By now you’ve probably heard about Klout. In the unlikely event you’re not familiar with Klout, here is what they do, according to their own website:
Our friendships and professional connections have moved online, making influence measurable for the first time in history. When you recommend, share, and create content you impact others. Your Klout Score measures that influence on a scale of 1 to 100.
I’ve been a conscientious Klout objector for a long time now. Initially fascinated by the subject, I developed a hearty objection to the business model; an objections I’ve not heard most people talk about.
I don’t believe the service is necessary from a marketer viewpoint.
I’m all for algorithms and proprietary scoring models when the scale of the work involved warrants it. Google is a great example of where automation and algorithmic scoring make perfect sense. If you’re looking for a needle in a haystack, automated help can really come in handy. Given the volume of data Google sorts through in a fraction of a second
But when you are looking for a group of influencers within a community, I’m convinced most thinking marketers could return a better list of bloggers to target than Klout can. It would take a little bit of work and time (maybe a week or so?), but the list would be BETTER! Moreover, the hard work put in to develop the list would make for a much better blogger outreach program when the brand decided to contact those bloggers. In short, from a brand’s perspective, I’m convinced Klout is an unnecessary shortcut that will eventually deprive the marketing community of a critical skill (because marketers will not be forced to learn how to create and approach lists of influencers).
More recently, Klout has come under fire from two different directions. Because of recent changes to their algorithm, many people’s Klout score dropped. A lot. What resulted was a fair amount of criticism aimed at the company.
The more damning criticism has come from people concerned about privacy and the general policy of Klout automatically including data – including the scanning of data of minors. The end result of all this angst has been a steady stream of influencers writing posts calling for changes to Klout and/or announcing they have opted out of Klout.
One last things worth mentioning at this point in the discussion. I do not ascribe any of this to Joe Fernandez and the Klout team. I don’t believe they are deliberate wrong-doers. I think they believe they are truly onto something and that they are trying to “get it right.” I see things from their point of view, I really do. They have been really engaged in the social community from the very beginning. I’ve been a small part of some pretty big discussion threads and the company has always been very open about being involved in the discussion and trying to explain their positions.
All that said, Klout has it within their power to make ALL THIS go away with one simple press of a button. Here’s what I would do right now, today, within the hour – that would make all the controversy stop:
Think about it. Klout makes money working with brands. The whole gamification layer, the Klout score, the +K’s, the lists – all of it – is a marketing ploy designed to get people talking about Klout. Well, it worked.
The Klout score is the social equivalent of Google’s “Page Rank” – and if you ask people at Google many will state that making Page Rank visible to webmasters was one of the biggest mistakes the company ever made. It showed webmasters what to care about – but ultimately corrupted what those webmasters did because they started to care more about how to game Google in search of higher page rank than about how to deliver valuable content to the readers of their websites.
Individual Klout scores have NO BEARING on Klout’s ability to function as a business. The score and all the marketing paraphernalia that accompanies it is holding them back right now. It’s fueling the fire that makes people care about their Klout score. If I were calling the shots at Klout, I would make all that go away and just deal with brands. Business as usual.
Dear Joe Fernandez – do yourself a favor and focus on what brands want you to do. Help brands identify and work with influencers.
As you bring down the gamification layer, replace it with a simple message to consumers:
After opting out of Klout myself several weeks ago, I vowed to not talk about them anymore. I truly believe that all this chatter and kvetching about them is only raising the visibility of the company. And so this post (and the accompanying comments, if any) will be the last time you’ll ever hear me mention Klout. I’ll stay opted out. I’ll continue to bristle at people who publicly share the fact they’ve received a +K (and to think less of them for having done so).
What do you think? Is the Genie out of the bottle on this one? I’m sure a firestorm would ensue if Klout actually pursued this course – and in reality I suppose I’m only half serious about it. But I’m left to wonder what would people be complaining about had Klout not pursued this gamification layer in the first place – or at least had done so more discretely?
Latest posts by Sean McGinnis (see all)
- I’ve Accepted a New Job with Sears - May 12, 2013
- Let’s Work Together In 2013! - January 1, 2013
- Book Review: Fierce Loyalty by @SarahRobinson - September 17, 2012
- Two marketing mistakes to avoid (from yesterday’s mail) and how to fix them - April 13, 2012
- Will you join me at Social Slam 2012? - March 27, 2012