Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What’s in a Number: Reviewing klout.com


My uncle, a senior executive in a PSU, was at my home for Christmas and he introduced me to an important management adage: “What cannot be measured cannot be managed”.

klout.com is a social media analytics company which measures influence of users in the social networking world. To put it simply, it checks out your profiles on twitter, facebook, google+ etc to come up with a popularity score to measure your social charisma on the web.


If you have not used this yet, then the first thing that you should do is go to www.klout.com. There you would need to link all your social networking accounts and see the website churn out a number. To your surprise, the website can spew out a number with an accuracy of up to two decimal places.

Klout gives you some more scores namely True Reach, Amplification and Network Impact. They sift through your social networking activity and observe the number of retweet, mentions, followers and following on twitter. As of now it is unclear what they observe in facebook. They have a bunch of ‘scientists’ and engineers who refine the algorithm which produces the number.


Fig: A snapshot of my klout profile


Klout has this interesting feature called klout perk. If you are popular enough and klout identifies you as an expert in a particular field, you might be given perks by companies who would want you to use their products. For example, if you are an influencer with tablets, Amazon might gift you a Kindle Fire so that you might use it and possibly talk about it on the web (positively or negatively). This is a truly innovative feature(who minds free goodies :) ).

Inspite of all this, Klout has been under a lot of criticism. What I find most annoying about these scores is the lack of non-vague definition for all these terms. For Example, the definition of Amplification says “Amplification is how much you influence people. It indicates how likely your audience is to respond and how close you are to your entire network.” My Amplification score is apparently 37. I have no idea how good it is. I don’t even know the maximum score possible.  The moment I saw klout report card, I got reminded of indiblogger. Indiblogger is a network of bloggers in India. They come up with Indirank every month for all the bloggers in the network. Their blog metric seems much more reliable as they have measurable parameters (like alexa rank, google page rank, frequency of posting etc) which they use to bring out the score. I might not agree with the idea of scoring blogs on these parameters; however I think they do a good enough job in finding out the ‘reach’ of each blog.

Another thing which I find irritating in klout is the +k feature. It reminds me of Zynga’s Mafia War on Facebook. Every day, each user would be given 10 +k points which they can go and distribute among friends. This is a very non creative way of having user engagement and might be detrimental in the long run because if you can increase klout score by spending your time on klout.com(rather than on social networking sites), it is not a good scoring mechanism then.

Also, klout has only added facebook, twitter, google  plus and foursquare in their algorithm. Photosharing websites like flickr and Blogging platforms like  blogspot, wordpress etc have not yet been analysed. These websites are definitely an indicator of a person’s influence on the web.

Then why has klout received so many eyeballs? For one, everyone likes numbers. Numbers have an enigmatic pull. How many times have you felt tempted to click on links which say “10 worst songs of 2011” and the likes? Klout has used this attraction to the maximum and has got a good user base in a little time.

Also, klout caters to a genuine business need. There are a lot of companies which are mulling the ROI of their efforts in social media marketing. Klout promises to give them a number which they can use in board rooms to justify to their bosses that the money spent in social media is showing the desired result. It also promises to be an effective tool in recruitment process for the social media industry. In this world of supply and demand, let us see how klout survives.

P.S. - Now that I blogged about klout, will I get some brownie points?

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