Klout Is a Tool — not an Imperfect Holy Grail

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Last week, I found my dander elevated as I read Harnessing the Power of Social Media with Mark Schaefer. Schaefer knows his stuff when it comes to “influence,” and he recognizes that it is a messy, nuanced, multi-faceted topic — so much to the point that he wrote a book on the subject. Unfortunately, Schaefer didn’t write this article that referenced him. Rather, it’s a summary by someone who, as best I can tell, simply attended an Awareness webinar where Schaefer was the presenter …and then clumsily tried to recap it. The article uses circular examples — offering proof that social media superstars are influencers simply based on the fact that brands have targeted them. That’s like saying that Rebecca Black has mad vocal chops because millions of people have viewed her music video.

Nate Riggs interviewed Schaefer directly a few months ago, and, during that discussion, Schaefer made the point that Klout is not truly a “measure of influence.” Rather, it is nothing more and nothing less than:

“How content moves through a system and how people react to it.”

That’s a brilliant and succinct statement. The hard work comes when trying to figure out what to do with that information. Marketers (as a broad generalization) hunger for simple answers where simple answers don’t exist: 1-to-1 marketing, “viral videos,” SEO shortcuts, and now “influencer identification and activation.” Marketing is squishy, imperfect, inexact, and messy — it always has been, and it always will be. Services like Klout and PeerIndex are useful, but they’re not The Marketing Holy Grail.

For more on my thoughts on Klout, PeerIndex, and the like, hop over to the post I wrote on the Resource Interactive blog last month: In Search of Influence, Authority, and Clout (or…Klout?).

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