So after almost a year of complaining about the evils of Klout and its minions, I’ve finally been told to put my money where my mouth is. And I’ve accepted the challenge by opting out of Klout.

Make no mistake, this is a business.

As a business, I admire Klout. Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that Klout has deteriorated the value of social communications by shifting the focus from open, transparent social communication for the betterment of the whole to calculated, incentivized communication for the benefit of the individual.

Case in point: Klout broadcasts the fact that your score will go up if you engage with people socially that have a higher score than you. Then list Twitter followers by highest score so you can work on gaming your own position and earn Perks and bragging rights. In the end, it’s all about you – not the community and isn’t that the opposite of what social engagement is really all about?

Klout is a business engine powered by thousands of hamsters running on a wheel…and we’re the hamsters. It’s engineered to train people to behave a certain way – and with such frequency – that it can harness the attention generated and sell it to the highest bidder. We hamsters are fed with ego-stroking points and trinkets (Perks) provided that we keep the wheel spinning for them.

So when I consider the business of Klout (and make no mistake, it is a business), I think “Kudos”. Frankly, the entrepreneur in me wishes I was smart enough to have thought of it first.

As a business, I have no issues with Klout.

So what’s the problem?

Well, first it’s the fact that they claim to “measure influence”, which they then qualify with: “uses data from social networks to measure true reach, amplification and network impact”. What they’re really doing is tracking your social metrics. In my mind, there is a disconnect between social metrics and establishing a true indication of influence, which I define as one’s ability to influence the public to purchase products they’d not otherwise purchase or believe things they’d not otherwise believe.

The fact that you become influential by communicating with the few Klout-annointed influencers who have higher scores than you says nothing about your true ability to influence the vast majority who have lower Klout scores. You know…those that you’ve essentially ignored to achieve the higher Klout sore in the first place. Klout now tell us that you’re influential because you’ve engaged a few influencers and not because you’ve influenced the masses. Is it just me or is this backwards?

Secondly, it’s the fact that sheep, er, people believe it. How can a non-scientific concept be measured with a scientific measurement? It’s akin to looking for an answer to the meaning of life by running a Google query. True influence, like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, which is not created by you but bestowed on you by your followers based on unpredictable, inconstant situational factors. Essentially unmeasurable.

Why did I opt out?

My introduction to Klout was just under a year ago when a potential employer asked me what my Klout score was. I didn’t know what they were talking about but I certainly figured it out after I was refused a second interview for a senior marketing role due to my low score (at the time it was a 37).

I didn’t realize I had a score before this but the value that people blindly gave it created an impression about my qualifications to perform a marketing job and influence people that the credentials on my resume and recommendations from clients would contradict. However, as sheep do, they followed the herd without thinking and made the judgment call.

In the aftermath of this event, I figured that with no way to opt-out I might as well have the best score possible so I experimented with different engagement techniques and tools to aid in increasing my rank. As a result my score peaked at 75, which by most people’s standards was quite impressive.

What struck me recently was that none of these new engagements, the job I was successful in obtaining nor the many contracts I’ve won and managed since were generated or impacted by my new higher Klout score. The Perks I was offered due to my score had no real value to me and the recognition I was receiving as a result of the score were from people that had absolutely no awareness of my true credentials or skills. So what was the point of the higher Klout score? Trinkets and bragging rights? Driving Klout closer to an IPO?

The lesson learned was that neither a high nor low Klout score had any real-life bearing on my abilities to perform my job or quality of real-life connections with my community. Yet, businesses and people continue to put so much faith in – and base too many decisions on – a meaningless set of metrics that really only benefits Klout’s sales.

Klout has lowered the industry standard instead of improving it. So I am taking a stand; I’m jumping off the wheel. I’m taking back my influence and putting it back in the hands of my real-life community.

I’m opting out of Klout. But, I am only one man. I am curious to see who will join me.

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