Professor Klout

“…here is an inescapable fact. Many firms are sizing up college student’s Klout scores as a quantitative metric to use for job applicant screening. Therefore, I decided to create a class project in which the final grade earned is solely determined by a student’s Klout score.”

This is a quote from a post by Todd Bacile ( @toddbacile ), a new PhD from FSU on Mark Schaefer’s Blog http://www.businessesgrow.com/2012/08/26/florida-state-university-class-using-klout-to-determine-student-grades/

This blog post generated a bit of a storm in the comments on the Grow blog (my comment must have been screened out…) and on FB and other social media sites. Todd is likely now the most talked about marketing job candidate. USNews even ran a tepidly critical comment: http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/2012/08/29/professor-sparks-controversy-for-klout-based-grading?page=2

Todd’s curious wording – some readers interpreted “the final grade earned is solely determined” as meaning the class grade – and provocative use of “gaming” helped incite the ire. However his key premise that since some employers are using Klout scores to screen job candidates, Universities must teach students to achieve high scores is also widely criticized.

I am a fairly consistent Klout-basher. [For example see http://servicecocreation.com/2011/02/16/will-klout-kill-twitter/ ] I think the measure itself is faulty, even somewhat silly (and worse since the recent modifications – more later on this). More importantly I believe that the service becomes harmful to social media as participants game their scores under pressure from imbecile employers who screen with Klout or perhaps by professors who specify that a “final grade earned is solely determined” by the measure.

I think most social  media participants have already seen clear evidence of the coarsening of social media due to J0e Fernandez and his Klout henchmen in their Facebook stream. Why has there been an increase in:

  • Artificial or photo-shoped pics?
  • Vapid posts that sound like campaigns for Miss American? (Why can’t we have world peace?)
  • Exhortations to click “like” – Please “like” for world peace, Please “like” to support our veterans, please like if you love the Hokies (local).

Answer: Pumping up the K-score!!!

What should an academic do? Klout and its competitors do exist, try to measure something important, and are widely followed. I personally think Todd may have pushed too far…

BUT I do offer extra credit in my social media courses to the two or three students who over the course of the semester: (1) end the semester with the highest Klout score, (2) show the largest increase in their Kred and /or PeerIndex scores.

What is your opinion:

  1. Does Todd go too far in promoting Klout in his class?
  2. Do I go too far in promoting Kred, Klout and PeerIndex in mine?

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Social influence and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Professor Klout

  1. Professor Gary
    Great article!
    I can see using Klout scores in hiring (unfortunately but it is a reality of our times) but not as a part of a student’s grade. A course grade must be based on meeting specific requirements for that particular course. One’s ultimate impact on their Klout score should not be part of the grading requirement. There are just too many variables to consider in the Klout score equation to get a fair measure of the student’s efforts. I’m not convinced adding extra credit for increased Klout or PeerIndex sends a good message to other professors or students. Any appearance of associating grading to increased Klout/PeerIndex may be ill advised. But certainly give you credit for being creative in earning extra points. Maybe you could crowdsource how students can earn extra points.

    Cheers!
    Cheryl

    • gschirr says:

      CK:

      You manage to be so nice even when criticizing my practices!

      As you know I am VERY uncomfortable with the influence of Klout and with its impact on social media.

      Yet I watch my score as an indication of how well I am spreading content. And I know that others gauge online effectiveness by the scores. So I want my students to check out the three influence services for themselves. I think that giving extra credit to the “winners” correctly conveys that the measures are fun and interesting but not that real. But I may be justifying myself again…

      – Gary

  2. Great thought-provoking post Gary!

    You have to put in perspective that 1) Klout was made by a 3rd party with an interest in selling its platform data and related services to brands and 2) The scores are used by marketing and customer service departments to help them better segment social media conversations – as well as to help facilitate influential marketing.

    So, if becoming perceived as an “influencer” by a 3rd party platform is a classroom requirement, there is something wrong with the system. That is not what a college education should be about. It should teach students critical thinking as to why or why not Klout makes sense – not about an individual’s score.

