Klout out for the count as Lithium calls time on influencer network

James is editor in chief of TechForge Media, with a passion for how technologies influence business and several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

Klout is set to rank its last: the social reputation service is set to shut down later this month, according to owner Lithium Technologies.

In an email sent by Lithium CEO Pete Hess to customers, and later posted publicly, Hess said Klout did not align with Lithium’s long-term goals. The service is set to be no more on May 25 – coincidentally the date of GDPR enforcement.

Lithium bought Klout for a reported $200 million in 2014. At the time, the company said the acquisition ‘fully delivers on its vision of building a trusted online connection between consumers and the brands they care about.’

Speaking to this publication a year later, Katy Keim – then Lithium CMO, now chief exec at agency LQ Digital – helped put a bit more meat on the bones. Keim explained that through integrating Klout with Lithium communities, brands could get a fuller picture of who their prospects were, and target accordingly.

“Klout was always a standard of influence that says ‘here’s all the people I reach, and here’s how I engage with my content’, and now we’re adding topic areas of expertise,” said Keim at the time. “So you could potentially see me, participating in all these networks… oh, did you know [I] had expertise in consumer electronics, or art, or white wine?

“Now the brand can start to see more about me – maybe not in the community I participate in, but it poses all kinds of interesting avenues for the brand to reward me with something I might be passionate about, or to tap my expertise further to grow that in the community.”

It’s interesting to look back on today, particularly with GDPR just around the corner. It was also arguably hit and miss – this reporter, for instance, checked his Klout score for the first time in years in writing this story and found to great surprise he was being touted as an expert in rapper 50 Cent.

A bit further down the line, and Klout was being used in other areas, particularly in the emerging artificial intelligence (AI) space. In 2016 Lithium harnessed Klout’s algorithms for Reach, a second generation social marketing tool aimed at ‘helping brands engage with their stakeholders across digital channels’, as the company put it.

Or, as this publication put it in June 2016, Reach could be used by marketers “to curate, manage and publish user generated content from their online communities and based on Klout’s data, brands will be served recommendations on what content to post and when from social networks and over 10,000 RSS feeds.”

Each piece of content was filtered through machine learning and natural language processing to get the right fit, as well as improve its success rate over time. Speaking to this publication at the end of 2016, Rob Tarkoff, then Lithium CEO, explained that the company had ‘taken the Klout score and made it more granular by topic. We find for marketers, that’s particularly helpful in that they can understand how to leverage their customer base to help drive the message.’

New CEO Hess, who has been in charge since February this year, intimated that Klout had essentially done its job in helping move the company to an AI and machine learning-flavoured world.

“Our goal with [our] AI and machine learning investments is to improve our customer care capabilities across the board, whether that’s self-service, peer-to-peer, or direct-to-brand,” Pete Hess, Lithium CEO, wrote in an email to customers. “The Klout acquisition provided Lithium with valuable AI and machine learning capabilities but Klout as a standalone service is not aligned with our long-term strategy.”

You can read the full note here.

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