Does Klout Measure Influence Accurately?

Taking an idea – even a great one – and moving that idea from concept to product requires a skill set often times unrelated to the talents organic to the idea itself.Does Klout Measure Online Influence Accurately

Klout may be the latest tech feature to illustrate this paradox, one that has been tied to many a futile tech enterprise.

Passing through that no-man’s-land of abstraction to the goal of having created a truly useful application requires more the gifts of an abstract expressionist painter than the indispensible tech and marketing skills needed for delivery.

Apples and Oranges

Klout, the website boasting both its ability to quantify a user’s influence, and therefore, a likely ranking factor for sites the user has engaged, is based upon a popular, credible assumption. A corollary to Content is King, those who write royal content may bring real optimization value to a site containing their writing. Up to this point, Klout has a lot going for it, but this idea is reminiscent of the same challenges online education faced in its seminal stages. Looking at the two is a comparative exercise in apples and oranges, though.

Need, Real Need

Looking back on the rise of internet courses, the idea of providing education over distances and without the absolute necessity of dedicated bricks and mortar, the successful products met a real need. Things could have turned out badly had the idea of providing instruction online been primarily focused on traditional models, but a concept sprang up from the original idea to provide classes with special appeal to non-traditional populations. From that point, further growth of e-learning or distance education adapted to use in traditional settings. The short chronicle of Klout, however, isn’t following a parallel narrative to education technologies.

Authenticity is Queen

Returning to the artist’s domain, no respected product, a film, a painting or the written word, lacks genuine authenticity. The best understand not only this, but how to market their abstract idea as a finished work. By this, artists and successful tech start-ups produce something of value, of course, but something that defies adulteration. Any student taking a college art appreciation course on Jackson Pollack may not fancy the work, but they recognize how a philosophy ended up as the unmistakable, painstakingly splattered, poured and dobbed creations upon a canvas. Imitators have tried, with little or no success, to imitate and forge Pollack, but the end product, perhaps like Klout, lacks the authenticity of the original idea.

Is Klout Being “Gamed”?

To be sure, Klout is experiencing a period of impressive development. Investors currently find the site a good risk and major companies are building marketing practices based upon Klout’s scoring features. Even a recent privacy flap seems to be effectively handled by some proactive PR work. So why the skepticism?

The very product for which Klout is known, its scoring features, is its own Achilles Heel. No tech analytic tool has been free from gaming and a quick search of Google’s own evolution will bear out this fact. It is more than predictable that two certainties await Klout.

  1. The first, and one already occurring, is the flawed scoring caused by manipulation.
  2. The second is that the dominant search engines will ultimately have to view Klout scores as unreliable.

At best, any weight given by a Google or Bing to the original idea – user influence – will be neutralized by the ease of which games can game Klout scores. An even worse outcome, albeit unlikely, would be for penalties being levied in the case gamers of Klout expand their black hat practices beyond influence scoring.

So Far, So Good

There’s an old joke about the comments made by a man falling from a skyscraper. Passing the 20th Floor, he’s heard to say, “So far, so good!”

Klout’s translation of a great idea, linking authentic user influence as an actual analytical metric seems an appropriate comparison to the doomed falling man. Maybe Klout will produce a parachute and avoid what may well be an inevitable crash due to gaming susceptibilities, but there’s no sign of this, yet.

About the author: Lindsey Harper Mac is a professional writer living in the Indianapolis area. She specializes in technology and social media articles. Lindsey is currently completing work on her graduate degree.

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Comments

  • http://www.businessesGROW.com/blog Mark W Schaefer

    I’m not sure I follow your logic. First, Klout does not really care what we think of our scores as long as the brands keep signing up and getting value from the system. And they are. Nike. Disney. American Express. They must be seeing something right?

    Another fallacy is that people are making judgments while the technology is in the silent movie stage. This is like dismissing Google in 1997 because its search results are stupid. Look at the TREND, not the snapshot. 

    What data do you have to show that the data is flawed through manipulation? A friend gamed Klout. He raised his score 30 points in 45 days. How? He built a network. He started a blog so he could deliver great content,. He attended Twitter chats so he could connect with people. Funny, that is just what we recommend to our clients. Yes he gamed the system, but he also became legitimately more influential in the process!

