Today influence ratings service Klout significantly changed its rankings. Last week Klout CEO Joe Fernandez announced there would be changes, saying “a majority of users will see their scores stay the same or go up but some users will see a drop”. It seems that was not correct, and rankings levels have been revised such that most people’s scores go down. The results appears to be plenty of unhappy people.
Before I offer a few thoughts on this, it’s worth addressing those who say they couldn’t care less about their Klout score. It is absolutely fine, and quite possibly the most appropriate response, not to care a jot what number a service happens to attribute to your influence.
I’ve written extensively on this blog about influence and influence networks over the last six years, and in fact our Future of Influence Summit 2009 had Klout CEO Joe Fernandez and other luminaries of the emerging influence space speak on the business models for influence and reputation panel.
The reason is that, like it or not, the measurement of influence and reputation is one of the most important changes we are seeing in society. We see the ‘reputation economy’ as one of the ExaTrends of the decade.
In a world in which influence has become completely democratized, having measures of influence and reputation will drive many facets of society. Of course, the validity of the influence measures we use is a different matter, but an increasingly important one.
Here are a few quick thoughts on the changes:
1. There is no such thing as an accurate reputation measure
We know that Twitter followers is not a very good indication of influence. When you start to account for other factors such as amplification and engagement, there is no ‘correct’ result. Human judgment on what is more important shapes the algorithm.
2. Celebrities appear to have gained relative to social media participants
Overall, celebrities and those with many followers have gained ground compared to those who have fewer (i.e. less than 100,000) followers but are more engaged and generate more activity.
3. Facebook may have been upgraded relative to Twitter
One of the major problem of all the influence engines is that they rely very heavily on Twitter, partly as the data is the easiest to access. Some users seem to believe that Facebook has been made more prominent in the algorithm relative to Twitter.
4. It is not politic to lower people’s scores
Given Klout’s normalized range of 1-100, it wasn’t necessary for them to downgrade most people’s scores in rearranging them. To do so probably wasn’t a good idea. See the comments on Klout’s announcement for a flavor of the response.
5. Are sudden changes better than gradual ones?
If Klout thinks their algorithms aren’t as good as they can or should be, they should change them. I would hate to see them use a static system in a changing world. Making major changes suddenly can put people off, though there are clearly technical challenges to make them gradual. Certainly Klout’s clients may wonder why they were paying for results that it turns out were significantly ‘wrong’ (if the new scores are ‘right’).
6. There is a shift to greater transparency in rankings
A potentially significant competitor to Klout, Kred.ly, is currently launching, saying it will provide full transparency on how scores are calculated. Since only a handful of companies have the full Twitter stream since it launched, this doesn’t mean others can copy them. Klout is making a big deal about transparency in its announcement, though does not appear to be giving much. Greater transparency would mean people can make their own judgments about whether scores are valid or useful or not.
The reality is that the scores offered by Klout and an increasing cohort of influence rankings services are important, and will in some cases shape people’s livelihoods. Following the blow-by-blow of how they evolve can almost feel sordid, but influence ratings are a phenomenon we cannot ignore.