Klout has made some dramatic changes in the past few weeks, which has led the Social Media ecosystem to ask many questions about Klout’s brand credibility and business agenda.
Many are left feeling as if Klout was one Fairytale Gone Bad
For a few weeks, the Klout team cloaked themselves in a barricade of silence. They did not answer the many concerns, questions or open debates in regard to many issues being asked of them on all Social Media forums. The very people whom they call and define “influential” are asking intelligent questions, yet Klout ignores most it seems and answers very little.
Recently however in direct response to the larger outcry from many online communities, news outlets and many bloggers, Klout finally start talking.
Is Klout Answering Questions, or Simply Playing Politician and Spinning all Facts?
Joe Fernandez, the CEO of Klout has published and commented on several blog posts in which he appears to show attempts to explain the new changes, but somehow fails to succeed.
Let’s look at these changes, concerns, and more importantly the larger legal issues surrounding Klout
To me, Klout has become the Tale of the Mad Scientist
1. KLOUT TRANSPARENCY
Klout has always claimed that they in fact do provide transparency for how they score individuals. In a recent post, Joe Fernandez tells us that Klout has become more transparent then ever. Yet, he gives no explanation as to why he believes this and there is no public data available to indicate otherwise.
Interestingly, Klout now appears to “warn” users about whom they are engaging with who have become less influential across social media platforms. This can be seen in the screen capture taken from my live Klout profile below.
Look closely. Notice how users are given information in regard with whom they engage. This information simply tells the user about those who have lost network influence.
I would certainty not call this transparency. I would call this manipulation of users actions and engagement via induction of fear. Fear of what? Fear of a dropping Klout score if a user continues to engage with users whose scores are dropping. Remember, this so called “transparent drop” is based on nothing that we know of, no evidence we can see, no statical data that is shared. This evidence and publicly published data is simply a score that is given to users by a team of so called “Scientists” who work for Klout.
In my world, a Scientists has data which they carefully record, trials are run and experiments are engaged to prove a hypothesis. When a data supported and document experiment is found to support a hypothesis, the experiment must then be duplicatable or the results are deemed invalid. No Scientist in the Science world would ever toss their hands in the air and say, “Sorry we have a glitch and we are in Beta, so just be patient with us!”
Does Klout even know what the “Scientific Method” is? I envision a team of comical “Mad Scientists” tossing numbers out randomly as they consult with the Klout Perks Program. However, this is in my opinion of course. I am dismayed and left saying this….
It is shocking that anyone is still buying into this Fairytale of Scientific Nonsense
In spite of the evidence above and the documented emails and statements sent to many by Klout, explaining that scores drop or rise in accordance with whom you engage, both Joe Fernandez and Megan Berry continue to deny such. As stated previously, this spin factor is all Klout seems to say when it comes to questions and concerns by the very Influencers they use to gain financial leverage via their Klout Perks programs.
2. KLOUT IS NOT MEASURING INFLUENCE ACROSS 13 PLATFORMS
In an article that was published in the New York Times Joe Fernandez said “We analyze data from 13 different online networks and take into account all reactions to a person’s content.”
Truth to be told, Klout is NOT analyzing data from 13 platforms. In a recent blog post published on Klout.com an employee of Klout publicly acknowledge that the company was not transparent to their users when comes to networks. In fact, they reported that Klout is measuring influence on only 4 social media platforms : Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and FourSqure.
Interestingly, on the very day this post went live, Senior Marketing Manager of Klout Megan Berry, was asked the same question as she participated on a panel hosted on Blog Talk Radio. At that time, Ms. Berry confirmed that Klout IS measuring influence across 13 platforms. Why then, does her co-worker tell us otherwise?
The Spin has Made Us Dizzy and There Seems no End in Site
It seems Klout was deceptive in their announcements with regards to networks, not just to users but to brands brands who participate in their Perks Program as well.
On August 10th 2011 Klout announced on their blog that they now measure influence across 10 networks. It was stated: “Today we take a big step forward in our goal to measure influence wherever it happens. We’re adding five new networks: Blogger, Tumblr, Flickr, Instagram and Last.fm, allowing you to connect up to 10 networks with Klout. Connecting an account will never lower your Score, but it may increase it as we can give you credit for your influence in that network.”
