It’s not that it doesn’t mean anything – it’s that it actively means “nothing”.
For something to have meaning, you’ve got to be able to use it. Meaning, strictly speaking, applies to what’s done with a thing, or a piece of knowledge. Anything with ‘meaning’ must directly apply to something else. So; a score, made by an algorithm, has no strict meaning until applied. This is as true of Klout as it is of your Twitter follow count, the number of Friends you have on Facebook, or the number of recommendations you get on LinkedIn. Meaning requires application.
Sure, according to my Klout profile, I’m a 58. That’s nothing to sneeze at… Or is it? Could it be that, even in this semi-limited, pseudo-meaningless platform, there are some indicators of how a person behaves, how they prefer to communicate, and how you can learn how they do their work so you can better yours?
Now, this week’s #usblogs topic is supposed to be about online and offline klout, but I want to focus on a few meaningful uses for the Klout score and it’s associated meta-data first, before we talk at all about offline klout (which is far less well documented, and thus harder to quantify). Offline clout may come later, or may not. Partly because real-space communities have far different parameters to online ones.
When I look at a Klout score, I see an aggregate that equates to the curtain behind which hid the Wizard of Oz.
When I look at a Klout profile, like my own for example, I see:
Klout displays a graph of activity to go along with the Score metrics it displays.
This is the base range of information that comes beside a Klout score. Most people pay attention to the three numbers beside the Score itself – I almost never do. Under these, the badges, are much more informative regarding a person’s real activity. Number of list memberships, unique retweet count, total retweets, total comments – these show not only the wattage of a person’s activity online, they show the depth and consistency of that activity over time.
Yes, these numbers contribute to the aggregate of the Klout score, but the mix of badges you see matches strongly the kind of person you’re looking at. For example, this graph shows an even level of “Total Retweets” and “Unique Retweeters” – this tells me that the individual messages I’m sending are getting some traction among a broad range of people, but that traction has little depth.
Based on this graph, and the information relationships within it, I can adjust my actions in the future, if I want to (for example) learn how to create messages that gain depth as well as width of interaction. In this way, my score means nothing, but my profile is a learning tool.
Take a look at the people on this chart. Do they match who you’d expect to be influencing me? Better still, do they match who you’d expect me to have influenced? I mean – yes, Mark, Chris, Amber and Matt have an effect on me. They legitimately influence me. But David McGraw? Really? An outlier, clearly.
Klout believes I’ve influenced my web host, MediaTemple. That interests me. In part because it’s an outlier, like David is. In part, because it’s amusing.
It also tells me where on the social chart I fit against my peers. The little orange dot on the graph is me. I’m a socializer. If I got a little more broad in my topics, I’d be a thought leader. I take issue to the idea that thought leadership is measurable on a chart, but these are the terms they’ve chosen to represent people – and by and large, they’re accurate.
The Influence chart can be used to give you a sense of what kinds of relationships the person whose profile you’re reading has. Do they interact with highly professional people, or highly social ones? Is there a broad mix of specialties represented, or a wide mix of opinion? Is there a tendency to focus solely on their own area of expertise, and disregard anything else coming into the mix?
At the end of the day, what you do with any of this data is what gives it meaning. A 60 Klout twitterati is not automatically more influencial than a 45 Klout socializer – unless pure wattage is all you care about. And, honestly, if all you care about is a bigger megaphone, you’ve lost the social media game already.
Keeping focus on what’s important is a good idea when conducting research and analysis, whether you’re doing so before, in the midst of, or after any marketing or business activity. Focusing on the wrong data, like a Klout score alone, can lead to terminal myopia.
No matter the numbers you’re looking at, making sure the numbers match the need is important. Do yourself a favour and look beyond that big orange number at the top of the screen.