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I’m Taking Back my Influence; Opting Out of Klout

So after almost a year of complaining about the evils of Klout and its minions, I’ve finally been told to put my money where my mouth is. And I’ve accepted the challenge by opting out of Klout.

Make no mistake, this is a business.

As a business, I admire Klout. But I also firmly believe that Klout has deteriorated the value of social communications by shifting the focus from open, transparent social communication for the betterment of the whole to calculated, incentivized communication for the benefit of the individual.

Case in point: Klout broadcasts the fact that your score will go up if you engage with people socially that have a higher score than you. Then they list Twitter followers by highest score so you can work on gaming your own position and earn Perks and bragging rights. In the end, it’s all about you and not the community. And isn’t that the opposite of what social engagement is really all about?

Klout is a business engine powered by thousands of hamsters running on a wheel…and we’re the hamsters. It’s engineered to train people to behave a certain way – and with such frequency – that it can harness the attention generated and sell it to the highest bidder. We hamsters are fed with ego-stroking points and trinkets (Perks) provided that we keep the wheel spinning for them.

So when I consider the business of Klout (and make no mistake, it is a business), I think “Kudos”. Frankly, the entrepreneur in me wishes I was smart enough to have thought of it first.

As a business, I have no issue with Klout.

So what’s the problem?

Well, first it’s the fact that they claim to “measure influence”, which they then qualify with: “uses data from social networks to measure true reach, amplification and network impact”. What they’re really doing is tracking your social metrics. In my mind, there is a disconnect between social metrics and establishing a true indication of influence, which I define as one’s ability to influence the public to purchase products they’d not otherwise purchase or believe things they’d not otherwise believe.

The fact that you become influential by communicating with the few Klout-annointed influencers who have higher scores than you says nothing about your true ability to influence the vast majority who have lower Klout scores. You know…those that you’ve essentially ignored to achieve the higher Klout sore in the first place? Klout now tell us that you’re influential because you’ve engaged a few influencers and not because you’ve influenced the masses. Is it just me or is this backwards?

Secondly, it’s the fact that sheep, er, people believe it. How can a non-scientific concept be measured with a scientific measurement? It’s akin to looking for an answer to the meaning of life by running a Google query. True influence, like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, which is not created by you but bestowed on you by your followers based on unpredictable, inconstant situational factors. Essentially unmeasurable.

Why did I opt out?

My introduction to Klout was just under a year ago when a potential employer asked me what my Klout score was. I didn’t know what they were talking about but I certainly figured it out after I was refused a second interview for a senior marketing role due to my low score (at the time it was somewhere between 34 – 37).

I didn’t realize I had a score before this but the value that people blindly gave it created an impression about my qualifications to perform a marketing job and influence people that the credentials on my resume and recommendations from clients would contradict. However, as sheep do, they followed the herd without thinking and made the judgment call.

In the aftermath of this event, I figured that with no way to opt-out I might as well have the best score possible so I experimented with different engagement techniques and tools to aid in increasing my rank. As a result my score peaked at 75, which by most people’s standards was quite impressive.

What struck me recently was that none of these new engagements, the job I was successful in obtaining nor the many contracts I’ve won and managed since were generated or impacted by my new higher Klout score. The Perks I was offered due to my score had no real value to me and the recognition I was receiving as a result of the score were from people that had absolutely no awareness of my true credentials or skills. So what was the point of the higher Klout score? Trinkets and bragging rights? Driving Klout closer to an IPO? And there’s the A-HA moment. It’s not about me at all. It’s about building up Klout’s business.

The lesson learned was that neither a high nor a low Klout score had any real-life bearing on my abilities to perform my job or quality of real-life connections with my community. Yet, businesses and people continue to put so much faith in – and base too many decisions on – a meaningless set of metrics that really only benefit Klout’s sales.

Klout has lowered the industry standard instead of improving it. So I am taking a stand; I’m jumping off the wheel. I’m taking back my influence and putting it back in the hands of my real-life community.

MY BUSINESS CARD IS MY EXPERIENCE. It is no longer my Klout score.

I’m opting out of Klout. But, I am only one man. I am curious to see who will join me.

Sam Fiorella
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego

P.S. The person who was hired instead of me, the one with the higher Klout score at the time but less real-life experience….lasted only 5 months.

 

Join the Conversation

67 comments
jhbellem
jhbellem 5pts

Thanks to @BethGrangerSays for retweeting this @samfiorella post! Influence is about engagement and sharing of content your community finds of value. #Klout is just one attempt at measuring influence and I view it as a "work in progress" tool. That a company would use a person's Klout score as a basis for hiring is unfortunate.

