Don’t you just wish you could wave a magic wand and have influence, reputation and love with the click of a button? Wouldn’t that be fantastic? Eventually, I bet there’ll be an app for that. I’m going to call it “Insta-Klout” and charge thousands of dollars for using it – a day… just sayin.

And now for the real article…

Did you know “klout” is actually the phonetic spelling for “clout”? What’s really interesting are the two informal definitions given for “clout”. Observe:

  • a blow with the hand or a hard object
  • pull; strong influence; muscle

Let’s put that into social perspective, shall we? Using those definitions, a high social clout might indicate that:

  • When you post something, your followers stand up and pay attention.
  • You’ve become a strong influence for (although not necessarily in) your industry.
  • When you endorse something, it stays endorsed.
  • When you give a bad review, people listen.

If you use your powers for bad, you could be the “muscle”, smacking people around with your negativity. i.e. “I smacked ‘em with my Klout.”

Social Influence vs. Social Media Monitoring

Before we go any deeper, let’s clarify that Klout monitors social influence, not your social media efforts. It doesn’t tell you which tweet brought in 15 new followers, or which link on Facebook brought more fans, or whether XYZ link is hot. Other tools track things like this (bit.ly, for example). I think Klout decided not to be a copycat.

What Klout is supposed to show is your overall social influence. How many people are you really reaching? How many are really responding to you? Are you really engaging people, or is it all in your head? These questions, among others, are what Klout addresses.

Does Klout Have… Clout?

Nowadays, people talk about “Klout” as in, “My Klout went up by one point today. I’m at a whopping 24. Going for the big 25 now.”

Klout, launched in 2009, has been flooding the social highways lately. This is largely due to the recent $8.5 million funding round they closed with Kleiner Perkins (Taking Klout to the Next Level).

Some might be able to shrug off $8.5 M as no big deal. I can’t. It’s hard to imagine a nobody getting that kind of funding – and if they did, they’d quickly become a somebody. Now all they need to do is start funneling some of those funds into my account and retain me for consulting.

Okay, okay – all kidding aside:

Klout was a somebody quickly after product launch. I’m not sure they even had a nobody moment as a company. If they did, it was brief…

November 17, 2009 ~ With Klout Comes Influence: How To Find Influencers on Twitter

February 16, 2010 ~ HootSuite Announces New Features, Including Klout Integration. Is This (Almost) The Perfect Twitter Client?

April 28, 2010 ~ Social Media Analytics Provider Klout Raises $1.5M in Funding

June 1, 2010 ~ Klout Announces With Their New Site That The Revolution of Influence Has Begun

June 25th, 2010 ~ Measure your social networking Klout (CNN Money)

It’s easy for some to look at the links above and think, “Well, they just have a good PR company.” They’ve paid for reviews, sent out press releases – all the things that can give a company a good, yet undeserved reputation.

That is, until a little article is posted in a tiny online publication called Advertising Age:

“Palms’ chief marketing officer, Jason Gastwirth, is currently building out “The Klout Klub,” which “will allow high-ranking influencers to experience Palms’ impressive set of amenities in hopes that these influencers will want to communicate their positive experience to their followers.” The Palms is already pulling in data from Klout and referring to it as part of their reservations process.” (Las Vegas’ Palms Hotel Starts Looking at Klout Scores to Decide Who Gets Past the Velvet Rope)

Okay, look. When the Palm’s Hotel uses your statistics to decide who gets what treatment, you – very officially – have “Klout”.

The Good, The Bad, The Fugly

Now that we’ve chatted and rehashed history, let’s get to the dirt. We need to address a few more things before the article can conclude.

Why is Klout such an important number? Well, somehow your Klout score has become the online version of your credit score. Employers may be adding Klout to the mix, for example – especially if you’ve applied for a social media job.

Clients may look at your Klout as a measure of how much you know about your services. They might use Klout to find out where you stand in your industry. Are you considered an expert, or merely an explorer? While you may not care whether your Klout score is a 1 or a 100, people who matter to your business and livelihood might.

Knowing all this, knowing how important this red and white number is, you’re going to want to dig into the program. Why? Because you’re going to want to know what you can do to help it along.

Helping Klout Along

What I’m going to do to help it along is stomp my foot and talk about what’s missing. Why? Because they won’t know what to change unless somebody says something.

Nothing against Klout, but, as I’m looking at my Twitter feed and Klout information, I can’t help but think there are a lot of things weighing on stupid little numbers. My favorite two examples:

  • If 4,000 people are following you, you must be worth following. Not like that other guy, who only has 200 people following him.
  • 20 people RT’d that link, so let me do it too. Never mind that they’re all friends and not even one actually read the craptastic article this person is tweeting about.

While Klout take some of this into consideration, they’re missing a whole heck of a lot.

They recently made some changes, and speaking for the accounts I manage, the changes don’t make sense. Granted, I don’t know what exactly they’re watching and monitoring to come up with their numbers, but…

When my main account that I’ve had for more than two years plummets by ten points and a new account I’ve had for less than 6 months moves up to 50, something’s screwy. I don’t care if I’m going to be graded by a number, but that number needs to reflect my real influence across all social media. And, seriously, I have to wonder exactly what you guys are measuring after coming across things like this:

If you can explain to me how this makes sense – and make me believe it…. well, I don’t think you can, so never mind any promises. A true reach of 343? Why? You know what kind of mentions this person has? “Thanks for following me!”

So they’re still tweaking things under the hood and adding bells and whistles. I get it, but I want a tool that tells me when I make a big splash. Let’s say one of my followers becomes a client. I want to be able to see the kind of interactions we had before this happened. When did they start following? Were they counted as part of my social reach?

I’d love it if Klout could actually monitor and measure how long it takes from the day a client and I start following each other to when we start working together. Granted, we’d both have to be willing to participate – but make those changes and see how quickly I fill in the blanks in my account.

Klout is pretty and all, but I want data. I want to see numbers. I want a viable, quantifiable way to measure my influence – above and beyond what I see now. Example: If you’re telling me I have 25 unique retweeters, I want to know who they are.

What is Klout missing the most? Once Klout has figured out what is important to us users then maybe we won’t be  standing in line waiting for the next generation of a better product. Instead, we’ll be standing in line with hand in pocket, ready to pay for filters and in depth data. I’d pay $10 a month for the ability to dig down into where my social influence is strongest. Give me this kind of information, and I’ll buy me some “Got Klout” Nike shoes, wearing them proudly at my next workshop – where I’ll be promoting Klout.

So what say you Klout?