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Is measuring online influence Klout of order?

Unsurprisingly, telling someone they are a lot less influential than they think can cause a backlash.

Yet Klout, the online influence ranking system, did exactly that when itchanged its metrics recently. The changes saw scores plummet,incurring the wrath of users and leading many to question the validity of its metrics and whether having Klout really matters.

Klout purports to be a measurement of web users’ overall online influence across social networks and grades their expertise in certain topics. Users are judged on who they converse with, how many ‘real people’ they interact with and how far their content travels. The results are then framed within a broad range of graphs and charts breaking down exactly where and how the user is influential.

Users’ anger centred around accusations that an individual’s score can be ‘gamed’ by tailoring social media content to boost overall scores. Critics also observed that although Klout can measure the volume of content someone produces, the quality is not analysed. Others argue that people with real influence don’t and won’t use this site and that a person can be influential online without actually having a specific presence on Twitter orFacebook. As many have already pointed out, Steve Jobs was never on Klout.

Nevertheless, Klout is noteworthy as it is the first site to make a meaningful attempt at measuring online reputation and represents another step in social media’s journey to credibility by calculating a solid figure that shows the influence of a product, company or individual. Indeed, it is already streaking ahead of other sites that measure online influence and is generating enough buzz to mean it won’t go ignored, given that tier one VC,Kleiner, has so far invested $10 million in the company.

For PRs, a refined and more accurate version of Klout would certainly be a practical tool, not only in terms of being able to measure the influence of a client or agency, but also in observing the influence of journalists and bloggers. The latter is particularly important as blogs continue to grow in stature.

After browsing Twitter for reactions to the changes made by Klout, it became clear that people are quoting their Klout score in job interviews, while several websites are already offering advice on how to boost your score.

It seems that Klout has survived the fall out relatively unscathed but will have to work hard to develop its metrics and refine its system in a transparent way that addresses the concerns of its critics.

However, whether you’re in or Klout, it seems that online influence monitoring sites are unlikely to go away anytime soon.