Unpacking Klout: True Measure of Influence?

Klout-logo Klout is a San Francisco-based company that tracks influencers and their impact,
or how the network responds, through opinions, links and recommendations on Twitter, soon to integrate Facebook Connect in its calculations.

They define influence as the ability to drive people to action — "action" might be
defined as a reply, a retweet or clicking on a link. In other words, the online action possible on that network, which is not really true impact.

True impact, of course, is the ability by someone to change someone else's attitude, opinion, or behavior. The stuff that happens off line. You measure that with primary research, if you want to know. And marketers do want to know.

From a recent interview with Robert Scoble, we learned that Klout is cutting deals with companies — for example, Virgin America — that want to identify influencers for various programs. Virgin is testing flights between Toronto, San Francisco, and LA. That's how Klout is making money, by charging companies for access to data. There are about 450 companies using the Klout API at the moment.

Klout_Hootsuite If you use Hootsuite on Twitter, you may have noticed the score in your profile, for example, and that of others. It's a new feature included with the last upgrade. I circled it in red on mine.

According to the company's site, Klout measures data through user-created content, indicating influence
through interaction and size of networks.

It then tabulates a score as
its influence metric through 25 variables broken into three categories:
True Reach, Amplification and Network Scores Here's the full story for mine.

CNN Money reports that companies like Starbucks and Cover Girl have partnered with Klout to offer freebies to
users who have pull in markets they want to target

Pull is based on context

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that influence really depends. Scoble may influence my looking at an early stage technology because of his passion for and experience in the sector — he has built authority to bring those to my attention. I would not take marketing advice from him, with all due respect. 

The other part built in influence is trust. Have the actions, the experience, and connected outcomes you have of someone given you reason to trust their advice on a topic? 

When I analyzed the Twitter @ConversationAge effect, all I looked at was the pass along volume of my tweets. There are many other steps you need to look at before you call me influential. Did the people who retweeted my content read it? Did they pass it on based upon the trust they place in me as a source?

Maybe the topic also aligned with the authority people see me associated with. However, for me to claim any influence, I would need to observe off line action — a change in behavior, attitude, or opinion. Do people actually do anything with that information?

A week or so ago, I joined two affiliate programs:

1. Amazon's, because it feeds my book addiction and it makes sense from a lifestyle perspective, and

2. Chris Guillebeau's The Empire Building Kit for entrepreneurs, because I truly believe this is a great resource for the right people, trust Chris, and have experienced his authority in the Art of Non Conformity

There are things I can do to make those offers clearer to those of you who think they're appropriate for you. And I will share what I learn from participating in these programs once I have enough information to make it worth your while.

These programs are one of the ways I measure action beyond the inbound links, retweets, etc. The weekly #kaizenblog chat is another way — do the topics help bring about a change in attitude and opinion about business strategy? Does a business owner change the way they operate because of it?

Klout Score

According to Klout, I am a celebrity — a relative measure of influence that speaks to part of my online behavior and how people respond to me there. As I wrote when I published my social networks participation policy, although my overall philosophy is the same everywhere, it shows up differently in different places.

Integration of all those aspects gives you a lot more information.

As a marketer, I would need to introduce other variables and data points from observation and experience to capture context and make headway with determining appropriate outreach rather than just basing it upon Klout scores. The true measure of influence goes beyond labels, to facts.


What's your Klout score? Are you planning to use the information? How useful is it to you to learn someone's score?

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0 responses to “Unpacking Klout: True Measure of Influence?”

  1. My score? A 60. (Surprisingly, a thought leader?)
    I don’t play the Ego Metrics much (after having fun at the expense of an early version of Twitter Grader), but you’re right that Klout is different.
    I also think you’re on the mark about the lack of context inherent in all of these measuring sticks. I think we’re still in need of more breakdown in the data, to separate real influence from just transmission of information. Once we get there, we can count on the human element to bring the critical judgment required to sift the useful from the statistical artifact.

  2. Bizarre. Lout on Hootsuite gives me 62, but on their website it’s only 42. Guess I’ll go back to my hermit’s cave… 😉
    Love that you remind us it’s all in context. Does Chris Brogan matter to social media users? Probably. Plumbers? Maybe not so much. Same with Scoble, Cashmore, LaPorte and others. It’s all down to field and relevance.

  3. 37. I’m apparently a thought leader. 6-12 months ago, I was much more active and interacted more on Twitter, so I seem to recall my score being higher, but I can’t for the life of me say what it was.
    In a general sense, I like Klout’s approach to this, but I have a hard time putting much stock in measurement’s that are not completely transparent. Klout has a decent approach, but if someone was to ask me why their influence score or generosity or whatever else went up or down, I might find myself wondering if I could adequately explain. They’ve got a golden opportunity though with the whole influencer identification track.

  4. Very interesting to see Virgin America exploring this as a way to track influencers. I would love to hear how other brands are using it too. Nice post. Thanks.

