Description and Instructions
Founded in 2008, Klout is a tool to measure a person’s online social influence, within his/her personal social network. Klout and similar tools to measure social influence is important to the 21C media professional because it is one way of checking the reliability of online sources from various social media sites. There is a lot of debate about the credibility of many of these scores, and there is a lot of room for improvement for such tools, but it does not mean that they are useless. Below are some links that will give users a better idea of how social influence is measured by Klout, some criticisms, and other tools that function similarly.
- “What Is Klout?” (Klout, 2012): Gives a concise and basic overview of Klout, its features and how to make the most out of it.
- “Klout Score” (Klout, 2012): Describes how Klout calculates social influence and what is measured for each of the social channels it uses e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Klout, foursquare and Wikipedia.
- “Are undergrads really more influential than Gruen panelists? Klout thinks so” (Ballard & Rintel, 2012): Details how the Klout score is derived and why it is not a reliable measure of social influence.
- “5 Tools That Help Measure Your Social Media Influence” (Mackay, 2011): Gives a brief overview of Klout, TwentyFeet, Crowdbooster, TweetStats and My Web Career and compares these tools.
- “Finding Social Media’s Most Influential Influencers” (Kharif, 2012): Introduces Klout in comparison with two other competitors, Little Bird and Tellagence.
Klout is easy to use and is integrated in various social sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+, to name a few. In fact, it functions as an app on Facebook and makes it simple for people to use it to give K+ to fellow users, akin to “Liking” someone’s status update on Facebook.
As a tool, it may not be used directly by media professionals in writing stories/press releases, but it could prove invaluable in checking the credibility of online social media sources.
Klout has a relatively simple and basic user interface. Take a media professional who wants to know more about the music industry in general. Once a user has signed up and linked his/her various social networks to Klout, he/she can use the search bar at the top to search for a particular topic/industry/field or influencer/brand (Image 1).
Clicking on the topic of music, the user is led to the page in Image 2. Users can then link to particular influencers to see what they are saying or just see what is trending about music.
Clicking on the individual profiles of influencers (Image 3) then leads users to see who influences these influencers. You can click on the social network icons just below the profile picture to link directly to their Twitter, Youtube, Instagram etc. page, and contact them via those channels.
On a more personal note, users can go to their dashboards and see their Klout score summary (Image 4). This gives a rough idea of how the score is calculated because it gives a breakdown of the various social networks that contribute to the Klout score.
ANALYSIS 1: THE TOOL IN PRINCIPLE
The 21C media professional has to be well versed in the world of online social media because, increasingly, people are living out much of their lives in the online world. Information is passed with just a click, and in today’s fast-moving society, one’s familiarity with social media tools can be the line between a successful media professional and an unemployed one. In using many of these social analysis tools like Sentiment140, Trendsmap and many others, the reliability and credibility of online sources is a common issue. This raises the question of how one is to measure a user’s online social influence, and tools like Klout profess to be able to measure an individual’s social media influence. Having a consistent measure of social influence also helps media professionals who are looking for influencers in a particular field or for a particular brand. Henneberry (2012) points out that knowing and focusing on influencers will help media professionals cultivate strategic relationships with important people and will also help media professionals to stay informed about the industry’s happenings.
Schmitz & Fulk (1991) states that a person is influenced in important ways by the social world the individual lives in. As such, as media professionals, it is sometimes imperative for us to know who/what these influence(r)s are.
Klout provides a quick and rough measure of a person’s social influence. With every interaction users perform on Klout, their profile picture appears and with it, the Klout score (Image 5). This helps media professionals save time in individually searching for influential users.
Also, the various icons just below a user’s picture on their profile (Image 6) allows media professionals to know which social networks are used to calculate the overall Klout score, as well as providing him/her various channels of contacting the user.
Even though the icons (Image 6) allow media professionals various communication methods, it would be easier if they could contact the user directly, either via Klout notifications or email, rather than having to go through the particular social network.
One technical constraint, which is probably design-dispreferred is the failure of the search engine within Klout to find more obscure search topics. For example, when looking for influencers on “abuse”, the search engine fails to find anything (Image 7). This could very well be because of the relatively narrow reach of Klout as compared to Facebook or Twitter. As of September 2012, Klout had 200,000 unique visitors (CrunchBase, 2012) as compared to Facebook’s 160 million (CrunchBase, 2012) and Twitter’s 40 million (CrunchBase, 2012).
Klout is geared more towards the individual use rather than an analysis tool for media professionals, and as such, the score summary (Image 4) is available only to users and not the public so media professionals are not able to use this to determine the credibility of various Klout users. This is a design-preferred constraint that is difficult to move around becuse of the issue of privacy. The score summary gives rather detailed information about a user’s personal social network and Klout and similar tools have a responsibility to users to keep such information private.
As media professionals, when we are trying to assess someone’s social influence, there are many things we have to take into consideration in order to get an accurate depiction of the influence. Paine (2011) points out some things media professionals should be aware of when measuring influence or things to take note of when choosing a tool to analyse social influence. One of the things she mentioned is that “behind every influencer is a real live human”. With tools like Klout doing a ‘people rank’ and attaching a number on people, it is easy for us to become so focused on the number that we forget the persone behind that. Especially for journalists, if we only focus on the number to look for a trend, we overlook possible story angles in the lives of people behind and beyond the number.
ANALYSIS 2: THE TOOL IN USE
In his article, Are These the Olympics’ Most Sponsorable Athletes?, Laird (2012) points the spotlight at SponsorHub, which links sponsors and athletes and scores the marketability of sportsmen and women based on a mix of their social media influence and on-field performance. This article is short, but shows how well Klout scores can be used as an angle in a story.