BethGrangerSays
BethGrangerSays 5pts

I have been saying for ages that I like the idea of attempting to measure influence but don't think anyone has gotten it right yet. As you say, it can be "gamed". Also, someone may have great influence and engagement with just 20 people and for their "world", that's a lot or enough. 

chieflemonhead
chieflemonhead 5pts

Thanks for the post, Sam... For me, I have long professed the fact that any right-minded marketer (and there are many who are "left-minded" :) ), needs to understand the balance of the mix. If you want to use Klout as a measure of influence, that's OK - but it cannot be used in complete and utter isolation. It is simply a marker. If we made all our decisions on "markers" (or, the better-used research term: indicator or indication) then we'd be lost in a forest!

I think where companies went wrong, and where opportunistic (and sometimes shady) folks went awfully right, is that they hung all their decisions on a single number for influence. The reality is that folks still need to consider their true market (and potential market). A little Q&A for fun:

1. Are they all online?

A. Yes, most likely maybe.

2. Are they all on social media?

A. Undoubtedly, NO! (Despite what we may think, not everyone on G-d's green earth are plugged into our beloved social networks.)

3. Do they all have a Klout score? (And more importantly, do they all care?)

A. One word: NO.

If you can agree to the 3 Q&A questions above, then using Klout as your sole indicator for true influence will be your downfall. And we saw this happen in 2011... Hence, the rise of "real consumer loyalty" which DEMANDS face-to-face, and demands REAL-time decisions and does NOT depend on some "guru" who has a high Klout score.

Now, enough about me... tell me about you... THANKS for the post Sam! Enjoy NYE.

Judi

brandcowboy
brandcowboy 5pts

Nicely done, Sam. I agree wholeheartedly. I think that Klout is propped up by the social media 'experts' who profit from it personally, but its flaws are fatal and just as you say: The algorithm produces wildly specious results (which is a problem when the heart of your business model is aggregating 'expert' audiences for sale to marketers), and the game you have to play to raise your score precisely undermines the whole point of social media. I'd rather spend time talking to a student with 45 followers on Twitter than beg for attention from a self-appointed expert with suspiciously too much time on his hands to play World of Kloutcraft. I am rapidly coming to see someone's attitude toward Klout as an indication of their ethics. And I'm absolutely not kidding.

Karen5Lund
Karen5Lund 5pts

Klout used to be a game for me. I don't mean that in a negative way--it was a game like baseball or checkers or Monopoly. You get a score, you see how your friends did, and that was pretty much it.

When Empire Avenue introduced a similar "game" but put a dollar sign in front of the number, it looked very different to me. And you should have seen the look on my Dad's face when I tried to explain it. A price on his daughter? (Yeah, try explaining your online presence to an octagenerian who's never been online; it's a great reality check.) So I opted out of Empire Avenue, although I had to e-mail the company to do it. (Blogged about it here: http://circleofignorance.wordpress.com/2011/04/27/i-am-not-for-sale/)

I've always known that Klout is imperfect. Early on they recommended I increase my score by following Twitter bots and other undesirables that I have blocked or reported for spam. Then it got better. My score held steady--whether it's right or not I can't say, but it seemed stable. My influences and influencers were mostly #UsGuys and people I know in real life. My topics were a bit squirrely, but that's a new feature so I figured they'd get the bugs out.

Then they changed the algorithm. I heard some bad news about why people's scores changed. (I don't so much care about "how much" as "why.") Somebody I don't know--never followed, never was followed by--appeared in my influences. More negative comments from others.

Sam, you're making a good case. So are some of the others who've commented and shared posts from their own blogs. I'm still in the "I'm ignoring it until they fix it" stage, but I won't be on the fence for long. If I don't see some positive changes in Klout (and unfortunately I'm not optimistic), I may follow you in opting out.

RobertDempsey
RobertDempsey 5pts

I'm happy to see you take action Sam. I opted out myself and wrote a post about why I won't ignore Klout after many people asked me why I don't simply ignore them - http://dempseymarketing.com/journal/i-wont-ignore-klout/

I, like you, applaud them from a business standpoint. They've done a great job combining psychology and gamification to create a method of, as you say, turning us into hamsters for their own gain. However I fundamentally disagree with how they are going about their business - automatically creating accounts for people and publickly scoring them with or without their knowledge. Your story here shows the unknowing impact they can have on one's employment.

As they aren't even close to a standard, or operating as a company involved in social media is expected to act (they don't directly answer any questions ever asked of them), more people should opt-out.

I applaud you for doing so.

Meredith Gould
Meredith Gould 5pts

Between this fine post and one by @swoodruff I'm about ready to opt out of Klout, although as a sociologist I find it pretty fascinating. The metrics/analytics might be bogus, but the hubbub about perceived value and meaning rings my quantitative methodology chimes.

