August 1, 2013

Online Influence: The accuracy of Klout

Is your Klout score really an accurate reflection of your online you?


Gauging a brand or individual’s online status is always tricky, but since Klout was founded in 2008 to help “measure and leverage your social influence”, everyone and everything can now be assigned a neat ranking on a scale of 1 to 100. But is your Klout score really an accurate reflection of your online you?

It’s an important question to ask. Klout’s clout as a social marketing tool is growing, with brands using it to measure their social performance and recruit people and agencies with powerful social networks. But are the Klout table toppers genuinely influential? And if so, are they influential in the right way?

Let’s look at the facts.

Forbes’ 5 reasons you shouldn’t care about your Klout score touches on the idea that Klout can be gamed. A furious weekend of tweeting and updating Facebook can see you quickly become ‘more influential’ than Barack Obama.

Equally, by engaging people with a high Klout score, you can increase your own. But before you head for the Justin Bieber-shaped Klout summit to follow the floppy haired songstress, you need to consider your real influences. Engaging the Biebster or following Kim Kardashian will give you a higher score, but unless you work in pop music or do whatever it is Kim Kardashian does, it won’t make you more influential in any meaningful way.

To circumvent such mistallying, Klout provides a topics in which you are most influential feature. This analyses the content you produce qualitatively, so it can automatically assign you specific topics of influence. But again there are question marks about how accurately this analysis reflects your actual influence.

According to Klout, a colleague of mine is an influential player on the US TV show Heroes. So when I had a Heroes-based conundrum on my hands, he seemed the obvious expert. But he wasn’t. “I’ve never watched it!” was his response.

But fear not. According to Klout, “you can remove anyone or anything from your influences list by hitting the x button”, leaving you with tailored results rather than the results the Klout algorithm has come up with. Useful perhaps, but a feature which surely calls into question the confidence its makers have in their algorithm.

Mechanics and loopholes aside, your Klout score matters if you believe it matters. Using it as a marketing tool to accurately gauge the ROI of a social campaign may be ambitious at this stage, but if enough people start believing a Klout score is important, perhaps someday it will be. Like Kim Kardashian.

This is a cross post from The Mason Zimbler Blog.

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