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Social Media: R.I.P. Klout and Silly Metrics
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Social Media: R.I.P. Klout and Silly Metrics - Executive Leadership Articles

Social Media: R.I.P. Klout and Silly Metrics

Executive Leadership Articles

Social Media: R.I.P. Klout and Silly Metrics

A few weeks ago, a social media influence-measurement platform called Klout announced it was closing up shop. People were shocked: Klout was still a thing? Those of us who remembered it thought it had faded away years ago!

When Klout first emerged, it became something of a darling in certain corners of the social web. Klout measured people’s influence with a secret metric involving a person’s followers, replies, retweets, likes, and shares. Connecting social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, YouTube, Tumblr, and Flickr allowed Klout to gauge your value to others, assigning you a Klout score on a scale of influence.

It was clearly a flawed measurement, as everyone quickly saw, yet this didn’t keep many of us from jumping aboard. It was fun to watch your Klout score go up and down according to the whims of the internet, and while the granular picture was pretty meaningless, nobody was surprised by the highest-rated people in any geographical area. You might disagree with the order of influencers in the top twenty, but you didn’t exactly dispute who those twenty were.

Klout’s business model involved signing up companies with product to hype, then putting the product in the hands of Klout’s influencers. Recipients of free product were under no obligation to share their thoughts or experiences, but these were social media all-stars: of course they were going to talk about their impressions of free stuff they got in the mail, the way they also talked about everything else in their lives.

Some higher-rated Klouters received color inkjet printers. If you were lower on the scale you might have received free subscriptions to magazines, boxes of pet food, or gift cards for national restaurant chains.

The problem for some was that they took their Klout scores too seriously, complaining about the obvious weaknesses in the measuring device, which seemed heavily swayed by the influence of people who followed you: if highly-rated Klouters were following you, you must be important, or your social interactions had broader reach. Some users became so frustrated they disconnected all their networks from Klout and left in a vocal huff.

This brings us to the unfortunate and mystifying contemplation of what social media metrics actually measure. For a time, numbers of followers were the goal, but as people learned to game the system -- sometimes paying for the services of companies who guaranteed them a quick 10,000 followers over night -- this became a meaningless statistic.

Google, Twitter, and Facebook developed much more intricate metrics and continue to tweak their formulas toward a better understanding of who’s getting the best and most engagement, but for most of us, even these numbers seem to have only online value, while a true understanding of real-world social engagement value remains elusive.
For instance, if your local charitable organization gets a hundred likes every day for the content you share, this is a pretty good amount of engagement. But how does this engagement translate into public awareness of your cause, or how does it translate into donations? How do you know this positive engagement now has any real effect today or in the future on the work you do? This is not just a thought question for long marketing meetings: your agency is paying for this content and those likes. Is it worth the investment, or are you better off adding that money to your endowment, or hiring another person for delivering actual services?

We live in a world with expectations, and those expectations have to be assessed in numbers. As ridiculous as that is (and it’s ridiculous), it’s the world we’re stuck with. The problem remains that while our metrics measure something positive (perhaps!), we still don’t know in many cases if those positive numbers translate into something positive for our businesses or organizations.

So farewell, Klout. You gave it an honorable, interesting, meaningful try, but we still don’t know if you or anyone else was ever of use.


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Social Media: R.I.P. Klout and Silly Metrics - Executive Leadership Articles

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