Klout Matters, but to a Certain Extent

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Why do we care so much about our Klout scores? Some social media experts ask this question almost daily, arguing that Klout doesn't mean much outside of the social media savvy community because we don't actually know how Klout scores and styles are determined. What's more, according to some experts like Aliza Sherman, obsession with Klout may actually be distracting social media users from creating substantive and meaningful relationships within the communities they frequent.

While I agree with Aliza that in an ideal world, we shouldn't really care about influence metrics and should be more concerned about what we are saying, and more importantly about what people are saying about what we are saying, in reality we can't entirely disassociate ourselves from influence metrics. Yes, influential people in the real world such as celebrities and business leaders aren't using Klout to augment their brand, but that's because the marginal benefit of a high Klout score is minimal to them; they are already important.

For the average social media user however, Klout can make the difference between getting a retweet and being ignored entirely. A person can talk about his retweets, mentions and clicks all day long, but unless he has some baseline credibility that people can easily understand, he will have a hard time getting anyone to pay attention. This is where Klout comes in.

Klout doesn't rely on science to convince people that it is useful. In fact, I don't think any sort of metric in social media even gets close to approximating the precision needed to be called a science. Instead, Klout caters to society's obsession with rankings and aggregated scores (think U.S. News, Forbes Lists, etc.) to convince people that there is some ordinal measure of relative Internet influence. Once Klout gains a critical mass of users who buy into the idea of Klout, the culture becomes self-sustaining.

And its working. As more people "feel terrible" that their Klout scores are going down, the better Klout is doing as a company. They are convincing people that Klout matters to their public image and Internet credibility.

Don't believe me? Ask someone trying to build their public brand around their core area of expertise. For them, a Klout score probably matters quite a bit. Everyone from up-and-coming executives to those who work in the companies that contribute to an individual's Klout score probably care to some degree about what people think of them.

I therefore want to tweak Aliza's call to action:
"So get on with your life and work and do meaningful things. Stop giving creedence to some arbitrary scoring game like Klout that oversimplifies HOW we matter in this world and in social media. Do really good work from the heart, add value, be kind to others, and you get an "A" in my book."
I don't think we can get on with life without regard to our Internet influence, or simply focus on doing awesome heartfelt work. While getting an A in your book, Aliza, would be awesome, we need to be a bit more pragmatic. Care about your Klout score, and do the things you need to build your brand, but also make sure to remain engaged in communities.

Use your Klout as a proxy of how engaging you are, and who you're reaching, but don't let it determine your self-worth. Eventually, as you build your brand and become the style of influencer you want to be, focus more on cultivating the communities you have. Through this combined approach, I think we can find a happy place in the world and get an 'A' in everyone's book.