Tom Webster, writing and speaking

On Klout-Bashing

Added on by Tom Webster.

Anytime I speak about Klout, what gets retweeted is my criticism of the "scores," and never anything else - like, for instance, that they are seriously honing in on "topic" and context. When I look at my Klout page, my topics of influence are Market Research, Social Media Measurement and B2B - I'll take that. The "score" in and of itself is a bit silly as presented, though. My Klout is equal to Snooki's. There isn't a party, gathering or room in the world in which I would be equally influential to Snooki. There's a good thought exercise for you. As long as that number is presented without context, I can't hold Klout blameless here. No, my big issue with Klout isn't with Klout at all - but how lazy marketers use it. Jay Baer notes that some kind of tier or triage system is beneficial to companies - and I couldn't agree more. I'm Unobtanium level with Hilton Hotels. They can tier me based upon something that absolutely has meaning - purchase behavior. The day they treat me differently because of how I tweet, however, will be a dark day in Hilton history.

Here, though, is the biggest reason why I rail against lazy marketers, and not Klout - when you treat me differentially because of my "influence" score, you are assuming facts not in evidence. I am not aware of any credible studies that demonstrate ANY tie between Klout score and the observation of some desired behavior BEYOND a mere retweet. There is no evidence that a message from an influencer has any impact on trial, usage, churn or customer satisfaction. Could such evidence be produced? Certainly - though it would be idiosyncratic to brand or possibly vertical. But no one *does the work*. So the Klout score is a poor proxy for...something. I doubt it's influence.

I guess I'm not smart enough to get my head around quantifying the business impact of marketing by Klout score. What I can get my head around is this: Klout can give you a list of people who at least "talk about" the category your brand might be interested in, and you can use follower counts to work into a poor man's contextual reach and frequency. That has value. What has yet to be proven is the *business* impact of a "high scorer" talking about your product as compared to a "low scorer." After all, people bash AT&T constantly on the Twitterz, but we keep renewing our contracts. There are just so many facts not in evidence - and so many offline variables - that, again, I'm just not smart enough to figure out what to *do* with the Klout score.

Klout is on to something.They are iterating to something useful, and there is no shortage of smart people working on the problem. It just isn't influence. To influence me, you must change my state. There is no evidence that a high Klout score correlates to this. Not yet. Color me skeptical, though not cynical.

Note: I left this as a comment on Jay Baer's outstanding post, Why Critics of Klout Are Missing the Big Picture. It was kinda long - you know, like a blog post. So, reduce, reuse and recycle, citizens of earth!