I am a geek at heart, a lover of data, analytics, measurement, and ability to provide and measure real return on investment. When Klout launched I was one of their first fans. It was exciting to see something that could possibly help us finally begin to start measuring and justifying the hours we spent on the social networks.
Many had high hopes for Klout. We believed their agenda was pure and that their top goal was to build a credible and robust influence measurement system. We have several large clients in the travel and leisure niche that we were considering Klout as a potential source for connecting with influencers.
If you have been any part of the active social ecosystem the past few weeks it's hard to miss the noise about the Klout algorithm changes and the backlash that followed.
After much research, conversation and analysis I have decided to delete my Klout profile. Many people have asked me why via Twitter. It's too much to answer via 140 characters so it was time for a blog post.
Important Note: The purpose of this post is to provide the reasons I deleted my Klout profile. It is NOT to bash Klout, pick fights or cause overall negativity. I am confident in my decision and simply want to educate those who are asking me why. You don't have to agree with me, you don't have to like my decision. I encourage you to share your opinions as well.
I owe it to my followers, colleagues and clients. I have clients who have asked us to be accountable to meeting goals on increasing Klout scores. Given this, I have no choice but to share with them (and you) my honest opinion on how much I think their Klout scores matter in regard to their success at becoming and evolving as a social business.
I wish the employees of Klout the best. I hope they are able to help Klout mitigate the risks it has created for itself. There is still a large gap in the social ecosystem for social influence measurement.
Of course Klout could still do an about face and leverage their success to date to win back the hearts and tweet streams of those they've lost and/or will lose over the coming months. However, my belief is they have a long way to go. Would I ever go back to Klout should they work out their issues? They will have to earn my trust again, but yes, it could happen.
For more insight into my overall thoughts on social influence measurement including how I believe it's causing some to behave like puppets I suggest you check out this post prior to reading and/or commenting on this article. It will give you more insight into my thoughts and opinions overall. This post is intended to only share specifically why I am deleting my Klout profile. "Stop the Social Puppetry for Klout & Other Influence Metrics"
1. Privacy Issues
Klout believes that "everyone has Klout." Even if you don't create a Klout profile they might just create one for you. They have implemented an "opt-in to opt-out" model. In order to opt-out of Klout you must first opt-in which means you have to connect a profile or else send them a note to delete. Neither option for deletion is obvious or easy to find on their website for a novice user who doesn't eat, sleep and breath tweets and K+'s all day like we do.
They created Klout profiles for minors who never signed up for Klout. Yes, minors as in kids under the age of 18. There are numerous reports of children being exploited on Klout with profiles that were created from data scrapes via the Facebook API. This happened for Facebook profiles that were set to private or public. There are profiles of minors who were being listed as "influential" on the Klout website because they had liked or commented on a post of someone who actually had a Klout profile. My understanding is even minors with private accounts were being pulled into Klout because they commented on a public post. Does Facebook need to take responsibility here as well? Absolutely. However, for this specific conversation and post we are talking specifically about Klout.
I am connected to many minors in our local community. I refuse to be the medium that exploits minors who have connected to me on Facebook in trust because I have a Klout profile.
Imagine the teen girls you know who snap a photo of the Saturday night slumber party. One of them uploads the photo to Facebook and assigns it as her profile photo. Then come Monday morning the same girl has a profile plastered on Klout with the photo of her and her two best friends in their jammies because Klout decided she is a top influencer of someone with a Klout profile!
Danny Brown summarizes some of the concerns on the Facebook scraping and Klout profiles of minors in this post: "Is Klout Using our Family to Violate our Privacy?"
2. They tricked me into connecting networks that aren't included in scoring algorithm
I learned today that although Klout states they integrate with 13 networks, the truth is only 4 actually impact your score (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and FourSquare). Reading their latest post and comment stream on "Understanding the Klout Score Part 1" I was shocked to discover that even though they announced these networks in two blog posts they forgot to mention that the scores are not included. "Measuring Klout on 10 Networks" "Google+ Now Has Klout" I am yet to find anywhere on their blog or website where it states such.
The question was asked by someone on their blog this evening. Klout replied with "you're right, we haven't done a good job of making it very clear which networks are simply connected and which are part of the score." However, earlier today in this post on NY Times "Are You a V.I.P.? Check Your Klout Score" Klout's CEO, Joe Fernandez is quoted stating "We analyze data from 13 different online networks and take into account reactions to a person's content."
So which is it Klout? Are all 13 online networks analyzed and taken into account of new algorithm? Or is it as stated via your blog comments that it's only Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIN and Foursquare?
3. They ignored the people who helped build them & wanted them to succeed
They launched a new algorithm late last month. They claimed transparency as a key feature of the new launch and algorithm. If you call transparency a single chart on their blog then you can believe the hype. Immediately after the launch they seem to have disappeared into a dark K+ tunnel. They finally came out of hiding this week with a blog post trying to offer some answers.
This I think is their biggest mistake second only to the privacy issues. If there are issues with the algorithm then come forward. You hide and don't respond, you lose trust. You lose my trust, you lose me.
Myself and many others sent numerous messages via the Klout contact forms, emails and tweets trying to get answers to some key questions. I wanted to help them. I wanted them to take responsibility for errors. Their answers were weak at best. They avoided 75% of my questions. Their responses were a shame to what started out as a great company with great opportunity to provide value to an audience and ecosystem who needed them and wanted them to succeed.
I requested to have my profile deleted five days ago. I sent an email, replied to @MeganBerry on blog comments, sent tweets, submitted the delete profile form on the Klout website. As of this afternoon my Klout profile was still active.
