A Klout Upside the Head

Klout sheep

This is a guest post by Bob LeDrew.

I’ve been an observer of things Klouty for a while now. But I’ve been darned if I could work up a lot of excitement over it, positive OR negative. Until now.

I got pointed to a post on the Klout blog today about their reworked formula. Since I haven’t any accounts linked to their service, I didn’t have much reason to care.

But then I began to read the comment thread, and I was transfixed. The first comment set the tone: “My score went from 73 down to 53. 20 point drop. I’ve been working for months to increase my Klout score. Please fix this.”

Others quickly chimed in:

  • This is going to cost me big time.
  • Went from 71 to 56 here. Time to get back to work.
  • You are killing our blogs here!
  • This trashed a 6-month effort to get our organization to use Klout as a measure of social media marketing effectiveness.
  • If I was searching for a job in Social Media right now I’d be concerned.
  • Klout set itself up as an authoritative measure of influence, and many organizations have coupled economic functions and job-related selection to your scoring system. By making this change, you have negatively impacted the job market viability of many loyal supporters of Klout at a time the job market is in free-fall.
  • I have been promoting Klout to clients as one of the various metrics to use in measuring the impact of social media campaigns. This change has already caused me to lose clients, and I have to start over using PeerIndex instead.
  • I am beyond irritated over my 10 point drop, plus demotion in title! I work in Social Media Marketing, this point drop will hurt me in gaining clients! What the hell?!?
  • Sadly, expecting prospective clients to know how to hire someone based on their future delivery of results is not realistic. A score like Klout gives busy people a simple litmus test in advance. It’s the same reason people eat at McDonalds or AppleBees; the food is crap compared to the independent restaurant across the street but at McDonalds or AppleBees they know what they are going to get.
  • I was just presenting a lecture today on the value of social media efforts using monitors such as Klout and PeerIndex as a benchmark of impact, influence and effectiveness. Only, when I set it up this morning, I was at a 58 but when I opened that page, I’m now a 40. Not terribly helpful – the whole presentation went south.
  • I have been feverishly working at increasing the Klout score for my company, as it is part of my MBO’s. Now, with a sudden 12 point drop, it will reflect poorly (and inaccurately) upon my efforts.

I have a feeling that Katie Paine hasn’t waited to find a grave, but is spinning in her office somewhere in New England.

So I checked with a couple of people I know and trust. Surely, I asked, businesses aren’t seriously considering Klout scores when choosing consultants or working on a measurement strategy for a communications initiative?

And my trusted friends told me that while they felt it ridiculous, businesses were using Klout numbers as part of the decision-making process on who is most influential and that there are instances where brands or agencies won’t work with people who are Klout-challenged.

I responded to this with a bad humored string of profanities that would have embarrassed my mother and impressed my father, if they were in earshot.

The Klout Kraziness

I’m not sure whether I’m more upset with the sellers of services seizing Klout scores as indicators of worth, value-add, or influence, or with the BUYERS of services doing the same.

I don’t think much of Klout. I have several reasons for that, mostly based on the limitations of their methodology and the crudity of a 1-100 score in representing the vague concept of influence. As a game, it’s amusing.

But as a serious business tool, it’s horrifying. I’ve been trying to come up with an equivalent to the Klout score in the business world, but I haven’t been able to.

FICO score? No, that actually seems to have some predictive ability and a more transparent methodology.

Ad-value equivalency? No, that took a useless measure (how much space X would cost) and multiplied it by an arbitrary number (the mysterious “multiplier”) which represented the credibility of editorial coverage. Closer, but not there.

Cost per contact acquired or cost per dollar raised? Nope, that’s clear and understandable. Click-through rate? Nope, easily calculated and clear.

Right now, Klout represents something that we all should be concerned about. A fun little statistic is one thing; a valid and credible measure of influence is another; but a fun little statistic that’s being treated like a business tool is akin to the correlation between storks and fertility rates.

Except nobody I know of is making policy decisions based on stork density…

Bob LeDrewAbout the author: Bob LeDrew has been working in the words and ideas salt mines since the 1980s, when he edited audio with a razorblade. Since then, he’s been a writer, editor, public relations practitioner, and podcaster. Among other things. You can find him blogging at Translucid.ca or on Twitter at @BobLeDrew.

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  1. DenVan says

    Stork density. That is awesome. Thanks for this bobledrew . Like it or not, Klout is being used in exactly the way you rail against, or at least it has been. I suspect that anyone who was taking the Klout fuzzy dice seriously will have to think twice after this very public imbroglio. Klout may have done the world a service by pointing out the chink in their own armour: (psst, it works better if you stab me here).

    • says

      @DenVan@bobledrew There’s nothing stronger than a company basically admitting in public their previous product was flawed so we brought out this version that pisses most of our previously-loyal users off. 😉

      • says

        @DenVan@DannyBrown As someone who has blogged about the weird movement of social influence scores towards a FICO-like usage, this update from Klout is humorous to me. Perhaps Klout has made a real improvement in their “accuracy” (however they define it), but one thing that Klout didn’t understand here is that the value in a metric (or more formally, a true statistical model for prediction) is accuracy AND stability are important. One without the other = useless.

