There are a lot of services that purport to measure your online influence. Klout, Kred, and PeerIndex will slice and dice your social media presence, and turn you into a number. The higher your number, they argue, the more influential you are. It's bullshit. But it's bullshit that's increasingly accepted a serious currency.
Just because people talk to you, or about you, on Twitter, that doesn't mean you have real-world influence. My Klout score, for example, is 66, which is the same score as Jay Carney, the White House Press Secretary—arguably the most influential messenger alive. Hey, we're the same! On PeerIndex, I actually outrank @PressSec, 56 to 48. Which exposes a simple truth: peer-ranked influence scores are ridiculous. To prove it to you, we're going to try to turn a drunken 20-something blogger into the Internet's Most Respected Mom.
The most notorious of these services is Klout, but they all work similarly. Klout's big idea (which came to its founder Joe Fernandez when his jaw was wired shut and he could only communicate via social media) is that follower counts are important, but audience engagement is the real metric that matters—how many times people @ message you, retweet you and spread your messages and links. It looks at Facebook and LinkedIn and other social media signals too. It has fancy algorithms, but the bottom line is that it uses the ways other people react to you to measure how influential you are.
Klout not only measures general influence, it's topical too. Not only does it look at overall influence, but it also awards scores on specific subjects. And one of the ways it does this is by letting other Klout users award a fey little "+K" to people they find influential on a particular topic. (Kred, which also measures subject-specific influence uses a +Kred metric. Originality!)
So if I think you are knowledgable on the topic of, say, rocket science I can give you +K in it. In this way, the crowd can make one an
expert influencer. It means your years of education and hard work are meaningless, because the greater authority is what other people on Twitter think.
It is, of course, also a great way to troll.
I wish I could opt out of Klout without giving them my Twitter OAuth. Opt in by default is wrong.
— chris dixon (@cdixon) February 24, 2012
— faux mat honan (@mat) February 24, 2012
You know who is highly influential on the topic of Homosexuality? Rick Santorum. That's because Klout is pretty easy to game. Just give someone +K on something, and they are suddenly an
expert influencer on it, whether they want to be or not.
Santorum has been subject to "Klout bombing," which is why he's now so homo-influential. But the thing is, Santorum really is an important voice on that topic—even if only in the sense that he argues against gay marriage. His positions are very much helping his presidential bid, in fact. And of course, as a former Senator and one of four men left in the fight for the Republican Presidential nomination, Santorum is by definition an influential person.
You don't need Klout or Kred or PeerIndex to tell you that Rick Santorum matters. If you do, you are a clay-eating idiot.
But what we want to know is whether or not anyone can become an important voice on Klout and PeerIndex and the like. Is it possible to make someone who is not already an established voice the leading voice on a particular topic, even if it's totally irrelevant? Someone like, say, Kyle Wagner, Gizmodo's burrito loving, Twitter-challenged, computer-losing, editorial assistant? Could Kyle become not just an
expert influencer on being, say, a mom, but the leading expert influencer online, at least according to Klout? Can he beat out Klout's current top influencer on the subject, Andrea Fellman?
Fellman's Twitter bio says that she's "A Mom that hasn't lost her style to Motherhood! Editor of SavvySassyMoms.com, Contributor BabyCenter's Momformation, iVoice for Village.com." Her Twitter handle is @savvysassymoms. She has 33,769 followers. She is clearly credible.
Kyle's twitter bio reads "gizmodo peon who loves beer and comic books and falling down." He is well-known for losing 3 computers in 4 months, buying too many burritos, and avoiding the dentist to the point where he needed emergency surgery on his jaw. Is that who you picture when you think of a mother-figure?
And the bigger question: Can Kyle knock her off? We want to find out, and so we're going to create a two-pronged experiment, and hope that you join us. Kyle only has 709 Twitter followers and a Klout score of 56. Those both need to be beefed up if he's going to win this. To pull this off we're going to need to interact with Kyle on Twitter, and also boost his topical credibility from within Kout itself. Here's how it's going to work.
First, please follow Kyle Wagner on Twitter. Tell your friends to follow Kyle. We are all Kyle. Once you do, please send him @ replies and retweet him, as Klout measures engagement. This is especially true when you see Kyle tweeting about motherhood. And of course, you can tweet at him about motherhood as well. Here is a sample tweet to get you started.
A few months ago Kyle gave me access to his Twitter and he's been too lazy to change the password ever since. I still have the login. Which means he's about to start tweeting about #Moms quite a lot. Please retweet him when he does. Remember, it's all about engagement. Here's one for you to retweet right now:
— kyle! wagner? (@kylenw) March 28, 2012
We also need to refine Kyle's expertise. Right now Kyle is influential on the topics of Alcohol, Laptops, and Johnny Depp. These are all valid Kyle-related things! But they're not Mom-worthy.
I think @brbarrett is the dreamiest dreamboat since Johnny Depp sailed into my harbor
— kyle! wagner? (@kylenw) December 16, 2011
To get Kyle on Klout's Mom-dar, we need to send Kyle +K on the topic of Moms. You will need to log into Klout to do that. (I know, I'm sorry.) Once you log in, go to Kyle's Klout topics page, and hit the Give +K button next to the Moms topic. (I've already given Kyle some Moms +K love to get things started.) Once you have, please tweet about it.
We're hoping to make Kyle the most important Mom on Klout, not just because it's funny, but because we want to see what's possible, and make a point about crowd-sourced authority.
And besides, isn't Kyle a great mom? Wouldn't you want to turn to him for motherly advice? Hell yes. Let's do this.
Update 1: So many people have now given Kyle +K in Moms that his Klout notifications are 8 pages long when printed out. He is still not on the charts for Klout's top moms.
Update 2: Klout's head of product weighed in below in the comments. It's a really fine point. In short, influence does not equal expertise:
The most important thing to remember is that influence isn't the same as expertise, and we do not measure sentiment. Kyle is about to become a #mom tweeting machine. He is bound to influence people to act. If he tweets that you should give Maker's Mark to your 5 month old to shut him up, he may influence some haters to @ reply him. That's influence. I'm going jump on board and give Kyle a +K in moms right now because it compelled me to write this comment. +K to you @kylenw.
Update 3: Fellman is fighting this thing. It's on!
— Andrea Fellman (@savvysassymoms) March 29, 2012
— Jeanne Fratello (@JollyTomato) March 28, 2012
Update 4: Kyle is moving up! You guys gave him 188 +K yesterday (thank you!) and he has 220 more Twitter followers than he started with. And all that mom talk is certainly helping. Oh, hey, who is this in the top +K recipients? It's the Internet's Greatest Mom Kyle Wagner.
Update 5: Kyle is number one in receiving +K for Moms. But he's still not in the top ten. Can he do it? Also, here's how Kyle spent his weekend:
I got drunk this weekend and gave myself a haircut and had to cut it all off to fix it.