Klout’s Best Move: Making You Not Care About Your Score

KloutWere you upset by Klout’s recent algorithm change? Do you pay less attention to Klout than you did before the algorithm changes? If so, you may be doing exactly what Klout wants you to do.

If you care about grades in school, you study for your exam. The algorithm is clear (test results, possibly quizzes, attendance or participation) and you work to influence the result.

When you care about your position in Google search results, you begin to care about backlinks, keywords, titles, headings, copy, social signals, Danny Sullivan and Matt Cutts. You are attempting to influence the result of the algorithm in your favor.

When we care about the result of an algorithm, we begin to cater our activity to the algorithm.

When you change your behavior to influence the result of the algorithm, the result is no longer pure. Rather than returning the best search results to a user (the intent of Google’s algorithm), you have influenced the search results to favor you.

Klout measures influence (debate of the accuracy aside). But Klout’s results are public and even simpler to see than Google’s (no long list of keywords to consider or personalization of results, just one big number).

When you care about the result of Klout’s algorithm and begin trying to influence it, the results are no longer pure. Instead, the results reflect a mix of Klout’s intended measurement of influence and the effort made to influence Klout scores.

With a Klout Perks campaign rumored to cost $25,000 and up, Klout’s value is closely tied to their algorithm producing reasonably accurate results. The more your activity is catered to impact your Klout score, the more difficult it is for Klout to create and maintain an accurate algorithm.

The Takeaway

The less you care about Klout, the more valuable Klout becomes. [Tweet]

Your Turn

Many people have pointed to current flaws in Klout’s algorithm. Do you believe the desire to influence Klout scores is part of the problems with Klout today? Or is influence something that simply cannot be measured by an automated algorithm? Share your view in the comments below or with me on Twitter (@wittlake).

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  • http://twitter.com/kehutchinson Kate Hutchinson

    This is possibly the first positive thing I’ve read about Klout’s algorithm changes. But the argument doesn’t ring true–Klout’s aim wasn’t to make you care less about the score, it was to care more.

    The business model that Klout has built involves matching advertisers/brands/marketers with influential social media personalities. In making a dramatic change to the secret sauce without warning anyone, they undermined their own influence. Essentially, they had told advertisers paying big dollars to promote perk campaigns that the people they were targeting weren’t that influential after all.

    More importantly, from the beginning Klout had always offered tips on how to influence your score. Google doesn’t tell you, which makes it more of an authority–it becomes harder to game the system and they constantly revise the system to correct any issues that might allow people to cheat. But upfront, Klout has told people to tweet more, post more on Facebook, or do other specific actions to increase their scores. Klout wants you to care, because you caring gives it value.

    For an excellent rundown of Klout’s weaknesses and dropping value, see Pam Moore’s blog: http://www.pammarketingnut.com/2011/11/why-i-deleted-my-klout-profile/

    • http://B2BDigital.net Eric Wittlake

      Hi Kate,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I loved Pam’s post, it is one of the best I have seen on the problems with Klout, and I agree with a lot of what she says.

      To clarify, I don’t think making people dismiss the score was Klout’s intention, I do think it will benefit Klout long term. There was simply too much pride in scores, and therefore too much gaming of them.

      I actually see Klout’s advice as similar to Google’s. Both tell you how to improve against their algorithm, and both give advice that is pretty generic. Klout wants more people to learn how to share in a way that spreads to other people, that type of sharing is what makes Perks, for instance, work for marketers. It is akin to white hat SEO, and there are many tactics for improving Klout scores that are akin to blackhat SEO as well.

      You are certainly right though, they need to keep people on board and focused on Klout for some period of time. If they still need that focus, this change certainly hurt them. If they are past needing that focus, then it will be really interesting to see what follows.

      I really appreciate you taking the time to share a different view, thanks so much!

    • http://www.awebguy.com Mark Aaron Murnahan

      If I may offer a correction, Kate, I’d submit that Google absolutely does tell you how to rank better. In fact, they provide extensive tools for such. Well beyond Google Webmaster Tools, they also provide their extensive “Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide”.

      Some people may try to dismiss that as Google’s evil plan to not rank them highly in searches, but if you use a little logic, you can see why Google’s success makes it very important for them to help websites rank better in their searches. Yes, it is true, Google wants to rank your website.

      As for Klout, the methodology works similarly in that if they provide relevant and useful data, it benefits them. I will always be amazed and bemused by the misconceptions that companies that rank things algorithmically are always out to get them.

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Hi Kate,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I loved Pam’s post, it is one of the best I have seen on the problems with Klout, and I agree with a lot of what she says.

      To clarify, I don’t think making people dismiss the score was Klout’s intention, I do think it will benefit Klout long term. There was simply too much pride in scores, and therefore too much gaming of them.

      I actually see Klout’s advice as similar to Google’s. Both tell you how to improve against their algorithm, and both give advice that is pretty generic. Klout wants more people to learn how to share in a way that spreads to other people, that type of sharing is what makes Perks, for instance, work for marketers. It is akin to white hat SEO, and there are many tactics for improving Klout scores that are akin to blackhat SEO as well.

      You are certainly right though, they need to keep people on board and focused on Klout for some period of time. If they still need that focus, this change certainly hurt them. If they are past needing that focus, then it will be really interesting to see what follows.

      I really appreciate you taking the time to share a different view, thanks so much!

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  • http://www.businessesgrow.com/blog Mark W. Schaefer

    I would add two points to the debate.

    First, Klout does not really care if you like their score or not. We are not the customer. I think people really lose sight of this. Why should they cater to us? They would probably be more successful if they just went underground and showed no one their scores … which is the strategy of Facebook and every other social platform collecting our data, by the way!

