I have to be completely candid. When I conceived this series on Klout, I never thought it would include this article. Late one night we were discussing Klout in the #UsGuys stream on Twitter (aside: Check out UsGuys. All the cool kids love it. Learn more here and here). RyanJZ was having some issues with his Klout profile, as were a few other people. After about 10 minutes of discussion, none other than Joe Fernandez, the CEO of Klout himself, pops into the stream to ask if he can be of assistance. Say what you will about the man’s product – you can’t debate that kind of service. When was the last time the CEO of company you were discussing hunted you down mid-conversation to say hi?
After we tweeted back and forth a few times, Joe graciously agreed to be a part of my series on Klout and answer a few questions. I’m sure his PR people would have warned against this if we decided to tell them. Being a sharing person, I wanted to give everyone the chance to get answers to some of the questions they had about Klout and social media scoring in general, so opened the floor to all of you.
The Q&A that follows is posted without editing the content to give it to you straight. No commentary, no breaks, no bull crap. Just the questions I asked and Joe’s uncut answers. The questions are organized from soft tosses at the start to some harder ones. To Joe’s credit, he didn’t shy away or leave a single question unanswered.
Please post additional questions in the comments section following the post. These guys are dedicated to the conversation and to the communities their products support.
Mitch Neff: Let’s start off easy. Klout is changing the game in Social Media Metrics. Why do you think your company has been more effective where others have not?
Joe Fernandez: We’ve gotten lucky in a lot of ways. We had the right product at the right time and a good name. That said, we work really hard and have been able to continuously improve our product while building strong personal relationships with social media influencers.
MN: Klout has been tied in with brands from Hootsuite to the Sacramento Kings. What makes Klout a great fit for them?
JF: There is so much noise in social media. Whether it’s people using tools like Hootsuite or brands trying to connect with their audience; people are really looking to leverage influence to get the most out of their efforts.
MN: What are the three or four things you would tell someone to look at if they are trying to increase their Klout score by getting more engaged?
JF: There are no shortcuts, be original and be yourself, be consistent, don’t stress about it
MN: What can you share with my audience about the future of Klout? Anything we should be watching/waiting for?
JF: The big things for us are accuracy of the data, adding more services and helping users understand and leverage their influence. We are working on some really fun things on the site to do all of these things (see below).
MN: What is your drink of choice for @Antony511′s invention “Klout Drinking Game” (#KloutDrinkingGame)?
JF: Ha, Whisky seems appropriate.
MN: Let’s get more personal – what are your Twitter weapons of choice? (What client(s)/hardware/apps do you use the most?)
JF: I switch it up a lot. There are so many cool tools that use our data that I really like to play with all of them. I have really been enjoying the new Seesmic client lately with the Klout plugin. Hootsuite is great with the filter by Klout feature though.
Time to dig a bit
MN: People talk about “metrics gaming”. I have said that it is hard to “game” Klout because that would still require increased engagement. What is the official view of Klout with regard to people “gaming” the system and drone accounts? Can that be prevented or is it even possible?
JF: So much of your Klout score comes from how influential the people are that engage with you so this makes it really tough to game the score. That said, we find strange thing all the time that can have unintended consequences on the score and we are constantly improving the way the algorithm works.
MN: With Klout’s explosive growth in popularity, there have been some growing pains. You have been very open and fearless about engaging people with Klout issues. Can you share some of those and how they are being addressed?
JF: This has been one of the most rewarding parts of this whole Klout adventure. When you take the time to talk to people without trying to spin things or being defensive 99.9% of the time they are totally reasonable. My point of view has grown so much and I have made some really great friends from participating in the conversation around our product. (Ed. Note: Are you reading this brand managers?)
MN: If you could change one thing about the last year in your business what would it be?
JF: The last year was amazing. I learned so damn much, met so many amazing people and we have a product people actually care about. We’ve made a ton of mistakes in the last year but we are learning fast and creating something totally new.