    I don;t understand the connection you are making between search engines and Klout. Klout can operate independently of search results.

    I don’t want to come across as a harsh and I am not necessarily defending Klout. I am defending rationality. Fact: Power accrues to those who can move content through an engaged online system. Can you measure that? Yes, I think you can.  And so do the biggest brands on earth by the way.  My thoughts on this are expressed in this blog post: http://www.businessesgrow.com/2011/09/12/why-klout-matters-a-lot/

    Is it perfect? No? Should we ignore it? No.

    • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

      I became an expert on sheep without gaming it. I wrote a blog post that mentioned “flock” and “shepherd” in the title, next thing you know, Klout says I’m influential in sheep. I did nothing to encourage this, but friends started giving me +K in sheep for shits and giggles.

      THAT’s where data is flawed. And the crap they spout about measuring 13 networks, but then admit they only measure the Big 4 (until the addition recently of G+). Yeah, they’re ones to take seriously all right.

      • http://www.christovanzyl.com/blog/latest-articles Christo van Zyl

        Hi Danny.

        That was hilarious. I think you should specialise in sheep since it appears you have inadvertently become an expert in a niche market. 😉 For about a week I buffered quotes which all included “money” and tracked the interactions, clicks, mentions and retweets and saw increased interactions. What happened on Klout? My score decreased! How the heck do they “calculate” that?!

      • http://digitaldomination.com/ Steve Fitzpatrick

        ^^ This is gold :) Can we connect so I can also add to your shepherding expertise?

        • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

          Why not. Sounds like a good idea!

        • http://dannybrown.me/ Danny Brown

          I fear that may break their algorithm 😉

    • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

      I became an expert on sheep without gaming it. I wrote a blog post that mentioned “flock” and “shepherd” in the title, next thing you know, Klout says I’m influential in sheep. I did nothing to encourage this, but friends started giving me +K in sheep for shits and giggles.

      THAT’s where data is flawed. And the crap they spout about measuring 13 networks, but then admit they only measure the Big 4 (until the addition recently of G+). Yeah, they’re ones to take seriously all right.

  • http://twitter.com/vitalyvt Vitaly Tennant

    Interesting post, since Klout’s algorithm is off on many levels … although it’ll be in beta for a while.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, who cares?

    • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

      You know what makes me chuckle? That they use Justin Bieber as a poster child for “the perfect Klout score of 100”. Yet he hasn’t claimed his account; probably doesn’t even know about the service. Woo hoo. 😉

    • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

      You know what makes me chuckle? That they use Justin Bieber as a poster child for “the perfect Klout score of 100”. Yet he hasn’t claimed his account; probably doesn’t even know about the service. Woo hoo. 😉

  • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

    Thanks Juston for your comment and it is good to see a robust discussion happening!

  • http://usmannaeem.blogetery.com Uzzi

    There are always critics out there. Personally I believe it is a tool to:
    1: measure influence as it does
    2: MORE IMPORTANTLY the idea in my opinion to to get more people to get cautious about the use of social media to share and curate content
    3: A tool to network
    3a: Seek inspiration from celebrities and experts on twitter – I mean find out what to curate about by looking at content generated by academic experts
    4: Compete with friends in academic circles in J schools

    Simply it encourages activity within academic circles

  • http://www.christovanzyl.com/blog/latest-articles Christo van Zyl

    Hi Lindsey.

    A key question that keeps coming up for me is how Klout actually measures our score. Does my score increase because users follow me first in Twitter, or, because I follow them, or because there is a mutual follow (I follow them and they follow me; or even, they follow me and therefore I follow them). Or, are neither of those actually relevant… Does klout only measure (or increase my score) based on the number of users that have replied or re-tweeted a tweet I have made. Once I know how it actually works I can adjust my strategy accordingly. I have read their documentation and still, these questions remain unanswered… Can you or anyone shed some light on this please?

  • http://twitter.com/creativeoncall Chuck Kent

    I hope Klout et al get it right (or at least get better at it) because we are going to be labeled according to our “influence” (it may be that word that’s inaccurate) whether we like it or not. Jeremiah Owyang makes a disturbing-to-me but intriguing-to-him comment in a Six Pixels interview with Mitch Joel, forecasting a time when we’ll see Klout scores above everyone’s heads as we walk down the street wearing our Google Glass.