  2. CASUDI says

    Well that explains it ~ mine went from close to 60 (last night) to 45 this morning. The name was changed on the account (no longer CASUDI) and the graphs had little or anything related to the ones I looked at last night. I don’t often check mine but happened to last night.

    This new and improved will lose a lot of credibility for Klout. Time to really check into Kred.

  3. says

    I agree with DenVan!. Having some website measure how influential I am is actually kind of silly. Sure, some of us “buy” into it, but at the end of the day does it really matter? The feedback I get on my website from my readers is all I need to measure how well I am really doing. Not some website that is now suppose to be the “holy grail” as a method of measurement. Really? I can’t imagine businesses making decisions based on your klout score. It’s like saying, my job won’t do business with VMware because their Klout score is below 30. That’s just stupid in my book.

    • says

      @Sonia (Sunnnee) And that’s it right there, Sonia – it’s the people that matter to *you* that influence you, not some computer program that says Non-Relevant Wannabe X is the one you should go to for advice, because he/she can repeat something they heard elsewhere by someone far more clever…

  4. says

    I dont take Klout anymore serious than Farmville lol I take it as a game to get the number higher, but I dont think less of people because they have a lower score than me etc.

  5. says

    I, like you, was shocked at the comments on their post. I even engaged one person who said that her Klout score was how her work was being evaluated. I asked her why, and she began to defend Klout, saying something along the lines of “you have to measure your work somehow, and we’ve been using Klout for a year”. A whole year? That means they jumped on Klout when it was even younger and LESS proven. I have a hard time taking a company seriously that evaluates employee success that way. How about something real, like bottom line end results?

    Good stuff, Bob. I’m amazed at how many people seem to be ready to jump out of windows over this.

    • says

      @KenMueller I know, right?!? That’s like saying “I’m going to live on the moon without an atmosphere to keep me alive because the comic books say you can.”

      Or something like that. 😉

  6. krusk says

    I actually like the idea of Klout. I think it can provide more insight than just looking at someone’s follower numbers (which lots of people still do). From an agency perspective we do often identify key industry influencers for clients to watch or build relationships with so the idea behind Klout is great as a starting point. Of course we use it as an indicator, not an exact science.

    HOWEVER, the issue is transparency. What is their algorithm? How are they building it? What’s the methodology (“it’s based on these three factors” is not enough for me.) I’m afraid the reason they aren’t more forthcoming about what it is their measuring is because there’s some guess work in there they don’t necessarily want us to know about . That bothers me and particularly can be damaging the more people rely on Klout for any sort of measurement.

    • says

      @krusk Hi Kelly,

      Agreed, and that’s their biggest problem (or one of them, along with the lack of opt-out). Who defines what the algorithm is? How can it be the `standard for influence`if they only use 13 platforms?

      Sometimes I think they sit there playing “pin the tail on the influence donkey”, and see what comes up… 😉

  7. says

    I just think it’s terribly sad. A tragedy of wasted opportunity in pursuit of fame and fortune.

    What they are studying is incredibly important. The more data Klout has, the better the potential discoveries. Our brave, new digital world demands new metrics. But not giving people the basic human dignity to control where their names and likenesses are used for commercial purposes is appalling.

    It’s unfortunate they demonstrate such a willful disregard for people. Even worse, there are some so oblivious as to base any rational business decision on what is – clearly – an easily-gamed internet popularity contest.

    Every time I see someone give someone else “+K” in my timeline (or, worse yet, ASK for it), a little piece of me dies inside. Those who buy and sell “influence” online are anything but. Influence is a function of brand and brand is a function of action. PERIOD.

    Anything else is the standard of irrelevance.

    • says

      @Brian Driggs And that’s the thing right there, mate – people *do* want to understand how this world works, and who can really help them understand it.

      But a flawed platform run by people with (seemingly) tunnel vision mindsets benefits no-one except the very few that really know the end game of it all.

      *Sigh*.

  8. bobledrew says

    If I didn’t make it clear, my biggest issue here is not with Klout, although I don’t think I’ll be nominating them for any prizes. The concern I have is far more for the people assigning FAR too much weight to this indicator in making SERIOUS business decisions. When I see people saying they spent months getting an ORGANIZATION to use Klout as a serious number, I get worrrrrrrrried.

  9. says

    I’ve seen a lot of hand wringing going on today over all of this, and I just have to shake my head. Why anyone puts so much credence in the Klout is beyond me. I’ve gotten a couple of fun little perks by playing the game, but it’s just that: a game. I logged in today to see how the changes affected me. I went from a 39 (yesterday) to a 40 (today) and was presented with the option to send a tweet proclaiming that I had earned “The 40s” badge. I’m sorry, but any site that hands out badges and asks me to tweet that news out to my friends is akin to a Facebook game that wants me to ask my friends if they can spare a cow or goat. It’s a fun diversion… *not* a business metric. What’s truly scary is that so many people and businesses seem to think it is (a metric, that is… not Kloutville).

