Does Klout have Clout?

Wednesday, 14 August 2013, 6:47 | Category : General
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Klout, the social media influence calculator, is five years old. If you’re signed up to it (a guilty secret?), then you’re probably in the business of checking yourself out now and then to see how you’re doing – according to Klout, that is.

I’m interested in the take up and penetration of Klout in these times of self broadcasting. Time was, a person’s worth in the eyes of the world was calculated according to his actions and their consequences, and the associated value judgements. For those in the public eye, the public face might be very different from the private reality, and could be warped based on media coverage and the popularity or otherwise of that individual.


Today, thanks to social media, a person can influence their image much more directly than in the past, when the main conduit to conversations was the paid media. Of course media relations advisors can help companies and individuals shape public opinion, but professional journalists were there to take the objective view and tell us – the public – how it was. It was difficult to really get a true sense of a person even when a face was everywhere – Madonna or Thatcher in the 80s say, or Robbie Williams or Tony Blair in the 90s.

The rise of social media suits the cult of personality which pervades today. People and companies can shape how they are seen by adding colour to the picture.  There’s an intimacy there which was never possible when reading a rate interview with a celeb, watching Madonna on Wogan, or Blair grilled by Parky.  We’re getting a glimpse into what people are thinking right now. We also feel we know brands better, through hearing more from them: life through the lens at Coke via its Twitter feed, or a day in the life of the John Lewis CEO. We feel closer.

The point on a communications level is this: people can now manage how they are seen much better than before. They can engage, influence and to some extent control their public image. This applies to private individuals with no public or corporate responsibility as well, who simply want to have a great image within their work or social circles.

Klout is a clever idea as it taps into all these trends and more. It’s a good barometer of social & corporate standing. However it doesn’t distinguish between positive and negative – according to the Klout algorhythm, the more clicks, shares and likes you get,  and in turn the more influential the “sharer”, the higher you rank on the Klout platform. It’s not an effective measure for reputation management. For that, a company or person in the public eye needs humans with brains to look at the data behind the score, read the print media, take in some TV & radio, and take a rounded view. On that basis, ideas for how to build on a good image or improve a poor one can be conceived.

If Klout were to incorporate some intuitive features into its platform, providing context for its scores, it would become a really valuable tool for PR professionals. Perhaps we should feed that one to the team in San Francisco. For now, I’m off to check my score…



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