Klout: Double Standard for Influence?

June 29th, 2010 § 24 comments

I want Klout to do well. From an obvious standpoint (according to their scale of 1 through 100, I am a decent influencer worthy of free prizes!), but more importantly from a social media and technological advancement perspective. The world is starting to appreciate Twitter, and finally realize the power and impact it can have. It seems like Marketing and PR agencies are just getting on the “blogger” wave, while Klout has already skipped past that and is on the new wave of 140 characters (or less).

Yes, it no longer requires a long 500-1,000 word blog post to influence people or to gain trust from your audience. If anything, I trust people on my Twitter feed more than I do a blog post; on Twitter, the person behind the account has no other option but to communicate and converse with their followers, while a blogger can stand up on a soap box, spew out hundreds of words, then sit and watch comments flow (or, trickle) in and approve or deny based on their preference. On Twitter, you get to see who does similar things as you, goes to similar places (yes those Foursquare check-in tweets are annoying, but it can tell you something about a person), and has similar interests. There are certain people who I follow on Twitter that may not have a blog (or I might feel weird emailing out of the blue), but I would look to them, just like I would look to a friend, for their opinion on something because I feel I have gotten to know them and I trust them.

Okay now this just seems like a Twitter love post. Back to Klout.

The thing about this campaign is, it successfully exploded, as they wanted it to. However, like many progressive campaigns, they may not have gotten all their ducks in a row that would prepare them to answer the inevitable questions that would arise regarding their grading system, and even more importantly, their Virgin America golden ticket winners. Now, I am not one to bite the hand that feeds (err flies) me, but I wouldn’t mind sharing a few things Klout may have wanted to consider before launching a high profile campaign (beyond free yogurt and coffee):

1. Iron out all the kinks in the Algorithm.
I received one of the first flights and I was made somewhat of a poster child for this program when Mashable contacted me about the ticket I was given, as well as for information on my Klout score. What they didn’t ask me was, “Is it accurate?”. To be honest, I wouldn’t even have known as I had never even looked before they asked me for the screenshots. Upon further review, I noticed the topics it told me I tweeted about most frequently were odd ones like ‘Voodoo’ (I ain’t no witch!), some of my apparently most clicked on tweets had never even come from my fingertips (and bit.ly tells me what my most popular links are, so this I know), and all-in-all my score seemed low relative to other people who didn’t receive flights immediately (apparently my score needed to be refreshed and recalculated and is now at a 63? Whatever that means, again I don’t know. By this point I probably should).

2. Be transparent on how the winners were selected.
If you are going to be the standard for determining who is an influencer, then you need to set a standard process for how winners are selected. Was it at random? Was it people who had a Klout account? Was it at random over a certain threshold? Hand selected – if so, based on what criteria? The people who win the ticket won’t ask these questions (although I am, I guess), but those who didn’t win certainly will.

3. Know the community.
I don’t know about other communities, but the Toronto Twitter community is a pretty tight knit crew, and that crew is partially (if not fully) responsible for everyone’s “Twitter Influence”. I’m a bit of a floater, but I do know that most people in this city are friends on Twitter and in real life, and they have more influence because of this – their followers aren’t exactly followers at all, but friends, so of COURSE they have influence over them. Knowing this, it’s easy to see how people would get offended, or hurt even, if they are snubbed in a program in which they feel they are partially responsible for their friend winning. I even read one post which referred to the program as feeling like “high school” and “Mean Girls”. If you hear a Lindsay Lohan analogy for a marketing program, you know you might be in trouble! If number 2 happened, then I don’t think the “Mean Girls” comment would be able to come into play, as it would be based on a specific criteria, removing all room for apparent bias.

4. Have a cut off point.
This is a bit of column 2 and 3. The initial invites, for the most part (and I’m not just saying this because I was included) made sense. Celebrities People like Scott Stratten and Casie Stewart received invites and it made sense. Then, once the cries of “why didn’t I get one” came out, it seemed as though all you had to do was tweet the right hashtag or @ reply, and bam, you would magically see a tweet saying “I’m going to LA or SF, THANKS VIRGIN AND KLOUT”, and they would stop complaining. That’s when things got confusing, and a bit fishy. I saw people who had a Twitter account for maybe a month, and less than 200 followers receiving it, when well known Toronto personas weren’t seeing the love. This is when people started to question a) the validity of number 1 up there, and b) more importantly, number 2.

5. Use Hootsuite
Okay, so this is a bit of a weak one but I just noticed a flurry of retweets regarding a Klout meetup tonight at the Gladstone. The meetup has come and gone (it was last night). CoTweet scheduler is a bit wonky, so they should use my pals over at Hootsuite.