    The example comments you give from Klout’s blog tell it all. Far too many people have put blind faith in Klout as a be-all, end-all and have advised their clients to do the same. Only now are now realizing what a mistake that was and are lashing out at Klout for their own bad judgement. And the ones who say how hard they’ve worked to improve their Klout scores? Sounds like they’ve been gaming the system (and spending way too much time/energy doing so) and are now mad that the rules have changed.

    The one bright spot in all of this might be that, with fewer people following Klout so blindly, maybe fewer people will tweet “I gave xx +K in underwater basket weaving” and “I just received +K in sword swallowing.”

    • says

      @CarlThress You know, that’s the scary thing Carl – of those folks bemoaning their score drop, what exactly is it their moaning about? Are companies really employing them based on Klout performance?

      Or are they solo consultants trying to impress unwary clients into believing they’re something they’re not, just because they have a higher Klout score than 70% of other folks who have been duped by a false metric and hopes of something better?

      Ah well…

      • says

        @DannyBrown I was wondering the same thing. If you’re basing your entire business model around one metric and that metric changes, you’re screwed. You’re also not building a very viable business. It seems like most of the hand wringing I’ve seen so far is from people who obviously had figured out how to game the old algorithm and are now pissed that it’s changed. The more level-headed responses (many from people whose scores dropped, by the way) are from people who either a.) never put much stock in Klout to begin with or b.) realize it’s one number among many and that the truly important thing in business is providing real value to your customer, not impressing them with a high Klout score.

  10. Dannowtweets says

    Whilst I see where you are coming from in this blog post, and I do agree with points that you raise, Klout is an important metric for measurement purely because people VIEW it as an important metric for measurement. In my eyes it’s kinda the same as PageRank; on it’s own it doesn’t really mean too much and many SEOs are aware if its flaws, however people still say “So what PR does your site have?”.

    As long as social marketers and businesses believe that Klout should be influential, it will be. The day I’m looking forward to is where we use Klout alongside several other social-based metrics to help ascertain a person’s influence, not just using this one metric. (p.s Thanks to @EmLeary for sharing :) )

    • bobledrew says

      Dannowtweets, I can’t help but disagree with you on this. An indicator has to mean something on its own, doesn’t it? If it’s down to “it’s important because people VIEW it as important,” then I’m going to be in even deeper despair.

    • says

      @Dannowtweets@EmLeary Hi Dan,

      The problem is, even for those that feel Klout offers value, there is no regulation in place. So who decides one person is more influential than another in the same sphere? The programmer of a flawed platform based on hard-to-define metrics? Particularly with their update, where now it seems you have to kiss the arse of perceived influencers to be influential yourself…

      For companies that are viewing it as important and a measure of success, I’d love to be able to compare them to a company whose metric for success isn’t how long you can spend during the day tweeting, or who you can be followed by, but one based on the value they actually bring the company.

      I’m guessing most businesses would prefer money over made-up metrics… 😉

      • Dannowtweets says

        cc @bobledrew : I don’t want to go down a philisophical route here, so forgive me if my answer comes across that way. Now I 100% completely agree with you when you say “An indicator has to mean something on it’s own”, as yes I think it does too. But surely Klout does? Now the vast majority of bitching on the Klout Blog and forums is to do with numbers dropping, but if the algorithm affects everyone in the same light then it’s still an indicator of their influence, in some little way. Also I just want to clarify by influence I mean social media influence, which may have nothing to do with their offline “real world” persona (and as we know there are countless studies of the Jekyll and Hyde online vs. offline persona). So in that sense a company measuring a person’s “worthiness” purely on Klout is wrong. However, if said company wants to hire someone influential on social media, or they want to have their product promoted for free and end up giving away “Perks”, then at the moment Klout gives those indicators. And @DannyBrown I sort-of agree that most pre-21st century businesses would prefer to make money over social influence (sorry, I can’t write “made-up metrics” :P), however in this digital age of transparency I would argue that many businesses would not be as short sighted as “money, money, money” and would look at their brand equity and relationship with customers (long term life-value money).

        • says

          @Dannowtweets@bobledrew Hi Dan,

          For sure, CRM and customer loyalty plays a huge part in the money factor of any business (and rightly so).

          But the problem with using Klout as a major influencer (no pun intended) of this is that it’s inherently flawed:

          – It only tracks data from 13 platforms, one of which is Instagram. This is only available on iPhone (maybe iPad, not sure?), which immediately cuts out a huge chunk of mobile audience. So, immediately, their mobile influence metric is skewed.

          – It’s primarily using platforms popular in North America. But what about influencers on Bebo (Europe), Orkut (South America), Ibibo (India), Odnoklassniki (Russia) and Qzone (China), to name just a few? Until Klout, or anyone else, can measure these channels and more, again their metrics are skewed.

          – There are plenty of bot accounts that have been set up to game these influencer platforms – and they’ve worked. Automated accounts full of inane crap have earned themselves influencer status. That alone makes a mockery of the platform.

