Beware of the Pied Piper on Social Media
“Once upon there was a brand. This brand came to us like the Pied Piper sprinkling us with scores that told us and the world that we had influence. That we had power. That we rocked the world of social media. This brand built us up and made us feel good. Just as the children followed the Pied Piper, we followed the brand. We thought we knew him. We thought we liked him. We thought we trusted him.
Then, one day the Pied Piper started to act odd. He started to lure us in with games such as perks and popularity voting. Some of us were impressed and like to be rewarded with free products and popularity votes. Others, many of us, started to become uncomfortable. We started asking the brand questions. The brand that used to be so nice to us, showering us with attention, praise and free products, suddenly started to care less about who we were and what we thought.
The brand seemed to be using us. The brand started to lies to us. This brand that we once thought we knew, liked and trusted as one who could help us define our success, suddenly became a complete stranger. The Pied Piper of Social Media had revealed himself. He had tricked us to believe he was leading us to a better place, when in fact he lured us right into his dark world. He was after the very things we felt valued for. Our influence and power of Global Reach.” ~ Dabney Porte
Our need for affirmation allowed the Pied Piper to lure us into his dark world
I just loved Dabney Porte’s story of the Pied Piper and felt is so appropriate to share here as it is very relevant to how many of us feel we have been manipulated by Klout.
As I emerge from the fairytale state that the brand we now know as Klout, has lured many of us into, I have made a decision to wake up. I, like many have decided to opt out of the Klout scoring and marketing game. Millions including myself, have chosen to shut the door on the Pied Piper of Social Media. We are no longer enchanted by their words, we only feel deceived by them.
It is time to share the rest of the Klout fairytale with you. In my opinion, it is a fairytale fractured beyond repair and today I will share many reasons why. These reasons are based on valid research I have spent hours compiling. This is not an emotional piece, where I will vent and complain, yet one based on much fact and clear evidence that needs to be shared with the public. I feel strongly that to not share this information would be unfair to many businesses and brand.
If you missed the first part of my Klout Fariytale series, please go here Once Upon a Time, I Believed in Fairytale of Klout.
MORE LEGAL ISSUES
One word often used by Klout is Glitch. When things go wrong Klout will tell us, “Sorry, We have a Glitch.”
In the post Is Klout doing more then Using Facebook to inflate their numbers? the author Daniel Agee reveals disturbing findings. What Agee tells us in his work, is that he found clear evidence of embedded codes on the Klout Website that were shocking; Klout has in put in place coding that enables the collection of data on the household income, race, gender, household size and so on via Klout profiles.
Is Collecting Data on our Income, Race, Gender a Klout Glitch too?
Clearly, Klout’s business model has less or nothing to do, with measuring the influence of profiles, but applying traditional marketing approaches including the selling of profile data to potential advertisers.
Household income and size is not public information available across social media platforms and the gathering and selling of such to advertisers, requires the consent from the individuals profiled. At the time of this writing, I am not aware of Klout requesting said information to access and sell our private information. In fact, many individual do not even know they have a Klout profile. Such acts are gross breaches of guidelines regulated by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) with regards to Data Collection and Direct Marketing.
KLOUT AND SPAM ACCOUNTS
I have requested several times that Klout inform me on how they identify and manage spam profiles across the web. Please see the conversation below with myself and Klout’s Senior Marketing Manager Megan Berry.
Klout has yet to identify SPAM in his lab of so called Scientific Research
Note that I am not given an answer. I am simply told that “the Science team” detects and penalizes such profiles. However, I am not told how this “science team” either detect or penalizes spam profiles.
In my opinion, and according to my research, it is clear that the Klout “science team” fails when it comes to penalizing spam profiles. This is evidenced by the known spam profile found across the Social Media platforms that receive the title of “celebrity” via the Klout “Standard”. Please see the spam account below with a score of 84.
Klout tells us that they “believe” that online influence is seen via the profile’s ability to drive action. According to Klout the content created by the above well known spam profile is among one that drives the most action. It appears that SPAM is content that Klout values. If you want a score of 84 perhaps all you need to do it send out this information repeatedly:
“RETWEET this if you are online and want more followers.”
