If you are not into social media in a relatively serious way, the website Klout.com might not mean a lot to you, but if you are you know that it is garnering some negative attention from places like The New York Times, Salon, CNNMoney and others.
In a nutshell, Klout is a service that purports to be able measure the strength and reach of your influence in your social networks, like Twitter and Facebook. You get a single score between 1 and 100 which summarizes your influence in all your networks. In a bit of over-simplification on my part, Klout’s critics cite these types of problems:
- Boiling your social presence to a single number can’t be done;
- Without knowing the exact algorithm it is impossible to know what being measured;
- It turns social networks into the proverbial “high school cafeteria” popularity contest;
- Klout is only looking out for its own interest.
While there is a lot to chew on in these articles and I have been wrestling with the topic for a few weeks now, I have, for the time being, concluded that I like Klout.
Here is why:
1) Klout allows you to “see” the “health” of your network AS you are growing it.
Klout is not just a measurement of audience size, like tweetrank, but attempts to weigh whether you influence people to “do something” (retweet, click, like or comment.) This corrects for the situation where a person may have a lot of followers, but there is a lot of chaff in their network too. In short, Klout can give you insight into the “health” of your network and whether you are an important “player” in other people’s networks.
Let me use a real example: I follow a person called “Bob” (not his real name.) Looking at Bob’s twitter stats below, he seems to be doing pretty well.
Now on twitter, I have 678 followers and am following 1,201. Yet when I compare Bob’s Klout score to mine, here is what it looks like (Bob is blue; I am orange):
Our scores are close because within my network I have more influence than Bob has within his network. Bob influences only about 50% of his followers, whereas I reach a larger percentage.
Does this mean I am a “better” social media person than Bob? No, absolutely not! Bob has more followers and has a “True Reach” almost 4 times as big as mine. That is a fact.
But the Klout tells me that, relatively speaking, I am growing my network and my network presence in a very healthy way.
This is good!
2) Klout score correlates to increased engagement!
If you are using social media professionally (for example, to create your personal brand a la Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk), then you need to have feedback mechanisms to visualize how you are doing. Klout is one measurement that one can use to see how you are doing. Other measurements may be things like Google Analytics or blog subscriptions.
As you will notice in the chart above, over the last 30 days my Klout score has gone up. That rise corresponds with my strong re-engagement with Twitter and Facebook over the past 30 days. That is a fact. And Klout tells me that I am doing something right!
I won’t argue that Klout is perfect (or that I understand it), but in my experience it has corresponded to my increased engagement with my followers on Twitter and Facebook.
3) Social media IS like a school playground.
The fact is that social media and social media marketing ARE different. They actually are a bit like a school playground or a high school cafeteria — but in a good way! Just like on the playground, in social media there are different groups, interested in different things, and to “get in” with a group you have to get involved. You have to engage with the group. You have to do the equivalent of perhaps cracking some good jokes, or showing that you can sink a three-pointer on the court, or that you have deep knowledge of the Twilight Saga! Whatever it is!
In short, you have to demonstrate that you add value to the group through engagement.
To push the school metaphor further, social media influence is less like voting for class president (which is very much like a popularity contest) and more like working hard to become part of the group with whom you have an affinity.
I may change my mind in the future, but right now, I think that Klout measures the hard work (or as Gary Vaynerchuk calls it, HUSTLE) needed to engage with an audience through social media.