    As for using Klout to screen candidates, just as those who use the platform thinking they are engaging with “influencers” when those people have higher Klout scores, those who are using Klout scores as part of segmenting job applications, I believe, is not the norm – and at least is not a good practice as the Klout score says nothing about said person’s ability to do the job well (unless that job is to gamify social media and build up a higher Klout score for the company, which I doubt). Perhaps there are a few “savvy” social recruiters or marketing hiring managers who might be doing this, but I would find it hard to believe that everyone is doing this, especially because the average person outside of the social media bubble has never even heard of Klout!

    Thanks again for the post and for sharing it with me on Twitter 😉

    @NealSchaffer

    • gschirr says:

      Thanks Neal!

      I appreciate your input and enjoyed reading your summary of comments on new Klout earlier. I think new Klout is too tied to Kred and in a couple ways (bringing in wikipedia and counting +Ks) klout made their measure murkier!

      Thanks again,

      Gary

  3. Rick Clark says:

    Professor Gary… You are rightfully outraged, as am I.

    It’s not so much what Klout and it’s peers are trying to do, I suppose a reasonable argument could be made for the value of the data they crunch… if they were doing a good job crunching. I have a far greater problem with how weak their algorithms are at fending off the rampant gaming happening on so many levels.

    I see private and not-so-private FB groups mounting daily “Like” bombing, runaway re-tweeting and re-pinning, G+ing and a bazillion bogus blog commentaries… all aimed at manipulating the system. Purported SEO/Social Media mavens tricking clients into believing they actually have some sort of credibility or padding a client’s “results” creating a false sense of return on investment.

    I got into a pissing contest in the comment section on that article with Mark Schaefer who, as some sort of moderator for Todd, tried to out-articulate me on the issue and sell me his book in the process. I bought none of it. The length some academician’s will go to in an attempt to preserve their fragile credibility. Shameful.

    And what really frosts me is that it isn’t just millenials and gen-xers playing these games. I see what appears to be seasoned marketing professionals, some with decades of experience, jumping on the same band wagon. Shameful.

    How about devoting more teaching to business ethics, honesty in advertising, authenticity? Hell, I’ll bet you’d get booed right out of the lecture hall. Shameful.

    Eons ago I remember the old adage, “Fake it ’til you make it.” We faked it ’til we made it, putting in the time and paying our dues until we developed a valuable and marketable skill set.

    Seems today it’s more like, “Just keep fakin’ it… there’s no way to get caught.” Wrong. Busted.

    • gschirr says:

      Rick:

      Thank you very much for your comment and recent inputs!

      I very much agree with you about the amount of gaming – SEO for social media – already going on and the risk to social media.

      I believe that there is honest disagreement about the danger. Some, like Mark, believe that gaming can be minimized and that influence measure has potential benefits and already can measure success. I, like you, see the dangers and believe that gaming is already harming a wonderful space. Mark spoke to my class on Monday night and did a great job of stressing content and community. He is no gamer and has been outspoken about the need to unfollow, unfriend, and block gamers. He and I disagree on the usefulness of klout and risks, but not on what good SM citizenship should be.

      BTW on the topic of ethics, it is always one of the most difficult discussions in my professional selling and SMM classes. There is a core group – not a majority – who firmly believe that if something is not illegal or if you can get by with it, be like Nike: just do it!

      Thanks again!!

      – Gary

      • Rick Clark says:

        That core group is growing Professor… enrollment is up at the Charlie Sheen Center for the Advancement of Social Media and the Lindsey Lohan School of Dubious Celebrity. At least that’s what Harvey Levin is reporting on TMZ. 🙂

      • gschirr says:

        😉 I hope not!

  4. Gary,
    I teach a graduate level online social media class at Northeastern University. Yes though klout has issues there is something to be said for understanding what the score really means and encouraging students to engage using social media. I like the idea of having a contest in my intro to social media course using Klout scores. 1. Who has the highest Klout score at the start or class and 2. Who has the highest Klout score at the end of class. This would include having an online discussion about what this all means the pros and cons about sites like klout. What about a contest instead of extra credit. Or maybe both? Would love to hear your thoughts.

    • gschirr says:

      Nancy:

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

      My extra credit is essentially a contest, since only the highest Klout score at the end or the greatest increase in Kred or PeerIndex scores is awarded the extra credit (3 of a class of 30 or 40).

      I will choose to think that you are the first person today to agree with my approach!

      – Gary

  5. As an older student just starting to dip my toe in the social media pool I would be very nervous to be graded just on the Klout or Kred score. I think there is more to learn than just how to get a high score. I do think the ability to apply metrics to the effect of social media in marketing (or other forms of business) is a worthy goal.

