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Klout & Kred and Growth Hacking. One man’s thoughts

As I prepare to launch my first Start-up, I have become keenly aware of the one aspect that helps ensure survival, User Acquisition and Retention.   To this end, I have become more conscious and aware of the types of Tweets and Facebook posts I now write.  More so on Twitter however.  I now utilize hashtags more often to try and target my tweets to a specific audience.  Specifically #startups and #entrepreneurs.  I have also started to become aware of just how key a role that Influence plays in attracting followers and not just retaining them, but in growing them.  In this particular regard, I have, over the past 30 days, seen my followers grow from about 45 to 70.  Not bad in my opinion, but nothing really in terms of actual growth and following.

Then one day about 3 weeks ago, I decided to get on Klout and Kred.  Let’s see what this is all about I told myself.  These two sites, for the uninitiated, utilize certain algorithms and pretty much assign values based on how friends and followers interact with what you post or tweet and that becomes your “influence” score.  I was sparked to try these two sites after reading Andrew Chen’s recent article about the “new” phenomenon called “Growth Hacking”.

Growth Hacking is an evolution of traditional marketing practices to optimize and maximize the potential of acquiring new users.  I’m going to keep that very short and simple and strongly suggest reading Andrew’s article as it gets much deeper into the nuts and bolts of why and how this process works and is increasingly important.  I am, afterall, NOT an expert, I’m involved in my first start-up and I am still learning as much as I can both about technologies and business.  I am merely offering my thoughts and opinions and seeking feedback on them.   I may in fact be totally off-base with my assertions, and If I am, I seek and welcome further education about them.

That being said, I have started to think more analytically about this Digital, even Virtual Influence.  This presentation by Brian Solis of The Altimeter Group really got me thinking.  More specifically, I have become interested in how this sphere of influence impacts and even changes the quality and/or quantity of users’ tweets and posts.  When I first signed up for Klout, I only connected it to my personal twitter account.  The first day, I wound up with a score of 36.  I had absolutely no idea what that meant, although, I gathered that it was pretty meh.  The second day, I connected my Facebook account and my score went up to a 44.  Again, I had no clue as to why or how or what a 44 even means or mattered for.  What I thought though, was that this was cool enough to connect more accounts to see how that affected my score.  Day 3 and lo and behold, I had a score now of 51.  They sent me “perks” and offers reflecting someone of my “status”.  Again, I had no idea why my score increased except for the fact that I allowed them further insights into my online persona.  What Klout has going for itself is it is pretty cool to have this gamification aspect associated with how much “influence” one has with their friends and followers.

Now as far as Kred goes, it’s the same type of site, it aggregates all of your tweets and posts and assigns points based on the level of interaction that they generate. The more “likes”, “replies”, and “re-tweets” you receive, the more the score increases.  THIS is what really got me thinking.  I ran a couple of “test posts” on Facebook.  I do not typically generate a ton of feedback from my FB posts.  I can pretty much count on the same group of 5 or 6 people consistently reacting to them.  I decided for my tests, I would post something a little more provocative than I normally do.  Something I knew should generate more feedback.  Guess what?  The more provocative the posts, the more feedback and comments were generated and the more my Kred score went up.  I can understand being rewarded for generating more interaction, but here’s the problem.  It does not take into account the actual “quality” of the post.  By that I mean that if I tweet something, and @FAKEGRIMLOCK replies or re-tweets it, then based on the amount of followers he has, shouldn’t that be a stronger indicator of influence over me posting something which is solely provocative just for the sake of being provocative?  On Kred, seemingly, I am rewarded more for quoting a Jay-Z lyric that 4 people I went to college with comment on than a salient point made to someone with “Real World Influencers” as followers.  Kred rewards you for quantity and NOT quality.  I would MUCH rather have Brad Feld, Eric Ries and Fred Wilson potentially see my tweets than 5 people that I hung out with 20 years ago, and I think that THAT is what should be rewarded higher.

As an entrepreneur, and from a business perspective, these two sites and the concept of Growth Hacking lead me to a couple of thoughts about these numbers and scores.  Are the Klout and Kred scores as well as the statistics obtained through growth hacking really just dressed up Vanity Metrics?  If they are, and specifically in regard to Klout and Kred, then do they really even matter, or is it merely what it seems to be, just a couple of  cool sites utilizing gamification aspects to generate users?  Are the users created by the manipulation involved with growth hacking one time hits to your site or are you able to establish returns to the site, frequency of usage and high click through rates?  Again, I’m far from an expert on the subject.  I’m a first time entrepreneur with a desire to prepare myself and my company as thoroughly as possible for this rapidly evolving world.  If I’m onto something, let me know. If I’m completely missing the point, let me know.  I want to use this post to educate myself further and maybe others along the way as well.

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