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Does Klout Have Value For Digital Marketing Campaigns?

The value of Klout has been debated since 2011, only two years after the social media ranking service was a darling of the tech community. Back in those halcyon days people used to boast about their Klout score in bars.

Not anymore.

And yet, Lithium Technologies purchased Klout in March 2014 for $200 million; finally placing a dollar amount on the value of Klout.

With 200,000 business customers and $10 million in revenues it clearly can't be ignored as a marketing tool, and yet the debate that was ignited in 2011 hasn’t gone away. A debate sparked by a couple of science fiction writers, who perhaps rightly questioned who appointed Klout as the scorekeeper of digital influence.

John Scalzi was vocal in his criticism of the arbitrary nature of their algorithms:

“I could rank your influence online. If you like: I'll add your number of Twitter followers to your number of Facebook friends, subtract the number of MySpace friends, laugh and point if you're still on Friendster, take the square root, round up to the nearest integer and add six. That's your Scalzi Number (mine is 172). You're welcome.”

Imperfect Algorithms?

Ever since then the main debate has been around whether users and businesses should depend on the algorithms behind Klout scores (which ranks social media scores between 0 and 100).

Social media expert, Jay Baer points out, Klout “can only measure data points”; just like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Nielsen and dozens of other algorithm-contingent products. Points can’t be given for offline, real-world influence and experiences.

The scores are only as good as the data and algorithms that crunch the numbers, and as Baer points out, Klout has always talked “openly and honestly” about the challenge of ranking digital influence.

The End of Influence

Before the sale, Klout also made a pivot, or at least a course correction, which most likely helped with its sale price.

Measuring “influence” is no longer what they’re about; a word Lithium CEO Rob Tarkoff said they would retire in favour of “reputation and expertise.”

Content marketing has also changed the game, which is why most social media services, including Klout, source a curated mix of content for users, which they can publish through social channels.

Businesses can also measure context around online products and user-generated reviews: “Individual products will be assigned a Klout score based on user ratings, reviews and mentions across social media. People who submit product reviews will also have their individual Klout score displayed, alongside their review, so other users can judge how reliable their review is.”

Klout in the Marketing Mix

The purpose of Klout is to provide context - with a ranking system - to influencers, products and content. Perhaps somewhat arbitrary, but a useful indicator for marketing professionals.

Without context, knowing why a certain piece of content has value; or why some social media fans are more influential (and therefore should be included in influencer outreach campaigns); or when to improve a product description, marketing campaigns can lose traction.

Including Klout scores as a factor in your decision making is a logical data point when designing digital campaigns. Not including these scores is to leave out a vital piece of information, which would weaken the case behind the actions you take during a marketing campaign. Arbitrary or not, Klout should be in every marketers tool kit.

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