What’s next for Klout? Turning a “blunt object” into a useful tool?

Click here if you can’t see this interview with Klout CEO Joe Fernandez.

Klout seems to be the little company that could. From a perilous journey to attract investment to its early PR controversies, it has sometimes been a hard company to love.

But with a more stable scoring process, a flurry of high-profile deals with companies like Microsoft and ESPN, and record revenues from some of America’s best-known brands, Klout seems to have turned a corner.

In this video interview, the company’s founder lets us sneak a peak at his company’s journey, the “tip of the iceberg” of data that we see, and a vision of turning a “blunt object” of the current scores into something that will ultimately become more interesting and useful to social media enthusiasts. Will Klout become the “Page Rank for people?”

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  • Chuck Kent

    “Puppies, babies, birthdays help, but those are only temporary.” I know he was just humorously (yet truthfully) replying to your question of whether or not your consistent-over-two-years Klout score means you “suck” (your word), but it seemed like he dodged your question even as he couldn’t avoid surfacing the persistent weakness of Klout… its suspectability to being gamed.

    Coincidentally, I just interviewed Danny Brown for Branding Magazine, about Influence Marketing (both the subject and his new book of the same name). I’d be interested in your take (or Joe’s) on this comment from the interview: I think the bastardization of influence happened the moment public scoring was brought into the mix. It’s human nature to want to be the best at something, or have a higher score than someone else. Some people abuse that more than others, so when high scores on social scoring platforms rewarded “members” with freebies, other people wanted a piece of that action. Sam Fiorella (my co-author on the book) and I have witnessed the change in online conversations, as bloggers optimize content to attract brands and social network users change their language to try and be picked up by social scoring algorithms. It’s sad to see, and completely dilutes what real influence is about.” For the full context of his comments: http://ow.ly/iUDYw

    I’d be very interested to get your take on Danny’s comments in light of your interview with Joe (perhaps his honing of the “blunt instrument” will remove some of those criticisms?)

  • johnbottom

    Thanks for posting Mark – very interesting. I am loving this whole shift from web-centric to people-centric. Long overdue, but fascinating. I wrote a post recently on why video was over-hyped as a tool, simply because it cannot be scanned, which means people then rely on its credibility/authorship. I think it’s part of the same deal. It’s becoming more important where information comes from and what level of trust you are prepared to put into it – because with more content around, we need a quick, intuitive way of filtering that is currently not available. Sounds like the search guys – assisted by people like Joe – are addressing this gap. Fascinating stuff.

  • Chuck Kent

    Mark, I don’t think he really answered your question about why you – even as a prodigious online and offline content creator, speaker and cultural influencer – haven’t seen a change in your Klout score in two years. His humorous-but-true confirmation of “the puppy dog” effect simultaneously dodged and highlighted the issue – Klout can be gamed, even if temporarily (and conversely, seems unable to register the full range of real-world influence)

    Gaming aside, I’d be interested in your impression of Danny Brown’s comments in an interview I did with him just published yesterday in Branding Magazine yesterday. He says, “I think the bastardization of influence happened the moment public scoring was brought into the mix. It’s human nature to want to be the best at something, or have a higher score than someone else. Some people abuse that more than others, so when high scores on social scoring platforms rewarded “members” with freebies, other people wanted a piece of that action. Sam Fiorella (my co-author on the book) and I have witnessed the change in online conversations, as bloggers optimize content to attract brands and social network users change their language to try and be picked up by social scoring algorithms. It’s sad to see, and completely dilutes what real influence is about.”

    You’ll please pardon the link in a comment, but I think you and others might want to see the full context of his remarks: http://ow.ly/iUZtK Do you think Klout will refine its “blunt instrument” sufficiently to address the concerns Brown raises?

  • I canceled by klout membership over a year ago and have not looked back. It seemed to me the only entity truly garnering clout was klout, and it was a monumental distraction for me because I am innately competitive.

    Inasmuch as I am not a social media denizen, but just endeavor to use it to help market my bricks-and-mortar environmental consultancy, I do not see being drawn back to it either. Sure it has its place for social media consultants and experts, to measure themselves against one another. For the rest of us, still, not so much.

    Thanks for the interesting blog, though.

  • Agree. I think all of our content and eventually all our of our search results will be tuned that way.

  • I would agree. You’re not Klout’s customer. Thanks for contributing today Mark.

  • I think Danny and Sam are smart and passionate. I generally agree with them but I think they overestimate the general impact of gaming the system and underestimate the practical usefulness of the tools, especially as the field progresses and becomes more refined. It would be the same as saying Google was dumb in 1997 because it was inaccurate and could be gamed. That statement is true but it does not preclude the fact that it was a technology that should be understood and considered as a legitimate trend.

  • Definitely an important trend, and the winners will be those who make it legit. Another interesting mini-discussion ensued this morning in my Twitter stream that might be of interest… @tonia_ries shared this link to SXSW discussion on Influence http://bit.ly/10ShEsu — I like the discussion of leveraging influence via relationships vs. perks; also interested to see the importance cited research gives to mid-level scorers

  • Hi Mark,

    I wouldn’t say we “overestimate” it. As the quote from @twitter-167432870:disqus’s interview says, “Some people abuse more than others”. We recognize that anything that can be gamed, will be. However, many people don’t. The conversation online (and on blogs) has changed, though, and people that are aware of scoring and its “rewards” do often play up to that with their language. Not all the time, but often.

    Both @SamFiorella and I give these platforms credit for starting the conversation around digital influence, but they are still limited. As we conversed over on my blog, when there’s limited data available, the metrics of influence will be skewed. And when that data is being used to help make decisions about jobs, then it needs to be far more accurate.

    The bigger question though, which I don’t think Joe answered, is the business value (though that may be because Klout is consumer-centric, while platforms like Appinions, Traackr, Tellagence, Salorix et al are business-centric). Scoring platforms (so far) have shared very little in success stories for their promotions. This is why brands are still confused about the value of influence as a marketing tactic.

    As Chuck shares in his comment, conversations are beginning to move beyond scoring and into true actionable measurement, results and where the relationship factor offers more than simple social shares. It’ll be interesting to see if the scoring platforms can adapt and keep up to the platforms that started out providing more effective influence solutions in the first place.

  • Agree. Where corruption can occur, corruption will occur. If any of these platforms can;t keep it under control they will be useless. Off camera, Joe did share some big success with international brands. I’m not sure why they are not more publicized but perhaps it has something to do with the fact that if companies are having marketing success with a new tool they don;t really want to publicize it and lose their advantage. I ran into this when interviewing brands for my book. There are lots of good stories out there but they just would not allow me to publish them. I was quite lucky to get the case studies that I did.

    Also agree there is a lot of confusion remaining out there. Just saw a poll that showed “number of Twitter followers” is a leading metric of influence for many company marketing leaders (palm to forehead). We have a LONG WAY to go but agree that the conversation is at least starting to go in the right direction.

    Always honored to have you comment Danny!

  • Great interview! Your interviews grant me access to the thoughts of influencers that I don’t normally interface with. Keep them coming.

  • great interview

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