One of the most fascinating metrics Klout produces is your ‘style’. What could be an interesting insight into the character of a user is instead written in much the same way as a horoscope. I imagine most web users would get a nice ego stroke reading whichever short description happens to apply to them.
I’ve reproduced the list for convenience. Skip to the bottom for my other thoughts on Klout. (Spolier: I think it’s really bad news.)
You highlight the most interesting people and find the best content on the web and share it to a wide audience. You are a critical information source to your network. You have an amazing ability to filter massive amounts of content to surface the nuggets that your audience truly care about. Your hard work is very much appreciated.
You broadcast great content that spreads like wildfire. You are an essential information source in your industry. You have a large and diverse audience that values your content.
You keep tabs on what’s trending and who’s important to watch. You share the best of this with your followers and save them from having to find what’s hot on their own. You probably focus on a specific topic or cater to a defined audience.
Your audience relies on you for a steady flow of information about your industry or topic. Your audience is hooked on your updates and secretly can’t live without them.
You know what you like and your audience likes it too. You know what’s trending, but you do more than just follow the crowd. You have your own opinion that earns respect from your network.
You can’t get any more influential than this. People hang on your every word, and share your content like no other. You’re probably famous in real life and your fans simply can’t get enough.
You are a thought leader in your industry. Your followers rely on you, not only to share the relevant news, but to give your opinion on the issues. People look to you to help them understand the day’s developments. You understand what’s important and your audience values that.
You don’t just share news, you create the news. As a pundit, your opinions are wide-spread and highly trusted. You’re regularly recognized as a leader in your industry. When you speak, people listen.
You might just be starting out with the social web or maybe you’re not that into it. If you want to grow your influence, try engaging with your audience and sharing more content.
You love to connect and always have the inside scoop. Good conversation is not just a skill, it’s an art. You might not know it, but when you are witty, your followers hang on every word.
You don’t share very much, but you follow the social web more than you let on. You may just enjoy observing more than sharing or you’re checking this stuff out before jumping in full-force.
You actively engage in the social web, constantly trying out new ways to interact and network. You’re exploring the ecosystem and making it work for you. Your level of activity and engagement shows that you “get it”, we predict you’ll be moving up.
You are the hub of social scenes and people count on you to find out what’s happening. You are quick to connect people and readily share your social savvy. Your followers appreciate your network and generosity.
You know how to connect to the right people and share what’s important to your audience. You generously share your network to help your followers. You have a high level of engagement and an influential audience.
You’ve got an idea or cause you want to share with the world and you’ve found the perfect medium for it. Your audience counts on you to champion your cause.
You may not be a celebrity, but within your area of expertise your opinion is second to none. Your content is likely focused around a specific topic or industry with a focused, highly-engaged audience.
Why is Klout so bad then?
When I first became aware of Klout it looked like it was going to become a useful and interesting metrics service – a social analytics tool. They still claim to be ‘the standard for influence’. I played with it and then quickly forgot about it.
Today the service seems to have found a second wind. Now they don’t just measure your Twitter influence, they want to add up your ‘Klout’ from all over the social web. And they’ve turned the service into a game. It’s a tactic that seems to be doing well for them.
There’s a dark side to the popularity contest however.
The positioning of Klout is gross, turning ordinary social interactions into some sort of game with a competitive score. Of course there are meaningless achievements. But what’s most loathsome is the primary purpose of Klout is to offer “Perks” (aka “ads”) to you based on your Klout score. Yes, I can get a free sample of Axe Hold and Touch hair gel because I’m such a bro on the Internets! Even worse, you have otherwise-sensible people seriously suggesting we use Klout to decide if people’s comments have value. It’s like a high school popularity contest for the Internet. Yuck.
Worse, they seem to taking their lessons from Facebook, as far as privacy is concerned. Here’s a story from one user:
When I logged into my Klout page this morning, I was very surprised to see that Klout now lists my son as one of the people I influence. Anyone who is a parent of a young adult will know that nothing is more unlikely. And, knowing that my son is not on Twitter, and has always been very careful about managing his privacy on the Internet, how did Klout get the information to create a profile on my son???
This is where Facebook and its famously obtuse privacy settings comes into the picture. Facebook recently made a number of changes to its platform, one of which was to allow users to specify whether their posts were visible just to friends or public (or some combination). Whatever you used for your last post becomes the default for your next post. As a result, my Facebook posts are set to be visible to the public. And when my son recently commented on one of my Facebook posts, so was his comment–and Klout used that comment to find him and create a profile on him.
Search Google for his name + Facebook, and you won’t find his page. You won’t even find him via Facebook search, unless you have more personal information on him to narrow your search down. But now you can easily find him via a prominent link from the Klout profile of a relatively public person.
Klout is a really smart idea, there’s no doubt. It could easily transform into a product that has social media users scrambling to be the ones to share ‘news’ of promotional offers to their attentive ‘network’. This could be the advertising model that works across the social web. Users tend to ignore typical ad blocks, and they rebel against in-stream advertisements, but the ‘RT this message to win an iPad’ model doesn’t seem to be going away.
Klout could end up being less like analytics for social, and more like AdWords for social.
Don’t be a tool.