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.


  1. Anni, this is a great post. Especially love the last line! LOL

    You'll be happy to know that even the CEO of Klout will be the first to admit that their algorithms are not yet perfect and that we should all take it with a grain of salt. (He is known to respond to blog posts and admit this. Wouldn't be surprised if he commented here eventually!) I know that I do (take it with a grain of salt, I mean). It's just a nice little gauge to reflect how interactive our social experience has been lately. It measures not the volume of our sm activity, but how often others respond back to us and engage via social. I like that. (Empire Avenue, for instance, seems to measure volume solely. Definitely not as indicative of sm influence, imo.)

    Thus far, Klout doesn't measure LinkedIn (just Twitter & FB), so don't think that I'm some powerhouse in those worlds. I've only been on Twitter for 8 months or so and am still learning every day. And at the end of the day, your four years of true engagement matter way more than an arbitrary score here or there. I believe that it will all end being reflected in the end result, which is what matters most.

    As for influence topics, I've had a few chuckles and head-scratching moments myself. You'll be happy to know that Klout feels that I'm influential about Chocolate Syrup. Yep. Have never tweeted those words in my life... well, not until Klout decided I was influential about it. LOL Definitely some kinks to work out.

    Thanks for this thought-provoking post. I agree with your many points and look forward to seeing how this all plays out over time!

    Take care, my friend!

  2. BTW, looks like Klout *did* just connect LinkedIn in recent days, but word on the street is that it's not yet reflected in our scores... Again, just word on the street. Take this too with a grain of salt. ;)

  3. I feel obliged to post in response to this as someone with 15 years online. Or is it 16? I sometimes feel if I could remember all that has come and gone, I'd be, well, better off! Klout is a very new newcomer, a newbie. It is free, and therefore in my mind could vanish at any time.

    If it starts being used in the context of CVs, which I also am beginning to hear, then I would be extremely concerned about who was recruiting my staff if they put overmuch weight on the Klout score instead of, say, real world experience. Which you seem to have. And which many of the people I work with, who also don't use Twitter, Eav, Klout etc, have.

    The reason they don't use all these things? They are w-a-y too busy in the real world working with real people to check in on Foursquare, run Hootsuite or Tweetdeck on their phones, or worry incessantly about what score Klout, or any other grading mechanism, offers them.

    I'm a bit concerned that both of you, Stacy and Anni, are being judged on things which seem entirely trivial in regard to the actual work you are both doing. I have never paid much regard to my klout score and it actually drives me to distraction that it now stands out more on Twitter than the avatars I search for when looking for the posts from friends, family, advisors, best bloggers etc. Somehow, it seems to nullify them with its very presence. It may soon be removed.....

    Do I now need to look at what Klout thinks I am influential in? I have enough problems summarising all I am passionate about or involved in anyway. I don't need to be given a 'bum steer' by a third party app that actually has never had to sit through one of my rants, my heartfelt pleas, a speech of mine, or a meeting I have arranged to bring together those I have huge respect for and want to LISTEN to!

    I bet Klout has never read any of my blogs, emails, texts or emails. So, how can it know who is listening to me, lurking in the background, phoning me, emailing me etc? We don't all spend our lives on twitter, and for many the hours that we do actually prevents us interacting with those who are influential to our modus operandi, making real our dreams, or whom we are fortunate enough to influence.

    +K just to up a bright orange number that people I wouldn't recognise if they tipped my dinner over me care about? Um, no!!

    I hope the CEO does drop in and reply. In fact, I think it is the least he could do.........;o)

  4. ...really enjoyed the read and comments; thanks.


  5. I'm looking forward to when Klout integrates G+, to take into consideration the segment of folks who have abandoned FB (not that I have). Let me know when you get more perks, will you?

  6. Randy, will do! Thanks for your comments.