If you have been online Twitter or Facebook this week it would be hard to miss the chatter on Klout and their new algorithm.  A new algorithm launched on October 26, 2011.

There were strong arguments for and against the change.  Although Klout stated “a majority of users will see their scores stay the same or go up”, there seems to be more that dropped than not. Many saw a drop of  15+ points. My personal score dropped 19 points. I am yet to receive an explanation or a response to my email from Klout as to the change and to several other very important questions I asked them.

As Danny Brown summarized in the article, “Is Klout Using Our Family to Violate our Privacy?”  there are concerns that Klout is creating and publicly publishing profiles of minors set to private on Facebook  for people who haven't ever signed up for Klout.  This is true for both adult and minor accounts. For example, one of the people who Klout claims influences me has never signed up for Klout. I speak to this person infrequently on Facebook yet he shows as being an influencer to me.  Although I like this person dearly, there are definitely other people who influence me daily in comparison.

The above creation of profiles of minors is the most concerning fact I have read to date regarding Klout. There are several case studies being shared online where children (who are minors) now have a profile on Klout even though they are set to private on Facebook.  Obviously this is an issue and at the time of this post I have not seen, heard nor read a response from Klout acknowledging or explaining why this is happening.

There are too many details regarding the changed Klout algorithm for me to explain on this post.  Complaining and explaining the algorithm is also not the purpose of this post.  Instead I want to put these numbers into perspective for myself and you. I am going to provide a brief history and some opinion. I also welcome and encourage your opinion after you have read the entire post.

Before Klout – A Look Back… 

Let's think back to a time when there was no influence measurement score.  Those of us who have been using social media platforms since the early days can remember being excited for free tools such as Tweet Reach, Tweet Cloud, Social Mention, Tweet Analyzer and more. The reason is we were so eager to get any measurement we could to justify our time spent on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, commenting on blogs and the list goes on and on.

Then along came Klout. They explained themselves as the standard in influence measurement. Since there was no real measurement at the time, some started to believe that Klout was the standard. Even though there were other measurement platforms coming about such as Peer Index, Klout out marketed them to some degree.

klout social influence puppetryThe Puppetry Begins

Like puppets we all started doing what Klout told us to do. We installed Chrome plug-ins that told us within the Twitter timeline the Klout scores of our online friends. We gave +Ks, we liked, we shared,we tweeted and retweeted, we talked to the right people, we talked more and we talked less.

This was a dream come true for Facebook as we were feeding the puppet eating data monsters with every click! 

HootSuite and other tools implemented ability to see Klout scores. Medium and enterprise social measurement platforms started putting almost all weight to Klout scores. The scores were then used by businesses of all sizes to prioritize who they respond to, support and engage with online. It impacted customer service, human resources, advertising agencies, social media agencies, new recruits and the list goes on! 

Puppet Trainers Emerged
There were numerous blog posts written about the importance of engaging with people with high influence (i.e., high Klout scores.)  There are people who boldly wrote blog posts and admitted they were prioritizing their online conversations with only people with high Klout scores.

The majority of the social ecosystem were unfortunately becoming puppets. Facebook told us to like, send, share, post more, ask for likes. Twitter told us to retweet, reply to tweets.  If you were a good puppet your score would go up. The more time you spent behaving as a good puppet, the better you hoped your score would be.

Just as I wrote in this post “Forget the Klout Score, What's Your Social Zoom Factor” I challenge people to ask themselves WHY!  Why and what is it doing for you, your business, and your life to be a good social puppet?

This post could go on for days, which would not be good. So to summarize some of my thoughts and opinions I am going to outline them in bullets. Take them or leave them, they are simply my opinion. I encourage you to share your opinion too. There are no right or wrong answers. However, I ask you to refrain from cursing and bashing of anyone at the individual level who responds here. If you do, your comment will deleted.

