Meaningless Metrics [Rant]

I’m influential about Ireland. Let me tell you why.

Over the years I’ve marveled at how organizations will continue to do things that do not generate any value for their business, specifically in marketing and communications. They do the same activities, e.g. trade shows, e-mail newsletters, press releases, because that’s what they have always done without ever stopping to evaluate why they do them and what impact these activities have on their brand awareness or bottom line. With the advent of social media, there are tools to help measure influence. One of those tools is Klout.

I’ve seen people in my Twitter feed reference Klout over the past three years. I’ve even seen the odd job posting that specifically asks for my Klout score. Most recently I’ve seen people mocking Klout for its inaccuracy.  I felt had to try it out for myself, so barely a month ago I created an account and connected my Facebook, Twitter and Google+ accounts. Immediately I was told I had a score of 51.

That’s good right? I passed?

In addition to the score, I’m told by Klout I’m most influential about Ireland, media and coffee.

Huh?

I’ve never been to Ireland. I’d like to go to Ireland but I don’t expect it will happen any time soon. I don’t really talk about Ireland either. Not on Twitter. Not on Facebook. Not on Google+. I do however hang out in an Irish pub in Toronto (owned and operated by a Korean gentleman) and I do drink a lot of Guinness. I may have tweeted about said Irish pub and Guinness once or twice. I probably mentioned wanting a Guinness, ordering a Guinness or drinking too much Guinness, likely on my birthday.

Now that I think of it, the fact that I’m influential (by Klout standards) about Ireland because I mention Guinness could be considered a little racist.

As for media, that actually makes a little sense. I am a communications professional and I do post articles about the news media and social media. However, my coffee influence is probably on par with my Ireland (Guinness) influence. I drink coffee. I need coffee. I ponder how much coffee is too much coffee (and do empirical research). I’m by no means a coffee expert or connoisseur. I bought Maxwell House last week because it was on sale.

Yesterday, Wired published an article delving into Klout and how it’s becoming a guideline for companies when hiring new talent. I’m currently between full-time gigs and freelancing in the meant-time. Occasionally I get a call from a headhunter looking to fill a social media-related role or online community manager position (which was my last position). The first question they ask is how many Twitter followers did I have.

At first I had to work hard not to lose my temper when getting these questions. And now I simply tell these recruiters I’m not interested in the position they are looking to fill. I don’t believe the number of Twitter followers is a fair evaluation of my skills or capabilities. I also think that depending on the focus of my Twitter account, I could get a lot of followers quickly, even if they were bots, by posting a daily fart joke or links to free porn.

Right now I have nearly 800 followers on Twitter. And I have no idea why. Or who they are. Most of them I don’t follow back. Many that I follow don’t follow me back. Some who follow me never interact with me even when I try to engage with them. Twitter even recently admitted there was a bug that unfollowed users on your behalf.

So no, I’m not going to let my Twitter following be a metric as to my influence and capabilities. Nor am I going to take Klout seriously. And don’t get my started on Amazon’s algorithm for book recommendations. Or Facebook friend suggestions. Yeesh.

I need to go now anyway. Have to get ready to meet a friend for coffee. Or a Guinness. She’s not Irish though.

Gary Hilson is a writer, editor and digital media specialist for hire. He lives in Toronto.

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3 Comments

  1. I thought this same thing when I finally took the plunge to Klout. Mainly I was just curious what they thought my influence was. To Klout, I’m influential in Beer (Yay!), Facebook (OK) and Italy (Never been).

    I don’t really talk about beer. I like it, it likes me – that’s about it. I am active on Facebook and post there. Italy confounded me. Not once have I ever tweet, posted or blogged about Italy. I’ve thought about going.

    If Klout can get in my mind and anticipate what topics I’ll have influence in the future maybe they are the standard we should be following. I just don’t think an algorithm has the precognition to make that type of assessment.

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