    My opinion is that I do like the idea of extra credit in class as it gives me an incentive to explore social media more actively and to challenge myself. If I get the bonus points – great, if I don’t I still will have pushed myself to learn more about the subject than I might not have. I have started a twitter account, becoming more active in LinkedIn, and starting a blog.

    And I will add in full disclosure that I am a current student in Professor Gary’s current social media class.

    Barry

  6. Bob Akin says:

    Gary,
    Great blog! This is either a “Game Theory” project by the professor, or a serious indictment on the validity of Klout. To me, any vehicle that can be manlipulated by the target to recieve more credability lacks “klout.” As professors we are to espouse the academic systems honor and integrity; while my guess is that he was using this as an example of gaming the system, he justified the exposing of such short falls in the business world.
    I stand on your side in the issue of any algorithmic program which will bestow crediability upon an avatar. While we as a society should judge the “klout” of any individual by their deeds and actions, we seem to have lost our raison d’ etre. By allowing an inantimate program or set of hardware to determine a judgement of character, is it no suprise that those with the highest scores are the ones who lack quality in moral fiber? I look to the academicians scores and find those who hold high placement within these ranks to be the thought leaders. What would the score of an Albert Einstein, Peter Drucker, or Robert Mundell be? I tend to shy away from the “baby kissers” and “Divas” (both male and female).
    Thank you for holding the cause to a candle and exposing the inadequate judgement of a flawed system.
    Bob

    • gschirr says:

      Thank you for your thoughts Bob!

      I think ex-salespeople like you and I always have a bias toward human interaction!

      Thanks again!

      – Gary

  7. whyaeger says:

    Professor Gary,

    Thank you for raising this question and the thoughtful responses to earlier posts (great discussion!).

    A key flaw with Klout and similar measures based on social activity is that to many participants in the system (including yourself) the total measure is less relevant than the measure within specific constituent groups that you would like to influence. For example, you may be less concerned with impacting the thinking of tween girls than in trying to influence the discussion among college recruiters.

    Like all emerging technologies, these measures and their usefulness will be influences by the acceptance of the community of users. I look forward to seeing how things develop in the coming months and years.

    Henry
    @whyaeger

    • gschirr says:

      Henry:

      Thanks for your comment. I agree completely that what is really important and missing is context: I want to be influential in social media marketing and the interaction of SMM and innovation and selling, I don’t care if people are interested in my politics or fashion sense.

      Topics and context will be the key to good influence measurement.

      Thanks again!

      – Gary

  8. Gary, I’m not a blogger, but anyone who knows me knows I am more apt to side with Mark’s perspective on Klout and other ‘social influence’ scoring systems, of which there are hundreds. I’ve had meetings with Klout, Kred and Appinions as well as other players who have businesses that that rely on their own social influence scoring metric such as Smiley 360, Unruly Media, Bluefin Labs and too many others to mention here. One thing is clear…social influence monitoring is here to stay because brand marketers want it. The heart of the issue for marketers is understanding what goes into the ‘black box’ for the social scoring with various services (and, sometimes more importantly, what is NOT included.) My organization, the IAB, along with others, are working together to help provide some guidelines for marketers so they know what they are getting when they sign on with a service. They need to know what questions to ask before they can truly know what they are getting for their money. A starting point is defining common language/definitions so there is some consistency for comparison. Privacy concerns with Do Not Track are also an important high level discussion in this arena. It will be interesting to see where this all shakes out with consolidation (eg, Buddy bought by Salesforce, Wildfire bought by Google) and new players with new value propositions.

    As to it’s use in the classroom or job recruiting…like it or not, it seems too important to ignore at this stage.

    Thanks, Gary. See you on Twitter!

    • gschirr says:

      Susan:

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

      I agree that influence measurement will not go away and am intrigued by Apinions. It seems to me that influence can ONLY have meaning within the context of the content and the community being addressed.

      However I think that the approach of Klout has done more harm, in the form of inducing gaming behavior in SMM, than any good from its limited illumination. But you are right it is here to stay. And I will probably continue to offer a contest in class to get the students to be aware of their Klout, Kred, and PeerIndex scores, though I will continue to worry that I am doing the devil’s work!

      Thanks again!

      – Gary

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s