After my initial Klout blog posts, I followed up with their Marketing Manager Megan Berry @meganberry and Director of Ranking Ash Rust @ashrust in a series of emails. I sent them a barrage of questions; below are their answers.
Q: How Klout will deal with identical individuals across multiple networks?
K: We look at each platform holistically to try and determine what the signals of influence are. We then perform sophisticated analysis to weight the different platforms appropriately for each person.
A: No information was conveyed in this answer. In academia and finance the word “sophisticated” is a completely loaded term roughly translating to “it’s actually trivially easy, but I think you are too stupid to understand.”
Q: My Foursquare friends are a strict subset of my Facebook and Twitter friends. Will they double count?
K: Follower and friend count are really not part of what we do — it is about ability to drive action.
A: I thought this was a decent answer. I have a few friends that are very active on foursquare, but relatively inactive on Twitter. If my activity drives actions on both Twitter and foursquare, I should get more credit.
Q: CEO Joe Fernandez stated: “Klout Score is not about followers or your activity level but about how people react to your content. ” This is a bit vauge. Now that we have more than 140 characters, can you elaborate a bit?
K: Yes, we don’t believe that followers or friends are a good measure of influence. Instead we’re looking at the engagement you get from people (i.e. RTs, @msgs, likes, etc.) and how influential those people are.
A: I agree that followers/friends should be secondary to actions indicating that individuals are actively engaged with your content (i.e. RTs, @msgs, likes, etc.). I also agree that a Robert Scoble or Michael Arrington RT or @ reply should be worth far more than my mom RTing something I say.
Q: Why do you feel you are better than competitors such as Peerindex and twittergrader?
K: We are the emerging standard in this industry — we are used by over 2000 applications and major brands to understand and measure online influence.
A: Worst answer ever, even worse than your parents saying “because I said so.” I more or less agree with their assessment that they are the emerging industry standard, however, would they still be if they didn’t get a 1 year jump start over all other competitors? What if PeerIndex’s infrastructure were more scalable and could handle the same scale as Klout? I expected some statement assessing their relative quality in terms of ranking or infrastructure, not a catch 22 or tautological response.
Q: I think the new K+ system is awesome, but am worried about spam. What steps are you taking to ameliorate the risk?
K: We’re watching this very carefully to understand how people are using it. We also limit people to 5 +K’s a day.
A: Here’s my favorite example so far:
This wasn’t spam; the label was generated by Klout for Daniel Bogan @waferbaby. I strongly believe that Daniel is authoritative on unicorns so I even voted for his Klout in this area
His current Klout topics (which still include unicorns) are available here. It also seems like Klout slightly changed their shade of orange from the pics above.
On a more serious note, I think the K+ system is an incredibly important step in the evolution of Klout. The next step is to provide topic specific scores. Using these they can start to tackle the holy grail of influence measures: individualized influence scores. A serious problem with existing Klout scores is that it removes individual context from the equation. Justin Bieber will forever have a Klout of 0 for me, even though his systemwide Klout is 100. It would be easy to check that Justin Bieber has no Klout for the topics I am interested in (apps, startups, statistics, mongodb, etc.) This approach is much more computationally expensive and harder to get right. Tweets, Facebook posts, etc. are not labeled with topics, so these must be inferred. This is a VERY difficult problem due to the small amount of text. I’m sure Klout and PeerIndex are both working very hard to tackle the problem. Whoever gets that right will take the “influence” market.
Here are several questions they refused to answer:
- What % of Klout systemwide is attributed to Twitter v Facebook?
- Will adding another network ALWAYS increase your score? If not always, empirically, what % of the time does an increase occur?
- In a recent Kloutchat, the statement was made: “Nearly 50 variables in generating klout score but it all boils down to how people react to your content” Whats the most interesting/surprising variable that you are willing to divulge.
It’s not surprising that Megan and Ash did not answer all of my questions. I think the answer to the first question is roughly 85/15, but they won’t say that publicly because a) it might piss of Facebook if they think they are “underweighted” b) they don’t want people outside the company arguing about how this should be weighted. Im sure they have had tons of discussions about this internally. For the second question, the answer is yes, until Klout tells us otherwise. I won’t go on a rant about the silliness of this, however, if you want to boost your score, attach your FB account. I’ll do a longer “Klout SEO” post in a few weeks.
I sent PeerIndex CEO Azeem Azhar the same group of questions, and will post his responses when I hear back. Next post, I’ll answer the question: “If you were creating my own Klout/PeerIndex/Twittergrader competitor, what signals would you use?” I bet I can come up with a set of 50 variables very close to those used by Klout.