Another article that used Klout well is this one by Fawkes (2012) on hiring employees based on their Klout scores. The article turned the tables on companies when Fawkes looked at various senior creatives in advertising agencies and their Klout scores. On the other end of the spectrum, when discussing about the same topic, Olanoff (2012) does not seem to do his article justice in comparison to Fawkes’.
In writing my story in part 2, I found Klout’s ranking of my friends particularly useful. It was very easy to just have a quick glance at their scores and then clicking on their profile to see what topics they were influential. The downside to this is that Klout only ranks friends who are already in my personal social network. If my article was for the purpose of a blind date, then it would not work as well.
EVALUATION: RECOMMENDATIONS AND PRO/CON MATRIX
Klout is a very useful tool to get a rough idea of someone’s online social influence, however, it is not particularly designed for media professionals and there is a lot of room for improvement in the way the Klout score is calculated. It should be used in conjunction with other methods of measuring influence and used with caution.
Ballard, S. & Rintel, S. (2012). Are undergrads really more influential than Gruen panelists? Klout thinks so. Mumbrella. Retrieved from http://mumbrella.com.au/klout-score-finds-undergrads-more-influential-than-gruen-stars-99477.
CrunchBase (2012). Facebook. TechCrunch. Retrieved from http://www.crunchbase.com/company/facebook.
CrunchBase (2012). Klout. TechCrunch. Retrieved from http://www.crunchbase.com/company/klout.
CrunchBase (2012). Twitter. TechCrunch. Retrieved from http://www.crunchbase.com/company/twitter.
Fawkes, P. (2012). Should you hire staff based on their Klout score? Mashable. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2012/08/27/hire-based-on-klout-score/.
Henneberry, R. (2012). How to find influential people with social media. Social Media Examiner. Retrieved from http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/industry-influencers/.
Kharif, O. (2012). Finding Social Media’s Most Influential Influencers. BloombergBusinessweek. Retrieved from http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-10-18/finding-social-medias-most-influential-influencers
Klout (2012). What is Klout? Klout, Inc. Retrieved from http://klout.com/#/corp/what_is_klout.
Laird, S. (2012). Are These the Olympics’ Most Sponsorable Athletes? Mashable. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2012/07/25/olympics-most-sponsorable/.
Olanoff, D. (2012). Klout Would Like Potential Employers To Consider Your Score Before Hiring You. And That’s Stupid. TechCrunch. Retrieved from http://techcrunch.com/2012/09/29/klout-would-like-potential-employers-to-consider-your-score-before-hiring-you-and-thats-stupid/.
Paine, K. D. (2011). Measuring influence in the digital age: Impressions, likes and followers. Public Relations Tactics, 18(5), 16.
Ricketson, M. (2004). Writing Feature Stories: How to Research and Write Newspaper and Magazine Articles. Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin.
Schmitz, J. & Fulk, J. (1991). Organizational colleagues, media richness, and electronic mail: A test of the social influence model of technology use. Communication Research. 18 (4): 487-523.
Spencer, L. M. (2006). News Writing: The Gathering, Handling and Writing of News Stories. Boston: D.C. Heath & Co.
Ask me for my number only if your Klout score is above 40
With the rise of social media, matchmakers these days certainly have their work cut out for them. Instead of just using traditional factors like interests, income, height, race etc., dating website Tawkify decided to include similar Klout scores as a factor for linking people up.
According to this article, one of the creators of the online dating agency, E. Jean Carroll, stated that highly influential people on Klout are “cute, smart and connected” and they “know how to listen and react”.
Of course, they don’t use only a person’s Klout scores, but their age and interests, as well as good old-fashioned match-making instincts.
I have a Klout score of 57. I’m not sure how much of a matchmaking instinct I have, but taking into consideration age as well as interest, I looked at my list of friends on Klout and compiled a list of my top three potential dates. Then I actually met up with them over coffee, just as a catch-up, to gauge the likelihood of me wanting to actually date them. Not scientifically accurate, but a good social experiment all the same.
It should be noted that though the three candidates are my friends on Klout, I don’t actually know them very well and the last time I had contact with any one of them was at least five years ago. So, we might as well be strangers, really.
First we have David*, 23, with a Klout score of 54, pretty close to my 57. He’s interested in photography, and since I like being in photos, I consider that a common interest. He’s also one year older than I am, which is certainly a plus-point.
Then I move down the list and there’s Michael*, 22, with a Klout score of 49. Still pretty reasonable. This guy loves a good party and hates mornings as much as I do. We’re of a similar age, but it’s not a big deal. He loves all things tech and is an influencer in technology and entrepreneurship on Klout.
Finally, there’s Thomas*, 24, with a rating of 44 on Klout. He is interested in business, which is half of what I’m studying. He’s well travelled and is an influencer in the topics of wine and tourism.
Carroll finds that “Klout scores are an authentic measurement of sophistication, wit, cultural savvy and appeal”.
Of the three guys, I found myself possible interested only in one.
Despite having the highest Klout score, David was socially awkward and the only time he seemed to feel at ease during our hour-long coffe meet-up was when he had a camera in front of his face. It was a painful 60 minutes for the both of us.
Thomas was on a different wavelength. I certainly love to travel, but while I love the cities, shopping and museums, he waxed rhapsodic on natural rock formations and salt-water lakes in different countries.
Michael was funny, outgoing and interesting, and though I know close to nothing about any technology invented within the past two years, we managed to ignore that topic, and found a common love for food instead.
Are Klout scores a good gauge of compatibility between two people?
I certainly don’t think so.
*Please note that all names are fictitious.