Everyone in the digital space seems to be writing about Klout all of a sudden, and for good reason: As “the standard of influence,” Klout has become digital marketers’ shiny object of the moment. Brands appear to be falling all over themselves to identify and reach out to “influencers,” in order to win over their thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, and even hundreds of thousands of followers.

Klout Perks – one of Klout’s smart endeavors to help brands reach out to influencers – has been the topic of my last two posts. If you missed them, the gist was essentially this: Klout, like most young tools, has tremendous potential but can only deliver so much. As an advertiser, it is still up to you to a) do your research, b) properly target the individuals or communities you aim to reach, and c) reach out to them in away that doesn’t seem lazy and self-serving. In other words, Klout is great, but it isn’t a magic bullet: You still have to take the time to learn how to shoot, and that doesn’t happen overnight.

This week’s posts touch on the same themes of getting past false assumptions and the operational laziness that so often accompanies the discovery of a misunderstood (and misapplied) new tool. This 3-part post is an elaboration on a comment left on Thomas Moradpour’s blog post on Klout and Influence, which did a pretty good job of illustrating some of the limitations of digital influence measurement as it exists today. To continue the discussion, I offer 3 simple bits of clarification, each one its own blog post. Today, we talk about specificity.

Clarification Number 1: Remember that Klout measures a very narrow bandwidth.

For now, Klout’s line of sight is extremely narrow – something Klout CEO Joe Fernandez has explained many times, most notably with the now famous Bieber vs. Obama example. Its measurement currently mostly touches on Twitter, Facebook (the latter may be somewhat limited by a less open API) and some piece of LinkedIn, as I understand it. That’s a pretty thin slice of the pie when you consider the breath of channels through which “influence” can be exerted and felt. This means that if Klout does indeed measure influence, it does so on only a few channels. To illustrate this point, let’s see what this would look like, say, on the entire electro magnetic spectrum:


See? Klout’s area of measurement is still pretty narrow when you consider all of the digital channels of influence, and even more so when you consider all non-digital channels of influence. (Thanks to the UCLA SCI/Art Nanolab blog for letting me butcher an otherwise perfectly scientific illustration, by the way.)

The lesson here is this: Use Klout as a tool to measure someone’s reach and potential influence (a more appropriate way to look at it, in my opinion) in places where Klout actually collects data. Do not, however, expect Klout (or any other tools) to provide insight into any channels it does not monitor or measure. If you understand a tool’s limitations, you also understand its strengths. Specificity of focus is good. Use it. Don’t try to stretch the effectiveness of a tool beyond its intended elasticity.

Cheers. (See, I kept it nice and short today.)

In Part 2 of this 3-part series, we will look at the depth of insights Klout has to offer beyond the notorious “Klout Score.”