There has been much discussion as of late about social scoring and its connection to “influence marketing.” I am not an expert on the matter like Mark Schaefer or Danny Brown and Sam Fiorella, but I figured I would weigh in. The debate centers around whether or not social scoring metrics translate into real influence. And, to clarify further, the real argument is whether or not someone with high scores on social media platforms has a greater likelihood of influencing purchasing decisions than someone who does not. In other words, does Klout really mean clout?
In short, my answer is a resounding, “No!” Until someone comes up with a social scoring platform that connects dollars spent to social media interactions, I will not be convinced otherwise. Just this past week or so, Klout–the company that really brought this debate to the forefront–announced the rolling out of Klout for Business. In my opinion, this is taking it way too far. I’ve heard stories about employers requiring a minimum Klout score from applicants, but this? Marketing departments spending actual money for access to these arbitrary metrics? I must be dreaming.
What does Klout (or other “social scoring” platforms that are more transparent like Kred) actually measure? Well, it has nothing to do with money. As I understand it, it is simply the quantity and quality of “conversations” people have with other people online. By quantity, I mean consistency. If you drop off social media, your scores plummet. By quality, I mean that you are interacting with other people who have high scores.
— Klout (@klout) March 20, 2013
The first problem is that measuring a person’s ability to talk to people online is not the same thing as measuring that person’s ability to influence purchasing decisions. The second, more difficult problem (as Margie Clayman gets at above) is that platforms like Klout are so easy to fool. Countless stories have been relayed to me about people intentionally “gaming” Klout and becoming influential on silly topics like, “Unicorns.” You can convince the platform that you are “influential” as long as you have a lot of connections who are also “influential” and talk about the same thing all of the time.
For example, right now, Klout says I’m influential on football, dentistry, and Chicago–three things about which I am very uninfluential. But, somehow, the platform picked up a discussion on those topics in which I was involved and, presto, I have influence. So, if you’re a football player in Chicago looking for a dentist, I’m your guy…but it’s going to cost you ;-D
What These Social Scores Are Really About…
A couple of weeks ago, Daniel Newman left a comment on Facebook asking the very same question that I’ve been pondering:
“Maybe this is a pot stirring comment…But at this point can anyone tell me what the point of Klout is? I just checked in for the first time in a quite some time and thought…why am I here and what the heck is the point. Just curious if anyone else is wasting their time wondering the same thing.”
My response to Dan sums up how I feel about the whole matter:
“Klout’s a fun game for celebrities and teenagers, but for professionals doing real work and building real relationships, yeah, it’s meaningless. If someone ever asks me in a professional setting what my Klout score is (hasn’t happened yet) I don’t think I’ll be able to keep a straight face.”
Klout is a game. Kred is a game. Empire Avenue (remember that one?) is a game. I am perfectly okay with people “playing around” on these networks and trying to beat out their friends on social media. But, seriously, let’s leave it at that. It is nothing more.
Until Klout adds PayPal and Square to its slew of social media platforms it is measuring, I would not recommend it is a gauge for making business or marketing decisions. Be smart with your money. Understand that this is all just a game. Play it if you want but please, I’m begging you, don’t spend money on it.