Despite the rough patches, I think there are a lot of valuable lessons learned from this program that will only help Klout be stronger and more successful going forward. The Toronto Twitter community is a tough crowd, and can be ruthless at times, but we can also be understanding. I’m excited to visit Klout while I am in San Francisco this coming weekend (on a FREE FLIGHT), and I will be sure to share some of the constructive feedback that I have here, and also that I have heard from others. In the end, I think we all really do (or SHOULD!) want Klout to succeed, and I think any help we can offer will benefit them.

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  • crystalgibson

    Bre, I think this is a great post. You've definitely hit all of the concerns slash questions that I have about klout. Congrats on being an influencer and for making Mashable last week!

  • stephaniefusco

    Great post. I've had a Klout account for awhile (I heard about them on Twitter, obviously) and have always been curious about the algorithms and whether or not they actually work. I especially find the “Influencer of/Influenced by” section kind of wonky.

    With the Virgin promotion, I also found the “how/why” a little off. Yes, I was thrilled when I got a 2nd round invite (and no, I hadn't tweeted about NOT getting one) but also confused when a constantly-blogging tweep with a huge following did not (and she HAD been tweeting about it).

    Hopefully your visit to Klout is a productive one! You definitely have some great ideas that would improve our experiences with the site.

  • http://www.seanward.net Sean Ward

    I saw you on Mashable too! That was pretty cool.

    I totally get the high school comment. The word I've been using is “divisive”. I think that transparency about the issues you've addressed would go a long way towards healing a lot of hurt feelings and bruised egos in the community.

  • http://yousayyeah.com Lee Dale

    “It seemed as though all you had to do was tweet the right hashtag or @ reply, and bam, you would magically see a tweet saying 'I’m going to LA or SF, THANKS VIRGIN AND KLOUT'”

    Hmm. Guess I should have been more aggressive. Would have been nice to see friends in SF. http://klout.com/smack416

  • JackiYo

    Love the post. I have a lot of the same questions, especially about how 'influencers' were chosen. There are people with higher 'klout' scores that didn't receive an offer for a flight.

    And my 'tweets most about' were way off, too! Wyoming?!

  • http://www.emmabrooks.ca/ Emma Brooks

    So funny that you would mention someone talking about high school and Mean Girls. I debated for a few hours whether to tweet something similar, that it felt like Twitter was high school all over again – who was cool? Who wasn't? Apparently, I'm not cool enough.

    I admit, being snubbed sucked and hurt a little. As someone who has been on Twitter for over two years, I feel like I have invested quite a bit into my Twitter circle. And apparently, trying to keep my stream as high quality as possible (i.e. low following count), is a disadvantage here? I also can't figure out why some people (not you, as you make sense) got a ticket while I didn't. It definitely did make me feel like Twitter became high school again for a week or two. Something I never wanted to relive, I assure you.

    Anyway, congrats Breanna on your free trip. I hope you enjoy it and I will live vicariously through you. I LOVE San Fran!

  • http://carlyanne.com/ Carly-Anne

    I was excited to see you in Mashable last week and congrats on getting the ticket.

    It did feel a little high school-ish seeing friends get picked and not me and I'm glad you posted this and asked the questions. I'd really like to know more about how they rank people and how they chose the winners for the flights. My Klout didn't add up very well and my info didn't seem very accurate, compared to other ranking sites I've seen.

    Have fun in SF!

  • GuruCorey

    Worded well, it's true, but with contests like this it seems as though everything is predetermined.
    In my opinion (which i have stated to both the klouters directly) is that the 10 winners in Toronto… who have the most influence, should have been guaranteed in the VX Party. Yes i got my ticket, but that isn't the point. I am a Toronto influencer, not a San Francisco/LA influencer.
    Anywho, whats done is done, we can all rant until we are blue in the face but it wont change anything.

    • http://www.unbrelievable.com/ Breanna Hughes

      The thing is, this is not actually supposed to be a “contest”, but rather a Social Standard that companies should look to in order to get word out on their events, promotions and products.

      It is not marketed as some “enter your name in a hat random luck of the draw” contest. If it was, then this post wouldn't exist (I'm still waiting on my Lotto 649 millions!).

      If they want to be the standard, they need to set standards. This wasn't a rant, but constructive criticism for them going forward.

  • http://twitter.com/duanebrown Duane Brown

    This is a great post Breanna. I think you hit the nail on the head on all your points. I wrote about this last week and getting the ticket and my experience. Having chatted with lot of different people the last week and half, I know everyone wants to know the why & how.

