Social media scoring system Klout did a big refresh tonight and it is clearly broken because it said I am less influential than it said I was before. But is it worthless? Is this a meaningless arbitrary number that deserves nothing but mockery? No.
Alexia Tsotsis posted a funny video and a harsh critique at TechCrunch tonight and she said, essentially: Klout is worth nothing, nobody cares.
I’ve certainly got critiques of Klout, but I think the service’s value is important to recognize, too.
My comment, in response:
I use the Klout browser plug-in to help when I’m scanning down a large set of Twitter users in my browser as one of several methods to make sure I don’t miss someone that was not known to me before but was known to and respected by the many more people on the web than myself. In other words: “We all have an inherent sense of who is influential” is a statement that only makes sense if you keep looking at the same people all the time or assume that you already know everyone influential.
I suppose I could get a good feel for how influential a person I do not know, from a place I’ve never been, is if I took 30 to 180 seconds to make that evaluation manually (who can’t judge another person quickly these days?) but if you’re looking at hundreds or thousands of people then Klout can be a useful tool.
For example, see below a Twitter search for the hashtag #occupysf, with the Klout browser plug-in turned on. Scanning down these four accounts Tweeting the term, the numbers tell me that the first and fourth accounts are less weighty than the second and third. If I stopped and looked closer you know what I’d see?
I’d see that the first is a Sarah Palin satire account that almost no one pays attention to and the fourth is a political rabble rouser with little traction on Twitter either. The second and the third are documentary film makers who have built audiences for themselves online. I stopped to find that out, but I didn’t have to thanks to Klout. When I’m in a hurry and there are lots of twitter accounts to evaluate fast – I can scan down those numbers and see who’s got a history on Twitter and online, and who doesn’t. I don’t know any of these people, but some of them have a greater demonstrated history of contributing content that’s appreciated by their communities than other accounts have. Is that the be-all-end all metric? No. Is it a useful tool? Yes. Klout is great for quick judgements and fast sorting of a bulk of people online in lightweight circomstances.
All social networks assign scores to the accounts inside them, Klout just surfaces those as its central value proposition.