It was only a few centuries ago when influence could be measured by the size of the stick you carried around.
With the advent of law, social institutions, and improved communications, rating a person’s sway over others became much more difficult. But does the continuing development of new media allow the human race once again to measure and quantify one another’s clout?
Klout is a relatively new online service that attempts to determine how influential people are by measuring their own reach into their respective online social networks. Klout utilizes information from your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and 35 other inputs to crank out a score (between 1 and 100) ranking “your ability to drive action.”
Some have debated whether Klout’s algorithm is actually that accurate, others have complained that Klout overreached into networks like Facebook to extract information, and still others have simply dismissed Klout saying nobody cares what your score is.
I must admit, I was kind of curious about what my score was. I won’t disclose such personally embarrassing information in this post, but I will say that there’s nothing wrong with single digits… More importantly though, beyond simple curiosity, why would anyone care enough to actively try to increase their score? If Klout means nothing, then why was it ranked by TIME 35th of the top 50 Best Websites and why are similar services like Social Mention, TwitterCounter, and TweetLevel popping up?
Many online and small businesses are using Klout to determine their reach into markets. Currently Klout only focuses on social media, but they are close to releasing the ability to measure the Klout scores of blogs as well. With 13% of the blogosphere comprised of entrepreneurs and 8% comprised of corporate blogs (for over a fifth of total blogs), business models are increasingly incorporating influence via social media and blogs to get their brand out there. Services like Klout offer them a measure of how effective those efforts really are.
And don’t kid yourself: government officials use these same tools. Politicians and hopeful candidates alike can use Klout to see how often their tweets are retweeted, how often people like their Facebook posts, and if those people are also influential. Soon perhaps blogs will become more prevalent and instead of hiring expensive consultants to do polling for messaging, representatives can simply try some new language on their blog and see how popular the words are and how far they go.
This is an interesting trend in the new media that deserves some attention. It’s implications for business and marketing models as well as politics deserve more than to be ignored.
But at the very least, it’s just fun to see how much power you wield over your friends!