    Second, in my upcoming book on this subject, I interviewed a digital marketer who took a very scientific approach to gaming his Klout score. He raised it by 30 points in 45 days.

    But here is the real irony. To do this, he had to build and court a tribe who was interested in him and his content. He had to create great content that would move virally through a system and get attention. To do this, he had to start a blog and find a way to differentiate himself. Finally, he worked to build meaningful relationships with the high influencers.

    In other words, he was doing EXACTLY what we would tell our own clients to do to be successful on the social web. In the act of gaming his influence, he actually DID become more influential. Pretty interesting!

    Thanks for the great post Eric.

    • Eric Wittlake

      Hi Mark, thanks for the comment! I certainly agree, we are not the customer (but we may be the marketer, Klout has done a tremendous job of that, and it is one of the key reasons they could not just go underground. The other is they need access to more complete profiles).

      I love the “case” you referenced, and its spot on. As I responded to Kate, Klout’s advice is like white hat social media advice, and it sounds like that is exactly what this marketer did. That said, I believe there has been some black hat Klout gaming as well, that did not meaningfully boost real influence or social media influence. I think the comparison to Google really holds here.

      Thanks for adding to the discussion here!

  • http://www.DanPerezFilms.com Dan Perez

    Wow. It’s funny how suddenly nobody cares about their Klout score but every day I see yet another post on Klout (written by somebody who doesn’t care about their Klout score!). This is quite a phenomenon.
    As to your post, I beg to differ. People who really care about their Klout score (why? I don’t know), find ways to raise it (it ain’t all that hard).
    The better question would be: Is one’s Klout score really valuable? Don’t believe the hype…

    • http://B2BDigital.net Eric Wittlake

      LOL! Yes, it certainly is the topic du jour. I was going to stay clear of it, but there really was too much information out there on the hating it side in blogs that I regularly read, and very little that considered the side of Klout’s business (Mark Schaefer had a great post on that).

      I don’t care (most of the time) about my Klout score. For what I do, no one is going to judge me based on it. That said, I do care about the topic of influencer marketing, and the problems Klout is taking on add an interesting twist to influencer marketing. If Klout is successful, it has the potential to enable marketing via the masses of mid-level influencers. By leveraging hundreds or thousands of smaller voices versus the top 5 influencers in a category, it could give marketers a new and interesting option for influencer marketing.

      So, is the score valuable to most people? Probably not. For social media marketers, particularly those trying to get a break, it may be an unfortunate credibility hurdle. But for marketers, it could open up new and interesting possibilities in the future.

      Thanks for the comment, always appreciate getting both sides of the discussion here!

  • http://www.pointsouthkoa.com W C Olendorf

    Klout may be a good measure for B2B, but for us in retail it doesn’t do a Twit. I will try to game the Google algorithm to keep a high spot in the search engine. Until Klout starts going public along with Google/Bing/Yahoo we don’t care about our #. (FYI. I lost 14 points in the Klout change)

  • Carmen Hill (@carmenhill)

    I tend to follow Klout (and my score) in much the same way I do my 401(k) plan. When it’s going up I check it often and it makes me feel good. When it’s going down, I ignore it ;)

    • http://B2BDigital.net Eric Wittlake

      Interesting analogy, thanks for sharing. That probably captures the sentiment of a number of people that were disappointed by Klout’s new scores. ;-)

  • Jure

    Eric Hi!

    If i may add my opinion about Klout. Please note I respect your view and your option on Klout. My personal issue with Klout is their claim of being Standard. What i am missing in general is, that no one ever define what online influence is. We need to have definition before we measure online influence and claim Standard to it. Klout is saying we believe online influence is ability to drive action. But believe is not a definition.

    Klout has put to much weight and power in their claim. They dont supply any supporting documentation or study that what they do is really measuring influence. Any standard out there is publicly documented. Klout is not publishing any studies or documentation, they are saying they cant coz of the competition. And this is silly. There is many more as to who is auditing them in their accuracy and so on.

    They are marketing company and their business model and measurements fits one purpose only that has nothing to do with influence. Generating the revenue from Perks.

    Jure

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Jure, great comment, thanks so much for adding to the discussion here.

      I have glossed over their “standard” claim, seeing it as a hollow marketing claim. They are not the standard for influence. In fact, what they are measuring isn’t what most of us would call influence.

      Where I think it gets really interesting is when we set the term influence aside, and look at the marketing prospect. What Klout is trying to measure is the ability of an individual to get distribution of a message in a category. As a marketer, that holds very interesting potential, and it is unfortunate that they decided to call it ‘influence’.

      When you open with “I respect your view and your opinion” I expect to disagree with what you say, but I don’t at all, you are spot on!

      Thanks for taking the time to share your view!

  • http://www.janetcallaway.com Janet Callaway

    Eric, aloha. Appreciate your viewpoint and the ensuing conversation here in the comments.

    Added it to my scoop.it on Klout. Thanks so much.

    Best wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving. Aloha. Janet

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Aloha to you from wet and cold Portland, Oregon. My does Hawaii sound nice right now! :-)

      Thanks for the Scoop and kind words. Have a great Thanksgiving!

  • http://krusecontrolinc.com Kathi Kruse

    Hey Eric,
    Great post. I think whenever there is a “measurement” of results it’s human nature to want to improve it. As you point out, the next step from that is figuring out how to improve it. I agree that we should just let it be…but it’s kind of like a nice tempting Ferrari in the window: you just can’t help yourself, you want to drive it. Happy Thanksgiving my friend, kathi

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Happy Thanksgiving to you! Yes, wonderful application of gamification on the part of Klout, as Dan Perez said, sometimes we need the reminder that (at least for most of us) it really just doesn’t matter.

      Thanks for commenting and sharing!!

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