          By all means, see what Klout and other platforms think of someone in the social space, but don’t put your trust blindly into them either.

        • Dannowtweets says

          @DannyBrown@bobledrew Completely agree with that; use Klout to help aide a decision as long as that decision takes in to account other factors. Before the algorithm update I had a blog post in the pipeline entitled “Hey can you click this link and increase my Klout?” in order to mock the absurd side to Klout… unfortunately that boat has passed. So yes, Klout has many flaws but until we get some real competitors It’s all we have (apart from common sense *looks worried*)

    • says

      @Dannowtweets@EmLeary Hi Dan,

      The problem is, even for those that feel Klout offers value, there is no regulation in place. So who decides one person is more influential than another in the same sphere? The programmer of a flawed platform based on hard-to-define metrics? Particularly with their update, where now it seems you have to kiss the arse of perceived influencers to be influential yourself…

      For companies that are viewing it as important and a measure of success, I’d love to be able to compare them to a company whose metric for success isn’t how long you can spend during the day tweeting, or who you can be followed by, but one based on the value they actually bring the company.

      I’m guessing most businesses would prefer money over made-up metrics… 😉

  11. says

    Interesting. The last time I commented here, it was about Klout.

    As soon as I saw my score drop (while telling me it was “steady”–yeah, okay, you man the wheel for me, Klout), I thought, well, this is going to generate some publicity. And so it has. Thanks for hammering all the points I agree on about Klout home again, Bob.

  12. ginidietrich says

    “I have a feeling that Katie Paine hasn’t waited to find a grave, but is spinning in her office somewhere in New England.”

    That made me choke. As in the kind where you’re laughing so hard that it gets caught in your throat.

    I love Klout for the mere reasons that @DannyBrown is a sheep expert and shonali is an expert about Kim Kardashian. But I’m with you…for real business reasons, it’s crap.

    I liken businesses using Klout scores for hiring to the companies that allow parents a role in determining raises and promotions for their kids. Their adults kids who have real jobs. #totalBS

  13. Grit08 says

    Danny. you always bring the pain and inspiration. I read that first comment and was mesmerised from that point on. That comment thread revealed so much epic insight. It was better than many a blog out there including mine and excluding yours of course Sir. :)

    Respect

  14. MelWebster says

    Beyond well done. Klout reminds me of S&H green stamps — they were stamps my parents collected way back in the day when they shopped at certain grocery stores, and then they would cash them in for “valuable prizes.” Come to think of it, S&H green stamps were more valuable than a Klout ranking. Gotta go. Need to +K some people — gag.

    • says

      @MelWebster Haha, I remember them! And yes, my folks would save them until they could afford something they really wanted/needed. Like you say, THAT’s influence! :)

  15. says

    Whew, thanks for clearing this up. I saw that my score dropped and I was ready to just quit; I had given it my all only to be chopped at the knees.

    I do think it is here to stay and will certainly be debated as it seems to attract lively comments. At the end of the day, it’s still just a tool and shouldn’t necessarily be taken at face value, right?

      • says

        @DannyBrown@bdorman264 Clearly you are using the wrong hammer. The good news is that I am going to hold a webinar later on this week to teach people how to use the right hammer. By the time I finish you’ll hammer in the morning, you’ll hammer in the evening…

  16. rdfrench says

    Sorry, but anyone foolish enough to have placed reliance upon Klout, Technorati and numerous other flawed attempts at defining influence … deserve what they get. There is no statistical significance to any of their lame assertions of influence. Does anyone really think these pitiful sites can really measure your capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something? Again, if you’re foolish enough to think that … you deserve to lose credibility in the eyes of others if you bet your farm on Klout as a significant measurement tool. It’s just folly. If people are losing clients over their Klout score … good. They should.

    • says

      @rdfrench It’s funny – back in the day, Technorati used to be my go-to for blog connections and outreach leads. Funny how times change…

      It does make me smile when I see Klout claim to be “the standard for influence”, when there are only thirteen platforms that they use for their metrics. Ummm…

  17. ItsOnlyaNumber says

    I work in social media for the video games industry. If you want a horror story about how seriously people take an aggregated number based on nebulous algorithms, check out stories about “Metacritic.”

    For developers, some of their bonuses depend on hitting a Metacritic threshold. For the people covering games, their access to information can also depend on what scores they give a game.

    To me, Klout is like Metacritic. People take it way too seriously. At the very, very best, Klout is a starting point.

    • says

      @ItsOnlyaNumber I have a friend that works at Ubisoft in Montreal, and she uses some choice words when talking about Metacritic. I didn’t even know she could swear… 😉

      And yes, sadly, people put way too much credence into non-important metrics that still have a long way to go.

  18. Executive Resume Writer says

    I actually just started learning more about Klout and spent last night reading, reading, reading up on it. I was happy to see my little number of 48 w/out trying. In the spirit of the moment, I also +K’d people a bunch of people as well.

    When I signed in the morning I was shocked to see my pitiful 38 and thought, “OK, I’m done with that”. Then I found your post and was amazed even more about how people worked at getting a high Klout number. Amazing.

