Why Klout is a flawed model

Klout inaccuracyIn the 80s and early 90s, journalists on pop magazines (myself included) were driven by who was going to be attaining what position on next week’s charts.

We would have an idea as the midweek positions came in. The current positions and the future positions helped us think about which pop stars to put on a poster, on the cover or to chase for an interview.

Now that we live in such a diversified world and we take our varied music from any number of sources, and we share our tastes on any number of social media websites, the pop charts are as interesting and useful a benchmark as the Conservative pre-election manifesto.

In the modern social media world, there is a void to be filled. We need benchmarks. We need a way of measuring who’s hot and who’s not (remember the first iteration for Facebook as featured in The Social Network); we need a way of finding out which shops are the biggest, which websites are the ones to be reading, which Twitter accounts to follow and which specialists are the ones to worship.

Klout is trying to fill that void. Perfectly timed, Klout is attempting to marry up our social media use to display to the world just how influential we are. The more influential you are, the higher your Klout score. The suggestion follows that a high Klout score would mean you are important.

The problem is, a Klout score is not a very good benchmark at all. “Influential” on Klout means people have commented somewhere on something you’ve posted or they have re-shared it. If you spent a month posting pictures of celebrities naked, you could probably push up your Klout score incredibly.

The other problem with Klout is that it is intrinsically linked to specific social networks. If you use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, FourSquare and post on a blog hosted by WordPress.com, you stand a good chance of being noticed more than someone who only uses LinkedIn.

I started using Klout while the 2011 US Masters (golf) was on. Suddenly, despite never posting anything about the US Masters anywhere at all, Klout told me it thought I was influential about this topic. Why? Because my name is Masters. If that is a benchmark, I would rather rely on the Digg model.

Digg is far better than Klout as a measurement of popularity because it relies on people saying they like something, not someone. Klout just says which people post a lot of things that get shared.

I’d rather judge content that’s popular, not the people who are the most active. Klout needs to find a way to value the content as well as the volume. It also needs to widen its net to include other areas of influence.

Steve Masters (10 Posts)

I started professional life as a magazine journalist, working on music magazines and women's titles before becoming a web editor in 1997 and have worked purely in online publishing since 1998. I am now the Services Director at search marketing agency Vertical Leap.