Klout: Validation or Vanity?

The surge of Social Media has led to an oft-joked-about side-effect. In addition to aggravating Nomophobia (the fear of being without one’s cellphone) and a general fear of being disconnected, Social Media has led to a rise in an unhealthy obsession with seeking validation. Sure, in theory, it’s great to have constructive feedback and it’s great to know your opinions matter, and that you do influence people around you. But aren’t we taking ourselves a little too seriously when we decide to keep measuring how much “influence” we have, just so our need for attention and self-importance is fulfilled? This is my primary pet peeve about Klout, and the narcissistic ‘Klout score’ metric.

I do get the relevance of such a metric and the need to measure social media influence for Brands and people whose livelihood depends on promoting themselves on social media. And I have to admit, as a marketer, Klout did pique my curiosity and I set about exploring its in’s and out’s with a lot of gusto. But I was quite disappointed when I realized there wasn’t too much science (or logic!) behind the metric, and that Klout can’t really be classified as a legit Validation metric. It’s really only a Vanity metric and an inaccurate one at that.

Klout has always relied on hazy parameters to measure influence, and their definition of Influence is, well, debatable, to say the least. They have a profound-ish explanation of what they mean by Influence on the site, and this little graphic below they’ve featured there is supposed to cover what Influence entails.

Klout “Influence” components
(Image source: http://klout.com/#/corp/what_is_klout)

As is obvious, this implied scope is completely partial to Twitter as Followers, Retweets etc are relevant to only Twitter. Question is, what happens then, to the content we share on other social media platforms? Shouldn’t there ideally be a way to take into account influence and interactions across all social platforms (including Pinterest) accurately? Also, going back to the image alongside, how do ‘Lists’ play a role in one’s Social Media Influence?? ‘Lists’ are just a convenient way for Twitter users to sort their feed. If I have 1,000 Lists on Twitter, how does it indicate my social influence? If anything, it indicates a degree of OCD in me, but I fail to see how having more Lists makes me more influential. Am I missing something here? If anyone knows of an actual relevance of ‘Lists’ to one’s Klout score, please feel free to leave a comment! (UPDATE: Vielen Dank to my fellow-blogger ladyfromhamburg for sharing some great information on this: The ‘Lists’ component of Klout’s definition of Influence shows the number of Lists one is a part of on Twitter. That sure makes more sense, and puts my Lists-related confusion to rest! Now if only Klout would take some inspiration and start decoding all these parameters and more on their site. :))

What further blurs the already fuzzy scheme of things, is the relative weightages assigned to the parameters used to define ‘Influence’. Shouldn’t Klout be a little more transparent about this, especially since it claims to be the “Standard of Influence” that is supposedly meant to empower people who share content online? Does the Klout score include sharing and amplification of content only? Then what is the relative importance of those respectively? For instance, basis what I noticed on my own Klout dashboard – Retweets and Replies seem to have a higher weightage than Mentions. Let me attempt decoding what that effectively means: Only if what you’re saying is being passed on, do you have influence. Okay, this could be partly true – but what about the other part of it where you also need to be listened to, to consider yourself as having some influence? What about all the new followers/subscribers/visits you add with every new piece of content you share? And what about the followers/subscribers you have retained over a period of time? Those people have chosen to stay connected with you as they see some value in it, and find your content interesting. Shouldn’t that account for something?

And what about all the metrics that tell you how many people actually click on the links you share to read your content? Shouldn’t those influence your Klout score as well? As an apparent disclaimer, Klout says in its FAQs: “The Klout score is a reflection of Influence, not activity.” Err, this doesn’t help their case, does it?

Nevertheless, all the anti-Klout sentiment aside – there are a couple of things about Klout that I do find pretty interesting. First, their Brand Squad feature. This basically helps brands identify their influencers and evangelists. This has SO much potential; and if they are able to throw in Sentiment Analysis and Blog-searching capabilities in here, this could potentially be a great one-stop shop social media measurement tool for Brands – one that Klout can actually hope to make some revenues off of.

The second feature that shows promise is – the Perks tool. Of course, in its current form and with its current targeting algorithm (or maybe the lack thereof), it’s fairly useless. But think about the tremendous potential Klout’s ‘Perks’ has: It could serve as Klouts’s very own advertising model to serve targeted offers based on content, influencers and influential topics; as well as retargeted promotions/offers from Brands.

Even so, all the potential genius behind these tools notwithstanding, the fact that remains is – Klout still has a long way to go. Sure, a handful of Social Media mavens may already be judging us on the basis of our Klout score, but it’s going to take Klout a lot many enhancements before it can be taken seriously as an accurate social media metric and a reliable measure of actual social CLOUT, or it won’t be soon before long that Klout has to bow out! (Just couldn’t resist that cheesy rhyme!)

About Gayatri Shukla

I'm a marketer by occupation and choice. I like ruining objects in the name of art. I'm navigationally dyslexic (Yes, I may have invented this term), and I sometimes watch TV shows only for the commercials.

Posted on October 22, 2012, in Social Media and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 41 Comments.

  1. As far as I can tell, the easiest way to increase your Klout score is to add more people to your own list of influencers. Each time you do this Klout prompts you to tweet about it and includes @klout in the Tweet… so not really analysing your influence at all, instead it’s simply using you as a tool to market the Klout platform and rewarding you by increasing your score.

    Another way to increase your own Klout score is to unfollow a number of Twitter users – this increases your ratio of followers v following thus making you look more important.