    Anyway, great comments here. Always learning…

    Erin Kennedy

    • says

      @Executive Resume Writer Hi Erin,

      That’s been the saddest thing; seeing the reactions of the Klout drop. In the grand scheme of things, it shouldn’t matter, and until Klout can truly ingrain their product into the hearts and minds of the mainstream, and not just this little social media bubble we occupy, shame on them for playing with people’s minds this way.

  19. matthixson says

    Great post @bobledrew. I feel like the Klout debate epitomizes the state of social media today. The days of any action is good is gone for most people. Businesses are now trying to make sense of this so they can justify their time/resources spent on social media. Klout is something that has risen as a metric of success because it is one number and simple. The problem is that social media is complex. Relationships come and go. Roles and interactions change depending on the context and time. None of that can be accounted for in a single generic score. Social media needs a deeper level of insight that does not does not simplify the complexity to a point of uselessness but understands that it is complex and makes it simple for businesses to know what to do next.

    • says

      @matthixson@bobledrew Completely agree, mate. You make a great point with this sentence:

      “The problem is that social media is complex.”

      I’d add that people are HUGELY complex, and no amount of “sentiment tracking” or “influence measurement” can ever quantify someone’s emotions to the point of knowing what they’ll do based on a trigger action. Not even close.

      Cheers!

  20. FernandoFonseca says

    This morning I wrote a post on Google+ exactly about this, @bobledrew & @DannyBrown

    (http://thezargon.org/googleplus/2011/10/why-you-should-blame-yourself-and-not-klout/).

    I can’t believe that so called professionals (or self procalimed) are actually basing their decisions on Klout scores.

    I have always defended that Klout was nothing, and is nothing, but vapourware: a great marketing campaign that is bringing money in. Since it’s launch that I have been following its progress and many times I tweeted Joe Fernandez (or blogged about it and Joe Fernandez would come and reply) and never I was convinced that the so called “influence algorithm” is nothing but BS.

    Klout is a lobbyist but, unlike a lobbyist, the 3 parties involved don’t win, only one does: and that is Klout.

    The other parties (the users and the companies that are paying undisclosed amounts of money to reach the influencers) only loose because Klout has no idea who the influencers are.

    And I know that for a fact. Why? I have a Twitter account that only tweets the headlines news from the Daily Mail. It is an automated account and I rarely log in with it. This account was considered an influencer in Snowboarding and I got sent the perks.

    On a final note, please be prepared for the following: Klout is not able to delete your account. I sent them an e-mail today and ask them to delete it and then tweeted Megan Barry about it. First she told me that it would take up to one week. After two hours she sent me a tweet saying “I have deleted your registration from klout”. The truth is that my profile is still there. This raises huge privacy issues that I think will be the next target of many many users.

    • says

      @FernandoFonseca@bobledrew Hey there Fernando,

      Agreed. When a platform only measures 13 online tools to gather someone’s perceived influence, it’s immediately limited. There are countries that don’t care about the platforms Klout uses, and instead use networks native to their countries.

      Until these are included and *everyone* is measured, not just Klout’s chosen few, the metrics around their measurement will continue to be flawed.

      Cheers!

  21. kdpaine says

    What was most interesting about yesterday’s Conclave of organizations who gathered to set social media measurement standards, the one thing we could all quickly agree upon was that Klout was NOT a measure of influence or anything else. It would have made a great press release, but we really did accomplish alot more than that and I didn’t want klout-dissing to be the sound bite. But yes, I am not quite spinning, but certainly bemoaning the fact that PR is like your stupidest girlfriend who is addicted to bad relationships. Just when we thought PR professionals were getting over silly numbers like AVEs and multipliers, they fall in love with a new one that’s even stupider and more insidious than all the prior ones combined.

    • says

      @kdpaine You can’t provide a more compelling argument than showing that your own platform is broken. That says more about something than any of us ever can. 😉

  22. markwschaefer says

    American Express, Disney, Nike and many smart companies are routinely using Klout scores in their marketing programs. They are getting results. How do I know this? Because I inteviewed some of Klout’s customers for a new book. I’m not easily impressed. But I was impressed by the effective uses of this marketing channel and the measurable results, which are as good or better than traditional advertising. Klout can be gamed and it is not “the standard of influence.” But here is the one thing it can do. It is beginning to measure content moving through a system, how people react to that content, and increasingly, how those reactions are tied to offline behavior. It is an attempt to quantify one extremely small sliver of it. And yet, that’s important because in the history of psychology, politics, sociology and marketing, “infliuence” of any type has never been quanitifed before. I’m not necessarily a defender of Klout or any company for that matter. I’m a defender of rationality. Yesterday’s change to the Klout system simply provided fodder for more emotional reactions to an emotional situation. People don’t like to be rated and compared. I get that. But if you are a professional marketer and thousands (yes thousands) of companies are using Klout scores in some way, it doesn’t make sense to declare that Klout is “useless” when the evidence strongly suggests otherwise.