THE SCORING SYSTEM THAT FAILS
In the Blog Post, Understanding the Klout Score Joe Fernandez explains the new scoring system. Below is an extract of his post:
Interactions must be taken in context
Likes, Re-tweets, and other interactions have always played a prominent role in the Klout algorithm. We believe these are valuable signals of influence. What we found though is that some people are extremely generous with these interactions. People should Like and Retweet to their heart’s content, but we believe that interactions need to be measured in the context of the person interacting. This was the most prominent reason why some scores dropped.
Example: Consider two users who Re-tweet my Tweet. User A Re-tweets me but she also Re-tweets 100 others in the same day. User B Re-tweets me and only me. We now consider these ratios in our algorithm and consider the singular Re-tweet as a greater sign of influence. Similarly, if you selectively only give out one Facebook Like a week and you choose to do so for my content, that is much more meaningful than if you Like 50 times a day. “
One may interpreted that Klout is telling users and brands that the more generous one is and the more one engages via Social Media platforms, the less influential one is. How can a person who re-tweets others content often throughout the day, be less influential then a person who re-tweets a post only once a day or even as seldom as once in a week?
Klout clearly does not understand the core strength of Social Media which is Community. There are many communities on Twitter, Facebook, G+, etc. These communities are a gathering of individuals who together, make millions of impressions on Social Media as they organize chats, hangouts and other forms of large group discussions. It is important to note that any discussion via Social Media communities such as those mentioned above, bring hundreds of messages/mentions and rebroadcasting of such messages/mentions during a short period of time. These messages/mentions are reaching millions as such broadcasting occurs and they have a greater influence to the users of Social Media then do links messages or mentions that are shared only once per day or week. Simply put, if a user states something only once, this does not make such statements more valuable. It may only indicate that this user has nothing to say or is not using Social Media often.
If Klout would educate themselves on Social Media engagement, paying close attention to the significance regarding Social Media relationships and the value they bring to online influence, they would see that their “scoring” system is poor at best. In fact, Klout’s “methodology” is punishing the people participating in community discussions and making millions of track-able impressions on Social Media platforms.
It is my opinion that Klout is using metrics and variables that have lead to a extremely inaccurate “scoring” system which holds no value to users or brands seeking to find users of influence.
KLOUT THE ”STANDARD FOR INFLUENCE”
Klout claims that they are the Standard for Influence.” In the past Klout’s tag line and branding stated: “Klout – Measurement of your overall online influence.”
This change in the brand’s mission is interesting at best. Klout is now saying they are not simply the standard of online influence and how this is measured. Instead, they are now the “Standard for Influence.” In my opinion this is making a strong inference to users and brands that Klout is now “The Standard” and therefore the “Expert” at knowing and measuring who is Influential online, offline etc.
In my previous post Is Klout On The Way Out? I discussed my concerns of how Klout calls themselves the “Standard” for Influence.
Just because you believe you are, does not make it so
Before claiming that they are the “Standard” of influence, Klout should clearly define their definition of what influence is. Klout has only stated :
“We believe influence is the ability to drive action.”
Since when did the premise that simply “believing” something give one the ability to define anything as true? If I believe that chocolate makes one hungry, is that the “Standard” of hunger?
How can we trust our reputations and our own brands to a company who simply “believes” they are the standard measurement in which only their “belief” defines what it is that they measure? Be very careful. Klout is playing a very dangerous game with our brands.
Of great concern and significant importance is that the public must be made aware that the Klout “Standard” and the manner in which they “measure” is not regulated by any valid legal regulation or recognized institution. The very public statements made several times by the CEO of Klout Joe Fernandez are ridiculous. Most disturbing is this comment:
“We (Klout) are the same as the credit bureau with the difference being we score people based on Social Media Influence”
Klout must be reminded, as should the public, that Credit Bureaus are regulated by the FTC and are audited on a regular bases. Consumers and brands should be aware that Klout is not regulated by the FTC and neither their data or scoring system is audited by any outside institution.
It is misleading and unethical that Klout compares their scoring system of our online behavior to the credit scores we receive via companies monitored, audited and regulated by governmental institutions such as the Federal Trade Commission.
The CEO of Klout claimed in a recent blog comment that Klout is however, audited every day by their users. However, whenever Klout is confronted or questioned on their Scoring System and Algorithm, the pubic is not served with the answer. Furthermore, the users of Klout are not a government regulated agency nor can a comparison be made with what users find in auditing to that of the Federal Trade Commission which has served as the government’s defender of fair commerce since 1914, when the FTC Act was passed.
