Klout is Dumb (and you’re probably not surprised)

I doubt anyone who reads this takes Klout very seriously, but I find the mixed reaction I see on the internet interesting. Heck, I find Klout its self very interesting, just for many wrong reasons! The most basic criticism people level on klout is it’s just wacky. You will have more klout than someone you know is more influential by a lot and have less than some people who seem like random dudes who just make a lot of noise. Retweets generate more klout than anything, so making lots of funny tweets or really agreeable statements generates more klout without people even having to know or care about who you are (meaning you have very little actual clout or even influence). Then you have stuff like “topics”, where my top 4 topics are, in order “Cancer”, Community, “Clothing” and “Games”, with games being a distant fourth…. what?

But that’s all algorithm stuff. That can be fixed. It can be refined. It can be improved.

No, the problem is that Klout is designed as a game. It has achievements. It encourages you to do behaviors that benefit your klout score. It’s not designed to be a tool, or a measurement device. It’s designed to attract so many users that people can’t help but to use it as a measure of something, even if it’s just “how well does this person play klout”. If something is using gamification, it’s probably not an accurate statistics gathering tool. It’s not going out there and saying “look at our amazing analytic tools. These are so good that you GOTTA put value on the number it generates”. It’s going “Look how many users we’ve roped in through word of mouth, branding and skinner-box techniques. How can’t you take our number seriously? We got a USERBASE”. The mentality is all wrong. I mean heck, Klout encourages you constantly to try and increase your klout score, but real world influence is not something that can be increased so easily… unlike your klout score. It punishes you harshly for inactivity too, even periods of inactivity have relatively little effect on one’s popularity and influence. Why do they put so much importance on activity? Because they want you to have klout in your head. They want you to be active. This is the same type of technique Zynga and other social games use.

I won’t do the foolish thing either and claim that Klout doesn’t matter. It’s not representative, inaccurate and designed for reasons that are different from actually measuring your social influence…. but it matters! Some people care a LOT about your klout score(this is real btw). There are business people talking about how important it is all the time, even though most tech nerds who pay attention to it probably do so with the same sort of weird fascination I do. But those people who think it’s important? They were tricked. Those CEOs are no different then your grandma who got roped into Farmville. Zynga makes shitty games… but Zynga matters. What, you thought CEO’s were ultra intelligent super-people? Nope. They’ll fall for the same tricks too. That’s why these tricks are a billion dollar industry.

Gamification, dawgs. Gamification.

2 thoughts on “Klout is Dumb (and you’re probably not surprised)

  1. I can’t agree with you more on this. When setting up the technological net for my family’s business –insurance — I got bombarded with “we need a: facebook, linkdin, twitter, klout, etc etc”. Using google analytics to figure out where our traffic was coming from, I found that most of it was from google places and various yellow pages hits. No one really wants to friend their local agent, broker, person they pay a check to once a month. No one cares about their social feeds. We should let corporate enjoy the technology now to reach a large group of people, but it doesn’t trickle down well.

    So no, I agree, this self-serving gamerules importance is going overboard. Gotta collect the points. Gotta click all the things. I hope it doesn’t cost you any business in the long run; I know it hasn’t really affected mine.

  2. Wow, this is the type of comment I’m not used to getting.

    I think one of the problems in a lot of businesses is an obsession with metrics. Metrics are clearly important, but people will not only take bad metrics over no metrics, they will often take clearly wrong metrics over no metrics.

    Nelson Ratings for the longest time had this issue. The difference between a good show and a failure was less than the margin of error. But in a weird way it didn’t matter. If advertisers were prioritizing shows with high nelson ratings, it didn’t matter. They wouldn’t make more money if the ratings were more accurate and if they would it’d probably be in ways too subtle to detect.

    So when you have your marketing guys say “You need klout”, they’re doing it because klout is a metric they can show you that is tangible. Traditional advertising has very nebulous results, but a marketer can show you an increase in twitter followers or a higher klout score and a lot of business owners will fall for it. Does the advertiser care that Klout and Twitter popularity have a low ROR for businesses? Not really. He only cares if the client cares.

    So what CAN businesses like you do? I guess not much. But if you think about it, the internet has added a lot of avenues for information and communication. Having a website to answer questions is way cheaper than having a call center. So the benefits are there, they just seem dated by modern standards.

    Anyways thanks for the awesome comment!

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