    • bobledrew says

      @markwschaefer I can’t speak to your examples, Mark. Because you’ve interviewed them and I haven’t. But I think it’s crucial to look at the phrase you use here: “marketing channel.” My inference is that these companies are using Klout scores as some sort of outreach to people, a la “Score of 70, influential on sports? Here, try our Nike Air Jordans.”

      That isn’t particularly egregious, or particularly relevant to my point. There’s a big difference between using a tool such as Klout to drive a marketing program, or even decide who gets invited to a party, and using someone’s Klout score in a hiring decision or performance evaluation, or tying a Klout score to an evaluation of a business’s objectives.

      Let me repeat some comments from the Klout blog post: “I have been promoting Klout to clients as one of the various metrics to use in measuring the impact of social media campaigns. This change has already caused me to lose clients, and I have to start over using PeerIndex instead.” “I am beyond irritated over my 10 point drop, plus demotion in title! I work in Social Media Marketing, this point drop will hurt me in gaining clients! What the hell?!?” “I have been feverishly working at increasing the Klout score for my company, as it is part of my MBO’s. Now, with a sudden 12 point drop, it will reflect poorly (and inaccurately) upon my efforts.”

      Would also be interested to know what your response to @kdpaine would be, as she’s stated below quite firmly that “Klout was NOT a measure of influence or anything else.”

    • kdpaine says

      @markwschaefer

      Mark, I’m not sure where you got your data but what you are attribute to Klout is not new. I’ve been quantifying influence for clients since about 1990, for companies like IBM, Procter & Gamble and Raytheon. WOMMA has lots of data that quantifies influence. Klout isn’t useless if you want an easy answer to a difficult question and don’t care about the accuracy of the data. We’ve seen what happens when CFOs do that, should CMOs be held to lower standards?.

      • markwschaefer says

        @kdpaine

        In response to both comments, certainly I respect @kdpaine and the other commenters. I am only saying that just because we don’t have access to the formulas, it doesn’t mean that something useful is not happening. We don’t have access to Google’s formula but it does a pretty good job discovering meaningful search results and its capabilities have improved through tthe years. Klout is still in the silent movie stage. Is it fair to declare it as useless at this stage in the development, especially when companies are finding measurable results? That’s the disconnect here. We may think it is useless, but it is having an impact. I expect as more people record their offline behaviors and purchases via FB timeline etc the dots will be connected. Would love to hear more of your perspective on this KD and will reach out to you to do so. Thanks for the dialogue.

        • jenzings says

          I don’t think it’s useless, I think it’s becoming dangerous. Those are two very different things. Your examples are benign, logical uses for a Klout score: marketing, to determine how to move content online. But hiring someone based on their Klout score? Come ON. What if they have a high score because they interact with Kim Kardashian for some reason–does that help in a work capacity? No. Hiring consultants based on Klout scores? No. Grading college students based on Klout scores? No. The problem is not that some companies know how to use it well. The problem is that there are way too many lazy people out there who just want a score instead of doing their homework.

          @markwschaefer@kdpaine

    • says

      @markwschaefer …because in the history of psychology, politics, sociology and marketing, “infliuence” of any type has never been quanitifed before.”

      I would disagree with this statement for the simple reason of names:

      – Malcolm X

      – Gandhi

      – Martin Luther King

      – Emeline Pankhurst

      – Rosy Parks

      These are just a few that created a measurable change in society and the world was different because of it. And they didn’t need a Klout score to influence people to make that change.

      The real success metric (if we’re talking abut marketing) is how many new sales versus investment come from Perks. Of course people are going to talk about something when it’s given for free.

      But how many new sales and customers were achieved? Because that’s marketing; anything else is CRM.

      • markwschaefer says

        @DannyBrown

        I absolutely agree with your points. The names you mentioned had an amazing impact on society. But how influential am I about cars or movies? That is the type of influence that won’t make the newspapers or the history books but it is interesting to marketers. To the extent that those niche influencers could be effectively discovered and engaged, it would be useful to marketers, right? And if we could connect these influencer conversations to dollars, that would be pretty cool. Can Klout do that? It remains to be seen — they have a LONG way to go — but the early results from companies I talked to are pretty interesting. With the way the technology is moving, I think the probability this will happen is likely. My humble opinion.

        • says

          @markwschaefer If the information is correct and trustworthy, it becomes interesting.

          While it can still be gamed and present wrong expertise, it’s dangerous. Something Klout may be trying to address, but until it’s fixed, their system continues to be a metric that companies need to be very careful in using.

  23. MZazeela says

    Danny,

    The best statement I have heard “a fun little statistic” is the way I would characterize Klout. I find it especially funny that folks are getting so upset over a drop in their scores.

    Amazing how we can place such value on something relatively meaningless. This proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that value is in the eyes of the beholder.

    Cheers,Marc

    • says

      @MZazeela I never fails to amaze me how some folks will grasp at any chance of “stardom”, even if that stardom is via a system that creates sheep experts who know nothing about sheep… 😉

      Cheers, sir!