    • Thanks for sharing your observations! It’s fascinating to consider how Klout may just be using members to generate more leads(members) for the platform, and how “influence” in Klout-land may just be the degree to which one has spread the Klout word. This makes the case for Klout as a “standard of influence” even weaker, doesn’t it?!

  2. the irony that you are getting validation about this blog topic.

    • True, that! :) Validation, feedback, exchange of ideas remain some of the key reasons why social media has become such an integral part of our lives. The gray area begins when it all crosses over to the Vanity side, a la Klout! Thanks for your comment, btw!

  3. I am just now beginning to learn how to use Twitter, but I did manage to get it linked to the Facebook page. I’ve never heard of Klout before, so it looks like I have a lot more to learn! Thanks for the info.

  4. I have no Klout because I have no Twitter and no Facebook profile. Too bad that I don’t want to change that. Now I will never influence the word.

  5. Really great post! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed. Keep it up!

  6. Interesting. I had no idea what Klout was because I don’t pay attention to this kind of thing. It sounds like it could be a great tool for marketers, but why should regular people even care about it?

  7. I’ve registered Klout for my private social account few months ago..and found it decrease my score because I’m busy on my real life.

    So I think it’s mess up the fun and I unsubscribe it ( and it’s so difficult to find “unsubscribe” button, until Google tell me where the button is! -_-” )

    Later, I tried to subscribe Klout again for another public account.
    I just want to see if any changes made to Klout, but looks like no big deals/changes

  8. Reblogged this on persious' blog and commented:
    this one so frickin true

  9. You’ve shown me how much homework I have to do! Thanks for a great analysis.

  10. I agree. I abstain from social media applications, much to my demise I’m afraid. I do recognize how powerful they are. I want to know I would have said it, done it, been it, written it regardless of whether or not anyone would read it. So, that means being uncapitalistically unsocial by most modern measures.

    • Hi there, thanks so much for your comment and the follow! Appreciate your sharing your thoughts. I think there are two sides to the social media coin. While narcissism and vanity are the possible side-effects; the most important, direct result is the democratization of content, opinions and interactions (Even with capitalistic corporations!). In addition to serving as a platform for self-expression, Social media can also be a great source of collective wisdom and crowdsourcing ideas, don’t you think? It’s called “Social” media for a reason after all! Also, the very fact that you’re here and expressing your opinions through a blog implies you’re a believer at some level and that in itself is a great start! :)

  11. Since we have been quite focused on marketing lately, it is very interesting to begin thinking about the logic behind social media metrics. It has certainly been a different sort of learning curve (one that we are still figuring out) and it is nice to know that it is not our logic that is different, but that the logic of the whole process is somewhat different. We appreciate the informative and analytic article!

    • Thanks for your comment! Appreciate the kind feedback. Yes, the logic of social media is quite different from what marketers have been used to traditionally, like you said. Marketing is no longer a monologue, but a live conversation that is being witnessed by others. Changes the power equation, doesn’t it? :) Good luck & best wishes to your team with your new marketing initiatives!

  12. After using Koult for a few months, reaching a score of 70 and finding out that I influence 17K people I confirmed what I suspected before joining…Klout has zero clout in the real world!

  13. free penny press

    I just don’t see the need for Klout.. some “cyperplace” telling me how cool, influental or worthy I am.. I give your post a 100, Klout a 0..
    Congrats on the FP :-)

    • Thanks so much! :) I agree – I personally think it’s a little sad when regular people obsess/gloat over their Klout scores. Esp given how illogical the scoring system is. But to each their own, I guess! :)

  14. I have never understood Klout. I have three kids, so I am very painfully aware of how little influence I actually have anywhere. I was tempted to join once so I could give someone Klout in grilled cheese or corn dogs.

    Congrats on FP!

  15. That’s fascinating. Klout seems to portray themselves as an entry-level analytic tool that would appeal largely to people in offices who got stuck with the “social media monitoring” at their organization and to teens who want to feel better about themselves. It’s really interesting that it mainly measures the passing on of information. As a marketing gal I’m far more concerned with the the interaction my consumers are having with my content than I am with them sharing everything I say. Fantastic article!

    • Thanks so much for the positive feedback. I totally agree with you – while sharing and amplification (which too, Klout doesn’t really measure accurately) are no doubt important metrics, I’d really be more concerned with actual engagement and how many people are actually listening to what I have to say! It’s a pity those metrics slip through the cracks with Klout.

  16. I agree to most of your statements regarding Klout and fully understand your skepticism. As you asked to comment the question of lists (on Twitter) and how they could be important for your (one’s) influence I’d like to give you my impression and explanation:
    I think it’s not the point of having numerous lists (yourself) but of being listed in as much lists as possible! Being listed increases the probability of being read. I can’t imagine otherwise.
    Kind regards
    Michèle

    • Hi there, thanks so much for the follow, and for sharing your thoughts on the Lists feature – I see it now, it makes complete sense for ‘being listed’ to be included in the Klout score parameters as opposed to ‘Lists’. All the more reason for Klout to be more transparent, and explain their parameters better, isn’t it?! I’m going to update this post with the information you’ve shared – thanks again!

  17. Thanks for your comment! I agree, blogging is a form of self-expression and most of us welcome validation with open arms. But I do think Klout takes things further, and more to the darker side of the coin – towards vanity!

  18. Thanks for commenting. I agree with you. I wonder, though, about why there isn’t a method to the madness w.r.t Klout’s choice of brand tie-ups.

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