Klout recently updated their offering to incorporate a new level of content curation and guidance. Now, when you log in to Klout, you are taken to a new homepage titled ‘Create and share great content’, which lists blog posts sourced by Klout that match the topics you’ve chosen as your primary focus categories within your Klout profile. On each post, there is an option to share, along with buttons to ‘Show me more content like this’ and some basic stats on highly shared posts, which are noted as ‘On the rise’. On the left sidebar, there are now three pages – ‘Create’, ‘Schedule’ and ‘Measure’ (Measure being the former log-in homepage). ‘Schedule’ lets you see all the posts you’ve shared from the ‘Create’ listing, which you can then assign and schedule based on your preferences.
On Klout’s official blog, there’s an explanation on how the new system ‘intelligently recommends content that will strike a chord with your unique set of friends, fans, and followers’. The process is designed to help you share great content at the best times to maximise reach and engagement, whilst also highlighting topics that are resonating with your target audience, enabling you to create your own content around that subject. Whilst the endeavour is excellent and is a necessary expansion of Klout’s business model in order to secure future growth as a product offering, something about the new Klout doesn’t sit right. There seems to be a conflict in this approach, a counteractive element, like pushing two magnets of the same polarity together – no matter what you do, the two just won’t connect.
Vanity Metrics and the Criticism of Klout
Klout scores have long been criticised as a little more than a vanity metric. Many people are opposed to influence metrics like Klout due to the inevitably subjective nature in which they are calculated. The alternative to this is focussing on follower and friend /‘Like’ counts, which, as we know, can also be cheated, making it hard to determine the best measure of actual influence. Klout, of all the influence metrics, is the best known and (arguably) most widely accepted, with an increasing number of businesses taking Klout score into account when looking at ways to best reach their audiences. Whilst criticism of the metrics will continue, it’s safe to say Klout scores will be around for the long term, and with the fake profile industry on the rise, influence metrics will get more focus as social business further advances into the mainstream.
The Best Measurement of Influence
So what’s the best measurement of influence? You may have a million followers, but that’s useless if none of them are interacting with your content. Given time, most people would be able to gain a huge follower or friend count through reciprocal etiquette, so focussing on that number is not going to be the best measurement of influence. Real influence needs to take into account interactions and engagement with both your profile and your content, which can be difficult as not everyone who shares your content will include a link back to one of your social media identities. One of Klout’s strongest points is the amount of profiles that can be linked into it’s algorithm in order to make it most representative of a person’s social media activity. It’s not 100%, but nothing is. While some may argue it’s not the best measurement of influence, it is indicative enough for many users, and Klout is always looking to increase their data points and measurement to improve their system.
The Conflict of Insider Guidance
But here’s the conflict of Klout’s new offering. The idea of a Klout score is that it shows your influence in social media – an objective view, based on mathematical calculations of your activity, producing a single number representative of your influence. Many people trust that number and act on it accordingly, ensuring they connect with relevant influencers. But what if Klout told you how to be an influencer? Would that make you an expert? Sure, if you follow the advice offered on the new platform and share relevant content at the best times you’re likely to see increases in your Klout score – but is that how it should work? Should you be able to log-in and share 10 relevant posts per day – which requires no actual knowledge, or even reading, on your behalf – and increase your score to the point where you are moving into that influencer range, regardless of your personal understanding of that industry? I’m sure Klout’s counter-argument to this is that by sharing content alone you will not be able to generate high Klout scores, as it requires further interaction, but that that interaction could be relatively minor, and the biggest part of your influence building strategy could be just following the advice of Klout’s curation feed to increase your overall score. In most cases, this won’t happen, but it’s like becoming an artist via paint-by-numbers – you follow these steps and you will create art. That’s not how it should work, right?
Of course, Klout are really just incorporating functionality available to anyone via any other content curation application, of which there are quite a few, so it’s not like people couldn’t utilise this info to inflate their influence without Klout's new features, but as noted, there does seem to be a conflict in the arbitrator working as an advisor. There is also an inherent issue in social media platforms where the need to expand the business model requires change which, inevitably, won’t be universally popular (as you’re altering the functionality people have grown to love). Platforms need to build and incorporate new elements in order to prosper, and the key question, really, is ‘does this add value to Klout’s offering?’ You’d have to say it does. If people are going to take Klout scores into account when making a decision on how they address communications to or from that entity, and this process which clearly details how you can improve that variable, then yes, this is a valuable addition. But it does seem conflicted – the referee telling you tricks to beat the rules.
Aside from these concerns, the platform looks great and the interface is easy to use – functionally, it’s solid, and I’ve already noticed a lot of ‘klou.t’ shortened URLs in people’s tweets, so it’s obviously being put to use. And while there may be moral concerns with these additions, all this functionality is available elsewhere either way, so it’s not likely to fuel any long-term negative sentiment. But for me, that conflict raises a flag and waters down the authority of that two-digit influence number, weakening their core offering.
What do you think of Klout’s new features?