Recently, Jay Baer over at the ever-insightful Convince & Convert blog, published a piece, Why Critics of Klout Are Missing The Big Picture. This post is an expansion of my comment to that post.
I'd highly recommend your reading Jay's perspective. Written in response to Paul Gillin's recent and excellent critical review of Klout, Jay's post and the comments that follow give a current barometer reading on the state (and still divided opinions) on Klout.
At the start, I'd certainly agree that Klout's growing list of marquee name Klout Perk partners makes it clear that companies desperately want this number. And as I've pointed out previously, Klout is certainly emerging as the de facto online replacement of the Q-Score for celebrities, an important metric for assessing consumer appeal.
But I will say I don't share his view that Klout bashing has been going on. Rather there have quite a number of quite comprehensive critiques of Klout's technical issues, including my own. Beyond Klout's inability to include offline influence, Jay's post does indeed describe some of the limitations but gives shortshrift to others: It's easily gamed per Adriaan Pelzer's bot experiments, it overweights frequency of tweeting over quality of content (itself related to lack of blog content input), and finally, user reports of continued high volatilty (aka high beta, large standard deviations). These limitations viewed alongside that we have one company with a non-transparent algorithm controlling an individual's published rating of "social net worth" -- and this has some people concerned enough to blog (not bash) about the meaning/accuracy of a Klout score. The 15-25% of negative sentiment ratings on Klout (my offhand appraisal) are, in fact, a healthy rebuttal by those concerned about the science of online influence.
For what's most concerning: If you read the online influence studies, there are some which support the view (eg. see Duncan Watts and C. Christakis' work - summarized here.) that influence is about smaller, tightly connected networks of easily influenced people -- not the large network factors Klout seems to be measuring. If these studies are correct, Klout may be moving us away from understanding online influence.
But isn't this all this academic, eh?
Actually yes. For true enough, as Jay Baer writes, Klout critics focused on its technical limitations are missing the Big Picture: Klout is emerging as a true marketing force to be reckoned with. It's becoming (become already?) the online Nielsen rating system for advertisers.
The irrelevancy of accuracy to the Klout score is captured by one commenter to Jay's blog post, who pointed out that Klout is really a marketing promotions company. To me, the reason for Klout's popularity and growing phalanx of ad partner-developers is principally due to the Klout Perks Program combined with Klout the company's laser-sharp understanding of human psychological factors, namely, the hope, the deep-seated need (and associated social pressure) to be a Big I Influential. (But remember- lest you swallow that little blue pill - if you buy Duncan Watts' arguments from his studies, that may have little to do with true online influence.)
Here's my somewhat oddball deconstruction of what matters most: From a marketing and ad effectiveness perspective (and with no disrespect to Klout whatsoever), the Klout score actually doesn't need to be an accurate measure of online influence at all. It only needs to be "the current best guess" and imply that it is (for instance, in the tagline) to enlist High-Klout-Wannabees to perform en masse for advertiser partners.
In the end ----Somehow it all conjures up cosmetics industry giant Charles Revson's famous quote, "In the factory we make cosmetics. In the drugstore we sell hope". ;-)