More and more people have been asking me about Klout lately — some even asked what my own Klout score was. The answer I gave them was that I didn’t have a clue until I checked while writing this post. Apparently, it is 65 and that I am a “broadcaster.”
For those of you not familiar with Klout (you can read a good compressive review here), it is a sort of online ranking system that aims to determine how influential people are by measuring their social reach. It uses information from your Twitter feed, Facebook, and LinkedIn and 35 other signals to give you an overall score and a bunch of shiny graphs that apparently plot just how influential you are online. This all stems from millions of brands and businesses pouring into social media and looking for some sort of magic number that plots a person’s influence and fits nicely into a spreadsheet. Plenty of people think Klout might be that magic number but it really isn’t. Here’s why…
Klout Is Only For Twitter
Nearly all of us use Facebook for very personal reasons. We don’t join Facebook to become more influential or to increase our reach, or at least most people don’t so I can’t see a huge value in measuring how influential somebody is on Facebook. Klout has started measuring LinkedIn now as well but most of us use that for either business leads or job hunting and if you’re like me you just spend most of your time rejecting connection requests from people you don’t know instead of networking. That only really leaves Twitter and although followers can easily be gamed by using bots and all sorts of tricks and that is where most of Klout’s info comes from.
It Can Be Gamed
The reason people are obsessed with finding a standard metric for social media is because everybody realises that numbers can be gamed online. Followers, fans, traffic and other metrics can be bought so the industry is crying out for one standard golden number that gives you an instant reflection of authority online. Well guess what? Gaming Klout couldn’t be easier and there are even plenty of people writing blog posts about it already. I’m sure Klout will get better over time but at the end of the day it is a number and numbers can always be gamed.
Influence Not A Badge Of honour
Any time I see sites offering you the ability to add a widget to your site with a number on it you know that all that matters is that little number. I’ve seen these badges start to appear on blogs around the web and it’s effectively saying look how important I am and look at my influence. People with real influence are never going to add a Klout badge to their site.
Why Klout Is Bul lsh*t
I don’t have anything against the site personally and I actually admire them for having a good go at cracking a tough problem but online influence won’t be cracked like this. Klout is just a number that marketers can wheel out in presentations to impress people. At the moment it is only really effective for Twitter and I can get a much better picture of a Twitter account by looking at it for a couple of minutes than by reading some number or looking at a graph. The most influential people I know use social media only to listen and observe and would have horrendous Klout scores. How do we know people are influential in the real world? We paint a picture over time and look for signals that as humans we all know and understand and the online world is no different. People don’t walk around in the real world with numbers above their heads telling you how important they are. At the end of the day Klout is just another number and people always try and game numbers.
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