My Thoughts on Social Puppetry

  • social media influence measurement puppetryWe are not puppets. We must refuse to behave like puppets for any score.
  • We are not defined as a human being by our Klout or any other score.
  • Say this loud to yourself daily,  “I am not my Klout score.  I will not measure my self worth by my Klout score.”
  • What you do in the lives of others offline is what matters. Social media is simply a medium for us to impact business and lives. It's how we use it and what we use it for that will determine our influence. Our influence in reality is not measured by +Ks, topic lists or other.
  • Be careful what metrics you let influence your actions, your words, your retweets & your life!
  • Question: Why would you want to behave as a puppet for a score that is not standard and is nothing more than a score?
  • Question: Is it really worth a perk to be a puppet?
  • Based upon the recent potential privacy concerns of Klout creating profiles for individuals including children without permission from the profile owner from Facebook, I have disconnected every network except Twitter. I am connected to many children under 18 years of age in my community and refuse to be a medium for Klout to do such unethical practices and put our children at risk for a monetary gain.
  • I have never and will not ever let Klout or any other influence metric system determine who I should talk to.  Had I done this prior I would have missed out on some of the best personal relationships, client opportunities and partnerships.
  • Educators think twice before basing grades on Klout scores. A professor at New York University threatened to publicly humiliate those with the lowest Klout scores. Watch a summary video hereVideo: The Measured Life. What's Your Klout?
  • Human resource managers are treading on thin ice if they are basing hiring decisions on Klout scores. I own a social brand, digital marketing and reputation management agency, ZoomFactor. We do NOT base hiring decisions on Klout. Why should you? I look for things like how are they building community, how are people reacting to their content, what is their content, how will our audience and communities react to them and many more.
  • I know there are some professions that are today dependent on the Klout score. Until this recent Klout debacle and the new algorithm I didn't realize there were so many. I anticipate much change in this area over the coming months.
  • My belief is Klout is a score based on much opinion.  Who ever said the opinion was right? How can you justify behaving as a puppet for a score that is not transparent, algorithm is not documented and main focus appears to be on paid advertising and perks for good puppets?
  • Beware any influence measurement system or company that has a primary objective of generating revenue from advertisers from your data and your scores. The writing is on the wall folks. What you do with it is your decision.
  • Priorities for social engagement should be set based on goals, objectives and data which can validate how you are tracking to achieving set goals and objectives. Only if your business goal is to win perks should all of your effort be put into gaming the Klout system.
  • Pay more attention to metrics that tell you how your audience is responding to your content, engaging with your content, how much time they spend on your website, what content they read the most, are they opting in to your email for the planned call to action etc.? What is the social zoom factor that tells you how your efforts in social media are paying off?
  • Klout stated the new algorithm would be more transparent. Many of us are waiting on the transparency factor.  Sorry Klout, but your graph explaining the distribution of scores is far from transparent. In reality, most don't believe it as truth considering it already seems to be proven inaccurate by the masses of people seeing major drops in scores.
  • There is much to be explained in the new algorithm. There are numerous case studies this past week where spam accounts with few followers jumped 10-15 points where those that have large, highly engaged communities dropped substantially.
  • Did you know Klout retrofitted & back dated the new algorithm to your past Klout scores?  Even if your score was a 60 last month, it now shows a lower or higher score based on the new algorithm. How is this truth? Your score was what your score said it was 30 days ago, not what Klout determines it is now based on new algorithm.
  • Random Fact: I was recently retweeted by Alyssa Milano (1.7 million followers!). Funny thing was my score dropped that week and from that point forward continue to drop. That particular day I got 950+ retweets within a couple of hours. Klout never had an explanation to the sudden drop.
  • Question: Would you let a score dictate who you talk to offline? In your neighborhood? At a wedding? At a block party? At a local networking group? At the gym? At your child's school? At church? At the hospital? At the hair salon? At the neighborhood grille? Why should building relationships online be any different?
  • There are new people hopping on Twitter and Facebook every day. If you ignore these people because they have a low Klout score you could be missing out on your best customer or most genuine and fun friend of the year.
  • What is a +K really going to do for your bottom line in business and life?

Social measurement is in it's infancy. We have a long way to go. I think the biggest mistake Klout and the entire social ecosystem made was believing that it was “standard.” I think there is a solid place as well as gap in proper social influence measurement. I am looking forward to seeing this arena evolve. I think we have only just begun, the best is obviously yet to come.

Influence will never be able to be put into a box or one single score.  Any social influence score  must be leveraged as “one” of the numbers in our bag of measurement tools and influence metrics. Klout is not and has never been the end all be all for measurement. The issue is that many let it be such.

What happens now is your decision and my decision.  We are human beings who run real businesses, have real friends and do things that have real life impact on other people's lives that has nothing to with a social measurement score.

Just say no to influence puppetry!

Your Turn

What are your thoughts? How much weight have you put into Klout and the other scoring systems? How have you used Klout in a positive way? Have you seen people's online actions be dictated by a score? Have you seen people behaving as puppets? Are you one of them? Do you have the guts to stop the puppet behavior? What metrics do you use? What other tools do you use to measure influence?

We will be covering these topics and more on the upcoming #GetRealChat on Tuesday nights at 9pm et.  If you would like to explore, discuss and share opinions on this topic I welcome you to join us. We keep things real, welcome opinion and learn from one another continually. 

Related Articles from Other Sources:

A More Accurate Transparent Klout Score – Klout

Is Klout Using Our Family to Violate our Privacy?  – Danny Brown

 Klout's Scoring Changes Incite a Riot of Complaints – The Next Web

17 Alternatives to Klout – Read Write Web

Your Klout Score Probably Just Dropped, Do You Care? – Read Write Web

Is Klout on the Way Out?  – Jure Klepic

Video: The Measured Life. What's Your Klout? – The Wall Street Journal

Forget the Klout, What's Your Social Zoom Factor? – Pam Moore