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Metric Standardisation: goodbye Klout, hello Tower of Babel

On Friday, 25 May 2018, Klout was put to bed. For those that weren’t in on the joke, Klout was a social media influence “scoring” system which rated an individual’s influence over their network.

A 10-year old company, Klout was created by Joe Fernandes while he was bedridden, recovering from jaw surgery, and was actively trolling his friends on platforms like Twitter. He realised the value of rating who of his friends were more “influential” than others. He wrote up some code, turned it into a company and then sold that company for around $100 million, six years later. Not bad.

Klout seems to have always been a rather controversial addition to the social media world.

I’ve seen many of my peers cheering its sunsetting in the last few weeks, but I guarantee you that most of them went to screenshot their final Klout score before it disappeared. Boing Boing even credited Klout as the reason the US has Donald Trump as a president, calling it a “horseman of the influencer apocalypse”.

What is certain is that Klout did foresee a rise in the gamification of social influence and was the first to try put a quantifiable metric to that. As a pioneer in that space, they were doomed to take the backlash that came with that. But the need for rating, ranking or measuring influence was always going to be a necessity.

The toughest question companies – and marketers in particular – are trying to answer is “How do I show ROI from my social media strategy?” The second toughest is “How do I build a strategy in an environment that is pretty much undefined and ever-changing?”

One of the ways the industry been trying to answer that is to latch onto the metrics that have been handed to us – the low-hanging fruit.

The metrics defined by the social network platforms themselves:

  • Number of friends/fans/followers
  • Engagements/Engagement rates
  • Likes/Favourites

While this was a good start, it didn’t really answer anything valuable. Then we started using some new ones, such as:

  • Ad Value Equivalent (AVE) – a PR metric forced into the social arena
  • Opportunity to See, Reach and Velocity/Virality
  • Influencer scoring (Klout, Kred, etc.)

This was all a step in right direction, but where the wheels have come off is that there has never really been any consensus as to how to calculate these new metrics. We’ve ended up with multiple organisations and technology vendors trying to drive the adoption of these – and other –  newer values, but all with slightly different methodologies when calculating them. This means that there is now too much effort spent in deliberating whose numbers are correct, leading to the marketers not really taking any of it seriously enough to bet their careers on.

As an example, go ask 50 marketers out in the field what they feel about AVE. 90% of them will probably tell you that they know it’s irrelevant, but they still feel the pressure to report on it because “the boss wants to see something tangible”.

Whether you personally liked it or not, Klout was used as an independent standardised metric by more social and marketing technology vendors than any other. This was important.

Influencer marketing is past its hype cycle peak

Reality is kicking in and people want real, tangible results. This means that measurement and consistent understanding around the subject is vital. While Klout had its detractors, it was doing something right. It was giving marketers a hook to hang their hat on when analysing potential influencers.

The reality is that now there will be a deluge of Influencer Marketing metrics being pushed into the market, each with their own agenda – and the end user will be left with a handful of seemingly similar, but slightly different KPIs to choose from. Brand X will work with metric A, and agency Y will work with metric B. Should those two companies start working together; expect tears.

The Klout and Influencer Marketing scene is an example of just one of these, though. This confusion is rife in the digital and the social media analytics world. More so in the social media analytics world, though.

At a minimum, be aware of this in your day-to-day activities and interactions. At best we can keep questioning this and raising it as an issue so that someone with the right exposure and authority can step in and fix it. Fix it through standardisation and driving widespread adoption.

As a marketer today, perhaps you could consider these few suggestions:

  • Ask yourself, whether the metrics you’re using actually matter to the company, and if they’re worth the effort of monitoring, analysing and debating.
  • Question each metric that is fed to you. Understand how it’s been gathered or calculated.
  • Externally – foster and argue for standardisation, where possible.
  • Internally – come to some documented agreement on which metrics matter, how they’re defined, how they’re consumed and how they are to be used in the company.

And then, understand that analytics and metrics are like Bitcoin…

Unless you get consensus and buy-in from everyone, it’s worthless.

 

Kelvin Jonck,

MD of YOUKNOW, founder of Gnostic and Vaxa Ventures,

Father of two, husband of one. No hurry, no pause.