MN: I heard talk lately that people are experiencing different levels of “Klout Lag” – the appearance that their Klout profile is several days behind real-time (in terms of follower numbers, RT’s, etc.). I have not personally experienced this… Why is that not constant across the board and what is the cause/cure?
JF: A lot of this is tied to internal legacy architecture issues. 99% of the time we actually have the correct data in our db but through the layers of duct tape keeping everything in cache stuff sometimes doesn’t match up. It’s an exciting time in our company because we are on the verge of graduating out of this startup code and leaving these types of issues behind. We are really close.
MN: Are there any plans in the works to include other social sources such as LinkedIn or blogs into your influence scores?
JF: Our goal is to have 20+ services (including blog comments) included by the end of this year.
MN: What can you share around the effectiveness of the Klout Perks program? Everyone wants free stuff, but what feedback are the program sponsors giving you?
JF: This is all really experimental stuff but we are very encouraged by what we are seeing. The most important thing is that our users are enjoying this. They like our code of ethics and the experiences we have been offering them. Brands seem to be happy too. Many of them are coming back and doing multiple campaigns. There is still a long way to go here.
Enough – Here is the straight Dope. The questions we all have:
MN: How does Klout address critics that say the system is useless because the algorithms can’t be studied?
JF: I totally get why people would say this. We want to be really transparent. We have some stuff planned that will take a lot of the steam out of this argument. Our style is transparent. The two main reasons we haven’t done this is it’s been such a work in progress that we haven’t got to the point where we can totally open the kimono. The other is just from an organization standpoint we just haven’t had anyone to lead this in the sense of being an external science liaison type.
MN: Many people have the impression that you are the hardest working man in the Twitter-verse. What drives you to create this?
JF: Mostly rage. Just joking. I love this stuff. There is no way I am looking back at this point of my life and not thinking it was an amazing time. When do you ever get an opportunity like this? I am going to work as hard as I possibly can to see what we can create here.
MN: Many readers asked questions around “Content Analysis” Why does this section rarely match with the user ACTUALLY tweets about? How is that derived?
JF: There are a lot of things going on here. This biggest determinant as to whether the topics we show for you make sense or not is totally related to how many of your tweets we have run our semantic analysis against.
We are processing millions of tweets per day through our topic analysis to try to understand what people are talking about. Depending on when and how often you’ve been processed we might end up with some random stuff for you. Over time this totally works itself out but we have struggled to scale here. We are about to have a big release though that should make a huge impact here.
MN: What is the profitability plan for Klout? Is the plan to make money from partnerships or will there be a Freemium plan in the future?
JF: The plan for us is to do everything we can to be the standard of influence. If we can make that happen we’ll have plenty of monetization opportunities.
In the near term we are in low effort revenue that helps us learn where our data drives value. Klout perks is a good example of this.
MN: Seriously, what the hell is in the secret sauce?
JF: I was always impressed with Google in the sense that page rank is totally understandable (in fact you can download the paper for the exact algorithm). The challenge is when you think of performing those calculations at internet scale. In a lot of ways I like to think that some of that is true for us too. We aren’t magical and didn’t invent any math. We offer a perspective that seems to make sense to most people. The real challenge is doing this at scale and driving acceptance of your data. That’s going to be the real test for us.
Thank you first to Joe Fernandez for agreeing to part of this. Thanks to Klout for your support and making this a better series. Also, big thanks to the following people who submitted questions (listed in order of Klout Score, of course – all over 50, my followers and readers rock!): @MissDestructo, @Prebynski, @LindaPerryBarr, @JustinHerman, @KseniaCoffman . If I missed you, please let me know and I will edit the post to add you. Many people asked similar questions, and you all deserve your proper credit.
So, there you have the answers that I wanted. At this point in the series (one article left) what are your questions and comments? I would love to have your input down the home stretch. Note: Joe had wanted to do a Skype interview but schedules didn’t permit. It was my fault our schedules didn’t connect. My apologies to anyone looking forward to that…