Klout 101

by Adam Popescu

Klout is taking a lot of shots these days after it changed it’s algorithm. My score dropped by about 15 points and I was devastated. But in a way, it was a positive, because it broke the spell Klout had over me. For months I was obsessed with my score, religiously checking my +Ks, basically a digital acknowledgment of influence on a topic .

For a while I was the #4 most +K’d journalist on Klout, sandwiched between Jeff Jarvis and Anderson Cooper. I would tweet at Anderson Cooper and taunt him in a “na na” style that was harmless, if not playful—he never responded. Anderson Cooper wasn’t on Klout. Guess he’s too busy.

After a few weeks, and a slew of summer an fall New York Times articles, Anderson bumped me in the rankings. Soon I stopped checking my klout score everyday. My score got pretty stagnant—first I was upset, but then it stopped being a big deal. It was just a number. It meant something, but it didn’t. I got to a place where the number was only as important as I made it. And that put me back in the mode of creating content and commenting without concern for how that would affect my Klout score.

For the Plugged In, Too Many Choices

Social media isn’t about numbers, rankings, or page views. Viewed through the wire-rim frames of old media, it is doomed to that limited perspective.

Success with social media at its most basic level is connection—connecting a message or an idea with someone who can use that content to improve their life.

To that effect, one of the most overlooked social media skills needed to make that connection is loyalty. Whether it’s to a product, a service, or any form of digital or print content— raw information or refined media—loyalty to that business or service is what keeps business rolling. It’s what keeps the reader believing that what they read is true, as opposed to what their friend tells them.

The first step to that ideal producer-consumer relationship starts with creating consistently superior product. Breaking news, exclusive content, juicy scoops. This is the stuff of old-time journalism. Today much of the stories we read are synthesized, modified, aggregated and disbursed by today’s whatever works, plug the hole in the dyke joystick journalism. Because of this setting, keeping the message and image of a brand clean is vital in an era where scandal, plagiarism and content theft happen everyday, sometimes unknowingly and unintentionally (as is the case of Jim Romenesko, fired from the Poynter Institute for allegedly not quoting material).

As online professional in news or entertainment media, it is our job to deliver the best, most honest product we can. Keeping it clean in terms of content, curation and brand message is essential to avoid problems before they develop—it’s like keeping your home clean: dusting, washing, throwing out the trash. It’s all about upkeep, consistency, rhythm.

So, what’s next?

Even 12-Year-Olds Can Write iPhone Apps

We’re close to a change here. A view shift. The powers that be in everything from Fortune 500 companies to local mom and pop corner shops are drinking the kool aid that is Twitter and Facebook. And I think in large, that’s good for business and good for the economy. As long as we keep it honest, and real when it comes to producing content.

Last month at the TEDx Manhattan Beach conference I listened to a 12-year-old app developer speak with confidence and knowledge about youth and technology. This month at Blog World Expo LA, I listened to online professionals from all over the world discuss the state of the blogsphere. There’s a lot of talent out there, a lot of producers, a lot of consumers. The trick is not to be all things to all people. Better yet, there is no trick. Be real.

“I think my job will probably not exist in 5 years,” — New York Times’ Social Media Editor Liz Heron

While I doubt that the same platforms and services we currently have will exist in the years to come, I believe the industry is poised for growth; the medium will evolve and keep incorporating social media into e-commerce. Instead of automation, I think humans will continue to sit behind monitors.

“I think what’s really up in the air, and more to what Liz Heron was saying, is that with the flux in newsrooms and technology, that role may be way different in 5 years time,” I wrote Oct. 28th on the Nieman Lab blog post.  “I think Heron’s comment (“My job won’t be around in 5 yrs”) may have been slightly tongue-in-cheek and said for effect, but that’s not to say she doesn’t really believe that. 5 years ago social media managers/ entrepreneurs were few and far between. Now there are many. Have we finished evolving? Not by a long shot …..”

Through the magic of Twitter, I spoke with Liz Heron about her comments. She said there “will always be jobs for those who understand new forms of communication. In 5 years, who knows what they will be?”

Good answer, Liz.

—Adam Popescu