Does Klout Have Any Clout Left?

For the longest time, I was an evangelist for Klout. If there’s an opposite of seeing the light, however, it happened to me when they changed their formula. I’m usually one of the most patient people in the world when it comes to user interfaces. Most of the time they’re cosmetic and there’s a rhyme or reason to them. But Klout’s change struck a deeper chord in me. And it wasn’t sour grapes because my score decreased. It was a genuine disgust because their new formula for determining a score was so flawed that I wasn’t even sure what they were measuring anymore.

Whatever it is they’re measuring now, however, I’ve determined that it’s not internet influence.

To me, Klout went from a neutral arbiter of one’s ability to amplify a message on Web 2.0 platforms to a popularity contest. And it did this in a few ways:

1) Choosing to make Facebook content count as much as Twitter content. While Facebook has the biggest internet presence, and therefore a strong place in any measurement of the ability to amplify a message, the message that is being amplified makes it questionable as to how valuable Facebook really is. Twitter best practices among power users has them posting news story (and blog) links. Facebook’s power users post photos of their friends and family. The natures of the second group of postings make them more likely to be liked since they have a built-in audience.  Furthermore, photos in themselves have more of an emotional response rate. Basically, to be successful on Facebook, a user asks their friends to “like” photos of them  having fun or, barring that, supporting them in times of need.

By spreading these messages, what is being added to the internet conversation as a whole.

I understand Klout’s logic in making Facebook count as much as Twitter.  After all, the average message on Facebook is more “sticky” than one on Twitter and seen by more people. But this logic reveals another flaw in the new system. Any form of message amplification on Facebook is easier to get than any on Twitter due to this time frame gap.  Only the rarely used “share” button on Facebook is as valuable, due to its scarcity of use, as any of the similar behaviors – retweets, favorites, and replies – on Twitter.

2) Choosing to compress the scores around 50. Klout is on the record as saying that their scale (before the redesign at least) was reflective on a classic 1st to 100th percentage scale. Therefore, someone without any understanding of the system could look at a score and recognize what its relation to the norm was due to past experience.

In the change, my score dropped from a 62 to a 46. Klout went out of their way to assure people in similar situations with similar scores that a 46 was actually one of the “higher” scores on the system. But anyone who sees my score would assume (as I did) that I’m a below average internet user. This ability to easily discern what a score means to anyone viewing it takes away from its value.

3) Choosing a system that does not seem responsive to any stimuli on any platform. In the month or so since Klout instituted their new system, my score has seemed to do nothing but fall. I have not noticed any other user’s scores rise by any significant amount in the same time frame.

While I understand the logic behind this as well (that they wanted to make the score more reliable by making it less gameable) the problem is that during this time frame, I had two posts on Twitter that were both retweeted almost a dozen times. On both of these days, my Klout score actually fell. Both of these posts were completely legitimate and were retweeted because I used the tried-and-true social media method of writing about what my readers wanted to learn about.

Klout’s old system had scores that fluctuated rapidly. This reflected an objective reality. On some days, events happen that make people who are subject experts in that area more influential. As soon as these events pass, these scores would dip to their normal levels. Other people are influential regardless and their scores would be relatively flat. No social media theory that has been postulated has everyone being less influential over time.

The combination of these three factors has me at a loss on Klout. I cannot recommend that anyone use it as a metric for making any sort of important decision on social media. Perhaps they’ll be a useful again in the future once they sort out these three issues. But I wonder if they’ll have any clout left by the time this happens though.

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