On the heels of our influence panel at Mesh 2011, Klout has introduced a new feature they call "+K". A simple way to think of it is a like button for influence which connects someone to a topic which you choose. The move by Klout to add this feature signifies a broader effort which impacts conversations on the subject matter of digital influence—that influence is meaningless unless you have context such as what subject(s) people and organizations are credible in. As I said in a recent piece on a related issue, topical influence is what counts.
Is Klout Smart Enough?
Klout's move into this area depends on how quickly it's algorithm learns from both what you say (post) and what others think you are influential in. Above is a sample of three areas Klout thinks I MAY be "influential" in. They are far removed from the types of things I discuss but for some reason, the algorithm picks these in addition to others.
These topics (above) appear to be more relevant to some of the topics I do discuss. What makes the +K approach interesting is that topics do not remain static but change over time, presumably as a result of your activity and the way the algorithm is designed. In the screen capture below, you'll notice that the +K I gave to a connection has a shelf life of 43 hours. This is likely designed to address the reality that people can become influential in a specific topic for a short period of time (think about how individuals have leveraged their networks for causes).
Klout's biggest weakness here remains the fact that you have to be on the platform and that +K activity, while it has the potential to act as a sort of social currency is limited (right now) to being shared on Klout itself.
Topical Storms Brewing
Klout isn't the only player in this space looking to tweak activity either by category, subject matter or relevancy. Sulia (below) uses Twitter lists and organizes them by category, listing profiles which have been most listed in a specific topic from the order of most listed to least (curating along the way). While the service is limited to Twitter only as opposed to others such as Peer Index, Klout and SocMetrics to name a few it provides a useful funciton which is to aggregate and organize profiles by categories which can quickly be scanned. Because Twitter lists are created by users (manually) and less likely to be gamed like follower counts, they serve as a significant indicator in regards to how an individual or organization is perceived.
Online Influence Measurement Remains In Its Infancy
As I mentioned in my panel at Mesh, we are at the very early stages of not only understanding, but harnessing and scaling efforts around digital influence. Most conversations are focused on scores and social graph analysis with a fixation on identifying "influencers". Identification is only the first of several steps—the more critical ones are engagement and management of an ecosystem which consists not only of stakeholders which hold various degrees of influence, but also the information or media itself which has its own potential to influence opinions, behaviors and actions. I also believe that a missing "indicator" is a simple metric borrowed from traditional digital marketing. Clicks. Simply put, we need to be able to analyze the percentage of clicks an "influencer" gets based on the total inventory of links they share in social streams. Clicking on links is a light action—but it is a measurable one. There will be much more activity in the influence space both on the external and internal operations of business. Be sure to watch the space closely as it matures.