Don't Look Now, but Klout May be Onto Something

Klout's always been a bit of an anomaly. Everyone knows of it, but no one's quite sure what it does, or even why it exists. From the start, the company pegged itself as the measure of social influence, but, to date, no one really knows what constitutes social influence, let alone how one would go about measuring it. Frankly, I'm not sure how Klout has lasted this long.

They, too, must've seen the writing on the wall, as the team recently underwent a top-to-bottom makeover. The immediate results of that makeover are clear: the site's been completely overhauled, and is now much simpler, much cleaner.

Instead of focusing on your social influence by the numbers (the meaning of which no one really knows, anyway), Klout now focuses on how to gain more influence in the social sphere. That reasoning is of less import to users than is the final product: a simple, never-ending stream of content unique to your tastes. To decipher your taste in content, Klout uses the topics that have previously been assigned to you.

For example, I've been judged as influential in philosophy, writing, and (of all things) government. That's because other Klout users have specifically mentioned those topics when choosing to grant me influence in the old Klout app. Crucially, though, I'm not limited to those topics: I can add topics myself (ironically, I had to add "technology" as a topic).

Using those topics, Klout presents me with content it deems appropriate. There's a huge difference in why Klout recommends this content as compared to other content consumption apps. Most show me content they think I'd like. Klout shows me content it thinks my followers would enjoy. That distinction is precisely how Klout plans to increase my influence. As you scroll through your content, you'll notice that some stories are marked with distinct labels such as "hidden gem" or "on the rise." Hover over the marker and you'll uncover why Klout has highlighted the story. A "hidden gem" post, for example, may mean that there's only a "10% chance your audience has seen this link." "On the rise" means that a story is trending at, say, 9x the average share rate.

So far, the approach seems to be working. My stream is filled with interesting stories, and most are highly relevant to the things I usually post across social media. Like most other content recommendation engines, I can like or dislike stories to help Klout better learn what kind of content to surface.

Of course, finding content is the hard part, but it's crucial that the app makes it easy for you to share that content without hassle, and they do just that. Just click the share button beneath the post to send it to Twitter or Facebook. This functionality works a lot like Buffer in that you can post to both social networks at the same time, and now, you can also schedule the post for later.

Despite all the changes, this is Klout, so the metrics to gauge your influence are still there. Now, though, they get a bit more robust than a seemingly random number. The default view is your 90-day Klout score (admittedly, still pretty meaningless) in graph form. Soon, though, Klout promises "click tracking, reach, and reaction metrics" which, again, sounds remarkably similar to Buffer. Still, those metrics can prove valuable as a way to determine what your followers enjoy and what they don't (much more valuable to brands than individuals, admittedly).

Finally, Klout has added "perks." These are offers from various businesses awarded to Klout users based on their influence (as measured by Klout), in return for giving said business a quick shout-out on Twitter. Reviews of each perk from other Klout members are available on the perk page. This is easily the least intriguing aspect of the revamped Klout, but fortunately it's not shoved down your throat. It's simply there if you'd like to participate.

Bottom Line

The entire overhaul coincides with Klout's new business model, which seems much more viable than the elusive phrase "measuring social influence."

Much more interesting to users, though, is the result of the overhaul. Klout now offers a clean, fast, uncluttered way to find great stories to read and share with your followers. (Note: the site isn't suited to mobile yet, but I wouldn't expect that to be far off. The advantages to both Klout and its users are obvious, and it's simply a matter of turning the sidebar into a collapsible menu).

Klout finally makes a bit of sense.

Klout | @klout