KRLRose
KRLRose 5pts

I like Klout. Yes. Call me stupid. I like companies who innovate. Show me one innovator who was not called an idiot and I will show you an idiot. :)Fact Klout innovated. Fact Klout forgot to work on their business model/process/algorithim so it would provide long term value. Sam you provide a very persuasive set of points in your post.  And I have to agree. I was hoping they were going build a great product. But Sadly where Klout keeps going wrong is by continually changing the algorithim and not updating users in a coherent manner about why their Klout score drops from 80 to 50 in one fell swoop. Now people initially welcomed Klout and  Joe and his team did a great job of engaging users and explaining how the influence metrics work. on SM platforms. They seem to have lost their way. You just cannot afford to piss people off with pseudo innovation and poor marketing combined. You have to provide real value. How can you run a business that alienates users on such a regular basis. Klout are behaving as if they have created and captured a market. It just cannot last. I have always supported Klout because I thought it was innovative. But over time I not seeing the changes or innovation I expected. Metrics are consistently out of date creativity and innovation is stagnating. Please Klout what use is a Klout OG badge to anybody. There is no way Klout can survive without a dramatic change. As Sam says real influencers don't care about what people think they go their own way and leave naysayers behind. But the thing that sets influencers apart is they have an opinion and strong foundation built on real world achievement and action. All Klout have done is raise funding from the corporate drones and stagnated. Raising VC funding is not a long term strategy. Capturing customers who love you and what you do is the only way to build a sustainable business. Great Post Sam ( Cliche Alert :) 

redtype
redtype 5pts

@samfiorella you hit the nail on the head, “a meaningless set of metrics (to us & our community) that really only benefits Klout's sales”.

eurapart
eurapart 5pts

Klout make bold statements that prove themselves wrong. They were not the "Standard" for influence. They had their algorithm wrong before the end of October and if you read their interviews and blogs, it is still wrong as they don't measure all social media platforms in their score. Sadly it doesn't stop them convincing others that it is meaningful. As for measuring influence? If you look at the data they are dealing with, I don't think influence is the right word. Sure it massages lots of egos. But driving action in the form or RT s, Likes, pluses, mentions and comments has nothing to do with influence. The sheep running in the hamster wheels trying to figure out how to keep their scores up while providing Klout with their online social media activity should be considered Klout addicts, they are playing Klout's game, not their own. Klout is the only one with influence, as it is making millions of people play their game. Real influencers play to their own rules. I'll add my praise to Klout as well. They certainly have influenced a lot of people, who should be capable of thinking for themselves. PS I opted out on 4 November. Am I missing it? What do you think?

kristinsjohnson
kristinsjohnson 5pts

It has always seemed to me that Klout was just a weird popularity contest and a big waste of time. If an employer is not smart enough to realize the true worth of a person beyond this silly game, then I sure as heck wouldn't want to work there.

I appreciate knowing about it being focused on in interviews, as I'm a career coach and resume writer. I will be referring my clients to this article so they can make well-informed decisions on how to handle Klout should it come up. I don't know if I'll take the time to opt out, or if I'll just ignore it. Definitely a lot to think about here. Thank you!

jolewitz
jolewitz 5pts

OK Sam, I've read your post twice and the many intelligent comments from others as well. This is a very loud and very accurate statement -- more about the context from which many approach Social Media than it is about Klout alone. We've all seen numbers being more important than anything else on Twitter and elsewhere. It is as thoguh they think the numbers actually represent klout (small "K")

I have a similar story where a potential employer turned to the senior executive in the room and said (about me) "his Klout score is higher than yours" ...talk about a surprise gulp factor.

I'm joining the "I'm mad as hell and I ain't gonna take it anymore" crowd.

Thanks for the wake-up call and the leadership

JOSEPH

Charlieriley
Charlieriley 5pts

Good points @samfiorella . I was just thinking this as my Klout score has been in a nosedive since they launched their new "algorithm" for no apparent reason. I guess I'm less influential than I was a few weeks ago. Maybe I'll spend the hour finding out how to opt out as well.

Ted Vinzani
Ted Vinzani 5pts

I have never appreciated Klout - that is it had bugged me to no end just for existing and having info on me as I signed in with Twitter. They are so obscure about how my score went up and down. I've also noticed people I've respected with lower scores and higher scores for, well let's guess what I mean.

Each time I logged in it seemed to pester me more and more for my Facebook login. Then I read recently about their scraping Facebook info. Sleaze factor alert.

Next time I can stomach logging in there will be my last.

Cheers!