  5. Your timing is impeccable! I was looking at my profile on HootSuite and saw this Klout number and wondered what it was all about.
    Just for the record, I’m at 35 which seems to make me a persona. This may be useful internally so you can see if you’re meeting your social media goals. For me, it shows I have some work to do.
    Your points about context adds to this. Does Klout measure if people post your information (blog posts, presentations, products, etc.)if there is no direct tie-in to you?

  6. I like the idea and see that the measurement factors Klout describes to be very important,valuable indicators of good social media policy but Im seeing some pretty glaring discrepancies from some really high Klout scores coming from people who seem so banal, so self absorbed and so devoid of influence that i wonder whats going on. Theres a difference between a popularity contest and truly impactful,helpful influence. Kinda Like some twit like Kim Kardassian may have an audience to watch her vapid life but no-one is going to be remotely influenced or have their life improved or impacted by such a boob.
    for me, Klout score seems more a measure of self centeredness than impact.
    One more thing for the “look at me look at me” crowd to brag about that means zilch if I met them in my neighborhood.

  7. @DannyBrown – Click on “refresh my Klout score” on the bottom when you log into your Klout profile, and that might fix that.
    @Valeria – First off, congrats on being a celebrity! Wow!
    My Klout score is 57. Apparently I am a specialist, which kind of does describe the way I use twitter. Very message focused.
    I suppose that any brand or company who is aware what is happening on blogs/online in terms of articles and content about them, will know who the influencers are that relate to their product or industry. Starbucks doesn’t need a number next to my name to know exactly who I am. LOL.
    On the other hand, the numbers may falsely slightly elevate or depress a person’s future Klout?? I suppose people using hootsuite might think, wow “Valeria is a Celebrity, so I should be following her” even if they have no idea what kind of content her tweets have. She may gain followers based on that, which then elevates her Klout score in the future. ?? It just seems like having a score could affect the score. On the other hand, someone with a very low Klout score might find new followers deterred from him or her where otherwise would be followed. Just a thought. Not even sure it makes sense.
    Sorry for many typos!

  8. @Ike – ego metrics, nice! Well, these companies and scores come and go. The direction here is promising. Getting under the hood would be helpful. I can see you a thought leader, me a celebrity? Hmmm, an interesting association.
    @Danny – do they have caves in your neck of the woods? 😀 There is some sexiness associated with some people. However, to quote myself, the messenger isn’t the message indeed.
    @Eric – let’s say a big part of the measurement relies on content, the terms and expressions you use. Well, that doesn’t begin to assess intent, does it? On could take the content of others and stream it all day, play nice with folks, pretend to like them, and all along climb on their backs, so to speak. Imperfect ratios would create imperfect scores.
    @Jason – being that they are signing up companies, we may see more posts and articles about those.
    @Elli – really good insight on the lack of ties and influence. I won’t address it here, as I have doing more further thinking on influence overall. For you, I saw activist… Maybe the site is not stable?
    @Foodie – well, yes. It ties it to Twitter because that’s where the information the tool leverages connects.
    @Bryan – you’re making my point about context. Indeed, there needs to be more to tie activity to results.
    @Melody – there is a bit of that in every aspect of life, isn’t there? Think back to the kids in school. I had two blonds in my class in high school. They were the darlings of every teacher, because they were blond among a sea of brunettes. Did they get favored because they were blond, or did their smarts reflect on their good looks? Which reminds me, we should find out if they included avatar looks in Klout calculations.

  9. From what i understand Klout only looks at Twitter, correct? Online influence is certainly much more than Twitter and Elli is spot on with his mention of the @dalailama. Blogging influence is certainly a much stronger measure of influence as everyone’s twitter stream if full of noise vs blogging. The company who will manage to pull the entire digital footprint of individuals under an aggregate algo may get a shot at measuring true influence.

  10. It’s an interesting metric, if only as a conversation starter.
    Why do we care, though? Isn’t it rewarding enough to meet new and interesting people, to collaborate and exchange ideas in near real time?
    I signed up for Klout, let it connect to my Twitter and Facebook, and was presented with a score of 40, ranking 70th percentile in all categories. Upon reading the comments above, I saw that the score can be updated by clicking the link bottom right. Doing so *instantly* took me to a score of 15 and 30th percentiles across the board.
    And there’s the disconnect. Klout still says that I’m an activist looking to connect people with my big idea (although I disagree that Twitter is the perfect medium to do so or that it’s MY idea and not OURS), but such a drastic swing suggests they either don’t have the bugs worked out yet or it’s more social media smoke and mirrors designed to capitalize on our desires to be popular.
    Is this a valuable metric? Does it mean anything? Who cares?
    Valeria, you will always be a celebrity in my eyes, but that has nothing to do with any third party, Magic 8-ball metric. It’s because you consistently share quality information and encourage conversation around consistently valuable topics. You also consistently interact with your readers – however small some of us might be – and make them feel like equals.
    Why focus on some (beg your pardon) bullshit metric when you could be focusing on friends, readers, customers, partners? It’s a novel distraction, but I think it’s a distraction nonetheless.

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