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Klout: You Have to Start Somewhere


What does a Klout score mean?  Should you care about your Klout score?  This morning’s launch of parody site Klouchebag topped off a week filled with chatter about Klout, an online influence calculator.  A recent article in Wired magazine stirred the pot in social media circles with tales of employers that are using Klout scores as benchmarks for new hires.

Klouchebag is now the new standard in measuring “how much of an asshat you are on Twitter.” Whether you love or hate Klout, Klouchebag is funny because it brings a little levity to a subject that people get really upset about–putting a score or value on online influence.

Klout measures influence online using data from social networks. Klout uses your online engagement information to provide you a Klout Score that measures your overall influence.  I don’t think that Klout is perfect but it’s a place to start.  There are zillions of people using online platforms to communicate every single day and Klout is one way to benchmark online communication.  You may think Klout is evil (like the New Yorker) but growth of social media is exploding and just like the Nielsen ratings, there are going to be scores and benchmarks for social media.  This train has already left the station.

Dirty Little Secret – Nielsen Ratings Aren’t That Accurate

Nielsen ratings are the gold standard of the multi-billion dollar television advertising industry.  So much money rides on the rise and fall of Nielsen ratings—and the dirty little secret is that Nielsen ratings aren’t that great of a measurement!  Ratings are determined by calculating data from a tiny sample size of results from TV box measurements and diaries.

Nielsen determines ratings based on a sample size of 5,000 homes what 113 million+ U.S. television-viewing homes are watching. Nielsen ratings are not totally accurate but it’s all the industry has as a benchmark to measure TV audiences—-so that this information can be monetized for business use.

One of the best articles about the way Nielsen calculates ratings is from Cornell Daily Sun—from 2007!  No one wants to come out and say that the Nielsen ratings aren’t accurate because billions of dollars are riding on the fact that the ratings are RIGHT.  The article, Nielsen Ratings: An Inaccurate Truth sums up the problem:

The biggest problem for Nielsen is that it relies on excruciatingly small samples to predict what the rest of the country is watching. There are approximately 10,000 households with Nielsen set top boxes across the country, about 450 of which include college students. And out of those 450, 30 percent agreed to have their children’s viewing habits recorded while away at school. This translates to roughly 135 students — a painfully small number to be considered representative of the entire country’s college student population, yet still more than the zero who represented us before.

Scores Matter Because There’s Money to Be Made

I get it that people don’t want to social media communication scored.  People are not the sum of their Klout score.  But one of my favorite social media books No Bullshit Social Media by Jason Falls uses the following stats to illustrate why social media is important to business:

  • 81% of people with an Internet connection use some form of social media. (To put that into some real numbers, 170 million Americans are on Facebook.)
  • 78% of these social media users interacted with companies via social networking sites and tools, like the company’s Facebook page or their Twitter account.

There is no Santa Claus.  The tooth fairy doesn’t exist.  And social media will be measured by Klout or by other companies.  Because there’s money on the table .  Nielsen ratings and Klout scores ain’t perfect—but it’s what we have to work with and it’s a start.

Sources: Media Math, NTC Publishing, SRDS, Media Post

Disclosure: I’m part of the Klout Squad, a group that gives feedback to Klout and Klouchebag gives me a score of 47 because I’m quite noisy.


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