The Illusion of Klout and the Social Media Impact

Klout.  It is all the rage among social media enthusiasts, and after sipping the kool-aid in July, I performed a little research to learn how to quickly raise my level of “influence.”  I was able to implement some great tricks that increased my score by 55% in nine days.  After a couple of weeks, I started to notice how obsessing over a Klout score was negatively impacting my social media interaction.  My score has since leveled off at a 55 as I began to pull back on the score raising methods I started using.  As someone whose core personality requires a true connection at work or at play, I recognized in that short amount of time, I became more concerned with working a system than I was about the people whose lives I touch and who touch mine.  That was a problem.

I have seen numerous articles addressing the pitfalls of Klout.  From my point of view, it has less to do with its use of complex algorithms to create a social media influence ranking and more to do with how people abuse the system to appear to be something they are not- a person of influence.  The following are three ways that the mishandling of Klout may negatively affect social media.

1.  Authenticity is traded for a higher Klout score. 

Does this person sincerely “like” the content or are they merely liking, tweeting, and commenting on status updates to increase their social media presence and thereby raise their Klout score?  When people are more concerned with maintaining or increasing their Klout score rather than truly connecting with their friends or followers and providing good content, one of the major benefits of social media is removed.  People are more than a means to an end, and truly connecting with them by showing a real interest goes a long way.  Social media is a great avenue for bringing people together from all around the globe.  Though it also may be used as a powerful business tool, the “social” aspect should neither be forgotten nor sacrificed in the personal quest for expert status.

2.  People may be unaware of an ineffective social media strategy. 

Due to the issues stated in the above point, a social media marketing plan should take into careful consideration the fact that there are many insincere people out there who may not  support the person, the content, or the product, yet, they click the thumbs-up button and leave a comment simply to boost their own Klout score.  Therefore, putting too much weight on the opinion of people who may only be playing the system could cause the social media marketer to continue a campaign that is in truth ineffective.  This is one of the reasons it is important that a social media plan be only one aspect of a much larger, more comprehensive marketing plan.

 3.  People assume Klout equals clout.

The Klout scoring system reminds me a great deal of the method that is used to choose the “top lawyers” showcased in magazines such as “Texas Super Lawyers” and “Texas Monthly” Magazine.  What many in the public may not know is that the “top lawyers” named are actually individuals and firms who paid to be featured in the magazine.  In reality, as it is a paid advertisement, whether the person is actually a good lawyer may or may be true.  It is the same when looking at a Klout score.  Two people in the same industry may have different scores; however, in real life, the person with the lower score is in fact more successful and influential to society than his or her colleague.  This is one of the reasons not to rely solely on a scoring system to evaluate expertise.

While an effective social media strategy research tool in and of itself, it must be recognized for what it is and what it is not.  An infallible measure of a person’s ability or knowledge of a topic is something that it is not.

What are your thoughts on the Klout system and its impact on social media?  How can people balance the desire for a high score and providing relevant content and a real point of connection?

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