Like me, maybe you’ve been reading about clout, Klout or KLOWT. Traditionally the word means influence or power. It now refers to a complex measurement of a person’s or company’s social media influence.

It has been said that one of the nicest things about industry standards is there are so many to choose from. The same would hold true for definitions of clout. Klout, which touts itself as the Standard for Influence, explains its calculations on its web site.

This post was triggered by a question on Quora: “How many types of web content are now affected by social credibility, increasingly known as ‘clout’?” (If you haven’t used Quora, it’s typical for well-meaning people to introduce into evidence facts not yet established by inserting them into the question.)

I was struck by the similarity of approach and sharp contrast in details found in the first two responses. Lee Traupel defines the kinds of content and other factors that contribute to or are affected by clout as:

  • Number of Social Connections
  • Content Repeats: Likes, RTs, Mentions, Reviews, Criticisms
  • Digital Outreach via Blog, Social Accounts
  • Measurement of Social Presence (Platforms & Communities)
  • Content Creation and Curation Activities (Blog, YouTube, Social Accounts)
  • Interconnectivity via Social Stream (not Connections)
  • Popularity of Community Content where Content is Published
  • Growth Components of Social Presence (Accounts & Communities)

and indicates this will grow and change. Brian Mickley offers this list:

  • Certainly, Quora ‘likes’
  • Shopping recommendations online
  • Links to web sites recommended socially by ‘the crowd’
  • YouTube views – going viral
  • Emails forwarded virtually around the world in hours
  • Forums – had 906 online when I visited recently
  • Microsoft MVPs and similar programs

Today, (no fault of Lee or Brian who have both done a good job helping the rest of us understand this), I see the world of clout calculation:

The idea of clout seems to be an extension of the original extended Twitter influence notion, that influence was not determined simply by how many followers you have, but additionally, by how many followers they have, and how often you are retweeted.

All of the factors Brian and Lee mention will to some degree influence people, but many of these are tautologies. Let’s take content creation. If you write something and post it on your blog, you may end up influencing people. But to say that content creation is a measure of influence is to say that activities that influence people tend to be influential.

The larger problem is that these measurements are being bought and sold, and are being used as the measure of value of a blog, Twitter account or Facebook page. But without a standardized measurement system, the measurements themselves are interesting at best and of no comparative use.

I am just as skeptical about “clout” as I was (and still am) about the original influence idea. If you are in social media for business purposes, influence means you have moved someone to take an action that is strategic to your business. That could be a purchase, a subscription, a membership, a referral, a request to the company for additional information. You could have 20000 Twitter followers and 1 million views of your YouTube video with 275000 retweets, but if no one is buying your product, your influence is ZERO.