Connecting the dots between PR, social media and business outcomes continues to be an ongoing challenge — for companies, for individuals, and frankly, for the industry as a whole. (Ask five PR pros how they measure their work and you’ll get five different answers.)
Enter Klout, a service that bills itself as the measure of influence. To be clear, they’re really just trying to track online influence by analyzing online activity and interactions. In some circles, it’s become trendy to poke fun at Klout; however, you have to acknowledge that it’s gained traction. When Klout changed their algorithm this week, panic ensued. One one hand, it was comical (or sad!) to see people genuinely fret about their new, lower scores. However, get past making fun of people who appear to tie their worth to a online scorecard, and something else interesting emerges: Companies and people are relying on Klout as the metric for evaluating the effectiveness of their social media initiatives. A few excerpts from comments on Klout’s blog:
“This trashed a 6-month effort to get our organization to use Klout as a measure of social media marketing effectiveness.”
“Unfortunately, I have been promoting Klout to clients as one of the various metrics to use in measuring the impact of social media campaigns. This change has already caused me to lose clients …”
“Similar to Timothy I have been feverishly working at increasing the Klout score for my company, as it is part of my MBO’s. Now, with a sudden 12 point drop, it will reflect poorly (and inaccurately) upon my efforts.”
The Facebook/Website Analogy
As Facebook’s popularity continues to grow, some businesses have abandoned their traditional website, instead opting for a Facebook page as their online hub. That’s problematic though, because Facebook is constantly making changes — without consulting you. What if they make a change that doesn’t work for your business? Because you’ve put all your eggs in a basket you don’t own, you have no recourse. Owning your website is a smarter long-term business decision. As a business owner, you want to maintain control over your site and brand identity, with the ability to add or subtract features and functionality without relying on a third-party to dictate what you are or aren’t allowed to do.
Similarly with Klout, you don’t own the data. We don’t really know what connections or networks are deemed most important according to Klout. If your clients and prospects spend more time on LinkedIn, but Klout’s algorithem gives more weight and importance to Facebook, the score is irrelevant to you. Who cares if you’re deemed influential on Twitter if your customers aren’t heavy Twitter users?
I recently attended a presentation by my friend Chuck Hemann, a metrics genius, who shared the scorecard his team uses to evaluate the effectiveness of content being shared online. This complicated, but mindblowingly helpful, spreadsheet included columns and weighting for various types of metrics. The best part is that it’s customizable for every client, based on that specific company’s goals and what they deem important (as opposed to what a third-party service tells you is important).
While it may seem easier to use one of these pre-packaged programs, there’s a danger in relying too heavily on third-party platforms, scoring systems and applications. Can Klout be part of a measurement effort? Sure. Should it be the entire measurement/evaluation program? Absolutely not. Instead, focus on identifying metrics that tie back to your company’s goals.
If you’re a social media consultant using your Klout score as a “selling point” or reason someone should hire you, please stop. Instead, focus on producing high-quality work that attracts the types of clients you want to work with. Good work begets more good work. Rely on results to win new clients, not a number that’s beyond your control.
If you’re a business using Klout as the benchmark for social media effectiveness, I’d encourage you to customize a system that takes into account your company’s specific audience and goals.