Clout is a noun, not a goal

The social media world is in a bit of a tizzy due to Klout’s new rating system. The overall complaint is that everyone seems to have gone down in the ratings. If you were bothered by this, it might be an idea to ask yourself why. In terms of SEO and social media, what is Klout?

How do you define your clout?

If you are active at all in the social media (and there’s a strong chance you are if you are reading this), you must have a fair idea about what you are doing. But how do you rate your time spent on, say, Twitter? When it appeared, Klout struck me as a fun gimmick. It gave some metrics to what was then a very fuzzy domain.

But there is a very strong danger that it becomes a goal in itself. The very human temptation is to play the badge game, amassing thousands of followers and sending out a dizzy number of Tweets and RTs to boost the ratings.  And then? What do you do with a following with which you have no meaningful connection? Is there not a better way to measure clout?

Keeping up with the Joneses

If you have to use it as a measure of success in the social sphere, you are on very thin ice. What is the practical difference between a Klout of 61 and 63 in absolute terms? The only practical use I can think of for Klout is as a relative yardstick. At the very most, I would present a rating in the context of your three closest competitors. Here’s where we are compared to X, Y and Z. And if everyone actually went down, a drop on your side is not unusual.

On a practical level, it strikes me that a review of Klout’s rating system was not out of order, given the massive changes in the social world since it started. But hopefully you are also using more precise data-driven metrics such as those available from Hootsuite or others.

Allowing yourself to receive

To answer my own question, I can think of a good handful of strong contacts made on Twitter, almost daily exposure to sensational data and comment and an overall healthy rate of RTs across the various accounts I am involved with. Thinking that I have “clout” demonstrates the wrong mindset, as social media is not a macho thing. As has often been pointed out, it’s the two-way flow of data and comment that is important.

Instead of asking how much I have pumped into the Infobahn today, it might be an idea to ask how much I have allowed myself to receive. The ability to spot trends, understand comment or analysis and pick up leads is, for me, a key element of social media – ones that feeds the other parts of my work.