I just removed myself from klout.com. For those of you who don’t know, Klout claims to be “The Standard for Influence” for individuals in social media. Klout claims to measure your social influence by applying a proprietary algorithm to your public activity on various social networks, such as twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and google+.
Unfortunately, both the idea and the execution are deeply flawed.
1. Klout doesn’t take into account offline influence
Klout only measures what it measures, but those parameters are telling only a very small part of the story. Warren Buffet, for example, is a hugely influential man. He doesn’t give a monkey’s backside who he follows or doesn’t follow on twitter, or how often he tweets. As a result, his Klout score is low, a huge distortion of the Buffet’s position in real life.
2. Klout begs to be manipulated
Tony Hsieh, Zappo’s CEO, tweeted it perfectly:
Too many marketers concentrate on building buzz. I can tell you that my mom has zero buzz, but when she says something, I listen.
One of the problems with Klout is that it rewards conformism. Tweet about what everybody else is tweeting, retweet trending topics, run with the pack and your score will most likely go up.
This point was recently very effectively illustrated by Neil Kodner, who created tens of twitter bots (based on Seinfeld, The Big Lebowski, and more recently Sarah Palin), some of which have attained Klout scores as high as 74.
When bots get higher influence scores than one of the richest men on the planet, you’ve got a problem.
3. Klout makes people lazy
People have been failing college exams because of low Klout scores. Others have been passed over for jobs.
Here’s what I think: If you’re an employer who uses a candidate’s Klout score as a metric to decide on a candidate’s employability, then you don’t deserve to be a hiring manager.
People, and the skills they bring to the table, are far more multi-faceted than what a Klout score can possibly reflect. Using a Klout score to make a hiring decision is like using research as a lamp post to lean against, rather than for illumination.
4. Influence needs to be relevant
Klout assigns one catch all number to an individual’s influence, but that’s not how things work. If you want to connect with Mennonites, a twitter account won’t do anything for you. Sponsoring barn dances just might, despite the fact that they come without a Klout score.
5. Klout is opt-out, rather than opt-in
Klout claims to only publish publicly available information, but there’s been recent concern about publishing information that was never meant to be public. Here’s an excerpt from an article in the New York Times:
In the days just before Halloween, Ms. McGary got the fright of her life when she checked her Klout profile. Hovering above her score were the faces and names of those over whom she had influence, as calculated by Klout. They included her 13-year-old son, Matthew.
The boy had never set up a Klout page for himself; he was only her Facebook “friend,” so she could monitor his interactions there. Klout had automatically created a page for him and assigned him a score. Then Ms. McGary’s 15-year-old daughter Mimi popped up on her Klout page — this time not with a Klout score of her own, just a nudge to Ms. McGary to invite Mimi to join.
“It freaked me out because these are my kids,” said Ms. McGary, 43, who lives in a suburb of Washington and handles social media for an association of health care professionals. “It’s wrong. They shouldn’t be marketing to children.”
Klout has since deactivated that functionality, but still automatically creates profiles for anybody with a twitter account, whether it has your permission or not. To check your own score just type in klout.com/yourtwitterusername.
Klout has, finally and grudgingly, given in to public pressure and now allows people to opt out of their service.
6. How to opt out of Klout
This might sound counter-intuitive, but to opt out of Klout, and to remove your details, you will first need to open a Klout account. Sign in with your twitter credentials, then navigate to the bottom of the privacy page where you’ll find an opt-out link. Follow the instructions and your information should be removed within a couple of hours.