Klout and Social Media Influence Scoring - Get Used to It

SoftwareHollis
Hollis Tibbetts Director for Software Strategy, Mergers & Acquisitions Group, Dell, Inc.

Posted on November 3rd 2011

Social Media Influence Scoring (like PROskore or Klout) is here to stay – get used to it.  It’s not useful to judge it as good or bad.  It’s useful and it’s profitable.  Just like Fair Isaac’s FICO scores.  Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re here to stay. That doesn't mean that Klout is here to stay.

Why Is It Here to Stay?

Because it'll be a hugely profitable venture.

Advertisers will increasingly be clamoring to know who the social media “heavy hitters” are.  They’ll pay for scores.  Employers, recruiting firms and such will subscribe to scoring services.  A lot of people would subscribe as they’ll have a vested interest in their own scores. 

Service-industries like hotels, airlines and such will subscribe – they’d be crazy not to.  Let me give you a “for instance”:   

Every time an airline messes up, prominent software analyst and Constellation Research CEO Ray Wang (@rwang0) tweets heavily about how badly airlines screw up to his 20,000 followers – mostly business people who also travel a lot.  The airlines will want to know who to be extra nice to.  If I were them, I’d be extra nice to Ray.  If United Airlines pisses off some 1,000,000 mile flier who’s a social hermit, that’s nothing compared to pissing off a 100,000 mile flier who just passed on the experience to 10,000 other 100,000 mile fliers and maybe is about to create the next “United Breaks Guitars” video on YouTube.

What About Klout?

I’ve been a fierce critic of Joe Fernandez and Klout.com lately – their business practices have been abominable…a litany of egregious social media sins.  But I’m not a critic of the concept of social media influence scoring. 

Yes, Klout’s algorithm for scoring is whacked.  And they did a terrible job from a stakeholder perspective when they updated their algorithm the other week.  But algorithms are an evolving science.  None of the scoring companies have it down right.  For example, I publish articles that get almost 40,000 unique reads every month.  How does that impact my social media score?  It doesn’t at all.  But over time, the algorithms will get better.

Whether Klout survives or not is really irrelevant.  Some number of companies will do exceptionally well by attempting to measure and quantify “online influence”. 

Is Klout "Bad"?

Klout has taken certain steps to mollify critics by enabling profile deletion and “opt out” – after creating a privacy uproar and offending many of their most influential and “high scoring” stakeholders.  But I don’t believe that Klout is out of the woods yet.  They’ve built up a lot of ill-will in the community.  And they’ve established a track record of slimy Internet business practices befitting some Russian Porn Site such as: 

  • assigning profiles to minors
  • profile scraping
  • luring people in with promises of “free stuff” that for the most part isn’t there
  • tricking people into creating profiles by implying they had to create a profile in order to view someone else’s (or their own) Klout score, etc.
  • "Snow Job" as standard communication mechanism; otherwise total lack of substantive communication and responsiveness 

If Klout wants the support of the community, and to be successful in the long run, they need to grow up and start treating their stakeholders with the respect they deserve. 

Advise to Klout

Just in case Joe Fernandez and the Klout team happen to be reading this, I’ve copied some definitions of some really important words from Wikipedia.  I strongly suggest they study the implications of these words, and change the way they do business in the future, if they want to truly capitalize on the opportunity they've worked so hard to create for themselves.

Bunker Mentality

Bunker mentality is a slang phrase for a phenomenon that occurs when an individual or group stops taking into account new, pertinent information and begins viewing outsiders as enemies due to an isolation resulting from being under attack. Political campaigns and figures are often accused of having this mentality, particularly when a leader, administration or party has become unpopular or is in some sort of trouble.[1]

The phrase is taken from an analogy to soldiers that have taken shelter in a bunker while under siege from enemies as well as Adolf Hitler's mental state during his last days inside the Chancellery bunker in Berlin.

Obfuscation

Obfuscation means making something harder to understand, usually by complicating sentences needlessly. Weasel words are a form of obfuscation. Obfuscation is usually used when people either do not know what they are talking about or wish to hide their meaning.

Some people say that when doctors use difficult medical words to hide unpleasant things from patients, they are using obfuscation.