4. Conflicting agendas
There is nothing wrong with building a business to make money. I hope to retire with a nice fat payday at some point in the future from the sale of my own company. It is not bad Klout wants to make money. It is not bad Klout wants to IPO.
My concern is what appears to be conflicting agendas. On one hand they are repeatedly quoted stating "we empower the individual". They claim to be the standard in influence measurement. However, on the other hand they are are using that same measurement and collection of our data to make money from day one, while they are still in beta. It's obvious they have issues with the algorithm. It's obvious their system is still in beta. However, that doesn't stop them from promoting it as a standard for influence measurement. It doesn't stop them from charging brands upwards of $25k just to be part of a perks program. I think their percieved credibility would be exponentially higher would they have first focused on getting the measurement correct.
Regardless if we like or believe it or not we are the product of Klout, not the client. Their clients are the ones who are writing the checks. They write the checks for the products which are you and me. Because you have your social networks connected to Klout, because you give K+'s like a puppet, you retweet and talk to influencers so you can raise your Klout score. No, you may not personally do it this way, but many are.
5. A Klout score is not the same as a Google Page Rank or a credit score.
I have seen people compare the Klout measurement to credit scores. This is an apples to oranges comparison. Credit scores are governed and consumers are protected by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The credit companies don't publish a score publicly without your permission. The credit companies don't create a score for you before they have accurate information such as your social security number, address etc. The credit companies publish content explaining your rights, privacy policies that don't change overnight because of a Twitter backlash. Yes, there is still some unknown black smoke with credit scoring algorithms but it is not the same as Klout.
As for the Google page rank, I have seen @MeganBerry from Klout respond on numerous posts stating Klout is similar to the Google page rank for websites. I disagree. We choose to have our websites public. We choose what images appear, what content is live. With Klout we don't choose to have a score. Unless you opt-in to opt out you may just have a score and don't know it!
6. Unexplained inaccuracies and wackiness in algorithm
There are too many issues to list them all on this post. Below are a few of the many wacky data results that I witnessed with my own personal account and Klout was unable to explain.
a. I was retweeted by @Alyssa_Milano with 1.8 million followers. Within a couple hours of her sending the retweet I had over 950 retweets. You'd think this would possibly increase my score? Wrong, from this day forward my score continuously dropped. When I asked Klout the reason they said I must not be getting engagement from as many influential followers as I did before.
b. Removal of 7 networks did not change my Klout score. As soon as I heard of the privacy issues after the algorithm change I removed 7 of the social networks I had connected. Surprisingly this had zero impact to my score. Klout also admitted in their latest post that up to now they focused on your top network as the primary network influencing your score. Also as per number 2 above I now know that only 4 of the social networks actually impact our scores versus the 13 I was falsely led to believe.
c. They had not pulled my Facebook data in almost 60 days. According to Facebook they had not requested my data via the API since late August. Yet, when I had contacted them after the Alyssa Milano retweet noted above, they were confident that the score was accurate. How can a score be accurate when data is not pulled from a key network such as Facebook for 60 days? When they replied to my email on this question they didn't answer the question. They instead answered stating I had the Facebook profile removed from Klout. Yes, by the time they replied I did because of the privacy issues. However, they never addressed the question as to why the data hadn't been accessed in almost 60 days. I immediately sent a reply email asking for clarification and never received a response.
d. Immediately after the algorithm change the people I influenced changed to "un-influencers." Almost all of them had Klout scores of 12 or less. I am mentioned and retweeted 100-200+ times per day by new and good friends I engage with regularly. I don't believe that these spam accounts are the top folks who I influence.
e. There were 3 people listed as influencers who appeared to be spam accounts with almost identical stats. Not only did they have the exact same number of followers, following but the most shocking was that they had only sent two tweets ever. What's even worse is all three accounts had send the same two tweets. One of them just so happened to be a retweet of one of my tweets. It took numerous emails and questions to Klout to get an answer on this. When they finally did respond they stated I must have been affected by a temporary "glitch." For approximately one day the people I influenced changed to real people with real Klout scores. However, within a day it was back to a list of spammers with scores in the teens.
f. My score continued to drop this week even after I removed all 8 social networks. I removed 7 of the social networks as soon as I found out about the privacy issues. This left Twitter as the only connected network. However, even after I removed Twitter from Klout as well as revoked access to Klout via my Twitter profile my score continued to drop. How can this be? Either they are publishing a declining score based upon no new data or they are pulling my data from somewhere without my approval. This has privacy issues written all over it.
7. It causes confusion for my clients.
Although if it wasn't for the privacy issues, part of me would like to keep my Klout score active so I can stay up to date on how it changes, integration with other networks, etc. However, should I choose to do this it would cause confusion and questions for my clients. If my recommendation to them is that Klout is not a valid measurement for infleunce and that they should not waste time on it, it does not line up well with me keeping the Klout score active. They will obviously question why I tell them to do one thing yet I do the opposite.
In all honesty I have clients who have much better things to do than to spend a moment worrying about their Klout score. They are hiring our agency to help them become a social business. They expect results and they expect us to direct them on how to best spend their time to get there. At this time I can't ethically tell them that they should give a second look to their Klout score as a credible source of influence measurement.
8. Because I want to.
Bottom line I don't have to have a reason to delete my Klout score. I don't trust their motives, their actions and now based on most recent learnings today am having a hard time trusting their word.
I have better things to do than worry about my Klout score. My clients and I are building real businesses that generate real revenue. None of us are or will ever be defined by a score from any vendor.
What are your thoughts?