ADOTAS — As the news breaks about Klout’s impending acquisition by Lithium Technologies, the social media influence application is poised to be 2014’s sleeping giant — but only if marketers can work through their confused feelings for the platform after the startup’s very public display of growing pains.
Marketers were initially infatuated with Klout, a shiny new platform that teased companies across the board with its potential for harvesting information and insight. However, its fickle attitude got the best of it, and many marketers abandoned the premise of scoring followers based on their “influence.”
Where Klout Went Wrong: Business vs. Consumer
The beginning of Klout’s decline was caused by the media frenzy over its lack of algorithm transparency. If you’re paying attention, that should seem odd. After all, many social companies like Facebook and Google have opaque algorithms behind their products. Why should Klout be any different?
Look at Facebook’s News Feed engine as an example. You see posts from the people you interact with most, along with some outlier posts from people you rarely interact with. It’s really a bit of a mystery what you do — and don’t — see.
Now, apply Klout’s concept to the News Feed. When a customer shares one of your brand’s Facebook updates with his social circle, how do you think he’d feel if he saw a score next to his post that shows how many of his friends it was shown to?
He’d probably be surprised, right? In fact, he might even be mad and wonder why the post he wanted to share with his social circle wasn’t shared with every member. This is basically what Klout has done. It shows the success and failure of a personal consumer account to the consumer — essentially showing users just how (un)influential they are.
Facebook is too smart to make this statistic transparent to consumers, but that doesn’t stop it from giving the Klout treatment to business accounts. Here’s a snapshot from a Facebook Insights Overview:
Facebook doesn’t sugarcoat the fact that your business posts don’t go out to all of your brand fans, even if those fans have “liked” your page and interacted with your posts in the past. Business owners usually understand that their updates may not appeal to all followers, so they accept it without feeling insulted.
The heart of Klout’s problem is this: You simply can’t serve up the same kind of information to consumers as you do businesses. Consumers don’t want to think that their messages are selectively appealing. They want each message to be noticeable and engaging. Yet the original “ego” appeal of Klout depends upon providing just those kinds of statistics. Its business plan is at odds with itself.
4 Reasons Klout Should Stay on Your To-Do List
Fortunately, it’s not all bad news. Klout has four serious benefits that make it worthwhile for marketers.
1. Targeted perks: Klout offers users perks as incentives to keep their social stream connections up-to-date. These perks, in the form of deals or coupons, can be valuable for marketers wanting to make connections with social-savvy consumers. As Klout’s use of targeted perks becomes more sophisticated, its platform will appeal to more and more brands.
2. Demographics: Klout has the user’s authorization to share personal information with marketers, which allows brands to tap into an incredible amount of demographic data. This data can be used to target perks and offers even more precisely, leading to higher conversion rates for marketers using the platform.
3. Clustering and segmentation: Klout also has access to all of a user’s data from other social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Foursquare. This creates a complete picture of a user’s interests, passions, and personality — information that marketers want and need.
4. Campaign and product endorsement: Marketers working on the launch of a major product want to know which users on social media are most influential on topics related to the campaign. Klout provides easy access to influencer data according to keywords and lists of followers.
The Future of a More Valuable Klout
It’s a real shame that Klout continues to lose commercial appeal because marketers need a Klout-like index tool. To make Klout enormously useful, there are two powerful ideas Klout could implement:
1. Create an influence graph. A consumer can currently share a news item on Twitter, and it would appear that Klout is headed this way with the ability to track a post. Klout needs to take it one step further. If marketers could understand who a user influences and what influences the user, that would be very useful for brands hyper-targeting content like “tech in Austin, TX” or other specific events and topics.
Because many users provide Klout access across their networks, Klout could potentially offer a cross-network graph that reaches into the influence of Facebook friends and Twitter followers as well.
2. Allow for true brand pages. Once the influence graph is in place, Klout needs to allow for bona fide brand pages with promoted posts and small in-stream ads like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. With all the rich cross-platform metadata available, this would be a veritable field day for the brand marketer. It would let a marketer measure the performance of promoted posts and ads and see which were shared (and by whom), ranked by influencer score.
With a multimillion-dollar acquisition and the potential for high-powered updates on the horizon, Klout has a bright future despite its wayward adolescence. Marketers who might have thought twice about the young startup and given up on the potential of “social media influence” should reconsider. The future of social media marketing will rely heavily on influence across all social platforms, and Klout may be just the platform to lead us there.