Are You Mature? The Struggle of Klout to Measure On-line Influence

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Observing the evolution and challenges faced by Klout, a venture designed to measure the on-line influence of an individual or organization, has been nothing short of fascinating. Changes in the Klout algorithm (and its impact upon scores) can send the world of social media into a frenzy. The overriding opinion seems to be that you shouldn’t “mess” with the numbers, right?

But, that is absolutely wrong — in fact, you should.

I have a very different perspective on Klout’s struggle to develop into a meaningful measure. I find the struggle to be quite predictable. Probably because where I come from, when a new construct and its measurement are proposed, it often takes a very long time to determine true value and identify prudent uses in the real world.

On one hand, the outcry that resonates after a scoring revision is an excellent sign. It lets us know that Klout, at the very least, was actively being considered as one measure of influence. On the other hand, it becomes obvious that the scope of the development phase, may have needed to be more controlled to allow for necessary iterations occur.

In psychology, the development of a new construct is an important and often long-winded process. However, when you consider the importance of measuring concepts, such as intelligence and motivation, the development of that construct — and its valid measurement — are paramount.

All in all, you must tread quite carefully.

A Framework
It may be useful to view Klout in reference to a few traditional elements of construct development:

  • Does Klout have Face Validity? In other words, does the idea and its components seem to make logical sense.
  • Does the measure demonstrate reliability? In other words, can the measure show consistency.
  • Does Klout possess Content Validity? Do the components that make up the measure adequately represent the elements of influence.
  • Does the measure have Construct Validity? When you look at scores on the measure, the scores should jive with other key markers of influence. (Convergent and divergent validity.)

There is another point to briefly consider here. Klout may be measuring “Potential to Influence” and not “Influence” itself. We simply do not know. As with other constructs, such as job satisfaction and its relationship with turnover — Klout scores may signal an impact on attitudes, yet the relationship with behavior, is not a causal one.

Time to Mature
All in all, Klout has to be allowed the time to develop fully. The algorithm should be subject to changes and iterations, as the organization sees fit, to adequately develop the measure.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist. You can also find her on Twitter and Linkedin.

4 thoughts on “Are You Mature? The Struggle of Klout to Measure On-line Influence

  1. It remains to be seen whether Klout will emerge as a leader in measuring online influence. Indeed, we need to give the process more time. New territory is difficult to navigate. Thanks for your comments.


  2. I enjoyed your insight on the Klout changes. It has been a fascinating change to watch. Even now articles are still discussing whether or not to take Klout seriously. As you said, I think it’s best to give it time to grow.


  3. Thanks for your reading!

    I agree, our differing backgrounds allow us to see a unique view of the problem. But both views attempt to remove the emotional aspects of the issue – which is required to see the larger picture.

    I think that attempting to capture human behavior (or the propensity for that behavior) in a measure is a very challenging task. Yes, solid methodology is one necessary step in that process. But, as you describe quite well in your post, the ultimate test will be the potential value Klout brings end-users.

    I will keep an eye out for more of your view on this matter…


  4. Marla,

    Thank you for this post and introducing methodology into the madness. I couldn’t agree with you more, and indeed time will tell. While you concentrated on the natural course of developing algorithms to measure human activity and my blog post was more about a social media marketer’s perspective on Klout and on how market forces will ultimately determine its fate, I feel we represent two voices of rational perspective in a social media world that has sometimes lost just that.

    I look forward to more posts from you regarding social media in the future!



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