In Defence Of Influence Metrics

kloutscorewallIs Klout getting a bum rap, spitefully pilloried in critical commentary such as my post on November 12 on opting out of Klout? Guest author Tammy Kahn Fennell believes that services like Klout and PeerIndex deserve fairer assessment.

Let me open with this. I am not invested in any influence score company. My company, MarketMeSuite integrates with Klout and Peer Index as one of about 20 other integrations. And we also have the option to turn off influence entirely.  I am writing this because from where I’m standing, influence (specifically Klout) is being given a bad name not because of what it measures, but because how the company profits from it. I thought it was time to think long and hard about whether we want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Neville was nice enough to give me a chance to post an opposing viewpoint to his “Out of Klout” article. Thanks Neville.

Let’s look at the facts of recent events:

Klout made an announcement they were shifting their algorithm to focus less on how much you post, and more on how engaging you are.

They gave people a week’s notice for this.

A couple of weeks ago a whole lot of people woke up to realize they were a fair bit less influential than they were the day before.

Whenever there’s a big change, it causes people to re-evaluate. And when an algorithm shift “disses” a whole bunch of people and flat out says “you’re less cool than you thought,” people can get a little angry.

Anger Turns To Spite

But what I’ve seen happen goes beyond anger. What I’ve seen happen is that people have turned incredibly spiteful toward influence metrics.  Now, if you think it’s a load of BS and that there’s really no way to measure or rank, then fine, I’ll leave you in peace. But what I’m striving to put to rest is the ambiguity around whether people are attacking influence metrics themselves, or just Klout. Neville pointed out in a comment reply to me that he doesn’t feel the same about Peer Index, because he feels the company is run by a nice group of people and that may be true.The folks over at PI are very nice, that’s for sure, but, when my PI score and Klout score are within points of each other, one can’t help but wonder if the metric is actually correct, and that people are condemning influence as a metric because they have it in for one company, Klout.

(As an aside, I have spoken to the folks at Klout and have never found them to be the Ogres they are being painted as, but that’s not the point of this article. We must not judge usefulness on how much we like people in the company, but on whether it is actually useful.)

Saving Time

Could I do a lot of what Klout and Peer Index do on my own? Sure. I can go ahead and check out fan pages, see how engaged they seem, look at follower to following ratio, see how often they tweet… but I’m a busy person. I work full time and have a two year old at home. I rely on metrics to help me do things faster.

Here’s how I use it…

Someone contacts me to do some kind of joint promotion or guest blog. I have a quick glance at influence.  I then jump over to their site, have a quick look at Alexa ranking, and Google Page Rank.  And it’s the combination of these things that gives me an idea of their reach. I have created ‘tranches’. It’s not the exact score or rank, but more just basic levels. Less than 20 Klout, over a million on Alexa, page rank of 1 or less… probably not a lot of reach.  Over 40, under 100,000, PR of 3 or higher, now we’re talking.

Could they be more forthcoming?

Sure, I suppose Klout, PeerIndex, and any other metric that pops up could be more forthcoming with what goes into their algorithms. Wouldn’t it be great if Google was? But, when you think about it, an algorithm is really the “secret sauce” for those companies, so I think I’ll forgive them for not sharing every ingredient.

I’ll also hasten to add: THEY ARE NOT PERFECT. I am the first to say that there are inaccuracies. For a few weeks I was influential on Klout in “lightning” because of an article, ironically, about Peer Index servers going down when the Amazon server was struck. But I think they are evolving… Scores seem to be settling, and being effected less by volume of post, and more by quality of interaction. This is evident in our test account @VinceFairfax recently dropping from a respectable 30 to a 16. Vince never engages, he just posts out an insane amount.

The question you have to ask is this:

Is the decision to “opt out” of Klout because you truly don’t find any use in what their doing?

Because if it’s a distaste for their business model because the “product” they are selling is you, then you should probably opt out of Facebook, Twitter, Google and really any free service on the market. You are the product, you have always been the product. You think you’re not the product for Peer Index? You are, and you know what? I’m ok with it. I’m ok with knowing that as long as I’m getting some value, they make a living. Think perks are stupid? Fine. Don’t take part in them. I’ll take my free sample of perfume.

We live in a free market (well, sort of, but that’s another post for another day). If you don’t like their business model and don’t want to take part, that’s fine, but ultimately is that it? I have found use for influence metrics in this ever growing social world. I have no idea if their revenue model will stand up. I’m not sure if anyone cares about getting 200 free business cards. Maybe they do. All I care about is whether something makes my life easier. The bottom line, to me, is they are useful.

Think about it…

So, I’ll leave you to ponder: Are influence metrics as a whole (and you have to group ALL companies in with this then) just not useful to you?

I’m all for having an open and honest debate about this. I just wanted to drill down to what really matters. Is the metric useful, or not?!  I look forward to your comments. I’m a nice person, be nice ;)

TammyKahnFennellGraduating with a degree in Strategic Communications from University of Wisconsin’s School of Journalism, Tammy Kahn Fennell has been putting her marketing expertise to work since 2003. In late 2009, after spotting trends and recognizing the future in social media, she co-founded the popular social media marketing dashboard, MarketMeSuite. The company now has a fast-growing global customer-base of businesses and consultants. She also runs WeAreSocialPeople.com. Connect with Tammy on Twitter: @TammyKFennell.

Image at top used with permission (cc) Kenneth Yeung – www.snapfoc.us.

About Neville Hobson

Entrepreneurial business communicator with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Co-host of the weekly business podcast For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report. Also an occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Follow me on Twitter and Google+.