    • says

      @ysekand Hi Yousaf,

      Thanks, will check out the posts (had a quick look at the one where you suggest how to get a high Klout score, just goes to show how easy it is to be gamed).

      • ysekand says

        Yes, I have tested for a weeks now and it works. Basically if you read my previous posts you will find that all Klout does is measure the level of activity.

        Joe Fernandez tries to justify it in the comments section but let’s face it being very active doesn’t indicate influence. A troll is active, should (s)he be called an influencer!?

  24. says

    I want to bring something key here. Most businesses are clueless about Klout. This really is just a marketing/pr industry metric. I doubt 98% of business people are aware of it. It’s that bubble we live in. With only 10-15 mil US people using Twitter each day, what percent are business people? And I am hard pressed to view Facebook users as aware of Klout since 80% of accounts are 100% private and this not being mined for data.

    I agree with the post here. But I doubt many folks are using this stuff yet. And seriously how many businesses need ONLINE INFLUENCE? Does the head R&D engineer working for Ford on their next generation engine need or care about Klout? Or the Pharmaceutical Sales Rep?

    Consumers businesses hoping for CHEAP exposure and Media Companies obviously care. Marketing/Advertising/PR only where CHEAP is important. If I have money I pay for a real Spokesperson or TV commercials. Why risk hit or miss like Ragu with @cc_champman ? If you want impact and you need it now Klout is no help.

    As for consultants and such any company, or person who chooses one based on Klout or Peer Index and just that are total idiots, and not a company I want to work with. Best in class businesses and business people might see a score and investigate more, but they are not relying on it.

    And lastly to some of the comments in the post. If all you have as a source of your business is Klout you are in trouble If you don’t have a good enough game to get business on your own without Klout you are in trouble. My opinion but I am sure many will agree.

    • says

      @HowieSPM Hey there Howie,

      Klout uses 13 platforms. THIRTEEN. Out of literally thousands worldwide. So calling yourself the “standard for influence” is an immediate misnomer, and devalues the metrics you’re using.

      But, like you say, this social media thing is still a very small bubble in the grand scheme of things, despite what many of the loudest shouters will tell you. My gran sure as hell isn’t influenced by Pop Chip offers… 😉

  25. says

    I agree very much with this article and the comments. I especially don’t see how businesses are trying to use a Klout score as basis to hiring someone… I high doubt a potential client of mine would ever say “Well, we have these impressive numbers from your previous clients and the SEO/Social Media services you’ve done for them… But your Klout score isn’t that high so we’ll have to move on…”

    Don’t see that happening! I really don’t like how I didn’t know I had a Klout until someone told me I did…

  26. RichBecker says

    Danny,

    I find myself growing more concerned about Klout, especially in the way some people use it. The real advent of social media is that it allowed people to connect, especially those who would not otherwise connect.

    With scoring systems like Klout, which is taken more seriously than I ever imagined it would be, it disrupts those early benefits by reinforcing a new tier of elitism and disconnect. This is especially true with the new algorithm because engaging with people who have lower scores can lower a score. (Not that I care, but some people do).

    I know most people dismiss is outright, and I certainly wish I could. But the truth is that this service is being applied in the worst possible way by a growing number of people. I’ve read articles of otherwise respectable companies that do look at Klout scores for hiring purposes. I’ve seen people (people we know) alter their network accounts to earn better scores by ignoring people with lower scores or unfollowing them outright. And just yesterday, learned about a professor who bases a portion of his students’ grade on their Klout score. This wasn’t just a random professor or story. It was in the Wall Street Journal.

    I’ve never been a fan of Klout, but mostly because it overreaches in selling its own relevance. But lately, it has become much harder to not think of the system (not the people who work there) as truly evil in how it elevates vanity. This really presents a problem for me because, on one hand, I’m not really an anti-anything kind of person. But on the other, this does have some tangible and negative ramifications because it dehumanizes people. When I look at how Klout it used, I always get the feeling at this is a great wrongness that needs to be keep in check or could be adopting in any number of ways I’ve mentioned above.

    Thanks for continuing to cover it. I often have mixed feelings about whether or not I want to risk giving them more exposure.

    All my best,

    Rich

    • says

      @RichBecker Sweet Lord, seriously, mate? A professor grades based on Klout? How screwed up is that?

      You nailed it with the dehumanization of the online (and, to a degree, offline) populace, mate. By encouraging people to only connect with “influencers”, as decreed by Klout and their screwy algorithm, we’re essentially creating the equivalent of the Aryan nation dream from 60 years ago.

      Sad times indeed.

  27. says

    Hi Bob

    What a great read – read it from start to finish.

    I’m new to social media but I did stumble on Klout and wondered what it was all about.

    Not been involved for long enough to notice any change in my score but I will be interested to see what happens in the future.

  28. kdpaine says

    Rich is correct. According to WOMMA, 90% of influence stil happens off line, which gets measured in very different ways. I think one of the problems with Klout is that it makes it so easy to poke holes in it. When it tells me that I’m influential on the topic of “Syria” you just have to laugh. When I get nervous is when people think that I am therefore qualified to work in the State Department.

