The Flout-able, Doubt-able Klout

Doubtful Image

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Can Klout be used to gauge the potential of a human being? It can if you’re a Florida State professor Todd Bacile, who wants to grade his students based on their social media influence. Lots of people are wondering if Klout has any merit, and even the Klout developers recently revamped their scoring system to enable a “more accurate, transparent Klout.”

Was the revamp worth it? We’ll have to first decipher, with our own data, is Klout currently has the merit it touts. Using a bit of competitive intelligence, we’ll be checking to see if a Klout aristocrat (in this case Lauren Conrad) with one of those ineffable Klout scores (84 as of this writing) has the sway they’re attributed.

Lauren Conrad Tweet

On July 12th Lauren Conrad, reality television darling, urged her follow-hive of 2,803,716 twitter users to investigate a promotion for the site LittleBlackBag.com. The tweet is clear, decisive, and maybe a bit demanding, but it’s link doesn’t actually lead directly to the website in question. First, it leads to Conrad’s personal site, then onto LittleBlackBag.com.

But did it work?

Unique Visitors of LaurenConrad.com vs. LittleBlackbag.com

Here’s a hint: Nope. In July, LittleBlackBag.com continued to decline in Unique Visitors. Even if the 23,514 UVs in July were all from Conrad’s camp, that’s less than 1% of Conrad’s followers respecting her instruction, or in Klout terms showing themselves to be ‘influenced.’  Meanwhile Conrad’s own site enjoyed a 48.67% growth in UVs since the month previous. This says more about Klout than it does about Conrad. In this case, it says that not many people are all that influenced by Conrad, and of the few that are, only a few are actually trickling onto whatever she’s funneling them towards.

With nearly 3 million followers, you’d assume influence would be a tad more visible, but perhaps Klout has mistaken ‘influence’ for ‘followership,’ in which the prior denotes a measurement of activity and the later only purports a unengaged observation of someone else’s activity—in this case Lauren Conrad’s.

Ryan La Sala Klout Score

Just so we’re being fair, full disclosure: my Klout score is 63, and evidently I am influential about Zooey Deschanel, Pokemon, and birds. While my alleged expertise in birds continues to be a joke among my friends, my actual interest in what my score could mean faded after my initial discovery. Others are feeling the same way: at its highest, Klout had over 150k search referrals in July of 2011. One year later, however, and that search referral metric is consistently hovering around the mid-20k region, showing no sign of regaining its former glory.

My fear for Klout is that after this swell in attention people are going to depart from caring, like I did, and the measurement is going to obfuscate itself. Klout has done something incredible: it’s taught us that something as fickle as social influence is quantifiable, but more importantly it’s convinced us that this quantity should matter. Hopefully their tweaked measurements are a little more trustworthy, or else that professor at Florida State is going to have to pull off an immense grade curve to salvage his career.

About Ryan LaSala:
Ryan La Sala joins Compete as the Digital Marketing Co-op for Compete.com, sovereign of all things social media. Ryan is a current attendant of Northeastern University, dual-majoring in Cultural Anthropology and International Affairs (with minors in Biology and Psychology), with career interests in Industrial-Organizational Psychology and Consumer Anthropology. Aside from acquiring aspirations with big words, Ryan’s other interests include reading cheesy fiction, writing in any capacity, singing and cooking. Find Ryan on twitter @Ryality or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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  1. Pingback: Marketing Day: August 31, 2012

  2. Conor O'Mahony

    I must admit it is a while since I used Klout. I abandoned it when I noticed that, in my case, my Klout score was heavily weighted towards my recent levels of “activity/engagement” (and not necessarily influence). In other words, my Klout score was varying rather significantly, depending how engaged I had personally been on social media for the past week or two. It may have been indirectly reflecting my “recent influence”. However, I felt that it was really measuring “recent levels of engagement” rather than my true influence. Although, admittedly, measuring influence much more difficult than measuring activity/engagement. Perhaps it is time for me to revisit Klout and check out their re-vamped scoring.

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  3. Pingback: The Flout-able, Doubt-able Klout | marcinkorecki

  4. Gregg

    While Klout may not share my view, the fact that people are now forgetting about Klout is a huge plus in my book. If I want to identify influencers, I don’t want people to be actively trying to become influencers. Instead, I want the people that, by their nature, their personal brand, and what they do online, are already influencers without any system-gaming going on.

    If I were Klout I’d say, “Mission accomplished. We got millions of people aware of the service. The more they forget about us and go back to their daily social media lives, the more accurate our scores become and the better product our salesmen have to pitch to prospective clients.”

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    • Ryan LaSala

      Right! I think there’s merit to this side of the issue too. I would think that one of the perils of turning an influence-score into a social media site is the shift of actual influence into affected influence, where users are actively taking certain steps within the klout algorithm to up their score.

      But if the hype in Klout fades, and thus their scoring system begins to refine itself like you say, do you think the relevance of Klout in job searches and, in the case of the professor for instance, will go up conversely? I think part of Klout’s mission is to embed its scoring system into how people divide themselves into echelons, online and in real life, and if their hype fades so does their perceived authority, even if those scores are in fact improving.

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      • Gregg

        There is definitely room for worry that Klout’s perceived authority fading as the site usage fades and much of that will depend on Klout’s actual game plan (not the game plan I think they should have) and much of it will depend on their business model. Personally, I don’t see the deep social penetration + Perks being viable. Instead, I see them partnering with other data providers as a 3rd party append (+ paid API access) which would allow businesses to run their own “perk” programs and get more insights on those influencers by combining Klout scores with other guest traits.

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