On September 20th 2011 Klout announced that Google+ now has Klout. In fact, GooglePlus did not have Klout untill November 22, 2011 when Klout officially announced that Klout Scores would now integrated activities on GooglePlus.
Let’s re-group and stick with me, because it gets better. We, the users have now been told that Klout uses 13 networks to calculate our influence via Megan Berry, 4 networks according to the Klout site and most recently we are told 10 networks are involved in the Klout scoring process. Pick a number, any number! YOU too can be a “Mad Scientist.”
Why all of the Lies? The Know, Like and Trust Factor is gone
3. PRIVACY & OPT-OUT MYSTERY
In the beginning of November, Klout went through yet further public criticism when it was found that Klout was and still creates profiles for users registering and using various Social Media Platforms. This profile creation is done without consent or disclosure.
It was discovered that Klout was creating profiles of minors using their Facebook account. The news hit the blogging communities quickly and this “Klout privacy breach” was the topic of many viral discussions on the web.
In a post which quickly followed this privacy breech, Joe Fernandez posted We Value your Privacy . Mr.Fernandez tells us, “Klout respects the privacy settings of all the networks it measures. If you have a private account on a social network and you have not explicitly given Klout access to your data it will not be analyzed.”
Again, it is my opinion that we have yet another “spin response” because it appears this is what Joe Fernande is promising, is not taking place. One week ago, I created another twitter profile, set the profile as private and in less then a minute my new account had a Klout profile with the score of 10. See below.
Please note, I did nothing else. I did not go to the Klout site, I did not connect my twitter account. I simply created a PRIVATE twitter account. For all Klout knows, I could be your ten year old child who does not even know Klout exists and neither do you, the parent. Yet, as you can see, I was profiled and posted live on the Klout site. Had I taken the time to have an actual picture, your ten year old’s face would be live as would their “score” created by the “Mad Scientist Team”.
To ascertain the validity of my own (yet fully disclosed as such) non-scientific experiment, I checked several other protected profiles on Twitter and they all have full live and very public Klout profiles. These private Twitter accounts had scores, topics and the who they Influence and who influences them information.
Is this promise that Klout makes in regard to to the respect of user privacy just another empty promise or is Klout really unable or unwilling to understand the value of Privacy?
Following this incident involving the privacy invasion of minors and all users, Klout implemented an option allowing users to opt-out guaranteeing the complete removal of their Klout Profile. As of November 3, 2011, users are told they can delete their Klout profile via the opt-out option in the setting page of the users Klout profile.
Klout is promising users that their profile will be deleted in 48 hours. But this is not as easy as someone would think. Most will think they have deleted their profile and they walk away in the spirit of thinking their profile is gone. I have a surprise for you. Your profile is not deleted!
I first discovered this issue, when Pam Moore who allegedly deleted her profile from Klout. After seven days, Pam ask Klout why her profile was not removed. Klout replied back to Pam in the following comments on their blog:
The fact is that Pam never singed back to her profile and reactivated her Klout, can be clearly seen in this image bellow. If Klout would be correct in their answer to Pam and many others with the same issue, the message to invite a person to Klout would not appear while users browse throughout Klout profiles.
However, the appearance of the users Klout profile is not the only concern, there is bigger issue then just a non deleted Klout profile.
Dabney Porte, another well recognized Social Media Professional deleted her profile 11 days ago, and she is encountering the same issues as Pam. However, when I looked closer into Dabney’s Klout profile (which is still not deleted at the time of writing this post) I noticed that her Klout score is still increasing or decreasing even though that she has deleted, unlinked and even revoked all Klout access to all of her Social Media Platforms.
This clearly speaks to my claim that Klout is gathering and analyzing data of users who opt-out of their game. This also contradicts Joe Fernandez’s comments, that he made on post Lies, Damned Lies and Klout Lies.
