klouttweetWhat a kerfuffle Klout has stirred up! The US company that offers a service to “measure influence onlinemade changes last week in the technology it uses to calculate an individual’s influence rank known as a Klout Score.

One of the results of the changes – all to do with improving the algorithms that calculate an individual’s Klout Score – is that “a majority of users will see their Scores stay the same or go up but some users will see a drop,” the company said.

My bold emphasis in that quote highlights what rapidly escalated into howls of protest by users as people’s Klout scores tumbled showing lower numbers – dramatically lower in some cases – which the formal posts on Klout’s blog did little to help people clearly understand why.

I’m a Klout user and, like many people I know, one who spent a lot of time trying to figure out how it works and whether it has any measurable value. As a user, I still don’t know for sure (give me a marketer’s hat, though, and it is clearer). But it doesn’t matter: I came to a conclusion a while ago that the value of services like Klout is more in the eye of the beholder, as it were, than in the subject’s eye.

It’s what others believe to be the value of a particular Klout Score to them. That requires a considerable amount of earned trust – and that, it seems to me, is where Klout has now got itself into some serious hot water.

The foundation of Klout’s business is the scoring system and some clever technology that runs it. But closely linked to that is a pure-play marketing programme that offers perks to users if they meet specific criteria connected to their score and their activity in the social spaces that Klout tracks, notably Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Foursquare, YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr, Blogger, WordPress, Last.fm and Flickr.

The Klout Perks programme has attracted some big-name brands in the US such as Audi USA, Red Bull, Axe, Chiquita, and more.

And that’s where the cosy informal social-ness of a ranking or score hits the hard reality of marketing in a company that is attracting interest from investors that could give it a valuation of at least $200 million. And it looks as though the marketing is very hard nosed indeed as Ike Pigott’s experience clearly suggests.

Yesterday’s announcement that Salesforce.com has offered to acquire Radian6 for $326 million strongly suggests that an embryonic social media ecosystem is evolving from a monitoring/analytics tools and services landscape that, broadly speaking, is immature, fragmented and piecemeal and ripe for […]