By now just about everyone has heard of Klout and most have formed an opinion on its value, or lack thereof. Briefly, Klout professes to be a social media measurement tool with the uncanny ability to measure one’s influence and reflect said influence level with a number from 1-100. The higher your Klout score, the more influential you are assumed to be. Vice versa on a low score.
Once you are considered influential on a particular topic you get Klout Perks; free stuff ranging from concert tickets to deodorant to tea bags. The free stuff is provided by brands who pay Klout to identify influential social media accounts for them.
(Note that I said “social media accounts” and not “social media people”. That was purposeful. More on that later.)
Ya with me so far?
So here’s the thing with Klout…there are a lot of strong opinions about it floating around out there. Most of them by people a hell of a lot smarter (and more influential haha) than I am. Here are a few great reads on the subject:
- Sam Fiorella, Sensei Marketing Partner, I’m Taking Back My Influence; Opting Out of Klout
- Pam Moore, Marketing Nutz Founder, Why I Deleted My Klout Profile
- Neal Schaffer, Founder and editor-in-chief of Windmill Networking, 13 Experts Chime In on Klout’s New Algorithm to Determine Social Influence
….and if you Google “Does your Klout score matter” you’ll get over 500,000 results.
To me, Klout doesn’t matter at all. But what concerns me more than Klout scores being meaningless, it’s that the score can damage a reputation whether the score is high or low. For that reason I have opted out of Klout (To opt out of Klout, go here). If you look up my Klout score, you’ll see this:
Which by the way is how you can determine who has truly opted out of Klout vs. those who say that have. Once you have opted out of Klout, you no longer exist to Klout and will not have a score, a profile or even be found via a Klout search. Unfortunately, there are more than a few Klout naysayers who have stated publicly that they have opted out – but when searched they have Klout scores and entire Klout profiles. Hmmmm.
Okay, now that that is out of the way, here is why I think Klout is useless at best, and damaging at its worst.
1. Companies in need of a marketing consultant are using Klout scores to determine ability. Of the hundreds of marketing consultants I know providing assistance to companies in the social universe, not one is using their own Twitter handle and other social media accounts while working for their clients.
Not one. In fact, it would be rather unprofessional to do so.
Marketing professionals build their client’s brands on client time….not their own.
2. Employees are using Klout scores to hire marketing staff, high scorers get the job. In the 3 minutes it takes to look up someone’s Klout score, a potential employer could do a multitude of other things to determine social media skill level. For instance take a quick peek at their Twitter or LinkedIn stream or ask them about a recent social campaign or strategy they developed, implemented, and measured. Or try this new idea, actually call one of the references on the candidate’s resume.
An employer who believes that a Klout score is valuable when it comes to determining social media skill has no business being a decision maker in the hiring process for a social marketing position. They might as well have candidates wear mood rings to determine personality too.
3. In a reverse of the above trend, employers are using Klout scores to not hire someone, believing that high scoring employees will be working their own accounts while on company time. I just recently heard about this practice from a friend looking to hire a marketing assistant. He rejected a few with high Klout scores and prolific Twitter streams stating that he is well aware of the addictive nature of social media and doesn’t want to hire someone who is more concerned with their own online presences than his company’s. Valid point.
4. Who is really behind that Twitter handle? I know of one self-proclaimed “marketing guru” who has no less than 3 people managing the Twitter account that carries his/her name – they create the content and then tweet it. The ‘guru’ hasn’t actually tweeted in two years. ‘Nuff said.
And for the record, if someone refers to you as a ‘guru’, that can be rather flattering. But if you refer to yourself as a ‘guru’, you’re basically a nutjob.
5. Klout Perks have caused some people to chat incessantly online about brands just to get the perk. So if I Tweet out a call for a hotel recommendation in Seattle – of the responders, who has actually stayed there and who just wants the Klout perk? And how can I tell the difference?
Most of us recognize ads when we see them whether on Google SERPs, on websites (like them thar up there to the right), on Facebook or a Twitter promoted tweet. There is certainly nothing wrong with advertising.
But when someone doesn’t know if they are reading someone’s opinion or an advertisement, it’s bullshit – a bit like buying fake glowing company reviews. Yelp, btw, is clamping down on this practice hard. They’re now posting embarrassing notices on company sites that have been caught buying fake reviews.
So what’s the difference between Klout rewarding its users who chat on and on about a brand (regardless of the truth) by doling out Klout Perks and another company paying people to write a few fake reviews?
So anyway, I was interviewed a few weeks ago by Christine Hall, a journalist for the Baltimore Business Journal. She wrote a number of articles for the BBJ on Klout and interviewed me for one of them. Here’s the blurb from me:
When I read all of the BBJ articles on Klout though, I was a bit surprised by how many of those interviewed were Klout fanboys and fangirls – especially those who should know better.
And now with this blog post, I hereby declare the end to any more chatter about Klout coming from me. Although the topic is still making the mainstream news, it has worn out it’s welcome in many of the circles I travel/tweet/post/share. Those who truly understand and have embraced the power of the social community could care less about Klout scores and the multitude of knock-off scores.
When you make your social media presence and behavior all about you – it becomes very one-sided, static and predictable.
In face, we marketers have a name for online presences that are one-sided, static and predictable, we call it “circa 1998 website”.