    However, I know the challenge for Klout is that they won't release their IP around how they run the scoring. It's no different then Syncapse or any digital agency/company not releasing any of their IP that clients pay them for. With that said, Klout did say on their blog that they are hand picking people for this campaign. I even chatted with Joe, CEO, from Klout and some of these issues and he said he'd make them more clear for future engagements.

    Lastly, I agree this was not a contest at all. If people did complain and then get a ticket..,.. that’s not great for anyone involved. It'll be interesting to see how the next campaign goes for Klout as this whole Toronto experience will teach them a lot.

    Disclourse: I did get a ticket and will be off in August

  • http://twitter.com/duanebrown Duane Brown

    Just saw this on the Klout blog:

    How We Find Top Influencers « Klout Blog http://bit.ly/cJTg9V ..see this about the Toronto campaign.

  • http://www.klout.com Megan Berry

    Hey Breanna,

    It was nice meeting you yesterday and would be happy to chat more about this when you're in SF. There is a method behind how we chose people. Klout Score is a strong component of this, but not the only component. You can read more about this process in our blog post http://klout.com/blog/2010/06/how-we-find-top-i… from last week. We did not give anyone tickets simply because they tweeted or emailed us. Thanks for your feedback.

    -Megan Berry
    Marketing Manager, Klout

  • http://twitter.com/JennaStothers Jenna Stothers

    Hi Breanna,

    I think #2 is the main reason why the Klout campaign has left a bitter taste in some people's mouths. The selection process lacked transparency and led people to wonder why they weren't influential enough to be chosen.

    As I pointed out earlier this week in my blog post , a few of us did get that whole “high-school” mean girls feeling, which I think is natural when Twitter becomes divisive, as Sean pointed out below.

    After all, isn't the whole point of Twitter to level the playing field? I have friends on Facebook with 800 plus “friends” but for me, Twitter is for networking and making new connections and shouldn't be focused on a number, like number of followers or your Klout number.

    Singling out influencers to have them talk about what cool new gift they got kind of makes Twitter less fun and more exclusive than inclusive. At least, that's just my opinion…I'm genuinely happy for the deserving people on Twitter who are unquestionably influential and received the invites.

    • http://www.unbrelievable.com/ Breanna Hughes

      Ah! It was your post. I forgot who's it was, thanks Jenna!

      As much as I hate to admit it, Twitter was one big high school before this promotion, this promotion just made it more clear cut. There are plenty of cliques on Twitter, and they sick together a lot. It's a weird bizarro Jerry Seinfeld world out there.

      I agree 100% with your statement of “Twitter is for networking and making new connections and shouldn't be focused on a number, like number of followers or your Klout number. “

      And your last point speaks to my point about having a cut off. If you leave it more black and white (2000+ followers, certain scores), then people wont feel as left out and know what they can strive for for the next campaign.

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  • Alanna Glicksman

    Great post, Breanna. You really understand everyone’s joys and frustrations with this promotion.

    I think one of the most detrimental aspects to the partnership was the initial lack of transparency in how the “influential” few were chosen. Yes, Klout eventually wrote a blog post to explain their process, but it still felt like I was in a social media version of “Mean Girls” (great analogy, Jenna!). When companies choose only a handful of people to offer free goods to, it automatically becomes a popularity contest. I’m genuinely happy and excited for the influential few who received tickets, but I can’t help feeling left out when my Twitter feed is filled with excited tweets from ticket holders. I’m now living vicariously through everyone’s tweets!

    Also, I agree with your point about Klout needing to work out the kinks in their system. When the promotion was developed, Klout should have ensured that everyone’s score was updated (mine was still my February score/tweets until I emailed them for an update).

    Regardless of the mishaps, the promotion is still extremely successful. The amount of blog posts and tweets it has generated are great publicity for both Klout and Virgin. Congrats to all the lucky fliers!

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  • Lucia/Lulula

    Excellent post Breanna & I totally agree with every question you are asking.

    You comment is bang on: “The thing is, this is not actually supposed to be a “contest”, but rather a Social Standard that companies should look to in order to get word out on their events, promotions and products.”

    I work with a lot of brands helping them find the right influencers & I'm 100% positive that it can't be based on a simple algorithm.

    Jenna: your comment is perfect: “Twitter is for networking and making new connections and shouldn't be focused on a number, like number of followers or your Klout number. ” It is so important that people way the quantity vs quality factor around twitter.

    Bri, I'm super proud of you for winning & ticket and being aware enough to ask the right questions raising the bar for everyone in social media. It's important that as a community we set high standards, question strategies & work together so we can all learn, grow and achieve success.

    Let's hope Klout will take all this feedback & apply it to future campaigns. That is where the real power of social media comes from IMHO.

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