If you’ve been using your Klout score to tout your online influence, this post is for you. If you’re putting your Klout score on your resume, this post is for you. If you’re a social media guru telling people to go sign up for Klout immediately, this post is for you too.
I want to say this as clearly as I can – Klout is a game. Nothing more. Nothing less. This is not to say Klout has no value. The game can be fun. You can meet people while playing the game. The game is a nice form of entertainment. You can also get a feeling of pride from playing the game better than other people who are playing the game. But what you probably shouldn’t do is attempt to make the game out to be anything more than a game.
Playing Klout requires no real skill, it is easy to play. It’s also easy to “win.”
Using a combination of Rep.licants.org and Twitterfeed, I took a dormant @virtualtours account from a Klout score of 1 to 35 in 30 days, and from 27 followers to 141. Except for posting Klout increases and responding to one really angry lady, no human interaction was required to raise the score. Every “conversation” on the account was computer generated.
@VirtualTours was primarily driven by Rep.licants.org. Rep.licants.org “is a web service allowing users to install an artificial intelligence (bot) on their Facebook and/or Twitter account. From keywords, content analysis and activity analysis, the bot attempts to simulate the activity of the user, to improve it by feeding his account and to create new contacts with other users.”
Most of the description on the home page of Rep.licants.org seems to indicate that they’re interested in improving conversation and freeing you up to do other things with their little friendship-creating robot, but the last line reveals their true motive. And I must say, I love it. They state, “Moreover, this bot can be perceived as a threat by defrauding even more the reality of who is really who on social networks and by showing the poverty of our social interactions on these so-called social networks.”
“The poverty of our social interactions on these so-called social networks.” Let that sink in for a bit. The reason why the game of Klout is so easy to play is that a fair amount of the conversation in the spaces it measures is shallow. It’s relatively easy to get someone to mention you or retweet you. Just say something positive about them.
b9punk – @b9punk
R u gaming klout? @semanticwill @wrbeard @sidesreversedis @wrbeard @hoza @zhaus @pkthewriter @thekateyouknow @flohrs @jboogie @adamkolson
I don’t have a clue what @b9punk was referring to in this tweet, but if I were betting, I’d bet she was reacting to a classic example of how people “game Klout” (more on that later). The technique: name as many people as possible in a tweet in the hopes that one or all of them will reply or retweet. The best day to do this on Twitter, without attracting attention to yourself, is on Friday. The practice of lumping together tons of people in tweet after tweet is fairly common during #followfriday or #ff tweet fests. And it works. It works on other days of the week as well.
Klout takes itself very seriously. They make claims that your Klout score is not based on how many followers you have in your network, but on the “quality of your network” as a whole. But clearly, Klout doesn’t really care about the quality of the “conversations” it is measuring. Klout can only care about the quantity. And apparently, it doesn’t even matter if you’re talking to someone else.
I’m just guessing, but I’d say 90% of @virtualtours mentions were self-mentions. The other 10% were mostly mentions by two other bots I set up to have a conversation with it. Those other two accounts, @virtualtour and @realvideo, are both climbing their way up the Klout ladder as well. Even though Klout itself says that these three accounts have not “influenced” a single other Twitter account.
Lots of people are playing the Klout game. And other are creating variations on the game. Even the highly respected Edelman, the world’s top independent PR agency and winner of the 2011 large PR agency of the year, has moved headlong into the online influence measurement game.
This is Edelman, a company I happen to admire, populated by some really smart people, so of course I had to go check out how my automated interactions on @VirtualTours would rate on the new Edelman Tweetlevel product. It did pretty well. @virtualtours scores a 57.6.
Here’s what Edelman has to say about that score. Try not to laugh. “You may not be CNN but you understand the importance of Twitter and use it well. To increase your influence score, you will need to get people to re-tweet what you are saying more frequently – the posts you make and the number of people who follow what you say is critical.” You can stop laughing now. Does @virtualtours really understand the importance of Twitter and use it well? There is no possible way Edelman, Klout or EmpireAvenue can know anything about the quality of interactions using tools that measure quantity.
I was going to write a bit about what really constitutes being influential, but Matthew Shadbolt‘s recent post is so good, I don’t need to. His post on influence is simply excellent and worth a full read. He writes, “Influence, insight and sharing value with others online cannot be ‘gamed’, and it cannot be assigned to an integer.” Amen.
Roger Dooley – @rogerdooley
If Klout gains importance, @schachin, I expect even more sophisticated techniques to game it. @btabke
Game it? You mean like video game cheats? That’s what you’re supposed to do in games. And the fact that Klout has companies giving out perks based on the high scores makes it even more of a game. I say this having received some pretty great perks for my own Klout score. So, saying “game Klout” seems redundant to me. What if everyone stopped “gaming Klout” would it matter? I don’t think so. And the simple fact is, right now, you don’t need terribly sophisticated techniques to win at this online influence game.
A few people I trust were let in on my 30-day robot-driven play of the Klout game. They’re geeks, so I thought they might enjoy watching. One of them was Dan Green. When I informed him I wanted to write this post a week ago when @virtualtours first hit 35. Dan’s advice at the time was, “wait until it hits 50, then it will have more ‘influence’ than the vast majority of people looking at it as a measure of influence.” That was good advice. Unfortunately, to get @virtualtours to 50 or higher I would have had to program a few more automated interactions. Quite frankly, I don’t have the skills to program it myself and our team at Zeek is too busy doing real work, earned from real influence. If you know what I mean.
So, I’m ending this little test. I think I’ve proven my point. It should be noted, however, that I’m writing this on Friday, August 5 and won’t publish it until Monday, August 8, so I expect the Klout score @virtualtours to actually actually drop after I turn the bots off. Or, a least it should.
But… What would we have done to push the score higher?
First we would have written a script to search Twitter for anyone using the following combination of words, “I gave @fillintheblank +K about fillintheblank on @klout.” Then we would have have simply retweeted variations of the following, “Well deserved! RT @whoever: I gave @fillintheblank +k about @fillintheblank on @klout.” A percentage of those would retweet and mention back. Klout values that, whether it has any real value or not.
Then, we’d program a script to check every hour for the last person to say, “My @Klout score is XX. I improved it by XX.” The script would then retweet them with variations on this, “Congratulations! RT @whoever: My @Klout score is XX. I improved it by XX.” And we’d automatically follow them as well. My bet is that an even higher percentage of people would reply back and mention @virtualtours in this case. If you’re tweeting out your Klout score, it means you probably value it. And since you value it, you’re more likely to respond when someone congratulates you. The rule of reciprocity is a powerful force.
Then we would have scripted the account to unfollow anyone who had not followed us back within a seven day period, lowering the ratio of follows to followers. Klout likes that. It’s one of the rules of the game.
I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, I could have gotten the @virtualtours Klout score above 50 without any human interaction. It would have continued to spew out streams of “vague and overly familiar tweets” to people following the account. It would also have pissed off a few more people. And, in doing so, I would have had no real influence on anyone. Not one single person.
And it would have been fun to watch. Becuase Klout is a game.
Since posting this morning I’ve been led to two posts I had not read before today. I think they’re worth linking to here: