In my professional, humble social media opinion, it is about value, engagement and relationships that lead to ROI, not what someone or something says about how influential you are. Having said that, many of you that read my blogs on social media marketing and Klout know that I have been fairly supportive of the company, it’s business model and their perceived desire to provide a reliable, yet imperfect overall influence score.
Fast forward to just after the recent substantial changes Klout introduced a week ago yesterday and the firestorm of unrest that ensued, I wrote a post that supported the changes and tried to put everything in perspective. In my article titled “Klout Changes Affect Millions” I state “It’s NOT the number increase or decrease that is important here. What’s important with the score is what that number can tell you and how you can make changes to your activity”. As I watched my score and others in the industry continue to decline for no apparent reason, I also began to watch and compare my Klout data with some major brands to try to gain some insight to share to all of you. I noticed only three significant differences between my @fondalo account and some of these brands, celebrities and industry experts:
1) Number of followers – most had thousands more than I do.
2) Following percentage – most don’t follow more than 10-20% of their followers. I follow folks that aren’t spammers and that are my target market. (as should all social media marketers)
3) Engagement – most do not respond and engage with their fans/followers at any significant rate.
At this point there has been so many posts and articles about the substantial changes Klout made and the anger toward the lack of explanation and transparency or any semblance of sense around what has resulted. So I don’t want to add to that. I did however begin to have a hunch regarding the algorithm when comparing my score to some brands.
I know I influence thousands on a daily basis, based on conversations, mentions and RT’s, let alone the significant number of comments, likes and shares I experience. We see significant ROI with our social media efforts as well, which in my opinion is a huge indication of our influence. One rule I have within social media is that I respond to every single mention, comment and RT. Whether it is furthering conversation or a polite thank you, I firmly believe this is important. Most of the larger brands out there do not. I also know that as a social media marketing software company, our target market and therefore friend, fan and follower base is mostly made up of peers with similar or lower scores than myself.
*Note – the time between Klout’s change and the start of my experiment, I wrote a blog post that received the highest traffic, views and comments, as well as being shared more on Twitter and Facebook than any other article I have written. Furthermore, that same period included a Friday, where my twitter account receives literally thousands of mentions in a single day. All the while my score continued a steady decline. Is that possible if influence is truly being measure?
1) Does Klout now determine you are more influential if you DO NOT engage/respond to everything?
2) Does Klout now determine you are LESS influential if the folks/brands that mention engage with you have less influence than you do?
I embarked on experiment that was very painful. My hunch regarding number one above was combined with a change in activity to see if anything interesting resulted. Over three days I only responded and engaged when someone directly asked me a question or their mention or comment really required it. All other likes, comments and RT’s were ignored. (I want to note this was so hard for me. I pride myself on not being like the other arrogant social media “experts” by always responding and helping others, etc.) It was incredibly difficult to stay firm with my activity pattern change to ensure these 3 days resulted in accurate findings.
My hunch related to number one above was completely wrong, but I noticed something that is even more disturbing. Based on my reduction in engagement and response to my friends and followers as well as blog comments, you would expect that the rate my score is declining would substantially increase. This did NOT occur. As you see in the image, it maintained the approximately the same level of decrease during the experiment.
Why is that important? It says that according to Klout’s new algorithm, responding and engaging with your friends, followers, fans and Blog “commenters” (which I might add builds relationships and therefore increases opportunity for ROI) has little to do with your influence in the social graph. Disturbing doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings about this discovery.
What’s more, the data in the image shows two additional frightening discoveries that should be pointed out:
1) Amplification Stabilized – Even though I stopped conversing at usual levels, my amplification stopped declining at the previous steady pace since the Klout changes. Seriously? How does that remotely make sense or be in anyway possible? So by not engaging and thanking people, how much I influence them increases? Disturbing to say the least.
2) Network Impact Increase – After a steep immediate decline at the beginning of my experiment, my Network Impact began to show a pattern of slow steady rise.
So while my overall Klout score continued its steady decline, my overall amplification influence and network influence became more stable or even started to rise.
As a previous proponent of Klout and someone that consistently saw their system as one with proper focus, leadership and focus on accurate depiction of the social graph, I am dismayed. As a heavy social media user, consultant and someone that has driven ROI and strategy for many businesses large and small, I am now almost speechless at what I have found.
Based on my experiment, it appears that Klout’s algorithm changes are not focused on improving their social measurement system, but a clueless attempt to prop up larger brands and celebrities anti-social behavior and stifle effective relationship building that leads to ROI for those that do it right. -OR- even worse, tech geeks and scientific formulas that have no real understanding of social media and it’s proper use in business.
Being a social media technology company, you would have thought Klout would have better managed their decision to release this new tech as well as get in front of this story with better answers that made some kind of sense. Instead, they decided to let social media do what it does and react to it, albeit poorly. This entire thing is an incredible example to other brands on how NOT to manage a crisis and to tech companies on how NOT to let your head get too big. Your customers and users should have a lot to say about the game, not just you.
I am not upset at all that my score lost 11+ Points. I am pissed that a company I trusted, upheld and cheered for has fumbled in such a horrific way. The only way Klout could save face with me at this point is to do what Bank of America is doing in the banking sector. Roll back to previous algorithm and make small incremental changes that are accurate and thoughtful.
*note – I did not add or remove any social media platforms during my experiment. I only altered my engagement pattern. Nothing more, nothing less.