How credible is Klout? Is it really true that people are being refused jobs in Silicon Valley because they have Klout scores below 50? It’s also been rumoured that airlines have been offering free upgrades to people with high Klout scores and likewise, that some restaurants have given priority to customers if they have a high Klout score.
If you find it hard to believe then you should take a look at this article by Seth Stevenson on wired.com. Stevenson recounts stories of interviews being cut short when lower Klout scores for interviewees were pulled up by interviewers and how these job applicants had greater success when subsequently boosting their Klout scores. He also raises these stories about the unseen power of Klout:
At the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas last summer, clerks surreptitiously looked up guests’ Klout scores as they checked in. Some high scorers received instant room upgrades, sometimes without even being told why. According to Greg Cannon, the Palms’ former director of ecommerce, the initiative stirred up tremendous online buzz. He says that before its Klout experiment, the Palms had only the 17th-largest social-networking following among Las Vegas-based hotel-casinos. Afterward, it jumped up to third on Facebook and has one of the highest Klout scores among its peers.
Klout is starting to infiltrate more and more of our everyday transactions. In February, the enterprise-software giant Salesforce.com introduced a service that lets companies monitor the Klout scores of customers who tweet compliments and complaints; those with the highest scores will presumably get swifter, friendlier attention from customer service reps. In March, luxury shopping site Gilt Groupe began offering discounts proportional to a customer’s Klout score. Read the full story here
If it is going to carry this sort of influence, it’s got to be time to assess how credible is Klout. An interesting article on this subject recently appeared in The New Yorker courtesy of Nicholas Thompson. He argues Klout is evil but can be saved. Here are a sample of his views:
Klout grades users on a scale of one to a hundred based on some proprietary algorithm that counts how often your comments are retweeted, liked, or shared. If you want your score to go up, tweet more and get influential people to retweet you. Don’t ever go on vacation. If you’re on a social network, Klout gets your score, whether you’ve ever logged into the service or not. Think of a mercenary socialite, holding a calculator and trying to figure out who to invite to a party based on import. Then put whatever number she arrives at on every guest’s lapel. That’s Klout. Rick Ross has a score of eighty-five; Rick Santorum has a score of eighty-two; Rick Perry has a score of sixty-six. Rick Astley has a score of forty-seven.
The idea is very clever, and very timely. There are all kinds of ad-hoc ways to figure out how influential people are on social networks. You can count their Twitter followers. You can figure out the ratio of followers to the number of people they follow. Or you can divide their followers by their number of Tweets. Klout takes those indicators, adds a few more, and then just gives you a number. Klout doesn’t equal real-world clout, but, as the ratio of Ricks demonstrates, the numbers are pretty good.
But clever ideas are not necessarily good ones, and Klout is designed in a way that makes it likely to fuel both unhealthy obsession and unhappy competition. When you log into Klout, it makes it easy to see, in order of score, exactly how all your friends rank. The number is more personal than those used by other social networks, and Klout displays it prominently.
The structure of social networks subtly changes the way we act. And Klout seems to encourage nothing good. To make your score go up, you have to tweet out of obligation, and you have to try to influence the other influencers. Read more
There’s certainly a place for a reliable gauge of a person’s influence in their areas of expertise, but is Klout the appropriate tool? How reliable are it’s mysterious algorithms? It certainly baffles me that I appear as an influencer in certain countries far away from me which I’ve neither visited nor expressed an opinion about. Do real influencers tear their hair out trying to play the Klout system? I suspect that most don’t give a damn but the danger is that by default a distorted gauge of how genuine an individual’s influence is being produced where groups of users with nothing better to do can pump out floods of tweets on automation to share between each other to boost their ratings on Klout. That surely cannot be the way to gauge genuine influence.
In his well argued article Nicholas Thompson believes Klout can still fulfil the role it seeks, provided it changes in some key areas including allowing privacy options. Is that your view or is there a need for a more credible alternative to Klout to emerge? Any comments would be warmly welcomed.