I recently received an email letting me know that I had FINALLY achieved a Klout score in the forties, 45 to be precise. What tangible impact has this had on my everyday life? Absolutely nothing.
Founded in 2008, Klout allows users to measure their fluctuating influence across the social web. While “clout” refers to real political or social power, Klout with a K is a much more superficial unit of measurement, much like anything from the Kardashian Kollection.
Users relinquish all sorts of private data from their various social networks—Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn—and Klout compiles a score ranging from 1-100. This influence score reflects your ability to drive action within your social circles.
I first learned about Klout at a web conference I attended last year. I registered immediately; a decision based on equal parts curiosity and vanity. After determining my score and realizing just how irrelevant it was, I completely forgot about my account.
But while I was quick to dismiss it, many are eager to find out where they land on the barometer of influence. To date, the San Francisco startup has assigned Klout scores to over 100 million people and brands worldwide.
Interestingly, Klout not only tells you who you are influencing and how much, but what topics you are influential about. However, based on my personal experience, the accuracy of these insights varies from spot on to absolutely absurd.
Here are some of the peculiar subject areas that I am apparently influential about: The New York Jets, Animals, Diamonds. I can guarantee that I have never made an online (or offline) reference to the New York Jets in my life so who knows what sort of obscure logarithms they use to come up with this nonsense. As an animal-indifferent individual with a non-existent diamond collection, I’m pretty skeptical on whether or not these insights into my online reputation are really all that significant.
In a recent study titled The Rise of Digital Influence, author Brian Solis questions the accuracy of Klout and similar measurement tools that rank users’ online social capital. Solis suggests that in reality these arbitrary numbers aren’t a reflection of an individual’s true influence or capacity to influence, but of their online visibility.
As social media becomes less about socializing and more about shameless self-promotion, companies like Klout certainly aren’t going anywhere. And while I’m sure there is some real value in analyzing online engagement, this quantification of influence has also created an army of self-important tweeters obsessing over their personal brand.