The CEO of Klout also compares what they do with Google, when the public requests transparency of their said algorithms.
“Google doesn’t revel their algorithm why should we make ours public?”
Google places our information in search engines. They do not distort it, or give us labels and scores. They simply help our information that we have on the web be found. The two cannot be compared at all. Period.
Yet another interesting and in my opinion ludicrous comparison Joe Fernandez the CEO of Klout makes is the one he makes with the Neilson Report and Comscore. Mr. Fernandez tells us that Klout is better for the consumer because it is free and everyone can browse the profile of any users, where Neilson or Comscore reports are only accessible to people who are willing to pay high subscription fee.
What he does not tell us is that neither Neilson or Comscore reports can’t be compared with the so called “data” you may see on a Klout profile.
Both the Neilson and Comscore companies are two of most recognized researched based and trend forecasting companies worldwide. Their “standards” are public knowledge and their data is shown in reports that are free of bugs and glitches.
What Joe Fernandez also fails to mention is that Klout will not always be free. It is well stated in their Terms Of Service:
“Klout grants you a limited license to access the Site and use the Services in accordance with these Terms and the instructions and guidelines posted on the Site. Klout reserves the rights to terminate your license to use the Site and Services at any time and for any reason or in the future charge for commercial usage.”
In my opinion, the comparisons Klout makes to the public discussed above are meant to mislead us, similar to a political campaign spin.
Regardless of this said spin, one thing is certain: Klout must have a research/factual based definition for the variable they are measuring (influence) and the Klout algorithm should be public in order for Klout to claim their s measurements hold any validity.
KLOUT SELLS DATA
Klout maintains their claim that they are not selling our data. However, I will make a case today that will show you that Klout not only sells our data but also engages in activity that is a direct breach of the terms and conditions of Twitter’s public API.
If you are not yet aware, please know that Klout topics are generated based on our Tweets that we share on Twitter which was confirmed by Klout. Hence, users who do not have a Twitter account will not find any topics of influence.
Now it gets interesting. Klout Perks is a paid advertising program offered by Klout. The eligibility to receive Klout Perk gifts from brands is based on three factors: location, Klout score and your Klout defined influential topics.
Given these eligibility requirements, regardless of how Klout spins their story, it is clear; Klout does sell our data which will be explained below. I have contacted Twitter for a comment on the following but at the time of this writing, am still awaiting a response.
In the Twitter API Terms Section 1, subsection 4 a it is stated:
“4. You will not attempt or encourage others to:
- sell, rent, lease, sublicense, redistribute, or syndicate access to the Twitter API or Twitter Content to any third party without prior written approval from Twitter.
- If you provide an API that returns Twitter data, you may only return IDs (including tweet IDs and user IDs).
- You may export or extract non-programmatic, GUI-driven Twitter Content as a PDF or spreadsheet by using “save as” or similar functionality. Exporting Twitter Content to a datastore as a service or other cloud based service, however, is not permitted.”
As can be seen by the aforementioned information, Klout does sell Twitter content. Topics are determined and extracted from Tweets, which are part of all Twitter Content. This clearly shows that Klout does not abide by the rules and conditions set forth by the Twitter API agreement.
This could lead Klout and Twitter to a possible A class action law suite if, Twitter does not take correct actions against this breach. Ultimately we the users are having our rights infringed upon on the Twitter platform via Klout’s non compliance.
KLOUT ILLEGALLY OPERATES THEIR BUSINESS
Klout is a USA based company and should comply within guidelines of FTC Fair Information Practice whose principles are the result of the commission’s inquiry into the manner in which online entities collect and use personal information and safeguards to assure that practice is fair and provides adequate information privacy protection. In my research I found that Klout fails to comply with 5 core principals outlined in FTC Fair Information Practice Principles. For purpose of this post I will only outline first two and most important principals that Klout simply ignores. The following information is taken directly from the FTC guidelines.