    • says

      @kdpaine Hehe, you do have to smile at their topics. 😉

      That’s the thing – they measure very limited metrics when you think about it. So to call yourself “the standard for influence” is pushing it. A bit.

    • says

      @kdpaine I’m supposedly influential about tea and Scotland. Thing is, I don’t drink tea and have never been to Scotland. I’m guessing my “influence” came from a couple of tweet exchanges between myself and someone I met who lives in Scotland. So, @DannyBrown if you need to know anything about your homeland, I’m the guy to ask… according to Klout.

  29. rdfrench says

    Klout’s failings go beyond merely the limited number of channels / platforms they monitor. You cannot, with algorithms alone, realistically evaluate “influence” … you can barely evaluate anything beyond traffic and clicks. That leaves out all the nuances of what was said on (and off) line about the topic. It leaves out context. It leaves out intention. It leaves out so much, it cannot be a true indicator of one’s influence on the behaviour of others. If anything, we’re talking about the influence over the behaviour of clicking a button on a mouse. Sans context, this means little to nothing.

    Who is vetting all this traffic? Are they (Klout) solely relying upon their algorithms to come to their conclusions? establish their rankings? No one. You will get better results from monitoring and analytical software like Radian6 or other services. Those take work. Too many want to rest their heads on a simple tool that requires no work. The assertion that ‘because people believe it is important, it is’ does not wash in this instance. They might believe it is fertilizer, but it is still BS.

    • says

      @rdfrench The secrecy behind the algorithm is a sticking point, mate, as is the very limited metrics they use.

      Like you say, offline is still more influential than online. My wife and son (and soon-to-arrive daughter) are my influencers, and they have no idea about Klout or this little social media bubble we play in.

      So where does Klout stand on them? 😉

  30. jenzings says

    AMEN. That free, third-party tool is being used to base strategy or other metrics is insane, much less one with so many holes in it. It’s a somewhat-useful data point, but really? Selecting employees or consultants based on this, and not their track records?

    People have just gotten too d*mn lazy for their own good if they are using Klout as that kind of a shortcut.

    • says

      @jenzings It kinda reminds me of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, Jen – we know it’s not really there but we still chase the dream of quick riches. Some just chase it more seriously than others… 😉

  31. EdwardBGreen says

    I blogged about Klout too today. http://www.future-shape-of-church.org/?e=75

    The Klout score is now far more tied into Facebook, which many of us don’t use professionally in the same way as Twitter or LinkedIn. Indeed for clergy Facebook is becoming a hindrance as content you create, comment on, share or have shared with you can be confused. I finally backed off from Facebook when a vulnerable congregation member’s rogue app posted on my wall ‘Is xxxx thinking about kissing Edward’

    Today on Klout I found my dropped score eclipsed by friends who post pictures of kittens on Facebook every 10 minutes.

    The shark has been jumped.

      • EdwardBGreen says

        @DannyBrown we have already seen spotify partner with Facebook which I am evaluating. But I have suspicions that klout is looking for a closer relationship with Facebook long term as you suggest. Twitter users will probably move on the TweetLevel or other metrics.

  32. says

    I have used Klout scores as a sort of directional indicator of someone’s so-called ‘influence.’ It was never the be-all, end-all, but one indicator of many. After reading this post, and the comments below, I am rethinking this approach and eliminating the Klout column from all future blogger spreadsheets.

  33. KevinMGreen says

    Brilliant! Klout is moving from an “influence” game to a marketing enablement service. Attract the masses to talk about brands and products and then sell services to those brands and products to reach the masses. The Perk program and the +K program are a way of elevating people so it’s easier to find the right audience. With the ability to add your own topic to Klout coming in November, it’s clear that the value of the product has swung from trying to be a credible measure of influence to a model that connects brands with the loudest voices in social networks.

  34. FernandoFonseca says

    @DannyBrown I just wrote this post that might interest you and your readers

    ” How to get Klout to delete your profile permanently” that can be found here:

    http://thezargon.org/googleplus/2011/10/how-to-get-klout-to-delete-your-profile-permanently/

    I have enforced this and my Klout profile no longer exists.

    I hope this post helps all of those that don’t want Klout to exploit their personal data, and privacy, for its own financial gain.

    All of this would not be necessary if Klout would enforce a opt-out feature or make the service opt-in.

    • says

      @FernandoFonseca Cheers, Fernando, been sharing your post across the networks. I’m looking into other international privacy laws re. the same idea.

      Like you say, wouldn’t be an issue if Klout “played fair”.

      Cheers, mate, and have a great weekend!

  35. says

    Suppose you’re applying for a job and your prospective employer finds your Facebook profile.

    Assuming 1) you choose to have search engines index your profile, 2) you and this boss have a mutual friend, and 3) your privacy settings enable friends of friends to see your photos, what’s to stop this person from finding a photo of you in a compromising position — and to reject your job application on that merit alone?

    I’ve heard such stories… so why wouldn’t a Klout score be used the same way?

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