The New Klout

First, an important proviso. Numbers don’t actually matter.

And yet we all obsess over metrics, especially law firms trying to determine some form of ROI for entering the social media space. Largely by default and in part by design, the leading site emerging for tracking social media influence is Klout. Other sites include PeerIndex and Kred.

CEO and Klout Founder Joe Fernandez  told Forbes,

Klout is basically your social credit score. Consumers should care because it affects the way employers, companies and everyone looks at your ability to spread information as a critical part of the attention economy today.

There are already reports of Klout being used in job recruiting.

We are using Klout in law as well, but in a much more limited fashion. When Jordan Furlong and Warren Smith compiled the 2011 list of Canada’s top social media influencers in law, they used Klout. But they also considered how long they had been blogging and their respective readership, their frequency on Twitter, and subjective qualitative evaluations of their impact. In my opinion, it’s the last one that is most substantive, because you simply cannot get a “score” for in-depth engagement and interaction when dealing with a subject as complex as law.

Subjective opinions will obviously vary, and we inevitably look to a neutral arbiter for quantitative metrics. We should remember that Klout is just another subjective evaluation of this metric, and not get too hung up on it.

For example, Klout has come under general criticism, with CNN’s John Scalzi claiming they can be harmful for social media users,

 …it seems that what Klout exists to do is create status anxiety — to saddle you with a popularity ranking, and then make you feel insecure about it and whether you’ll lose that ranking unless you engage in certain activities that aren’t necessarily in your interest, but are in Klout’s.

In other words Klout exists to turn the entire Internet into a high school cafeteria, in which everyone is defined by the table at which they sit. And there you are, standing in the middle of the room with your lunch tray, looking for a seat, hoping to ingratiate yourself with the cool kids, trying desperately not to get funneled to the table in the corner where the kids with scoliosis braces and D&D manuals sit.

This is sad, and possibly evil. It’s especially sad and possibly evil because as far as I can see, Klout’s business model is to some greater or lesser extent predicated on exploiting that status anxiety.

With that important context provided, I can move on to the real news.

Yesterday Klout released a new update which transformed their algorithm. The new algorithm will consider 400 pieces of social media information instead of just 100. They’re incorporating more data from social media platforms, and will now include Wikipedia pages. They’ll also be releasing a new feature soon called “moments,” which will help a day-by-day display of of what content created the biggest impact.

Although it may be tempting to run out and create a Wikipedia page for yourself or your firm, I would normally caution against doing so unless there are exceptional circumstances at play, for reasons I won’t detail here at this time. I would recommend using Klout as a tool, but just one of many, to conduct better market research of your audience.

Considering Fernandez has received angry responses and even threats from previous changes, we should take this update with a grain of salt. For example, I already know that my audience is normally far more interested in politics than they are law, even if they are lawyers. I found that my total score went up as a result of the changes, but dropped relative to some of the contacts I did not perceive as being as influential. Klout claims that the new algorithm better reflects influence outside of social media.

There are other areas where politics reigns supreme. As a result of the new changes, Barack Obama finally has a higher score than Justin Bieber. And for that, we should all rejoice.


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