Getting Klouted

As you can see on the right there, I’m on Twitter. Instead of going through, I use a third-party app called Hootsuite, which shows followers, following, number of updates, and a number for something called Klout.

I’ve never liked the Klout number. It’s not even explained — you have to go looking for what it means.

The word clout means both a blow with the hand, and social influence, or political power. The company Klout gave the word a web 2.0 spelling (r you familr with Tumblr or Flickr, mothrfuckr?), and took it from there. They call their number “the measurement of your overall online influence.”

In addition to unfortunate rhyming, the About Klout page claims, “Klout isn’t about figuring out who is on the ‘A-list.’ We believe that every person who creates content has influence. Our mission is to help every individual understand and leverage their influence.”

Only one little problem: that’s bullshit.

Exhibit 1:  the wallpaper on Klout home page:

I have no idea whether these are actual people who have been piteously reduced to their Klout scores. (It’ s also possible they’re part of a human subspecies known as homo stockphotoicus.) But you see the issue, don’t you? These people have become their number.

Klout never exactly says it’s ranking people. They don’t have to. People will rank themselves, they way they would with IQ scores, SAT scores, income — it’s just how people operate.

Call it “social media” if you want, but once it gets quantified, it gets measured. Once it gets measured, it gets ranked. Once it gets ranked, you get squicky quotes like “My dating criteria: must have a higher Klout than me” (that’s on the Klout website).

Exhibit 2: What’s in a Klout score, anyway? They can’t exactly tell you that either, but rest assured, it’s a scientifical factorizing of the innumerative quantifiables in a proprietary and patent-pending equation-matrix that includes:

Followers, Mutual Follows, Friends, Total Retweets, Unique Commenters, Unique Likers, Follower/Follow Ratio, Followed Back %, @ Mention Count, List Count, List Followers Count, Unique Retweeters, Unique Messages Retweeted, Likes Per Post, Comments Per Post Follower Retweet %, Unique @ Senders, Follower Mention %, Inbound Messages Per Outbound Message, Update Count, List inclusions, Follower/Follow Ratio, Followed Back %, Unique Senders, Unique Retweeters, Unique Commenters, Unique Likers, Influence of Followers, Influence of Retweeters and Mentioners, Influence of Friends, Influence of Likers and Commenters.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m checking out a hottie, the things I want to know most are her Comments Per Post Follower Retweet %,  and her Inbound Messages Per Outbound Message figures. Hubba hubba!

Know what’s not on the Klout website? The Klout scores of Chief Executive Officer / Co-Founder Joe Fernandez, Chief Technical Officer / Co-Founder Binh Tran, and Advisor Thomas McInerney. Here’s a memo, guys — want to walk the walk? Then quantify yourselves. Drink your own Kool-Aid.

If you’re certifiably datafiable, you can log in to learn even more about your Network Influence, Amplification Probability, and True Reach.

Not that there’s anything to worry about, right? I mean, this is a positive experience, their mission is to help us, and we wouldn’t want to instill anxiety in people, to make them conform in any …

Hmm. Guess not. Better suck it up and try harder at social media, or your score will go down and you will plummet in the rankings. Or if you think you suffer from social media anxiety, talk to your doctor about … etc.

In his brilliant 1996 book The Mismeasure of Man, paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould cut straight to the heart of problem with IQ tests. He argued,

…the abstraction of intelligence as a single entity, its location within the brain, its quantification as one number for each individual, and the use of these numbers to rank people in a single series of worthiness, invariably to find that oppressed and disadvantaged groups—races, classes, or sexes—are innately inferior and deserve their status.

Klout scores don’t have the same kind of serious real-world repercussions the way IQ did, of course (to my knowledge, no one has been sterilized because of low Klout). But the process is the same: your “overall online influence” reduced single entity, assigned a number, and then ranked.

Though to be fair, Klout is hardly the only one reaming your information. There’s a story on the wires this week that all your online information (Facebook, Twitter, blog)  is being archived by companies that provide pre-employment screening and background information on potential employees for clients.

Let’s not forget monetized — did I mention that Klout is backed by three venture capital firms? In the strangest little coincidence, the day after I started this post, along came …

Exhibit 3: A  story in FastCompany, “Facebook gets new VIP Sections.” The gist of it is that Facebook is developing a new VIP page, and today Audi and Klout are creating tools for it. A Klout VP told the magazine that “the new exclusive page is about finding influencers, movers, and shakers in their niche markets. Brands will be able to give favored treatment to visitors.”

To its credit, FastCompany almost addresses the creepiness of this:

“The creeping influence of money on the Facebook experience could have serious psychological impacts on how users begin to see what was once simple recreation. Facebook and Twitter have allowed few initiatives to permeate the wall between money and fun, but their data gives brands increasingly clever ways to exploit the precise monetary value of each user.” (my emphasis)

Klout says, “Our mission is to help every individual understand and leverage their influence.” But that mission has nothing to do with what fattens its bottom line: namely, getting in bed with other companies (Facebook, Audi) to mine, process, analyze and sell user data for corporate benefit.

