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Use Your Klout to Save Humanity


If you haven’t heard of Klout, it’s a service that claims to accurately measure the amount of influence you have on your online social networks.

Klout scores have already begun to affect the ‘real world’. Job applicants have been denied positions due to insufficient Klout. Some companies have started giving better service to their customers with the most Klout, since they’ll have the biggest influence on brand. High-Klout hotel guests have received room upgrades without being told why.

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Does the idea of that stir up feelings of profound resentment? If so, you’re not alone. Despite having calculated the scores of over 100 million internet users, Klout has drawn widespread criticism.

For one, many whose Klout scores have been calculated did not give their permission for the company to do so. The only way to avoid it is to visit and opt out.

As well, Klout has been accused of reviving a social one-upsmanship best confined to high school cafeterias. The service’s detractors fear that a preoccupation with Klout scores will drive people to post more frequently to social media, while the quality of what they post suffers.

Perhaps the most damning critique is that Klout does not accurately measure influence–that, indeed, it’s virtually impossible to measure influence in any meaningful way. If you tweet about a book, and one of your followers reads it based on your recommendation, can you really assign a number to how much you’ve influenced him or her? At any rate, the critics point out, Klout scores can be gamed by posting frequently and interacting only with high-Klout users.

I have a different issue with Klout: it seems like the service was designed to make it easier for us to serve corporations.

Image credit: Alan Cleaver

Klout’s business model involves selling information about users to corporations–specifically, information about each user’s usefulness to them. As I mentioned above, companies have given high-scoring individuals special treatment, in the hopes that they’ll represent their brands positively online. Also, Klout has a ‘perk’ system, in which the higher your score, the more free products and services you have access to (again, offered by brands hopeful you’ll promote them to your online connections).

To an environmentalist who writes a blog called Batshite, this begins to seem more and more like the endgame of capitalism–in which the sprawling consumerist machine, in its quest to extract all value, finally coopts the people most capable of changing things, crashing our natural systems in the process.

At this point, you may have begun to wonder why the title of this post seems so upbeat.

Here’s the thing. I agree with the critics who say Klout doesn’t accurately measure influence. But I think it does serve as a rough estimate of reach. That is, for the first time in history, we have access to a searchable database capable of telling us who commands the most attention.

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Meanwhile, China recently surpassed the U.S. in CO2 emissions, with India not far behind. Since 1950, ocean acidification has killed off 40% of the world’s phytoplankton–organisms that produce 50% of the world’s oxygen. And Thomas Fingar, the American intelligence community’s top analyst, predicts that “by 2025, droughts, food shortages and scarcity will plague large swaths of the globe” due to global warming.

2025 is 13 years away. That’s not a very long time. I’m guessing most people reading this have been alive for much longer than 13 years.

And now we have Klout–this new thing that seems poised to hasten our species’ headlong rush over the nearest cliff.

So why don’t we change this story?

Klout wants us to leverage our scores to get free stuff. But why would that work? Why are corporations so nice to people with a lot of Klout?

I’ll tell you why–it’s because they’re afraid of people with a lot of Klout.

They know that if enough well-followed people got pissed off, they could damage and even decimate a company’s brand.

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So let’s get pissed off–at the corporations that are knowingly pissing on our future in the name of short-term profit. Let’s reject the corporate servitude Klout seems to promote, and instead use it to wreck the brands of companies who refuse to serve humanity.

If you’re reading this blog, chances are you have a good idea of which corporations are guilty of disregarding the environment–which ones, for example, have tried to circumvent democratic processes in order to build pipelines that would devastate the climate, and which ones have incorporated pollution right into their business plans.

We need to pass on our knowledge of corporate abuse to the people in our online networks with a lot of Klout, and encourage those people to talk about it to their followers.

Because as far as I’m concerned, anyone with a high Klout score and an awareness of the environmental crises that face us has a moral obligation to start publicly calling out corporations for practices that damage the climate and the environment.

Image credit: Dylan Boroczi

When you sign in to Klout, you can look up who your ‘influencers’ are. Get on Twitter and Facebook and whatever else, and start engaging these people about these issues. Encourage others to do the same. Share this post, so we can get everyone on board.

The corporations have already identified our ability to create change, and now they seek to exploit it. It’s time for us to recognize that tremendous potential ourselves, and change our world for the better.

Time is short.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. John Erickson permalink
    05/29/2012 6:18 PM

    Somehow, I have the feeling my Klout rating is probably pretty close to zero. But, does my being WELL above 13 (and thus skewing the average age of your readers massively) make up for it? ;)

    • 05/30/2012 1:43 PM

      Your value as a commenter–my most frequent commenter, I might add–has little to do with your age and a lot to do with the knowledge and humour you bring to a discussion :)

  2. Andrea permalink
    05/30/2012 11:05 AM

    Scott, you’re the third influencer in my list! Luckily I don’t have to call you out on anything. What’s really funny is that my top influencer is the Toronto Public Library. Well, that’s what I get for using Twitter as my only social media tool, and being very picky about who I choose to follow.

    • 05/30/2012 1:43 PM

      Hey, I bet the Toronto Public Library would be a great platform for getting the word out about corporate abuses! You should get talking to them about it!

      • Andrea permalink
        05/30/2012 11:17 PM

        Are you sure? I don’t think they’re allowed to engage in political discussions.

  3. ajiradarch permalink
    06/04/2012 9:19 PM

    hear, hear! I’ll support any call to action that involves holding corporations responsible for their actions. People too, of course. It’s about time we start putting our money where our mouths are, and support businesses that support us by being environmentally and socially responsible.

    • 06/09/2012 8:54 AM

      Definitely! The service seems to offer an unexpected way to organize that could yield some positive social change.

  4. 06/05/2012 6:17 PM

    Great article, Scott. Klout’s an interesting tool. You mention how nothing can ever adequately determine influence – and I agree – but maybe we should be cutting some slack to those who are simply trying to figure out a rough estimate? The numbers aren’t perfect, and they won’t be, but it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be doing it. In fisheries stock assessment (I have some experience here, but this is true for all models – energy, climate change, and the like), we’re never certain if a fish stock is going to crash or not. Our models aren’t perfect and won’t give us all the information, but it’s what we base our fisheries decisions on. We can’t blame people for wanting to quantify things. However, I do get distraught when quantitative methods aren’t mixed with the qualitative.

    • 06/09/2012 8:58 AM

      Oh, I dont disagree with the fact of what Klout is doing. I think it’s somewhat problematic (like most things), but as I say in the post, I also think it can be used for good.

      And I agree, rough estimates can be useful. My impression is that so far, that’s all this technology produces–a rough estimate. It’s bound to improve, I’m sure.

      But whether I cut them some slack or not is fairly inconsequential.

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