Klout Adds Context to Automated Influence?

Klout recently announced its latest feature: +K. Similar to Google’s +1, Klout asks that you give users a +K for each topic for which they have influenced you. In theory, Klout scores will now include context and topical relevance.

For example, if you look at my profile topics, you could give me a +K if I have influenced you on social media measurement or public relations. Each user gets five +K’s each day, which means you have to be registered to give others feedback and cannot give unlimited feedback. You can also give a +K to each topic for a person once each week. So if I give you a +K for social media on Monday, then I cannot give you another +K for social media until the following Monday. And +K’s will not last forever, they have an expiration date.

Klout explains that influence can change over time. While there are plenty of people who are influential about SXSW in the first few months of the year, there is hardly anyone talking about it right now. So I may give you a +K for SXSW in March, but a +K for summer beers in June. Influence can be fleeting, and it can grow and shift over time, and Klout is trying to account for that.

You can also remove words and phrases from your own profile if you do not think they are fitting. I have noticed some odd words in my own profile before, so this feature may be useful for finding true contextual influencers.

While this does seem to add a layer of validation to the automated algorithm, it also brings into question the validity of the technology in the first place. Klout claims to measure your online influence. As we know, it’s not perfect, but asking for validation from peers makes me wonder about how accurate the algorithm is. Also, if I am able to remove topics I think are not relevant, doesn’t that defeat the purpose?

There have been a few who expressed fears about this becoming a popularity contest, and I have already seen some folks asking for +K’s on a certain topic for which they want to have influence. That’s not really influence. I can ask you to give me +K on New York City, for example, but if you know that I’ve never lived there or visited for an extended period of time, do you really find me influential on NYC? Probably not.

At this point you cannot search for people based on keywords or topics. The topics can only be viewed when someone visits your profile to explore your influence.

I respect what Klout is attempting to do, but they are not adding context or topical relevance to influence. They are not measuring your influence at all. They are using numerous numbers like your Twitter followers, Facebook friends, retweets and so on to determine how often folks online interact with or share your content.

Beyond the high barrier to entry for using +K, I don’t think it adds enough value to be worthwhile. I doubt many people will sign up for Klout just to give someone a small boost to their “social media” score which will only last about 48 hours anyway.

What do you think? Will you use +K?