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That one time I got badgered into writing a Klouticle

By on May 25, 2012 in Tech Takes | 0 comments

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Klout is one of those things you either love or love-to-hate. For those who are late to the party, Klout is way to measure how big your penis is, only online. As it turns out, ‘the public’, apparently, is crazy to know what my thoughts on Klout are and I have been badgering with requests to write a post about it. So due to popular demand, I decided to do a blog post on Klout.

A high Klout score works wonders in attracting dem bitches. This post will teach you how to make your friends burn with jealousy at your massive Klout score. Actually, it will do none of those things and will very soon turn into a pretentious discussion, but let’s keep up appearances. For now.

One of dem bitches. Muy caliente!

Once you login using your Twitter or Facebook account on the Klout website, it stalks your profile 24/7, silently judging every word that you say, every conversation you have, every social faux pas that you commit (like that one time when I posted a link to goatse on your mom’s Facebook wall and she liked it – that was hilarious). Klout then uses magic and ground puppy dog tails to calculate how big your online penis is, down to two decimal places.

Ever watchful and judgemental that Klout is, it can also tell you what topics you are ‘influential’ in. For me this happens to be (in order):

(Note that I have cleverly introduced links to tag pages on my own blog to keep you trapped on this site longer. Fall for that trick, please.)

Finally (not really, because Klout has more cavities that you can fall into), Klout gives you a ‘personality’ type based on your social network content and interactions. The scientific accuracy of this is as good and worthwhile as a Myers-Briggs personality type – which is to say, not scientific at all.

What do you mean I “may not be a celebrity”?!

You can use your clout on Klout (henceforth shortened to ‘Klout’ for simplicity) to access perks from companies – freebies, early access to websites, party invites, et al.

See, when you’re following a celebrity on Twitter or Facebook, you don’t want to hear them peddling affiliate links to buy goji berry drinks on Amazon. There is a certain expectation on part of fans that the interactions with a celebrity on these social media sites would be ‘more authentic’ – not having to listen to their favourite idols talk about products for commercial reasons. This is partly why Twitter hasn’t been able to make any significant amount of money. Yet there are companies too scared to lose the plot in the New World Order and not advertise on social networks and an equal number of ‘social media advertising agencies’ itching to relieve aforementioned companies of their heavy wallets. How do you find influential but non-celebrity users whose egos can be stroked to create an environment where online advertising spends increase?

Therein lies the whole reason why it exists: Klout is a ___________. If you guessed the blank as ‘circlejerk’ then congratulations, that’s the right answer. While I’m sure the statisticians who work at Klout are smart and genuinely nice people, the way Klout is marketed as ‘the standard of influence online’ is because it allows marketing agencies to claim they are engaging with ‘highly influential users’ while it keeps the cheque-signers at companies happy, too, that they are reaching out to ‘highly influential users’.

Take for instance another company tackling the same problem – PeerIndex. Who the fuck talks or knows about PeerIndex? Nobody, exactly. PeerIndex is the conscientious nerd who sticks to the maths of the matter and doesn’t do Klout’s fudging of accounts to make you better than you really are. My PeerIndex score is 30 / 100 and it tells me I’m not influential on any topics – which I think is an assessment far closer to truth that Klout’s. Who wants to hear that? Nobody, exactly. (The days when, if ever, I log in to my PeerIndex account are the days I cry myself to sleep.) Nobody – not the marketing companies, not the companies with the money, and more importantly not the users – wants to hear that they are shit and actually influence no one.

And thus Klout exists – because it has gotten ego-stroking down to a science, despite how noble its intentions are. People want to hear what unique and influential snowflakes they are, which come to think of it, isn’t that far from what a Myers-Briggs test is. (Myers-Briggs, at best, is a test that tells you who you think you are rather than who you actually are.) It is a mirror in which people see the image of themselves they want to see. So while Klout’s estimations may be wildly inaccurate (e.g., I don’t think I influence anywhere near 2000 people as part of my extended network), it’s ‘fun’ because even when it’s wildly inaccurate it gives a rough idea of how ‘popular’ you are according to high school playground metrics. Top it off with up-to-two-decimal-point scores on how well your friendships are to lend a veneer of scientific respectability, there’s no wonder that even the people who hate Klout cannot stop talking about it.

For marketers trying to find a more ‘genuine’ way to market to an audience via proxies of trendsetters on social networks, most mechanisms of determining who really influences whom miss out on a very important point: the most influential people in my social circle may not even be interacting with me in publicly measurable ways! What they are getting through these ‘standards of influence’, essentially, are the people with the loudest megaphones – but not necessarily the people with the most intent listeners near their soapbox.

Klout and the people who take it seriously are fascinating much in the way Ignatius J. Reilly in John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces is a fascinating train-wreck.

***

Okay, enough Klout bashing. Muah, I love you Kloutployees (if there are any in the audience).

“What is the point of Twitter?” is a question I get asked often from friends who don’t use it. (I’m focussing on the former since that’s what Klout primarily bases its calculations on.) Having said I everything I have said, Twitter (and to an extent, Facebook) remains an excellent way of discovering new things and maybe getting a few laughs. That’s the ‘consumption’ aspect of Twitter. There are many people who happily spend time just reading tweets from celebrities / friends / people who share the same interests. There isn’t any ‘right’ way of using Twitter for reading…except perhaps remembering that Twitter is not email.

In the context of Klout though the more relevant question – which I also get asked often too – is “What do I share on Twitter that would interest people?” (how ‘viral’ your tweets are have a direct relation to how healthy your Klout is). In a way metrics like Klout do encourage you keep posting content if you find enough people are reading it. (Most of what I say here is true for blogs too. Remember Technorati?)

Far too many people I know take the approach of tweeting or blogging about things that are already popular or can be obtained from elsewhere. Nobody gives a shit if you only link to breaking news stories or put up thought-provoking quotes. If I want news links, I go to Google News. If I want poignant quotes, I’ll buy a book on Tao. What really makes you stand out is to have unique content – perhaps your take on daily life seen in a way that other people don’t see, or when sharing links, sharing things that within your online circle that people are unlikely to find elsewhere / still find interesting (if all your friends on Twitter are medical students, they won’t care about how Facebook solved an engineering challenge, etc).

Another thing that helps is following and interacting with people whom you find interesting. People aren’t magically going to discover you no matter how compelling your Twitter feed is unless they know you exist – and the best way to make them aware of how you exist is to talk (in Twitter terms, @reply) to them.

Of course, it helps if you aren’t a Klouchebag. My pet peeve in this regard is people who take Twitter’s 140 character restriction to throw grammar out of the window. Or #OveruseHashtags. Don’t feel pressured to use #tags. You’ll get the hang of them eventually when you use Twitter long enough.

When influential bloggers like Marco Arment writes about thermostats or Rachel talks about detour signs, they still remain influential because they are writing content nobody else is. Create awesome, unique content, and people will read it.

 



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