In his comment Mr. Fernandes stated: “ When a user removes their account, we revoke their network tokens (so we couldn't access their info even if we wanted to). We explicitly state on the final opt-out screen that users can also revoke klout's app privileges from the networks on their end as well, which is an absolute way to ensure klout can't access your data. Users have full control of this process — we can't access their private data unless they've explicitly given it to us. Users can always take back that permission.” Based on Joe’s answer my question to Klout is
1. How can a user, in this case Dabney, who revoked FULL access to Klout still have a profile which displays all activities of her Klout Score? If all access has been removed by Dabney on her end, what data is Klout using to increase/decrease her score over the last 11 days?
2. Once you remove a user from Klout, how can you then determine what thier “influential level” or weight of the user is against a registered user who is still an acive user of Klout?
If Klout has NO data available (because the user removed all access) of the removed users then the Klout data and score can in NO way be accurate. Oddly, Klout continues to claim this:
“There is no room for error when comes to measuring influence.”
The truth is, in order to measure anything, much less online influence, Klout needs to have data. Furhter, this data must track the activity of every user on Social Media who has a Klout profile. Otherwise they simply can NOT calculate a valid score or compare scores at all.
Again, I am visualizing the “Mad Klout Scientists” randomly pulling numbers out of nowhere and typing our scores in. But then, I digress. Back to business. Get ready, because it gets worse.
Not only is Klout measuring the influence of deleted accounts and ones that are not connected to the user, they are leading the public to believe that the accounts they are actually deleting at the users request, are not there because they don’t have enough influence to have a profile.
Once your profile is “happily removed” from Klout and potential users, potential clients, potential employers, etc, search for you on Klout, this message will appear:
I insist that Klout correct the message above and publically state that the user they are searching for has deleted / disabled his/ her Klout profile. Letting the public believe that a person, or brand they are looking for, has no influence or minimal “data” is known as misrepresentation and deformation of character. Klout should respect and not discredit users who don’t wish to have a Klout Profile.
It is time we demand that Klout respect us, not Treat us as their Puppets.
Last but not least, Klout is legally obliged to respect our decision and once a user chooses to opt-out of Klout, the profile and data should be removed from all sources and databases that Klout and their 3rd party business partners keep on us. Period.
It is strikingly odd to many that we must opt-out or request removal from a site who never asked for or received our request/permission to place our profile with their “random” score of our “online influence and success” on a public platform which encourages viral promotion of our “said scores” on social media platforms. It would seem logical, that Klout should have a request from the consumer or user to have a profile and score placed publicly on their site in the first place.
It is my opinion that Klout believes they can do whatever they wish with “public” information. In fact they oddly continue to compare their profiling of us to Google placing our information on their site. Do they not see the difference? It seems what they bank on, our ignorance. We, the influenceres they sell scores to, are very aware of the difference between creating a Google search and using our online information for their marketing gain. What Google does is far different then what Klout is doing. Creating profiles with “scores” that are meant to show brands, our peers and and the public are ability to be influential and successful on Social Media is simply wrong. Especially when this company is in “Beta” and refuses to show us how our scores are calculated.
This “Klout thinking” if allowed, supported and encouraged, will lead to many liability and invasion of privacy issues in the near future. Just imagine if any company could take our Social Media interaction, statistical data etc and “score” and “label” us with public profiles without our desire, knowledge or consent.
It is my opinion that Klout appears to hide the truth from users and brands. Messages like the one shown to the public when a user who has opted out of Klout is searched for, is a clear example. In my opinion what it may as well say and how is makes me feel is this:
The user that are you looking for has no influence and sucks. They engage so little that we can’t even find enough data to pull a score. Be patient with us! We are in Beta! We LOVE glitches! If we missed your question, we will answer it! Simply send us an an email! That way no one will know when we ignore you! Our Mad Scientists will keep searching for data on this person you are looking for. Until then, come play Klout Perks with us. You must give K+ each day and be a sucker. That way we can charge a brand BIG money by promising them that we will send just enough hair gel to cover the upper lip of the user we feel like saying is an influencer. We think broadcasting is GREAT Social Media! Don’t forget to stay away from losers. We don’t send free stuff to those who talk to users with LOW Klout scores! We have really good Kool-aide. Keep drinking it! Love, Klout, the company who lies, misleads and tricks you to think that we are the Standard Measurement of Online Influence.
Coming next….Part 2 – Many more Klout fallacy's and ethical breeches that will shock and dismay you and why I made my final decision to Opt out of Klout.