In almost a bizarre fashion following a night of discussion with Mark Schaefer and TJ McCue about the validity (or lack thereof) of Klout, right there in my Facebook stream I see a “Mashable” article delivering the news that Klout has reached an agreement to be acquired for ~100 million dollars by Lithium Technologies.
Let’s just say I was surprised. I couldn’t figure out who would want to spend 100+ million dollars on a platform that for lack of better words doesn’t work.
Over the past few years, Klout has been a lightning rod in social communities as there has long been a significant debate as to whether or not Klout should matter. Beyond just the validity of the platform, there have been many influential writers who have called into question the company best known for measuring influence on their handling of privacy and lack of transparency on how they measure influence.
Personally, I have never put much weight behind Klout because I always felt the score could be gamed and that those most willing to be “Active” in social communities could easily drive a higher score. Further with limited real world examples where Klout score impacted business decisions I felt little need to invest in building my Klout score.
On the other hand, Klout did immediately identify a trend in the market and to their credit they exploited it beautifully. What was that trend?
People want to keep score!
In the case of Klout, people want to know how they rank online in comparison to other users. When simple metrics like impressions and reach don’t tell the entire story, Klout stepped forward and started a revolution. This revolution brought on secondary influence measurement products like Peerindex and Kred, and since then there have been an array of new entrants to the market of influence measurement and program development aimed at helping brands solve the problem of picking the right people to work with on influence campaigns.
After their initial splash, Klout came up short. To many they were a bust. What was so promising was tainted by their lack of clarity in how they measure, which left users puzzled and brands weary of using Klout as a true measurement tool for online influence.
However, the acquisition by Lithium Technology, a company that works with brands on their digital customer experience shows promise for what Klout was trying to do.
In my opinion, Lithium wants to integrate influence as part of the customer experience profile. So when brands are dealing with customer experience situations online, there is an ability to quickly identify who the person on the other end is and just how important service success is to the brand.
While I would hate to think that a brand would invest more heavily in one customer over another, it would be foolish to not consider why this may be important. With word of mouth being so critical to future purchase decisions, brands don’t want to upset the wrong people.
At the very least, what Klout has created gives Lithium an immediate boost in understanding the customer profile and the potential to make this ubiquitous with their platform.
In terms of your daily interaction with Klout, even with their new content sharing platform, I find little reason that people should care about the transaction itself.
However, what I do think business leaders, social media consultants, and brands need to see here is that there is a very legitimate intersection between online influence and the buyer’s journey.
Brands looking to fully understand their digital marketing efforts are going to need to invest in tools that help them measure who the most important contributors are to their community. While I don’t believe Klout was or ever will be the answer to this need, I do think the move is a clear indication of what is to come for online influence.
With this acquisition everyone wins. Klout found a home before it vanished into obscurity and influence-marketing technologies just validated its valuation to 9 figures. Now if someone could only come up with an influence platform that really helped brands find those that can move the needle; that just may be a billion dollar idea.