What’s it really about.
The debate over the accuracy of various “Influence” Measurement tools has been a popular one on Twitter. What this story is really about though is not who the king of measuring influence is, but rather how the PR and customer service approaches of two companies, seemingly selling the same thing made all the difference in approach and perception. Possibly the difference between social behavior and social capitalism.
What’s your Klout?
Klout, once the sweetheart of “Influencers” in the Twitter community, turned fans into critics in the fall of 2011, as Klout scores plummeted in many cases while the company tried to rework their measurement framework. In addition to seeing scores falling, among other perceived inconsistencies ,as they tried calibrate their measurements, Klout sent half the Twitterverse into outrage. People started to realize that affecting the Klout scoring, was not just who you were, but who you talked to. For those who were not there for this, a recap: it appeared that influencers who spoke to people in lower Klout rankings, were seeing decreased scores. The mere idea that speaking to those in the lower ranks would pull you down, in essence was wrong. People began speaking of the ability to gameify Klout, this and overall bad press created many movements for major Social Media Influencers to drop Klout. Controversy regarding whether they were collecting data in a fair manner, privacy issues, and all the criticism has made Klout the topic of many a popular blog post, twitter discussion or movement.
Enter Customer Service and PR
Was it possible that all these people were so outraged over their score simply dropping? When I investigated this, informally, what I found was very different than what you would expect. Overall, what seems to have offended “Influencers” the most with Klout, was not necessarily the change in the algorithms, but rather the lack of transparency and the lack of response from Klout when key influencers, including members of the Klout Squad asked for clarification. The very people Klout relied on, and had put on influencer pedestals, felt ignored. Klout seems to has alienated many key influencers to a point that zero Klout has become the “in thing” to do in a movement of solidarity among key Social Media players. This isn’t a matter of an algorithm gone wrong, it’s a PR disaster – you set yourself up to be the standard of influence, then you ignore the people who have been identified by you as influencers, then you just move along? Or maybe they are swimming in the idea that “Any press is good press” – for a company based on selling influence, it seems quite unbelievable.
So this in my understanding was the demise of Klout. – at least through the eyes of a group of key influencers who are key because of their activity on Social Media, and their valued knowledge of how the social media world should work. Justin Bieber , who boasts an extremely high Klout score, certainly didn’t take note – or if he did, I must have missed the blog post.
What does this say about the basis of their business? In a way, I believe that Klout is truly trying to make their scales work, but have turned their backs on those they had identified as key players in the Social Media circles. Klout being based on Social Media should have perhaps fallen when the influencers left. If Influence was truly what they preach, or what many have understood it to be, then certainly these moves should have shut them down… Yet, Klout seems to have stayed in the game with their cool perks, and their innovations in +K as well as the competitions where participants can rate the random groups and people that pop up. Klout through their generalized actions responded to revisions, yet in their indirect actions, by ignoring the ones that the key influencers were involved with, they failed. Klout has certainly come a long way in the past year – yet those who were turned off, remain quite positioned against them. In my opinion, it was a customer service disaster, at least that’s my take away – relayed by their own key influencers. Irony.
Irony because the people who they seek to spotlight, recognize and build are the people they seem to least respond to.
Note#1: I have not approached Klout for commentary on this, mainly because if Liz Strauss, for example, can’t get the answers to her questions, I have to ask myself, what is the value of spending the time to ask myself? I believe Klout is a machine, they operate like a non social business despite their profit being based on the social platforms- I believe they just haven’t come along.
Note #2: I didn’t opt out of Klout and I’ll explain why below, I don’t think Klout is a bad company, I do think they suffer from poor PR and customer service. my commentary is about the irony of the perception that Klout as a company is ignoring influencers – the same influencers they have built their business on. Whether it is right or wrong is not relevant, in PR what matters is what people think is true. A company should care enough to manage their image in the population.
What can you do with Klout?
I still use Klout, I don’t take it as the life and death of my presence. I personally think its simply a nice way to show people you care, by giving plus K, by making connections. When I get plus K , I don’t go on Linked In and list it as an achievement, I don’t use it to try and get a job, nor do I send an email to my company telling them I’m “it” because I just got another +K, what I do with Klout is say thank you, and feel grateful when I see that someone has gone out of their way to recognize me for something. For that, I think Klout provides some basic value, and some recognition sharing in a community – whether you are a 100 Klout or a ZERO Klout, a plus K from you simply tells me, “Hey, this person cared enough to send a hello, a thank you, or a shout out”. #Gratitude – I appreciate any tool that allows us to share gratitude.
