The relevance of Klout in the online world has been slammed from every direction for the past half-decade. It has been endlessly over analyzed by social media experts and business leaders alike. A few brave voices have attempted to push back, agreeing that while the scores aren’t a true measure of influence, they have a place. Five years ago, social media guru Jay Baer defended it, primarily as an entry point for customer evaluations for businesses.
I recently had a friend in real estate marketing tell me that his company uses Klout scores to evaluate the social media presence of individual agents. It seemed like a brilliant fit. His company is not trying to determine the global influence of their agents, merely whether they are as active across a variety social channels as they should be, something that Klout excels at.
Detractors have long pointed to the multi-channel activity bumps in score as one of Klout’s shortcomings. Its algorithms work against true influencers that utilize only one or two social channels. But if the goal is consistent activity on several channels, Klout’s measurements seem fairly accurate.
Writers need an audience
While I can’t speak for writers of other material, as a travel writer I can tell you that Klout scores are still looked at by destinations and marketers trying to figure out which travel writers get what invites. I was asked twice this month for my score. I am sure that it is not the largest decision making factor — there is too much anti-hype surrounding Klout for it to be trusted entirely for big spending decisions. But it is part of the overall picture of the influence a writer has.
In the past three years I have also seen an increasingly greater burden placed on freelance writers to bring their own audience. Prominent digital publishers cannot afford to waste valuable space breaking in newbies with no audience and no following. I recently received an open letter from an editor to his stable of freelancers, stating that while he recognized the need we have as writers to build our personal brands, it was in everyone’s best interest to also promote our work on his publication across our social media accounts. His message was clear: “We want to add your audience to ours.”
It may be the perfect self-evaluation tool
Amid all the Klout shouting, the one thing I have not seen discussed is the value it has as a tool for evaluating our own performance as writers in the social media realm as we attempt to gain the audience that we now must have. Are we being heard? Where can we improve? I am forever baffled when I stumble across a writer on Twitter posting 50+ times a day for years, to an audience of less than 300 followers. If those writers were studying their Klout scores they would at the very least see their own ineffectiveness. With that knowledge, they could apply a little education and a lot of experimentation to learn how to increase their scores, thereby increasing their reach and engagement.
How I use Klout
Knowing that a bigger, more engaged audience opens doors for me, I need a metric to guide the way.
It quickly becomes a game of sorts. Lots of people chase Pokémons; I chase tenths of Klout points. I study the chart daily, going over in my head what took place the previous day on my social accounts that may have cause a change. It guides my decision making regarding how often to post, what channels to post on, and pushes me to work harder at truly engaging. And guess what? All of those things are relevant, not only to my Klout score, but to anyone looking at me for possible assignments or trips. Even potential followers often look at how I am engaging with others and how much original content I am posting. My Klout score may not influence their decision to click that magical follow button, but the work I put into raising the score certainly will.
Narrow your Klout focus
One of the recent changes Klout has made to its mysterious algorithm is to measure expertise in certain areas. Critics have long pointed out seemingly crazy discrepancies when looking at globally influential public figures compared to social influencers.
Because Klout now tracks spheres of expertise, comparing the scores of influencers in divergent spheres is not only futile but unnecessary. Fashion influencer Natasha Oakley, with 41K Twitter followers and 1.8 million Instagram followers has a score of 62. I have a score of 64 with only 10K Twitter followers and less than 200 on Instagram. She knows fashion. I know travel. We are apples and oranges.
It’s that narrowing of focus that makes Klout a valuable tool for tracking your progress against your peers. I don’t care how my score compares to someone in the fashion industry. I and the publications I write for care how I compare to Johnny Jet or Ann Tran.
If you use the score as your own private metric of performance and audience attraction within your sphere of influence Klout becomes relevant to you, whether others know the score or not.