Klout’s CEO Joe Fernandez gave an interview this summer—before the new Klout algorithm rolled out—in which he said, ““When you think about it, the idea of measuring influence is kind of crazy. Influence has always been something that we each see through our own lens.”
Don't get me going, pal.
Enough people have flamed Klout for their scoring mechanics over the past three weeks that I don’t need to add my rant to that pile. But I need to write this post to explain the ethical problem Klout poses for those of us who use social networks for a significant amount of connection, communication and information. And to ask you to do something about it.
Please, when you get done reading this, go to www.klout.com and delete your profile from Klout forever.
Completely. And don’t look back. I did it this week, and so far my social cred has not come crashing down around my head.
The fundamental evil of Klout is that it’s a venture capital-backed company looking to leverage into a big IPO payday and the only value proposition they offer is their ability to identify, train and exploit people they can sell to advertisers as “key influencers,” in a taxonomy of business interests.
What do these “key influencers” get for their efforts? Pennies. Swag. Chocolate bars. Little discounts. These people are the entire sum of the Klout value proposition. Klout exists for the benefit of advertisers, not for the people Klout measures and then chooses to engage.
That’s the big inequity. Other Klout-like start-ups like PROSkore exist for the benefit of the people being measured. PROSkore is trying to match social scoring with LinkedIn-type connections, peer to peer. But the more Klout gains, well, clout in the marketplace, the more they will become the gold standard for identifying people who are great connectors on social media.
Beyond this fundamental sleaziness, there is a bigger issue that makes Klout wrong, and frankly all social scoring wrong. Social communications should be for the benefit of the people doing the communicating. Influence cannot be measured, just as beauty and cool cannot be measured. Measuring “social influence” tries to sell the lie that such things as “social influence” and “connected-ness” can be measured quantitatively, then acquired, packaged and sold to the highest bidder.
I’ll completely ignore the problems others are having with the way the Klout score is calculated. I object to the entire idea of a Klout score regardless of its accuracy.
What happens a year from now when you try to get a job in marketing and you’re rejected because your Klout score is only in the 30s? Or when a bunch of black hat rats figure out how to game the Klout system and make their small fortunes selling you robot apps that will juice up your Klout score?
Fernandez may protest that none of this isn’t anything that Facebook isn’t getting ready to do with advertisers, anyway. That in my book only means that Fernandez and his crew are only slightly less evil and creepy than Mark Zuckerberg might be.
The only answer—and it’s the ONLY answer—is for us to withdraw from Klout. Unless a substantial number of us build a movement of people to quit Klout, they will become the 7th grade cool kids of social media, determining your worth to their advertisers and your clients and peers.
It’s easy to do. Go to www.klout.com and then:
[UPDATE 11/12/11 Klout disconnected the link between "profile settings" and "delete your account" again this morning. The deleted function is now buried at the very end of the "privacy" policy which you can only access through a link at the bottom of your "profile settings" page, or by clicking on the footer link "privacy" under "Developers." Easy to get to, eh? Apparently we're having some effect. Please, please delete your Klout profile. RJM]
And then go on with your life. You’ll feel so much better how you’ve helped make social media better, and perhaps eventually we can derail Klout entirely.
Or you can wait and spend $99 on one of those black hat robot apps to get your Klout score up to the same level as your next door neighbor.
Your choice, neighbor.