Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Emperor's New Klout

    My father, a gritty south side of Chicago character, used to always say, "The only clout you have is in your back pocket". Well, that may have been very true of his day, but times have changed.

    The Social Revolution is upon us and Klout not only has a new spelling, but a new meaning, as well.

    For anyone who isn't familiar with Klout, their 'About Klout' page, which is now defunct, stated they are "The Standard of Influence". They believe that every person who creates content has influence and that you don't have to be an A-lister to be influential. Okay, great. That sounds fair, even heart warming in an 'all good eggs' sort of way, don't you think?

    But, a little farther down the page they say their co-founder 'helps decide who is influential and who isn't'. I don't know about you, but that sentence elicits a one-eye-brow furrow and mouth slant for me, all while sounding a little A-lister scary. Hmm.
    Whatever your reaction, you may find the following Klout information interesting.

  1. It appears if you're not on Twitter you won't have a Klout score. This also means any hard work you did on the internet for about the last 4 years means nothing in terms of Klout influence if you did not have a Twitter account. (raises hand)

  2.  Whether you're new or established on Twitter, and whether or not you've ever signed onto Klout: You most likely have a Klout score.

  3. Klout scores include influence terms which deem where you are influential. Remember: They decide who is influential and who isn't.

  4. Klout scores and their corresponding topic influence, while seemingly fun and intriguing to a new user, are being used on resumes and taken seriously in the recruiting and job markets. Are we eye-brow furrowing yet?

    So, having recently gotten onto Twitter, I've been intently watching this Klout phenomenon unfold before me. I'm someone who appreciates a solid standard of measure and I found their direct and austere site rather pleasing, if not reassuring.

    It seemed everyone around me was discussing and obsessing over their Klout score. Being someone who has always been driven to get the highest score in anything of measure, I thought it was a cool challenge. I embraced it, explored it and experimented with it.

    But soon, I had questions which turned into red flags with no answers to be found anywhere - not even, and especially not, at Klout. 

   Questions like:

   What happens when Klout scores are used in industry, but you don't have one?

   What happens if your influence terms are wrong when the company that's judging you is the standard of influence?

    If Klout is indeed the the standard of influence, how could they possibly be wrong? The Standard? I take those words seriously. If they are wrong, how can anyone's score or true influence be right? And how are people walking around touting as well as judging others by their Klout scores when they're possibly not real at all? Is this a real life case of the Emperor's New Clothes? Are people playing along with the pretense when, in fact, the Emperor is wearing nothing at all? Will the cry be taken up by others, as it was in the tale?

   This really concerns me. Inaccurate influence terms not only happen, but have been reported as losing someone a job. Whether the case I heard was true or not, I've seen quite a few inaccurate influence terms, and it's well known that inaccurate or worse, unflattering information about oneself on the Internet can affect you negatively in the job market.

   What happens when an Internet 'standard' is no longer reserved to the confines of the internet, but appears on resumes and is discussed in job interviews, affecting our real lives? Klout, the Standard of Influence is affecting our real lives.

   In the meantime, I experimented to see if I could affect my Klout score - and was actually quite successful. I had discovered Empire Avenue to be an amazing site to genuinely connect and network with others - something I have been actively seeking and needing. By diligently and genuinely engaging with others there and then spilling into Twitter, I raised my score 22 points, from 34 to 56 in one month.

    But what was really measured? My activity or my genuine engagement? As someone who has spent a decade on the net genuinely engaging with the members at my non-profit, I'm well versed in engagement. Our organizations endless and ongoing list of women's comments of how we affected their lives is a real measure of engagement and influence. Point is: I know how to engage, and I actively engaged with users at Empire Avenue and also with them on Twitter.

   The bottom line is I did actually forge genuine connections with people who have come to respect me and seek me out. This is a sign of true influence.

   As far as my Klout score, however, I still have tons of questions. Sitting at 56 this morning, I'm just 8 shy of 'The Most Connected Woman on LinkedIn (waving fondly!).  Due to my long term engagement history, I don't find this surprising, but since Klout has no way to measure my last decade of work, I have to wonder just how in one month my Klout score could be so close to someone whose influence has been so directly measured for so long, and with my terms of influence being incorrect to boot!

   Yes, despite my score strides, my terms of influence were incorrect. Additionally, my efforts in the last month to change them had no effect on them at all.

    For starters, Klout said I was influential in Thomas the Tank. I hear some of you laughing already because, yes, it's so ludicrous, but I found this more disturbing than having virtually no influence at all. I have never once uttered nor typed the phase, 'Thomas the Tank' until this moment and, no offense, could not distance myself further from Thomas the Tank if I tried. Of all the things I have done, how on Earth am I influential in Thomas the Tank?

     I ignored the term, but it ate at me. I started looking at my influencers profiles. I saw I tweeted with one person over a month ago who had been tweeting about Thomas the Tank. Except, not to me. Not once. Not ever.

     Now, I'm a fairly logical person. Does this mean that if I tweeted about Christmas ornaments to someone who otherwise tweeted about S&M, drugs or pornography, would these then become what I'm influential in? The permutations and ramifications of this are endless, astounding and massively disturbing.

    Finally, I decided to attend a Klout chat just a few days ago so I could get some answers to my questions. The chat was a nightmare with none of Klout's tweets appearing in the chat. All I saw were incessant retweets as if the minions of Despicable Me had invaded. There were no appreciable answers, though my "Thomas the Tank" influence thankfully went bye bye.

    They did roll out some new, yet disturbing features, however. Now users can remove their own influence terms. But there was no information about how removing any previously held influence would affect your Klout score. Seems to follow that if you removed the terms that generated your influence that your score would logically...oh never mind.

     But the biggest feature was the +K. It launched about the same time Google introduced the 1+. I'm so confused that I spent a whole day typing K1 until a friend very diplomatically pointed out how confusing both new terms were. Yes. Thank you. They are.

     So now users have the ability to, let me just cut to the chase, ask their friends and friends of friends and possibly even pay off perfect strangers to give them +K on a daily basis til the cows come home, or their Klout jumps over the moon - whichever comes first.

    Klout, the Standard of Influence, is no longer the Standard of Influence but anyone who can get someone to click a little button is.

     I don't understand how a company, who appeared to be on the verge of finally dispensing with some of their buggier issues and turning the corner in becoming a true industry standard, could just turn around and paste a 'pick me!' button on it and walk away.

    I look at their investor list and want to cry at what a sham this appears to be and how I've toiled away for over a decade, on a shoe string, completely unpaid, and with little outside funding to build something real and enduring. It may not beautiful but it has worked beautifully.

     My Klout isn't on a little red numbered shout out and it's not in my back pocket. It's real, and it's in my heart and in all the hearts of the people I have influenced all by myself.

    Ironically, you'll be interested to know that Klout now thinks I'm influential in - Klout.