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Can Klout be used to gauge the potential of a human being? It can if you’re a Florida State professor Todd Bacile, who wants to grade his students based on their social media influence. Lots of people are wondering if Klout has any merit, and even the Klout developers recently revamped their scoring system to enable a “more accurate, transparent Klout.”
Was the revamp worth it? We’ll have to first decipher, with our own data, is Klout currently has the merit it touts. Using a bit of competitive intelligence, we’ll be checking to see if a Klout aristocrat (in this case Lauren Conrad) with one of those ineffable Klout scores (84 as of this writing) has the sway they’re attributed.
On July 12th Lauren Conrad, reality television darling, urged her follow-hive of 2,803,716 twitter users to investigate a promotion for the site LittleBlackBag.com. The tweet is clear, decisive, and maybe a bit demanding, but it’s link doesn’t actually lead directly to the website in question. First, it leads to Conrad’s personal site, then onto LittleBlackBag.com.
But did it work?
Here’s a hint: Nope. In July, LittleBlackBag.com continued to decline in Unique Visitors. Even if the 23,514 UVs in July were all from Conrad’s camp, that’s less than 1% of Conrad’s followers respecting her instruction, or in Klout terms showing themselves to be ‘influenced.’ Meanwhile Conrad’s own site enjoyed a 48.67% growth in UVs since the month previous. This says more about Klout than it does about Conrad. In this case, it says that not many people are all that influenced by Conrad, and of the few that are, only a few are actually trickling onto whatever she’s funneling them towards.
With nearly 3 million followers, you’d assume influence would be a tad more visible, but perhaps Klout has mistaken ‘influence’ for ‘followership,’ in which the prior denotes a measurement of activity and the later only purports a unengaged observation of someone else’s activity—in this case Lauren Conrad’s.
Just so we’re being fair, full disclosure: my Klout score is 63, and evidently I am influential about Zooey Deschanel, Pokemon, and birds. While my alleged expertise in birds continues to be a joke among my friends, my actual interest in what my score could mean faded after my initial discovery. Others are feeling the same way: at its highest, Klout had over 150k search referrals in July of 2011. One year later, however, and that search referral metric is consistently hovering around the mid-20k region, showing no sign of regaining its former glory.
My fear for Klout is that after this swell in attention people are going to depart from caring, like I did, and the measurement is going to obfuscate itself. Klout has done something incredible: it’s taught us that something as fickle as social influence is quantifiable, but more importantly it’s convinced us that this quantity should matter. Hopefully their tweaked measurements are a little more trustworthy, or else that professor at Florida State is going to have to pull off an immense grade curve to salvage his career.
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