deemed an Expert on all sorts of things I am no expert on.I refuse to accept a flawed ranking system because it’s the only one there. If they sort it out and it starts to look like it makes sense, I’ll sign up. For now I get my clients on my reputation and my own marketing efforts.

  • mayhemstudios

    @RockTique Up already?

    • RockTique

      @mayhemstudios My sleep pattern is a disaster.. I’m looking forward to the day I can officially call myself a Zombie. Soon! lol. How R U?

      • mayhemstudios

        @RockTique I am well! Two more weeks until #SXSW. Did you find a hotel yet?

        • Tojosan

          @mayhemstudios Hey man! Hope you’re well this AM.

        • mayhemstudios

          @Tojosan I am sleepy! lol How about you?

        • Tojosan

          @mayhemstudios I’m more awake than planned. Traveled all day yesterday from Netherlands back to #STL. Need to adjust.

        • RockTique

          @mayhemstudios I know.. Yeeps, so excited! And no to the hotel, grr. I hv my friend’s home but still trying for a room! What abt you? #SXSW

        • mayhemstudios

          @RockTique I am staying with a friend but his girlfriend is not too happy about it. lol

        • RockTique

          @mayhemstudios Hmm. I can go the harsh way & say “She must know you” or the nice way & say “She must not know you” I’ll go w/ #2 ;)) X

        • RockTique

          @mayhemstudios And I’ll add, clearly she doesn’t realize you’re #CrazyAwesomeCalvin! Xo

        • mayhemstudios

          @RockTique Thanks :) – PLus 3 other people are also staying at his place. lol

  • TimothytHaines

    Jay -
     
    Always love your blog. This is an interesting article. I like your thoughts on the big picture, and despite some of my own frustrations with Klout, I must concede: Metrics matter. Actually, they matter a lot :) 

  • zarko_p

    RT @BenaiahsTweets Why Critics of Klout Are Missing the Big Picture: http://t.co/cMORqDoW #Klout

  • pradeepvidhani

    @BenjaminsTweets Your Decision can make one future
    You could send a child to school toady
    Donate at http://t.co/R7BmlgUX

  • http://www.DataScopic.net/ Oz

    Jay, you make good points, and I’d be with you if it weren’t for 2 experiences that ead to me deleting my account and my 56:

    1. I was in a private group on Facebook where a few dozen of us could just hang with each other. Suddenly conversations turned to Klout and what people were doing to boost their scores. And it seemed PURELY about higher scores like kids collecting stars from their teacher.

    2. A friend made an inflammatory comment on Facebook. I engaged it and we went back and forth over it. People jumped in and the thread grew to over 50 comments.
    The friend called me on the phone to brag that whether we agreed or disagreed I helped boost his Klout score with all the likes and comments. So … Klout rewards muck-rakers. May he enjoy his perks. God bless him.

    So, now I’m wary. One of my Klout-hound friends is clearly using her FB page to game Klout. As interesting as her updates may be, I’m not playing her Klout game.

  • Miko_Albienez

    Your Nielsen example of the math being “folly” makes no sense.
    619 can be statistically significant even in a hee-uge population as long as the target households are mapped using some kind of logic for representativeness.

    Do you know how many research studies about human behaviour (now THAT’S a population of ~7 billion) use fewer than 300 subjects?
    Studies published in the most vaunted journals.