Thoughts on Klout & Influence

Several months ago, I was invited into a beta of something called Klout. That may sound kind of cool and trendy, but I think it just means I write a blog and have a twitter account and Klout found my e-mail address somewhere. Regardless, it’s a site that aims to measure the amount of influence a person has online. By analyzing “pieces of content and connections” (2.7 billion of them each day), Klout formulates a person’s online influence.

I hesitantly decided to splash around in the Klout waters a little bit. I jumped in because I’m generally curious, plus I’m a sucker for something new and techno-social; but I was hesitant because it just seems weird to be trumpeting how much influence I have or don’t have. Self promotion has never felt right, even when the darker parts of me crave the adulation it brings from time to time. And self humiliation is something I’m already pretty good at and with which I don’t really need the help of another web site. Besides, if you have to tell everyone you’re influential to get them to listen to you, are you really that influential?

One of the interesting aspects of the Klout site is that they’ll designate certain topics in which you are most influential. There are a lot of different topics. A couple days ago, I received notice that my influence was being recognized in a new topic. Thinking of all the things that are important to me and that I blog or comment about, a list of possibilities flitting through my mind. But when the site loaded and I saw what the topic actually was, it was nowhere near my list of possibilities: Mascara. Yes, friends, it seems I am influential in the realm of mascara. It dawned on me that I’d made a flippant comment on twitter about boys trying too hard to make something of no-shave November that was re-tweeted by a couple guys (Thanks Drew & Robert). Because they repeated what I said, that must mean I’m influential, right? Ok, maybe not!

So anyway, I’m currently sporting a Klout score of 26, with a ‘conversational’ style, influencing 53 people (one of whom apparently clubs baby seals with sticks of kittens). But what the heck does that really mean? What does it really mean that I have 168 ‘followers’ on twitter? (It was 170 before I re-tweeted Rick Warren this afternoon, but that’s a whole other issue.)  What does it really mean that there are 531 people who ‘friended’ me on facebook?

What this really has me thinking about is the relationship between online connections and real life influence. There are people whom I know I heavily influence in some areas who will never show up on some websites radar. There are others who, according to the data, appear to be being influenced, but are they really?

What do you do with influence when it’s granted to you?

How do you handle influence?

What are the benefits and drawbacks of measuring influence?

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