Another Complicated Relationship with Klout Saturday August 13, 2011

Well, it would seam that I’m starting to have some mixed feelings with the latest batch of social media wunder networks. First it was instagram, now this week, it appears to be klout.

For those unfamiliar, klout is an emerging social media application, which essentially quantifies your online network influence. Through an elaborate algorithm, klout’s services assign you a klout score based on your engagement and influence on sites such as twitter, facebook, linkedin, foursquare, youTube, instagram and now tumblr. It uses some sort of mathematical medieval sorcery to create a rating, which is suppose to measure your range of online influence.

And while the data and information that klout is able to produce is quite impressive, it’s also a bit … well … it’s a load of rubbish.

Why Klout Rubs Me The Wrong Way

I am definitely not the first and I won’t be the last person to bring this up, but attempting to attach a numeric value on a person’s influence in a variety of social circles is a bit ridiculous. Yes, Gladwell talked about influence in Turning Point and others like Julien Smith, Chris Brogan and Charlene Li have done likewise. But neither one attempted to attach a hardened numeric value to this concept. Because frankly, there are far just too many tangibles to factor in.

As an example, over the first week in July my klout score, yes and I say that with sarcasm, went on a roller coaster ride plummeting 6 points in two days and then slowly creeping back up a couple of points a week ago. Now, I don’t think much changed in my daily routine or my supposed range of topics of influence. Sure, it is the hockey off-season and Vince Vaughn (another point of contention) isn’t making fun of Luongo as much, so I can say my strongest two spheres of influence could have taken a hit – but what else changed? Have people started ignoring me? (which I wouldn’t hold against them) Am I less trust worthy as a source of information of good taste? Have people already tired of my infatuation with Cobra Commander and Andrew W.K.‘s twitter accounts?

The real answer is – why should I care.

As someone who uses social media for professional and personal benefits, the last thing I should be doing is worrying about the influx of an arbitrary number. In the grand scheme of things, this number means nothing in regards to business and personal success. In actuality, one’s klout score is really only a massive benefit to the plague of social media experts, who have been yearning for a yardstick to quantify their existence for quite sometime. For those of us who value building solid online relationships with a variety of circles, klout’s scoring system really doesn’t bring anything to that table.

So with all that, you’d think I would hate klout and I truly do… But then there is this whole klout perks concept.

Why I love Klout Perks

Klout Perks is essentially the profit arm of the company.

Businesses broker deals with klout to offer up free access, samples or invitations to their various products through the perks program. Klout then divvies out these products out to a variety of users to test and hopefully encourage a positive word of mouth campaign. The catch being that only users with a certain klout score can receive these freebies. Which from a business perspective is genius.

Klout Perks - Subway Sandwiches

Yes, the klout perks concept essentially goes against everything I just said in the past few paragraphs and makes me a walking contradiction, but I’m okay with that. I told you this was a complicated relationship.

But for businesses, klout’s perks program is a perfect win-win. As a business whenever you allow potential customers to try out a product for free, you always want to maximize your exposure from this loss of revenue. You want to target people of strong influence or with a passionate following, who will hopefully return your kindness by becoming champions of your product. So with the klout perks system, businesses get a swatch of exposure from a verified group of power users that are going to have a guaranteed level of online influence. Thereby increasing the chance that these freebies will generate a positive return on investment and therefore minimize their risk.

And over the past couple of months the klout perks program has already flexed it’s social muscle. It broken on to the scene with a major coup, by offering up free Spotify invites to high ranking American users. (As a side note: Spotify is the much anticipated online radio platform that has dominated Europe and is just breaking into the the North American market). Since then klout has followed-up with product offers from Subway, Mint Beverages and sneak peaks of major studio releases.

I was lucky enough to partake in both the Spotify and Subway ‘BBQ Pulled Pork’ Sandwich programs. I’m now hooked on Spotify and I can’t wait to send invites to others. The Subway program worked so well, it was able to convince a gluten-free ex-sandwich artist to be excited about a sandwich – which in itself is no small feet. Either way by partaking in both programs, each company has earned a tonne of goodwill in my eyes and the likely hood I will reciprocate this goodwill to my peers is incredibly high. (Well maybe not the sandwich, but damn do I love Subway cookies)

From a user perspective the attractie elements of the klout program is two-fold. First and this is the obvious one, but people love to get free things. Second, people also love to feel like they are a part of a elite group. Participating in the klout perks program banks on this element of human nature. It’s cool to get free things, but if you’re told you’re getting a free sandwich because you’re included in the cool group, most people are inherently going to become instant champions. It plays off everyone’s ego, whether we like to admit or not.

Again, It’s complicated

In a roundabout way, I’ve tried to explain my feelings towards klout. The idea of ranking people’s social influence irks me. It’s human nature to be inherently competitive and a numeric value tied to an intangible such as social influence, is in my opinion a bit dangerous. But from a business perspective, using everyone’s love of free stuff and our desire to be apart of a secret society, is pure genius. It minimizes the risk in giving away products for free and works to provide goodwill to a group of influential customers.

Update: So just to clarify my comments on the klout rankings. I’m not a fan of the precise ranking of social influence. Truly, what is the difference between a 54, 58 and a 56? But in regards to the klout perks program, I understand that the math and algorithms are fundamentaly solid enough to tell the difference, between a user in the low 30s and a guru in the high 70s.

Categories: the-social-media, The-Soapbox, The Blogosphere, The Personnal, The Pop-Culture

Commenting is closed for this article.