In creating my piece on Klout and Clout, I reached out, as I usually do, to some smart people who typically have great perspectives and distinctive takes. In this case, I asked Alex Lightman and Daniel Rasmus about influence and how we measure it.
I incorporated their thoughts in the main piece, but wanted to share their (slightly edited) full takes here, to give you a broader sense of their always distinctive thinking. Thanks to both for their help as I thought through this issue. Go online to follow their powerful thinking on a variety of tech and other issues.
I see value in both the Klout score and, especially, in the +K topics and recipients. I find Klout fascinating because it is a giant step forward in the dream of the West: Pantometry, the measure of everything.
There is also an emerging art form and comedy in the data. For instance, Rupert Murdoch is No. 5 in “Hacking” as measured by +K, and No. 19 in “Cloth Diapers.
I thought that the outcome of the recent online protests that pushed back against the SOPA/PIPA copyright legislation could be seen as a clash of the Titans, pitting “influence” (people with high Klout scores and a personal commitment to transparency and making one’s case in writing and video to the public) vs. “power” (secret people meeting in secret rooms with secret agendas, exchanging secret favors for secret payments).
I also think that, just as a large market capitalization for an Internet company is based on that company’s potential more than actual (achievements), Klout scores and high +K rankings are more indicative of trajectory, and who the leaders will be in the future, if they don’t derail themselves or blow their opportunity with reputation-harming choices.
Klout should be given time to morph into what it will become. The history of measurement shows that it takes 100 years or more before a truly new and novel measure is goes from “unconscious incompetence” to “unconscious competence.”
Only about 1 percent of the world’s 2.1 billion Internet users are even at stage 2, “conscious incompetence,” of this four-stage evolution. Less than one-tenth of 1 percent of Internet users are in stage 3, “conscious competence.” Those are the people who are No. 1 in five or more topics that are related to that person’s work, career, or form of professional expression.
Daniel W. Rasmus
One of the biggest issues with influence and reputation analytics is the incompleteness of these companies’ models, on a number of levels.
First, they don’t have a model for all of the sources of influence. By focusing online, they miss conferences, for instance. Even if conference participation might be picked up and included in the stream, the size of an audience at the conference (and the audience’s influence) certainly isn’t.
And they don’t do anything with traditional media. There is a correlation between social media influence and media influence in general, but I think it is contextual and we don’t yet understand the relationship.
The other big completeness issue is one of action. Retweeting or liking is an action, but it isn’t an economic action. Klout, for instance, can’t equate a tweet about a new tennis racket to tennis racket sales, or a post about a movie to ticket sales.
Think also about the completeness of the influencer’s own action. Does the influencer follow through, behave in a way that is aligned with the influencer’s personal brand messages? I don’t think these online systems have any way to gauge that except via proxy, and any of those proxies is completely opaque.
There are a lot of other completeness issues, too, like not including comments on posts, charitable work, awards won or books published.
One final issue I see is that of standards.
We don’t have standards to represent the inputs and we don’t have standards to represent the model, so each firm mines data in an apparently unique way, and apparently also analyzes it in a unique way.
As a result, not only are reputation and influence opaque, they are perhaps even unfathomable to the average user. I don’t think anyone understands their credit scores, and I don’t think anyone will be able to understand their social influence score or online reputation either.
This means that the companies that develop these metrics sell their “insights” to buyers, who then use those “insights” about people who don’t understand, and therefore have no control, over the scoring.
I don’t think that has worked well for the average consumer in the credit market, and I don’t think influence and reputation scores are going to be meaningful to them either.
Furthermore, tying scores to gamification, as Klout has done with Klout Perks, creates an even more dubious situation: people are competing against each other to win a game whose rules they don’t understand. It reminds me more than a little of the Land of Toys section of “Pinocchio” (or Pleasure Island in the 1940 Disney movie).