Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Why Klout Should Not Underestimate Google+

The past few months there has been a common complaint among Google+ users who also have Klout accounts. Namely, it appears to them that Klout undervalues Google+'s contributions to individuals' scores, while overvaluing those from Facebook. As a Google+ power user who also has a Klout account, I think their complaints have merit. Despite the fact that I post more to Google+, that twenty times as many people have me circled on Google+ as I have friends on Facebook, and the fact that I see much more interaction on Google+ in the form of plusses (the equivalent of "likes" on Facebook) and comments, Klout consistently claims that Facebook contributes more to my Klout score than Google+. The only conclusion that I (and many others on Google+) can make is that Klout is dramatically undervaluing Google+'s contribution to Klout scores.

Speaking as Google+ power user and an admitted Google+ fanboy, this hardly seems right to me. To me if Klout truly wishes to measure influence on the web, then it should not matter on which social media site one has the most influence. A like on Facebook should be treated the same as a plus on Google+, which should be treated the same as a like (or whatever they call them) on Instagram. Quite simply, one social media site should not be favoured over others, which seems to many what Klout is actually doing.

Even if someone could make the argument that all social media sites are not created equal, there are some very good reasons that Klout should place Google+ on equal footing with Facebook. I will outline them below.

1. Google+ is the Second Largest Social Media Site in the World: In January 2013 the Global Web Index announced that Google+ had overtaken Twitter as the second largest social media site. It boasts 359 million monthly users. Indeed, over 8000 people have me circled on Google+, which is 10 times as many people follow me on Twitter and about 20 times the number of friends I have on Facebook. And contrary to the claims of some that Google+ is a ghost town, G+ users are very active on the site. While I have no statistics to back this up, I can tell you that many of those I have circled post several times a day. And every day at that.

2. Public Google+ Posts Show Up in Google Search Results: Every public post I make to Google+ will show up in Google+ search results. That is, if I make a post on the character Emma Peel of The Avengers, that post has a chance of showing up every time a person searches for "Emma Peel" on Google. Even if one were to make a public post on Facebook (I don't do so myself personally, nor do many people I know), the odds of it showing up in Google Search results seem very low. In fact, I don't ever remember seeing a Facebook post show up as a search result anywhere, not on Google, not on Yahoo, not even on Bing. It seems to me, then, that a Facebook post will only be seen by one's Facebook friends and followers (if one has any), while a Google+ post might be seen by many more people than one's circlers. Of course, this points to a problem Facebook has (probably due to concerns its users have over privacy). While people will post publicly to G+ and will have public Twitter accounts, they generally limit their Facebook posts to their friends. I don't think that will change any time soon.

3. There is No Limit to the Number of Circlers One Can Have on Google+:  While one can only circle a maximum of 5000 people on Google+, there is no limit to how many people can circle one. I know private individuals--not celebrities--who have upwards of 50,000 circlers or more. Facebook only allows one to have a maximum of 5000 friends, period. While Facebook does allow people to follow individuals without being friends with them, those followers will only see public posts. Most people I know do not have the option for followers enabled and those who do generally do not make public posts. Once again, one's posts are generally going to be seen onlhy by one's friends, who are set at a maximum of 5000. To put it in other words, on Google+ even my private posts will be seen by over 8000 people (not counting those who find them in searches), as opposed to the 400 or so on Facebook (that's if they see them...).

4. Google+ Does Not Filter Posts: Unlike Facebook, Google+ does not automatically filter posts. Any filtering of posts is in the hands of the user. I can adjust the "volume" of various circles to where I might see some from one circle, none from another, and everything from yet another. This is not the case with Facebook, which employs an algorithm called EdgeRank to determine which posts are displayed on one's News Feed. Now one can set any given friend so that his or her posts show in one's news feed and one can set it to see "all updates". The problem is that if one wants to see every single update from every single friend in his or her news feed, one would have to go to each and every friend's profile to set it to "show in news feed" and "see all updates". Not only would that be time consuming, but it might not even work. I have had many instances where a friend or relative's post did not show up in my news feed, even though I had them set to "show in news feed" and "see all updates". That has never happened on Google+.

5. Major Brands Have Discovered Google+: While it seems to me that most major brands do not have Google+ pages, there are several that do. And some have proven very successful at engaging users. Clothing giant H&M has over 3 million followers on Google+. Candy maker Cadbury also has over 3 million followers on Google+. Both companies post almost every day and often receive a good deal of engagement from their followers. H&M and Cadbury are not the only companies that have seen success on Google+, as others have as well. The simple fact is that big business has become aware of Google+ and have started utilising it as a tool for promotion.

Of course, some might question why it is important that Klout place Google+ on an equal ground with Facebook. Klout has more than its fair share of detractors, from those who question whether online influence can be numerically measure to those who even question the very principle of measuring influence on the web. I must confess, I have questioned whether online influence can truly be quantified myself. That having been said, I can think of two basic reasons why it matters that Klout treats Google+ the same as it does Facebook. The first is the fact that Klout offers Perks, free products or experiences from various brands. To receive most of these Perks one must usually meet certain criteria, among which is often that one must have a Klout score over a certain amount. If one is a power user on Google+ and only a casual user on Facbook, then he or she might find himself or herself losing out on Perks simply because his or her score is too low due to Klout undervaluing Google+.

Second, while it might seem hard to believe,  there are businesses in some industries that do look at Klout scores when hiring individuals. It then seems possible that a person who is very influential on Google+ and Twitter, but with no influence on Facebook could lose out on a job because his or her score is low dues to Klout undervaluing Google+. Now personally I think looking at Klout scores when hiring people is not only unfair, but unwise as well. And fortunately I get the impression that this practice is nowhere nearly as common as many on the internet would have one believe. In the end, however, the very fact that even one business might look at Klout scores when hiring people should make Klout think carefully about how they go about determining individuals' Klout scores.

If Klout is undervaluing Google+'s contributions to individuals scores as many of us believe, then it should be corrected immediately. Indeed, the fact that Google+ is a huge social network with many, many active users should be enough for Klout to treat it on an equal basis with Facebook and Twitter. The fact that Google+ has several advantages over Facebook should be more than enough for them to do so. In the end, however, I think Klout should treat all social media sites equally. The simple fact is that if one can get 1000 likes on LinkedIn (in my experience the least active social network that I am on), then that should be counted the same as 1000 likes on Facebook. To do otherwise is to not truly measure online influence at all.

(Credit Where Credit is Due Department: This post came about largely due to many conversations with my brother, Berry Towles Canote. His contributions were priceless)


Terry Brock said...

You raise a lot of good points. I love using Google+ Hangouts particularly. It is great when it works. As we learn it more, we find more and more benefits from it. I think that we'll see more influence from that benefiting Klout Scores as time goes by. For now, it is not just a good idea, but a definite must-have in our use to not only build our Klout Score but, more important, to engage with customers and build our digital influence. Thanx for the post!

Terry Brock said...
This comment has been removed by the author.