My Klout Is Bigger Than Your Klout – The truth about influence “measurement”

measurement fail

What is really being measured?

These social media “measurement” tools are gaining in popularity. They go by several different names including klout, twitter grader, Peer Index, Twitalyzer, and a new one called Kred. These tools claim to measure influence, or how influential a social media entity is to others. Each one has a unique ranking algorithm, but they all do one thing, they put a number on influence.

There is a fundamental flaw with these systems, they measure outputs not outcomes. These influence scores will not necessarily correlate to real world business performance, or give any indication of whether or not social media is helping a business to accomplish any of its goals. Your klout score could be absolutely terrific, but was all the time spent getting that score wasted?

As Interactive Marketing Manager at Nancy Marshall Communications, I make it a point to stay as informed as possible on the latest in social media, how to use it and how to measure it. Here I have some examples which expose the flaws in social media influence measurement apps like klout and kred.

Klout claims that I influence Katie Delahaye Paine (@kdpaine), a master of public relations and social media measurement; in fact, klout claims my reach to her is “strong”. As good as that makes my ego feel, I know that I have only tweeted Katie a few times, only a couple times about public relations and social media. The idea that I, a 23 year old stranger, could possibly have strong influence on her seems rather unlikely. And this leaves me wondering, what exactly am I influencing her to do? Tell me Klout, please!

Let me create a hypothetical case study here to explain EVERYTHING. Let’s say Molly is looking for a new computer. She has several different stores she can shop at, the entire internet to read pros and cons of the thousands of models available, dozens of processor choices for each laptop, and she feels completely lost. She tweets, “Looking for a new laptop, have no idea what to get!!!”

Best buy responds to her tweet with a link to a tool at This tool asks Molly several questions to narrow down thousands of possible laptop choices to 3 which fit her lifestyle and needs perfectly. This encourages her to go to a Best Buy store to try out the laptops to see which one she likes best, and she makes an $800 purchase. She spends her $800.00 at best buy, not staples or Wal-Mart or Later on she tells a couple friends (offline) that she loves best buy, her laptop she got there and the tool that helped her find it (That’s good for PR and pretty influential if you ask me).

Now take a step back, what in the above situation was “measured” by klout or Kred? Klout only knows about the single tweet best buy sent to Molly which may have slightly (but probably not) increased Best Buy’s klout score. Does klout know Best Buy influenced Molly to purchase an $800 computer at their store because of that tweet? No. Does klout know that Molly is highly influential to her friends and that this tweet led molly to LOVE the Best Buy brand and tell her friends that? No.

Now taking that into consideration, what should Best Buy be measuring? What could Best Buy have measured here that would allow them to know how effective their twitter campaign is? Let’s say their sole purpose for this twitter campaign is to increase laptop sales.

  1. Best Buy can track traffic to their website from twitter to see if their tweets are influencing people to visit their website, what people are doing once they get there and what the quality of that traffic is. (Something Klout doesn’t know)
  2. Best buy can measure last year laptop sales and compare to this year’s implementation of social media (and factor in several other variables). (Something Klout doesn’t know)
  3. Best Buy can connect their laptop choosing tool to Facebook and twitter so they can see individual twitter users who are using it, where they live in proportion to Best Buy locations, and how they interact with the tool. They can also see what percentage of tweet reply’s leads to people using the tool. (Something Klout doesn’t know)
  4. Best Buy can have the users print out the tool’s laptop results to take into the store where a sales associate could point Molly to the right laptops and tell her more about them.
    1. The print out could include a $5.00 off computer peripherals coupon to twitter and Facebook users who used the tool, and a barcode on the printout containing Molly’s twitter name could be scanned into their computer system where they could fully track the entire sales process from social media message to point of sale.

Best Buy would then know whether or not they should continue to spend their resources getting social media users to use their laptop selection tool. Best Buy would be able to put a dollar figure on their twitter efforts, which their stakeholders are going to LOVE.

Cat Dancing To ThrillerAnd what did Klout tell them about this process? It probably told them that since their Klout score did not increase much, their action of messaging Molly was not influential. If Best Buy makes it their goal to attain a high Klout score (or other pseudo-influence score), they probably should have spent their time tweeting links to cats dancing to thriller, which would have inevitably gotten much more re-tweet and reply action than my above example would have. But what would the ROI be? Probably nothing.

Now for small businesses, how can they effectively measure how much social media efforts are influencing people to do stuff, with significantly less resources than a company like Best Buy? First identify a goal, whether to increase sales, change image or perception, increase donations, etc. Identify what tools you need to use to measure this data (Whether Google Analytics, survey data or just plain dollar figures). Actually, this entire process is outlined in Katie Paine’s Book here.

Let’s pretend a small business is trying to increase sales of a particular service. They are tweeting to people who may be qualified to purchase this service and have setup a landing page for the service on their website. By monitoring website traffic behavior in Google Analytics (which is free), one can tell whether they are reaching the correct audience or not, or whether their content is relevant or compelling to their audience. By asking customers “Where did you hear about us” (which is free), one can learn if social media was an instigator to their purchasing decision. By correlating website performance and “where did you hear about us” information to business performance, one can reasonably estimate if their social media efforts are doing anything.

Online sales and donations are even easier as most checkout software these days supports social media and very specific tracking plug-ins. One can easily see how many sales / donations they received from traffic originating at, or any other social networking website. (See Image)

Facebook Traffic Google Analytics

Facebook Referral Traffic from Google Analytics

So should you use Klout, Kred, or any other of the influence trackers out there? Go ahead and sign up and see if it makes you feel any better. Advertising agencies can do it too. If you are an agency and your clients start to ask, “So what?” and wonder how any of this is impacting their business’s performance, you better have some other real measurement tools in place which shows the outcomes of your efforts, not just your outputs.

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