What’s The Meaning of a Klout Score? The Pros and Cons of How Social Influence is Measured

What’s The Meaning of a Klout Score? The Pros and Cons of How Social Influence is Measured
Almost six months ago I blogged that marketers would decide on the fate of Klout. However, with the continued buzz about Klout scores that I hear from new and potential social media consulting clients, as well as the continued presence of its main competitor PeerIndex and the emerging metric for influence Kred, the debate over how social influence is measured continues to rage on.

In fact, as Google Trends suggests, we have had a pretty stable interest in the metric to measure social media influence for the last several months:
Let’s take a step back and try to understand what exactly these platforms are trying to do. We’ve been hearing people speak about their Klout scores on social networks, but what exactly do those numbers mean, and do they really profile users accurately?

Klout is an algorithmic system that it brands itself as the “Standard for Influence”. According to its website, it measures the influence of a person or a brand by taking into account content posted on the major social networks, which drive online trends and user action. A Klout score measures influence on a scale of 1 to 100, 100 being the highest result possible. It measures the following:
True Reach – the number of people that you are possibly influencing;

Amplification – how much you actually influence these people; and

Network impact – how influential the people you influence are.

Klout also shows you a list of those in your network who influence you, as well as those you influence, and the topics which you are most influential in. It also tells you what it thinks your social network profile is: a Curator, a Broadcaster, a Taste Maker, a Celebrity, a Syndicator, a Feeder, a Thought Leader, a Pundit, a Dabbler, a Conversationalist, a Socializer, a Networker, an Observer, an Explorer, an Activist, or a Specialist.
The questions now are what can Klout possibly do for you, and is it really true that it’s the standard for social media influence?

The Pros and Cons of Klout

Just as we have varying objectives for using social media for our business, there are many different ways in which we can use Klout scores to support our social media marketing activities. For instance, if you’re an emerging brand or business looking for a way of getting a general idea of how “influential” you and your brand might be, then Klout may just be what you need to see how you might be affecting people online. Aside from gauging your influence and tracking your results, the following features may also be of use to you:
Recent Buzz: current topics being talked about in your network that you may want to share

Influential Topics: topics you are most probably influential in based on what you talk about online

Influencers List: list of people in your network that you influence who just might be the brand advocates you’ve been looking for

Measuring your weight online is seemingly a good idea, but many critics have bashed Klout for many different reasons, including supposedly pulling numbers out of thin air. Many also question the score’s usability and if influence can even be measured at all. Although an explanation has been posted on their blog, Klout allegedly refuses to disclose how exactly the calculation goes, and what process they go through to calculate scores. Of course, divulging the algorithm, just like making Google’s search algorithm public, could allow the system to become easily “gamed.”
Aside from these potential transparency issues, Klout has also been criticized about privacy issues, specifically about pulling in information of minors and Facebook users with accounts set to “Private” just because they commented on a public post. If this worries you and you suddenly wish to delete your account, their opt-out function is not that easily accessible and is at the bottom of, ironically, their privacy policy page, which people think to be just a little too “hidden”. CEO Joe Fernandez may have apologized for these issues, but in spite of this, there are still many who continue to delete their Klout accounts.
Final Word
Should you or shouldn’t you use Klout? In the end, it’s up to you to decide, but should you go ahead with it, remember to take everything with a grain of salt. Any single metric will only give you a hazy idea of how you’re doing online, so it would be best to have other means of monitoring your social media metrics and use your score to complement your findings. Klout, however, is definitely here to stay, as its recent announcement of new funding would indicate, so as brands and marketers, we have to continuously adapt with the tools that exist, and utilize the good aspects and filter out the bad that any “score” provides us.

 

I personally remain a user and a fan of any system, whether it be Klout, PeerIndex, or Kred, that is trying to build out a metric which could potentially have value to social media marketers. Might I suggest that the problem doesn’t lie with any one of these systems: The problem of measuring social media influence lies with either 1) users who take their Klout score too seriously or 2) companies who make decisions based purely on one metric.
What’s your final word on Klout?

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