Ted - @relevance

kehutchinson
kehutchinson 5pts

I just spent half an hour figuring out HOW to deactivate my profile. I could figure out how to unconnect all but Twitter, and then I realized if I clicked on "Privacy Concerns" I could click through five screens and then opt out. I was so amused by the "Why are you leaving? (Required)" box, that I clicked other and submitted a link to this page.

40deuce
40deuce 5pts

I can't believe that someone asked you in an interview what your Klout score was!! That actually kind of makes me sick (unless you were being hired as an online spokesperson (more so than your average company employee)).

I would've replied with "I don't know nor do I see why that would even matter."

Actually, now I'm kind of hoping someone asks me just so I can give that response if I ever go looking for a new job.

Cheers,

Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

jeffthesensei
jeffthesensei 5pts

As someone who has neither approved of or claimed my Klout, i welcome you back to the land of common sense my friend. My opinion of them is well known and my firm belief is the only influence they can measure is the influence they exert over their own flock.

It been a delicious irony watching them mishandle their own ability to influence people by making mistake after mistake as they strive to take further advantage of their customers, a situation they have created which could ultimately be their own undoing.

What most people fail to realize is that influence is like the air we breathe; it is all around us and flows as different factors come in and out of our lives. It is unfathomable to think it can be measured when we do not even understand it. For a simple concept, it is one of the most complex human conditions we know of.

Hopefully more will follow your example and not worry about 'scoring" themselves against artificial, narrow, and highly suspect means. Instead, we should focus on making sure we build good relationships for that is the essence of influence.

In the meantime, from one person of no consequence to another... let's enjoy a scotch and discuss how little we matter.

Jeff - Sensei

MackCollier
MackCollier 5pts

I think if we all realize that Klout isn't really measuring online influence but rather online ACTIVITY, then it makes a lot more sense. But I do think you make a great point Sam about how Klout is encouraging us to take a normal activity, interacting with others, and shifting that to interacting with people that will boost our Klout score, versus boosting our biz opps, knowledge, and even happiness.

The bottom line is that if you start modifying your behavior to attempt to increase your Klout score, you need to consider who will ultimately gain from that, you, or Klout? Great wake up call!

westfallonline
westfallonline 5pts

Bravo for you, for your move and your post. I'm thinking of following suit. Right now I'm just cheering for you from the sidelines, and wondering why I'm still part of the hype.

Dabney Porte
Dabney Porte 5pts

I have SO much to say about Klout and the manipulations...the lack of ethics...the way they confuse brands...the way they use "us"...but I will simply say this...ROCK on my friend. ROCK on! xoxo

Elyse_D
Elyse_D 5pts

Bold move, my friend! I support this and say... "hear, hear"! I disconnected some of my social networks from Klout shortly after they changed the algorithm. I figured if the activity on the networks wasn't positively impacting the score, then why lose the privacy? I am mulling over whether or not to quit Klout entirely. I didn't want the decision to be based on my score falling (and it did...by 50%).

So far, I've treated my Klout score as something fun to look at. I look at it maybe once a month or so. I haven't changed my behavior to try and adjust the score.

There will always be people who will game Klout, just as there are always people who will game Twitter to get more followers and try to appear influential. With Twitter, you can usually take a quick look at someone's account and followers to see whether or not they have acquired those followers genuinely. The problem with Klout is that it is just a score. None of us know what is going on back there. So if you are an employer, hiring people based on their Klout score, beware! Do you really know what that metric is telling you?

vandeWerk
vandeWerk 5pts

Hi Sam, I did the same thing you did, about two weeks ago. What 'turned' me around was the sudden change in the algorithm - a change that meant that all the behavior Klout had rewarded before (with perks and a steadily rising score) suddenly showed a declining score (not just a lower score, the trend was downward) where previously these scores had *all* been rising. Basically Klout told me that all things that I was doing to improve my score had actually been degrading it. (Klout had retro-scored the previous month with the new algorithm)

I felt cheated. I don't think we can allow Klout to monopolize a market when its standards are not just poor - they are unfair and make very little sense.

Thanks for sharing this post.

Bastiaan van de Werk

@vandewerk

http://.vandewerk.nl

Trackbacks

  1. […] “Once upon a time, I Believed in the Fairytale of Klout” or Sam Fiorella’s “I’m taking back my influence, I’m opting out of Klout” or for a deeper dive, please read Mark Schaefer’s book “Return On Influence: The […]

  2. […] a total firestorm against the company and, to a certain extent, influence marketing as whole. Stories like this didn’t help […]

  3. […] November, 2011 I made a public declaration that I was taking back my “influence” and opting out of Klout and explained my rationale. The main reason I opted out of Klout’s game is the same reason Klout […]