Originally launched in late 2009, Klout.com, is a company that provides feedback on individual users and company brand’s social media network influence. It uses a sophisticated algorithm that takes in account one’s use of social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ among others, and provides a Klout Score out of 100.
A individual’s or brand’s Klout score is tabulated by assigning points to Retweets, comments, followers, friends, direct mentions, and likes on their content. The points are then tabulated into a algorithm that also takes in account blog posts and other social media accounts, and develops a score for the individual or brand. The score is to supposedly reflect one’s influence on the internet.
However, Klout Scores have come under some scrutiny recently. After Time Magazine released its 2012 100 Most Influential People In the World issue, Klout released a couple scores of people on the list. Some notable scores included Donald Sadoway, MIT professor, at 23 and Warren Buffet at 64. Fair enough; obviously Buffet would have a significantly higher score than an expert on material chemistry from MIT. Interestingly, and where the controversy begins to develop is President Obama’s score of 92. Though quite high, it still ranks him below Rihanna at 95, Lady Gaga at 94 and Justin Bieber with a perfect score of 100. At least on a social networking level, according to Klout, President Obama ranks right below an 18 year old Canadian Pop-Star, a woman known for wearing a meat dress, and a contemporary music and fashion celebrity.
Though an interesting tidbit, and regardless of opinion polls, I’m sure President Obama has considerably more real life clout than Bieber. At least I hope so. But it does bring up the issue of influence itself and how we monitor it, particularly online. Is influence, actual influence, something that can be measured by assigning a score to the number of retweets, likes, or comments? Where Klout fails, or maybe its limitations, are how are we truly influenced by these individuals. Sure I’m going to ‘like’ picture of Aziz Ansari (score of 83) on Facebook, thus increasing his Klout Score, but am I actually influenced by him? No, I just think he has a funny photo. But he does get a lot of ‘likes’ for that photo.
Though probably not a true measure of real life clout or influence, what we do learn from Klout scores is how to make a vibrant, active brand and web presence. It gives you a breakdown of your actions and how you are perceived by your network. What Klout teaches us is the importance of several things, which people like Bieber or Ansari understand (or at least their P.R. Rep does) that it’s important to maintain a vast network across multiple sites in order to gain the most reach. Plus content must be interesting and meaningful to an audience. A Klout score can help users or brands trying to find a way to access an audience, by evaluating their efforts and reach by providing a score. Though it may not lead to an actual gauge of true influence, it does provide a valuable tool to marketers and bloggers looking to understand their own online influence.