In 2012, Matt Thomson, former Vice President of Platform and Business Development at Klout, boldly predicted that users with higher Klout scores would be entitled to better customer service, including the ability “to board planes earlier, get free access to VIP airport lounges and stay in better hotel rooms”. Matt believed that users with higher scores would carry greater “influence” in the social media world, as their experiences would be highly documented, viewed by a larger audience and hold greater sway on their followers’ behaviours and buying patterns than people with a lower score.
Fast forward a few years and we can see how these ambitious claims have fallen short, as the reputation and subjective nature of Klout scores have been criticized since that launch of the website in 2008. In theory, a system that measures social media users’ influence by aggregating their performance on several social media network sounds like a very powerful and useful tool; however, after closely watching the decline of user interest in Klout, we can see that this scoring system falls flat in a few areas. Here’s why…
The average Klout score is between 20-40; however, spam accounts seem to be amassing alarmingly high scores. Martin Beck of Marketing Land shared, “The robots also managed to start gaining clout on Klout, with 20% having a Klout score above 35 (on the social influence rater’s 0 to 100 scale). The bot with the highest Klout rating hit 42”. How is it that these spambots, the scourge of the social media universe, could exert more influence than respected users?
Even though Klout scores received a lot of buzz when emerging on the market, most of today’s marketing and communications professionals are still unsure of the value of these scores and how to use them for any meaningful purpose. Klout’s questionable value has led industry professionals to lose interest in this metric, which seems neither accurate or useful.
One common criticism of the ranking system is that users’ scores are very subjective and unexplainable. In 2015, it was noted that at one time Justin Bieber had more Klout than Barack Obama. This raised quite a few eyebrows, since Bieber and Obama were targeting completely different demographics and yet, were ranked using the same algorithm; essentially a fruitless attempt to “mix apples and oranges”. Klout “corrected” its algorithm to increase Obama’s ranking, which only served to lessen Klout’s credibility. After all, how could industry professionals maintain confidence in scores based on unknown factors which could be “adjusted” to suit the company’s interests? Without explaining how scores are determined, industry professionals needed to accept Klout based on faith alone—and faith doesn’t cut it in a world ruled by metrics.
Can’t Keep Up
Every day we are presented with exciting new social media tools, while the interest in other previously loved sites decreases. Unfortunately, Klout hasn’t been able to keep up with emerging social media apps, including Snapchat and Vine, and doesn’t account for decreases in user influence due to the decline of certain channels. By ignoring changes in the social media universe, Klout is currently incapable of approximating the actual influence users exert in the digital world of today.
ITC Responds to the Decline of Klout
Originally, with the rise of interest around Klout scores, ITC provided Klout as an extra metric for agents using the platform to help determine the reach of the Twitter posts. After consulting with organizations using social media on the ITC platform, we have found Klout to be of limited value for our clients, who either gauge response priority based on number of followers or simply value each interaction equally, regardless of how much influence a customer may hold. In response to the decline of Klout, ITC has decided to remove the Klout score from the agent dashboard.