Is Klout a Verifiable Social Media Indicator Or Just a Meaningless Number?

Is Klout a Verifiable Social Media Indicator Or Just a Meaningless Number?

There’s a new number in town and it’s starting to take effect at hotels, bars, restaurants, and travel companies near you.  It can make or break a job interview and can mean the difference between sitting in economy class or business class when flying. It also leads to shopping discounts and other perks. Yes, it’s Klout and everyone is talking about it.

For those of you who are among the uninitiated, Klout is a service which looks at your social media activity (based on the accounts you connect to it) and then assesses your social media influence.  It looks at the interactions you have, how many people respond to what you say, the likes on your Facebook status updates, the retweets of your Twitter updates….and then it assigns you a number. The higher the number, the more influential you are. The higher the number, the more likely you’re going to get upgrades in hotels and airlines – because the higher the number, the more likely it is that you will tell your social media followers all about your positive experiences.

This is all well and good in theory, but it has led to a fierce debate – can social media influence be genuinely measured on a scale?  Or is Klout just a meaningless artificial number, something more to boast about on blogs and business cards, but at the end of the day is a complete waste of time?  The jury is still out on that question, but nevertheless there is no doubt that companies such as hotels are consistently and discreetly checking new guests on Klout to find their scores, and if that person ranks high, they get better service, such as room upgrades. So Klout is being taken seriously by the very people that Klout is trying to target, so this bodes well for the company’s future, and the reputation of the Klout score. Klout has now even been integrated into Apple iPhone’s “Passbook”, enabling you to show people your Klout score at an instant.

If you haven’t already signed up for Klout yet, you should.  It’s free, and as I have already outlined, it can have some significant impact if you travel a lot, stay in hotels a lot, eat out a lot….but after having used it for a while, I will say this – the score changes constantly.  Every few days in fact, I get a message on my phone telling me that my score has dropped a point or two, because I haven’t done much on Facebook or Twitter.  So I start Facebooking and tweeting again, and the phone chirps again to tell me the score is back up.  Then a few days later….the score is back down again.  It’s like playing in a high rise elevator, going up and down…up and down….

The end result?  Doing social media becomes less fun because it starts to feel like a stressful chore, something you feel you have to do to get that score up.  Eventually I learned a valuable lesson about Klout which made me enjoy social media again – don’t care about the number. If it goes up, then great.  If it goes down, then so what?  Life won’t come to an end if your Klout score dips below 55.  But there’s some people I know who are genuinely devastated if their Klout score gets too low – as if the next door neighbors will shun them in disgrace if they found out.

One of the motivators for doing Klout is Perks.  These are special discounts that you can earn for having a certain Klout score.  What is available to you depends greatly on your geographical location (like a lot of online things, Klout is very US-centric).  So being here in Germany, my Perks options are extremely limited.  I got some lovely free business cards from Moo.com, but that is pretty much it.  But if you are in the US, expect to have a much wider wonderful choice, such as a 2 days all-expenses paid trip to Seattle, the loan of a Chevrolet Volt for 3 days, a Windows 7 phone and 3 months cell service…..the list goes on.  It’s times like these that I wish that I lived in the US.  Or that Klout would start negotiating more and better deals with European companies.

Another significant feature of Klout is the ability to award “+K”‘s to your followers.  Just like any other social media network, the people you interact with become your Klout followers, and you can award them a “+K” in areas that you feel they are an expert in.  And they can reciprocate in kind.  When you start accumulating +K’s, then they will obviously also start to affect your overall Klout score.  But in my experience, this can lead to some awkward moments.  In a blog post comments section once, I defended the rights of gay couples wanting to adopt a child, and suddenly I was being awarded +K’s in homosexuality!  When people looked at my Klout page and saw that I was a homosexuality expert, I would imagine a lot of raised eyebrows were to be had.

Obviously, like Google and any other company that relies on an algorithm as their business model, Klout is not giving anything away about their algorithm and how it works exactly.  That would be professional suicide. But it still leave open the question – how can social media influence be measured?  How many followers do you need to be considered truly “influential”?  How many retweets, and interactions on a Facebook status update, do you need to have to be considered a cut above the rest?  Or is the whole theory of social media ranking simply a bunch of baloney, an artificial number which will go up and down at will, and drive everyone crazy in the process?

This is something that you, if you are serious about social media at all, need to think about and decide, as it looks as if Klout will be with us for the long haul.  Let us know in the comments below what your thoughts are on it.

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