Turns out there’s a lot to that little number: It’s a nice bit of metonymy, reducing me to a number so that Audi and Facebook and Klout and God Knows Who Else, Inc. can understand my precise monetary value to their brands.

Oh, no!

Exclusive Non-Naming Rights Still Available

The Wisconsin School of Business at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has received an unprecedented gift totaling $85 million from a small group of alumni …. This innovative partnership provides a naming gift that will preserve the Wisconsin name for at least 20 years. During that time, the school will not be named for a single donor or entity.University of Wisconsin press release

“John Ochwat” – $10,000,000

This is the ne plus ultra of personal identities. It’s not just a name, it’s a unique opportunity in the personal brandosphere. The Ochwat brand is so uncommon, its spelling remains unequalled in every major language—making intellectual property enforcement a breeze. Yet the name’s phonetic properties are remarkably fungible, allowing a dizzying variety of pronunciation and spelling opportunities!

Note: Bidding for this is expected to be keen, since the Associated Kumquat Growers and the Society for Sanity in Spelling and Pronunciation both view “Ochwat” as crucial to the success of their strategic plans.

Ochwat family residence – $1,000,000

house_from_satelliteBe the envy of corporate marketers everywhere by owning 20-year exclusive rights to a blank plaque in front of the tastefully appointed Ochwat family home in the Portland suburbs. Imagine your brand’s return on investment among influential taste-makers such as public interest research groups, children selling magazine subscriptions and Girl Scout Cookies, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Make sure to lock in the $100,000 upgrade, which includes one-of-a-kind non-naming rights to the home’s roof, visible on Google Earth, Microsoft Terraserver, and numerous government satellites.

1997 Honda Accord – $50,000

The Honda Accord is such a coveted asset, it frequently appears on top-10 lists of most stolen automobiles. And despite the car’s Honda logos, and the license plate frames from Wisniewski Auto Body, nothing says anonymity like an 11-year-old four-door sedan with slight rear-bumper damage. Imagine your pride when saying to one of your competitors, “See that car you failed to notice? We own the non-naming rights to it.”

1987 Fuji Suncrest bicycle – $10,000

fuji_suncrestGreen is the new black, and nothing says green like a 21-year-old champagne-and rust-colored mountain bike. Those of you promoting your corporate social responsibility message should also consider the Brand Removal and Photograph Package. For only $2,000, you’ll receive high-resolution commemorative photos of this semi-derelict bicycle with its stickers removed, and the rights to let these images grace your next annual report. Not only will you score major sustainability points by not buying plaques or signage, such an authentic, forward-thinking green image is sure to make stockholders and environmentalists swoon with delight.

First-born child – $500,000

Though “John Ochwat” and the Ochwat family home, car and bicycle are undoubtedly prime non-naming opportunities, the bottom line is that all are depreciating assets. Yet after your first two-decade sponsorship of the Ochwats’ first-born child, your asset will only be in his late 20s—and just entering his prime branding years.

Consider your corporation’s proud legacy if you secure the rights to the Ochwat first-born now: With guaranteed preemptive bidding rights when the contract comes up for renewal, you could own the rights for the next 60, 80—or who knows, even 100 years.

Miscellaneous Opportunities – Negotiable

Many of these tempting opportunities will only be available for a short time, and the prices they’ll likely fetch will preclude all but the most aggressive Fortune 500 corporations. But to entice small businesses to partake of this great opportunity, we’re also entertaining a la carte bids on individual Ochwat assets (lawn statuary, bowling trophies, urinals). Make us an offer: the possibilities for corporate non-expression are practically limitless!

Irish Woe Means Huge Savings for You!

Let’s talk Notre Dame football. No, not because I’m a big football fan (I’m not, particularly), and not because they had a stellar season (they didn’t).

In fact, it’s worth talking ND football for precisely the opposite reason, since they had one of the worst seasons in their history. (And because it leads into the subject of this post, which you’ll see below.)

Consider their 2007 season:

  • Most losses in a single year (9)
  • Two of the ten worst losses ever (both 38-0 shellackings)
  • Losses to Army and Air Force in the same season for the first time since 1944 (when the services teams were all bulked up for the war effort)
  • Winless against the mid-majors

It was so bad that when ND was 1-7, Slate magazine ran an article, with some persuasive statistics, calling coach Charlie Weis “The Worst Football Coach in the Universe.”

  • “Of the 119 teams in Division I-A, ND is 119th in total offense, 119th in rushing offense, 112th in passing offense, and 118th in scoring.”
  • “Notre Dame is averaging 1.09 yards per rush this year … the worst rushing team recorded by the NCAA in the last nine years was still about one-third better than Notre Dame.”

Now, let’s say you’re the marketing director for Blue & Gold Traditions, which sells ND clothes and merchandise, and you’ve got to send out a catalog with ND jerseys, helmets, pajamas, key chains and baseball caps.

What to do? Here’s Blue & Gold’s answer:


“Irish Woe Creates Massive Overstocks … Leading to Huge Savings For You!”

Ouch. Even as an attempt to turn lemons into lemonade, that’s pathetic.