$50,000 Won’t Buy You Klout
Yesterday, our biggest #UsGuys conversation was wether we should buy a social media metric service, which advertised itself as “for sale” with a $50,000 asking price. Quid pro quo aside (we thought it was the uber-metric dashboard Twitalyzer, when in fact it was the somehow lesser known TwitterAnalyzer), this got me thinking about how crowded this space has come to be, in a matter of months.
Klout flaunts itself as the Standard for Influence. But it faces scores of direct competitors all fighting for a slice of that pie with their own metrics and underlying algorithms. It’s not good because everybody – bloggers, brands- would truly benefit from a single universally accepted measure of online influence.
Of course, this raises bigger questions around the nature of inluence, reputation and trust. Starting with the difference between influence put to use (what Klout measures through proxys such as clicks and RTs) and latent influence (what a truly respected individual has even if she choses not to engage today). Or the “lamp-post bias” of a metric that only looks at Twitter and Facebook just because it’s easier to measure. Or how easy it is to game the system to get to a higher score.
Yes, this whole business is flawed. Easy target for critics. Yes.
But I still think it has value. Big value.
Back to my title – of course, it’s worth more than $50K, which is why little envy sparks fired up in our eyes (or tweets) yesterday night.And the one social influence metric I would pay the most for is still… Klout. Way more than the metrics-crazy Twitalyzer. Or Edelman’s cleverer stream-lined TweetLevel.Or even that colorful Dutch alternative epenis (Not joking. Look it up. I don’t really know how good 73 is on Klout, but boy, that 16 inch Twitter penis is big, no doubt. Although I would not tweet too much about it).
Klout’s algorithm is a mystery to me. I don’t understand half the labels. It’s not stable: my label jumps every day from ‘thought leader’ to ‘explorer’ to ‘socializer’ with no visible logic. It’s buggy: my true reach still reads as 10 even though I have past 1,000 followers and engage daily at least 50 people, if not more.
It’s flawed beyond belief.
But contrary to its competitors, Klout is not a tool or a dashboard, it’s an iconic brand. Klout’s marketers have turned numbers into glamour, by spreading word about Las Vegas and Virgin perks. They have turned the score into bragging rights, by rating everybody higher than they think they deserve and making every small achievement worth sharing. And they did not fall (yet) into the trap of complex dashboards where your eyes don’t know where to go to start – there is a clear fact-hierarchy in Klout.
They have romanced their metric.
As a result, they are creating an army of fans spreading the word. It works. With a less debatable metrics engine behind it, it would be unstoppable (hint, hint, Klout and Twitalyzer: don’t fight, merge).
As to whether businesses should use it as a tool to target “influencers”, I think the answer is yes. Anyone active enough to care to register a Klout account, do what it takes to raise the score, and spread it… is worthy of being targeted more than the average joe. As long as it’s not the only tool – remember, Klout is not Influence, it’s a proxy.
So, social media metrics – are you a lover or hater? what’s your favorite?