Seth Stevenson's April 24th post on Wired.com got a lot people talking about Klout-again. "What is Klout and why do we care?" they wondered, their words flying across the social networks and microblogs of the web. Stevenson's post started by telling the story of a guy interviewing for a VP position in a Toronto marketing agency who lost out to another candidate with a higher Klout score. What is Klout? What is a Klout score? What does your Klout score mean? Not so surprisingly, even after multitudes of blog posts and Twitter comments, video clips and traditional media mentions, most of the world doesn't yet know what Klout is, what their Klout score means, or why they should care.
Klout is an online personal influence measurement tool. Using proprietary algorithms, Klout calculates the value of your participation in social networks, like Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and Foursquare, and awards you a numerical score based on your activity. Klout scores range from 0 -100 with 100 being the most influential. The average score is 20. Scores above 50 rank in the 95th percentile.
Marketers, public relations professionals and customer service teams are using Klout, and other personal influence measurement tools, to quickly and easily identify people who are considered highly influential. Some public relations firms are using Klout scores as part of their crisis management planning. Human resource departments are beginning to factor a job candidate's personal influence score as part of the hiring process. The tool can act as shortcut in finding influential people online-if they are active in social networks.
Klout also contracts with brands to run campaigns targeting influencers and offering Klout Perks, free stuff designed to excite the influencer and encourage online word of mouth activity. Klout perks vary depending on the brand's campaign objective and desired user demographics.
Klout has inspired both praise and passionate criticism.
Well known marketer and blogger, Mark Schaefer, has written Return on Influence, a book devoted to the topic of measuring online influence. He speaks highly of the tool and sees it as the preeminent online influence measurement tool. The Klout website showcases successful campaigns run by Audi and Disney and includes Nike, Virgin America, Subway and Fox as among brands leveraging the Klout Perks feature.
The four year old company has been taken to task for privacy issues, marketing to minors, creating false profiles, secrecy about the algorithms used to create Klout scores and the ease with which the system can be gamed. Whether your Klout score accurately reflects your ability to influence others has been challenged, as has the fact that Klout scores change from day to day depending on the level of your social network activity.
Each of these concerns are valid and some of them prompted a mass exodus from Klout last year, with thousands deleting their Klout profiles in protest.
So why do we care about Klout? Because it isn't going away.
For better or for worse, Klout is here to stay and is evolving to meet new market demands. Klout is just one of a growing number of online influence measurement tools. Other tools to measure personal influence online include PeerIndex, Kred, MlBast, Traakr, Tweetlevel and TunkRank and more. Understanding the trends of influence measurement and influence marketing is important for marketing and public relations professionals today. You need to be able to identify and build relationships with influencers for your business or clients. You have to know which tools are most useful for discovering and measuring influence. You must understand the difference between Personal Influence and Contextual Influence - and why it matters.
Need more information?
Tonia Reiss, of the Realtime Report, an online resource for people managing social, mobile and realtime business, has published The Realtime Report's Guide to Influence Measurement Tools. This 59 page report is packed with valuable information that will help you get up to speed quickly and provide a framework to understand the larger picture of influence measurement and the tools that are being developed to address growing demand. The Realtime Report's Guide to Influence Measurement Tools is available for free download right now (I bought mine!) so get your copy quickly. You'll find it an invaluable resource.
Looking for a giggle in the influence measurement department? Visit Klouchebag.com and run your Twitter ID to determine your level of "asshattery". According to site developer, Tom Scott, the site uses a proprietary algorithm to measure how much of an asshat you are on Twitter using the ARSE rating system. Anger: profanity and rage. Retweets: "please RT"s, no or constant retweeting, and old-style. Social Apps: every useless checkin on foursquare or its horrible brethren. And English Usage: if you use EXCLAMATION MARKS OMG!!! or no capitals at all, this'll be quite high.
And your Klout score? Well, it doesn't hurt to know what yours is, but I wouldn't spend too much time worrying about it. You've got bigger fish to fry. For now.