Klout: I’ll Tell You Mine If You Tell Me Yours.

“What’s your Klout score?” “I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours.”  It’s becoming near impossible these days to have a conversation about social media without the dreaded mention of Klout.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term, Klout is a program that measures your social influence across many of the most popular social platforms on a scale of 1-100.  It’s become a yard stick by which more and more people measure their social value.  Your Klout score can get you into airline club lounges, discounts at restaurants, and even in one case I heard recently, a raise at your job! But as someone who lives and breathes social media, I didn’t understand the fascination, nay… theobsession that people have with this little number, until I saw the power behind motivating factor first hand.

I recently attended a conference that had created a mobile app for the advisors to use to engage with the presentations, presenters, and each other.  The first morning of the conference, I was disappointed to see that there were only a handful of advisors who had even downloaded the app, and even fewer that were engaging with it.  During the first session, the presenter mentioned the app, and there was little movement and a few grumbles from the crowd.  Then he mentioned that there was a contest based on who used and engaged with the app the most, and the advisors would be ranked and winners announced at the end of the conference.  I haven’t seen as many phones whipped from pockets faster than in that moment, with everyone suddenly needingthat app.  Why? Because it had just become a competition, and no one likes to lose.

Gamification has been used since the beginning of time to motivate people to participate and engage, and that’s exactly what Klout has done in the social space.  Despite how little people understand about Klout, they throw around their number like a Heat fan throws out Lebron stats: haphazardly and with something to prove.  To be honest, I didn’t even know my number until yesterday (I happen to be at a respectable 51) No matter the score, it’s safe to say that Klout scores will continue to be used as arsenal within the social world, so it’s time we take a look at both the good and evil of this little number.

The Good:

  • Measure of Influence: Klout can be valuable tool to identify not only who, but what the target market is listening to on social with is ability to name topics of user influence.  In other words, it tells you what thought leaders are saying and what their audience likes hearing. It can help to identify those all too important centers of influence in the industry with its ranking system and for the most part encourages quality posts over sheer quantity.
  • Ranking Factors: For the most part, someone’s score can be indicative of a lot of great social metrics: audience size, audience response, reach of message, and (that ever elusive) virility of posts.   These are all good things to strive for, as long as their function lies within a bigger picture.
  • Motivator: I will always be a fan of something that motivates people to use, understand, and ultimately find the value of social media.  The bottom line is this: Klout is the gateway drug to getting advisors online and walking down the path of social media, which we know is the path toward future success in the industry.  In this case, the end easily justifies the means.

The Evil:

As many of us immersed in social media would agree, Klout scores are to social prowess as golf club price is to your handicap.  It’s one factor within a much, much bigger picture, and it’s a factor that can be easily manipulated.  Back in my college soccer days we used to have situational drills with all sorts of passing restrictions and boundary areas and point systems that girls always tried to outsmart, and if you tried hard enough, you could easily win every drill by playing terrible soccer.  The same thing happens with social media and Klout scores.  By manipulating the game, (i.e. spamming posts, getting retweets from completely irrelevant sources, buying fans, blasting to a market far from your target, engage only with users that have a high score themselves), it’s possible to boost your Klout score, but you can still find yourself far from successful with your social media marketing efforts.

So, just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t judge a social influencer by their Klout score.  Despite the deceiving name, someone’s “Klout” isn’t necessarily their “clout”.  I’m not saying Klout isn’t a fun addition to the social space, but at the end of the day it’s more important to foster engagement with your target market, build quality relationships with potential clients, and become a thought leader and resource for those eventual clients, than to try to boost your ranking on the Klout scoreboard.  Your Klout score is never going to pay the bills. At the end of the day, it’s number like website visitors, leads generated, and conversion rate that will matter a lot more to your business.

But keep in mind… Klout may only be a game, but just as in any competition, it’s only the losers who don’t keep score.  Game on folks!  Who’s got me beat?

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