Accountability

Accountability is the concept in ethics and governance with several meanings. It is often used synonymously with such concepts as responsibility,[1] answerability, blameworthiness, liability, and other terms associated with the expectation of account-giving. As an aspect of governance, it has been central to discussions related to problems in the public sector, nonprofit and private (corporate) worlds. In leadership roles,[2] accountability is the acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for actions, products, decisions, and policies including the administration, governance, and implementation within the scope of the role or employment position and encompassing the obligation to report, explain and be answerable for resulting consequences.

Corporate Social Responsibility / Corporate Citizenship

Corporate social responsibility (CSR, also called corporate conscience, corporate citizenship, social performance, or sustainable responsible business)[1] is a form of corporate self-regulation integrated into a business model. CSR policy functions as a built-in, self-regulating mechanism whereby business monitors and ensures its active compliance with the spirit of the law, ethical standards, and international norms. The goal of CSR is to embrace responsibility for the company's actions and encourage a positive impact through its activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders and all other members of the public sphere. Furthermore, CSR-focused businesses would proactively promote the public interest (PI) by encouraging community growth and development, and voluntarily eliminating practices that harm the public sphere, regardless of legality. CSR is the deliberate inclusion of PI into corporate decision-making, that is the core business of the company or firm, and the honouring of a triple bottom line: people, planet, profit.

Stakeholder 

A corporate stakeholder is a party that can affect or be affected by the actions of the business as a whole. The stakeholder concept was first used in a 1963 internal memorandum at the Stanford Research Institute. It defined stakeholders as "those groups without whose support the organization would cease to exist."[1] The theory was later developed and championed by R. Edward Freeman in the 1980s. Since then it has gained wide acceptance in business practice and in theorizing relating to strategic management, corporate governance, business purpose and corporate social responsibility (CSR).

SoftwareHollis

Hollis Tibbetts

Director for Software Strategy, Mergers & Acquisitions Group, Dell, Inc.

Hollis has established himself as a successful software marketing and technology expert. His various strategy, marketing and technology blogs are read over 50,000 times a month. He has over 20 years experience in creating, executing and managing innovative and effective marketing programs for startup, midsize and large technology companies in Silicon Valley and Austin TX. He has substantial expertise and a highly successful track record in positioning and launching companies and products and achieving solid, sustained growth. Hollis has developed substantial expertise in middleware, SaaS, Cloud, data management and distributed application technologies, with over 2 decades of experience in marketing, technical, product management and product marketing roles at leading companies in such as Pervasive, Aruna (acquired by Progress Software), Sybase (now SAP), webMethods (now Software AG), M7 Corporation (acquired by BEA/Oracle), OnDisplay (acquired by Vignette) and KIVA Software (acquired by Netscape). He has established himself as an industry expert, having authored a large number of technology white papers, as well as published media articles and book contributions. Hollis is a regularly featured blogger at ebizQ, a venue focused on enterprise technologies, with over 100,000 subscribers (http://www.ebizq.net/blogs/integrationedge), writes extensively on Sys-con Media (http://hollistibbetts.sys-con.com) and maintains a blog focused on creating great software: Software Marketing 2011 (http://www.softwaremarketingexperts.com) He is also active on Twitter as @SoftwareHollis Additional information is available at HollisTibbetts.com
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Comments

I agree with most of your points, but disagree with your premise that Klout et al are a permanent fixture of the social media landscape. Klout, I feel, thinks it is selling a solution when they really have a feaure. Most social media monitoring tools of any worth have in them a way of determining salience, aka influence. Most search engines will get there soon too. This is where this "feature" belongs, in a context that has some value.

I agree too that the secret sauce algorithms are plainly faulty, but then the validity of all these systems is suspect -- when it comes down to it, was is "influence" anyway???

Finally, there's a bigger issue with Klout - they may be measuring the wrong things entirely. Individuals alone only rarely make a difference; social media is a collective phenomenon and it is the crowd -- or often the mob -- that matter:

http://ianbruce.blogspot.com/2011/11/klout-qwikster-and-mob-marketing.html

Thanks again, great post.