Klout rants are becoming a cottage industry

Klout seems to be the blogger’s best friend these days.  Is anybody NOT writing about it?  What’s driving the frenzy?

Are you really serious about privacy?

The biggest complaint about Klout (recently) is the fact that they have had some privacy breeches, most notably “opting-in minors” who were connected to people who had legitimately participated in Klout. This privacy violation is intolerable.

This is a serious issue, but to all the bloggers who are passionate about privacy, I’d like to ask a question — If you have so much energy around Klout, why aren’t you going absolutely ape-shit about Facebook?

Duiring this same period that the world has been bitching up a storm about Klout, the U.S. government concluded a Congressional investigation over Facebook’s grievous violations, including this one:

Many of the most popular applications, or “apps,” on the social-networking site Facebook Inc. have been transmitting identifying information — in effect, providing access to people’s names and, in some cases, their friends’ names — to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies.  The issue affects tens of millions of Facebook app users, including people who set their profiles to Facebook’s strictest privacy settings. (Wall Street Journal)

Now, because of these arrogant, chronic, and brazen violations that probably affect every one of us, the federal government slapped a much-needed penalty on Facebook that includes 20 years of privacy auditing.  And yet, I have not seen one single blog post from the Klout detractors about the most serious privacy issue of our generation.  Not one post.

Are you serious about privacy?  Then do something about it that matters. Let’s have some original thinking on the matter instead of another dozen Klout tantrums.

Klout by the numbers

In the big scheme of the social web, Klout is trivial. I teach university classes to dozens of business professionals every week and less than 10 percent of them have heard of Klout.  So why would some bloggers devote 4, 5, even 6 blog posts in a month about an obscure company like this?

I think one reason is because Klout CEO Joe Fernandez often personally responds to critics, a noble gesture that also feeds blogger egos and probably encourages more criticism.  I don’t think any blogger expects to hear from Zuckerberg, right?

And here’s another clue to the Klout blog frenzy.  The chart below illustrates the average number of tweets I received on Klout-related blog posts compared to the last 25 non-Klout-related blog posts (not including growtoons):

Klout drives traffic like no other subject on the blogosphere. And I’m not the only one seeing this phenomenon. A blogger friend said his three biggest blog posts of 2011 were about Klout. I’m not claiming anybody in particular is using the topic as linkbait. I’m just saying a critical thinker might consider the fact that doubling one’s blog traffic might just impact a blogger’s decision to harp on this comparatively obscure issue. It is fair to call attention to a problem. It is wearisome to make a career out of it.

And, you may be missing the point. 

Many people claim Klout is silly and meaningless. And, there are many funny anecdotes that support this point of view. However, I articulated a counter-opinion to this in a post called “Why Klout Matters” and I won’t repeat the argument here. But I will let you in on a secret …

While doing research for my new book, I interviewed many of Klout’s customers. The people in the marketing trenches told me that not only is the data they receive from Klout meaningful, it’s revolutionary in ways that will surprise you. These case studies will be available soon, but the democratization of influence is undeniably becoming a mainstream marketing option.

Klout has made some very big PR missteps.  They are iterating a start-up venture in real-time, in public … and that’s kind of like grinding out sausage in the middle of a busy street.  Pretty ugly. But they’re also improving and making legitimate business advances:

  • They’ve attracted business (and repeat business) from some of the most important brands on the planet like Nike, Disney, Audi and American Express.
  • Based on some spectacular success, one television network is integrating Klout influencers into nearly every program marketing effort.
  • A fresh round of investment just came in from the most powerful venture capitalists in Silicon Valley.
  • Salesforce.com announced it was wiring Klout into its market-leading CRM software to support sales and service decision-making.
  • Christopher S. Penn, one of the intellects I most admire on the social web, authored a cautionary view about opting out of Klout because of its increasingly mainstream applications.  A must read.
  • Advertising Age named Klout as one of the most important digital trends of the year.

There seems to be some momentum building here, no?

Everybody has the right to say and do whatever they want on the social web.  But in my opinion, social scoring is here to stay and it’s time to move the conversation along.  I’m hopeful that we can start seeing fresher and broader debate, especially on the essential topic of Internet privacy.

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