A Klout Upside the Head

Klout sheep

This is a guest post by Bob LeDrew.

I’ve been an observer of things Klouty for a while now. But I’ve been darned if I could work up a lot of excitement over it, positive OR negative. Until now.

I got pointed to a post on the Klout blog today about their reworked formula. Since I haven’t any accounts linked to their service, I didn’t have much reason to care.

But then I began to read the comment thread, and I was transfixed. The first comment set the tone: “My score went from 73 down to 53. 20 point drop. I’ve been working for months to increase my Klout score. Please fix this.”

Others quickly chimed in:

  • This is going to cost me big time.
  • Went from 71 to 56 here. Time to get back to work.
  • You are killing our blogs here!
  • This trashed a 6-month effort to get our organization to use Klout as a measure of social media marketing effectiveness.
  • If I was searching for a job in Social Media right now I’d be concerned.
  • Klout set itself up as an authoritative measure of influence, and many organizations have coupled economic functions and job-related selection to your scoring system. By making this change, you have negatively impacted the job market viability of many loyal supporters of Klout at a time the job market is in free-fall.
  • I have been promoting Klout to clients as one of the various metrics to use in measuring the impact of social media campaigns. This change has already caused me to lose clients, and I have to start over using PeerIndex instead.
  • I am beyond irritated over my 10 point drop, plus demotion in title! I work in Social Media Marketing, this point drop will hurt me in gaining clients! What the hell?!?
  • Sadly, expecting prospective clients to know how to hire someone based on their future delivery of results is not realistic. A score like Klout gives busy people a simple litmus test in advance. It’s the same reason people eat at McDonalds or AppleBees; the food is crap compared to the independent restaurant across the street but at McDonalds or AppleBees they know what they are going to get.
  • I was just presenting a lecture today on the value of social media efforts using monitors such as Klout and PeerIndex as a benchmark of impact, influence and effectiveness. Only, when I set it up this morning, I was at a 58 but when I opened that page, I’m now a 40. Not terribly helpful – the whole presentation went south.
  • I have been feverishly working at increasing the Klout score for my company, as it is part of my MBO’s. Now, with a sudden 12 point drop, it will reflect poorly (and inaccurately) upon my efforts.

I have a feeling that Katie Paine hasn’t waited to find a grave, but is spinning in her office somewhere in New England.

So I checked with a couple of people I know and trust. Surely, I asked, businesses aren’t seriously considering Klout scores when choosing consultants or working on a measurement strategy for a communications initiative?

And my trusted friends told me that while they felt it ridiculous, businesses were using Klout numbers as part of the decision-making process on who is most influential and that there are instances where brands or agencies won’t work with people who are Klout-challenged.

I responded to this with a bad humored string of profanities that would have embarrassed my mother and impressed my father, if they were in earshot.

The Klout Kraziness

I’m not sure whether I’m more upset with the sellers of services seizing Klout scores as indicators of worth, value-add, or influence, or with the BUYERS of services doing the same.

I don’t think much of Klout. I have several reasons for that, mostly based on the limitations of their methodology and the crudity of a 1-100 score in representing the vague concept of influence. As a game, it’s amusing.

But as a serious business tool, it’s horrifying. I’ve been trying to come up with an equivalent to the Klout score in the business world, but I haven’t been able to.

FICO score? No, that actually seems to have some predictive ability and a more transparent methodology.

Ad-value equivalency? No, that took a useless measure (how much space X would cost) and multiplied it by an arbitrary number (the mysterious “multiplier”) which represented the credibility of editorial coverage. Closer, but not there.

Cost per contact acquired or cost per dollar raised? Nope, that’s clear and understandable. Click-through rate? Nope, easily calculated and clear.

Right now, Klout represents something that we all should be concerned about. A fun little statistic is one thing; a valid and credible measure of influence is another; but a fun little statistic that’s being treated like a business tool is akin to the correlation between storks and fertility rates.

Except nobody I know of is making policy decisions based on stork density…

Bob LeDrewAbout the author: Bob LeDrew has been working in the words and ideas salt mines since the 1980s, when he edited audio with a razorblade. Since then, he’s been a writer, editor, public relations practitioner, and podcaster. Among other things. You can find him blogging at Translucid.ca or on Twitter at @BobLeDrew.

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