Two weeks out from GDPR, customer engagement/data company, Lithium, announces the shuttering of the increasingly meaningless Klout platform. When? May 25th. The very day that the General Data Protection Regulations roll out. Coincidence? Maybe (probably not) – but we’ll come back to that.
For those of you who self-identify as a GenZennial – [sickemoji.gif], the word ‘Klout’ recalls a simpler time. Before international troll farms, before the binary internet, before Cambridge Analytica. Back when influence mattered and was not manufactured(ish). Klout used to be King ‘a thing’.
For Klout, when it was first introduced, promised a whole new world. A world where it wasn’t just number of followers that made a difference, it was the topics that you were a specialist in too. ‘Klout measures influence on topics across the social web to find the people the world listens to’ – a worthy ambition. One that, at the time at least, seemed to make sense. Opinion + expertise won out over follower count. Influencers – real ones – and BRANDS (real ones) were happy! Elated, even. At last, a service you could trust to identify those whose voices really meant something.
Then the cracks started appearing.
First, and probably most famously, there was that time @Big_Ben_Clock, famous for only ever tweeting the word ‘BONG’ numerous times in line with the bongs of the Big Ben bell itself, was identified by Klout as being an expert in, you guessed it, drugs. Brilliant.
Once the perks kicked in, the gamers followed. Snake oil salesmen (and let’s be clear, it’s nearly always men) – aka ‘the #Klout70’ – seemed to think that simply by gaming the Klout algorithms, they could slide their way effortlessly into boardrooms anywhere. And for a while, it worked.
But these purveyors of reptile lubricant ruined it for everyone. The world moved on. Brands dropped influencers and got hooked on the heroin of chasing likes instead. Then organic reach fell off a cliff and Klout passed into distant memory. The 2014 purchase of this ‘How is this still even a thing?’ service (for a reported $200m!)came as surprise to most. Fair play to them, I remember thinking at the time. They did well to sell when they did.
Pay-for-play was the thing and the big money moved away from influencers and towards influence at scale (read: paid social).
The Klout70/80/90 were left behind.
Sad times indeed.
Hearing the news that Klout was finally being shuttered was like when I found out that the original Space Jam website was still live. How is thing still going? Oh, I’m sad to see it go…
It’s easy to be snarky about Klout. But at the time, it tried to be the best version of the social web it could be. It’s just, in doing so, it revealed the worst of it instead.
My Klout score used to be 65. Then I stopped caring and I dropped… to 55. I cashed in my fair share of perks. Hell, I think I even got a free Kindle out of it once.
But like I said, it was simpler times then.
Back when social media was fun.
Cheers, Klout. For the brief moment when it mattered, you were ace.
James Whatley is the planning partner at Ogilvy UK.