Enter the Competition: Kred
On the flip side, we had Kred show up. Friendly, cooperative, interactive Kred. From the onset, I did not abandon Klout, I am not a key influencer, I wanted to see what happened as Klout developed their new model. Personally, I believe in listening, collecting information, then trying to come to conclusions based on this. I believe that although Klout suffered, what is in my opinion a PR disaster (as well as a customer service failure) that it would be interesting to see where they were going. So, when Kred entered the game, I watched this too.
Kred Came Out to Find Me
Unlike Klout, Kred behaves very differently in the online space. I don’t need to do a poll of influencers to find out what they think, I can see it, myself by their involvement in the community. Where Klout buys people with Perks, Kred reaches out with dialogue and communication. Because of all the drama around Klout, I have to tell you when Kred came along, I frankly didn’t care to “find a NEW way to be measured” – so I kind of watched in the sidelines. However as I sat there and watched, Kred came out to find me. They didn’t do anything drastic like give me free concert tickets (#thanks Klout) nor did they send me fruity tea, what they did do is say hello. What they did do is listen when I talked to them, and asked me for no apparent reason, at random, how my week was going. When I told them they were cool for that, they said “thank you”.
So along the way, Kred came out of the blue and said hello. They live in the social media world, they function in the social media sphere, they live by social media guidelines. I was pretty impressed with them thus far, but today, I got an email from Kred CEO Andrew Grill, he was letting me know about a Kred summit, he was inviting everyone to participate online via twitter. He had invited the “key influencers” to take part and lead the open discussion on a very important topic.
The topic wasn’t about why Kred is so awesome. The topic wasn’t about how Kred is a new and true measure of social influence. The topic was influencers and social good. I was impressed: Kred, you know PR, and you know customer service, and through your actions, I believe you care.
I checked out their list of “influencers” attending the summit, I knew many of them, as I am sure many on the online space do as well. All of them reputable, well received, intelligent, active, very social, very kind, very socially conscious, reputable people. People with values. People who hold our trust. In addition to curating a group of influencers who are undeniably well respected, well liked, and knowledgeable in Social Media, and very able to speak on the topic of social good, Kred’s outreach in inviting everyone to participate in the discussion, showing that they value to the entire community also spoke very clearly, Kred knows PR, they know community, they are building on the true building blocks of influence.
A Tale of Two Companies : Klout , Kred, X, Y or Z
So what are we looking at here? Klout or Kred? That’s your call – from what I have shared with you here, I am not sure you coudl even put the two of them in the same playing field. I will say is that in a world where you build a company (Klout) on the importance of influence, it seems like poor PR and bad customer service to allow so many influencers to be turned off. In the corporate world, pre- social media, Klout’s behavior is quite acceptable, and interestingly enough, Klout seems to be doing very well with their perks, and base level appreciation with the population who does not understand social media – they don’t care enough to notice, and they are always happy to get free gifts…
Is Klout really in the business of social, or are they simply making money off the social phenomena?
When you leave influencers scattered across the board banning your influence based company and just move along, I think that’s when you have to realize, you aren’t really a social company.
Klout can buy us perks, what’s that worth?
If you ask me who I like, who I respect, who I think is genuine? Kred is so far ahead, they are owning the game. Kred seems to be living the values of what they are building their business on: social.
So what’s your measure of influence? How do you judge a company? By the social good they try and achieve, by the respect they show you when you say hello, and they say hello back – or by the free tickets, games, cards and green tea they give you as they close the door. At the end of the day who really gained your respect?
Check out my summary of today’s Kred announcement via Storify. What they’ve done is pretty socially impressive.
Are these two companies playing on the same field?
It’s quite an interesting lesson in social media manners, social business, and what truly motivates. Do you want to be a Klout or a Kred? Whether it’s a business built on influence, or x, y or z – this is just an example, and it can apply anywhere. How much do you value the interactions with your clients? How important is social listening? Which company approach aligns with your values?
Both of these companies are successful in their own way, both have their attributes.
It all comes down to who you are identifying as your customer, what do they want and what will make you profit. Your response to situations, what you choose to focus on will make a difference. In the cases above you have two companies, both selling the same thing with completely different approaches. It’s a matter of culture and mindset, we chose our priorities.
In this case, I think the question is, who do you really want to impress, those who can be bought, or those who have character? What’s going to work on social?