1. Awareness / Notice: Consumers should be given notice of an entity’s information practices before any personal information is collected from them. This requires that companies explicitly notify of some or all of the following:
- identification of the entity collecting the data;
- identification of the uses to which the data will be put
- identification of any potential recipients of the data;
- the nature of the data collected and the means by which it is collected;
- whether the provision of the requested data is voluntary or required;
- the steps taken by the data collector to ensure the confidentiality, integrity and quality of the data.
2. Choice/Consent: Choice and consent in an online information-gathering sense means giving consumers options to control how their data is used. Specifically, choice relates to secondary uses of information beyond the immediate needs of the information collector to complete the consumer’s transaction. The two typical types of choice models are ‘opt-in’ or ‘opt-out.’
At this point Klout does offer opt-out system but knowingly ignore to implements the complete opt-in request for the many profiles that are created without the request or permission of users.
In a recent post Evil Social Networks, Charlie Stross describes in detail to how Klout breaches eight Principals of the 1998 UK Data Protection Act. He describes Klout as “flagrantly in violation of UK data protection law” and Klout business as “flat-out illegal in the UK and, I believe, throught the EU’’.
It is illegal in USA for a company to change the Terms of Privacy without of notice or to backdate their new terms. Klout did this recently in fact, in November 2011. When Klout implemented the option of opt-out, the Privacy officer of Klout updated their Privacy Terms on their website on that very day. In my opinion, dates were manipulated to avoid any legal consequence. Klout back dated their Terms Effective as of June 6 2011, when in fact the update occurred in November, 2011. This is an illegal act that could possibly carry criminal charges. Please note the screen capture below:
ETHICAL & LEGALLY QUESTIONED PERKS
Klout has recently announced a new perk campaign for Wahooly. This perk campaign will offer users company stock of start up businesses in return for Promotion. Of concern is that this model presented to the media, contradicts the principals of guides concerning the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising regulated by Federal Trade Commission. Section 255.5 of the FTC guidelines clearly dictates the needs of fully disclosure by anyone who participate in business model that Klout – Wahooly are offering.
Interestingly, my research leads me to believe that Klout may have partnered with Wahooly in more then just a Perk program. According to a reputable source, Klout and some of the employees are silent partners with the Wahooly company. At the time of this writing, this is a theory only, but a very interesting one.
After a great deal of research and deeper look into the Wahooly website, the information and hence, theory my source provided me with seem to hold some validity, in my opinion. There appears to be a bigger relationship between Klout and Wahooly.
Many of us, who were users of the original Klout website may recall how Klout looked then. It is interesting that Wahooly mirrors the original look of Klout.
TIME TO SAY GOODBYE KLOUT
Yes, I have said goodbye to Klout and chosen to opt out of the platform and game entirely. I was an early adopter of Klout and for quite sometime a very big supporter of Klout’s vision.
Klout used to be fun, but is not anymore. Klout has and continues to ignore our questions and concerns. We who questioned the new algorithm introduced by Klout have been said to have ego issue, by the CEO Joe Fernandez. The truth is, we were only asking and looking for answers. What we are given instead are lies and distortions.
I have witnessed damage to brands and heard of many business meetings taking place where high level Social Media professionals have been discredited and lost bids for big jobs, due to the recent Klout score drop. In one instance when the person explained that Klout changed the algorithm the answer received were rolling eyes. There is a misunderstanding of Klout, and a large amount of misrepresentation taking place where in my opinion, Klout could and should be held liable. There are many, many stories of brand damages occurring as a direct result of Klout’s “glitches.” I will not put my brand at risk any longer.
I personally do believe Social Media is in need for a tool that would measure online influence. I also believe that Klout is not the company to do so. For me, it,is much more easier to explain to clients why they should not trust/use Klout as a tool for discovering influential users, then to attempt to explain why their Klout Score drops and to explain the details of a scoring system I no longer consider credible or valuable.
Many ask me if ever change my mind and start using Klout again. This is difficult to answer. Klout has destroyed all credibility in my opinion. There is far to much evidence of lies, deceit and simply extreme poor consumer and public relations. For a company attempting to define who is influential online, they do not even appear to know the basics of how to engage on Social Media and they are on no level influential to me.
A brand must build an audience to find success by increasing the know, like and trust components of basic marketing. I do not KNOW who Klout is. I do not LIKE who Klout is. I do not TRUST who Klout is.
In this moment I believe…..
Klout has become “The Standard” for WTF.