Why Klout is Really and Truly Valuable

41 Comments 10.26.11

Social media scoring system Klout did a big refresh tonight and it is clearly broken because it said I am less influential than it said I was before. But is it worthless? Is this a meaningless arbitrary number that deserves nothing but mockery? No.

Alexia Tsotsis posted a funny video and a harsh critique at TechCrunch tonight and she said, essentially: Klout is worth nothing, nobody cares.

I disagree.

I’ve certainly got critiques of Klout, but I think the service’s value is important to recognize, too.

My comment, in response:

I use the Klout browser plug-in to help when I’m scanning down a large set of Twitter users in my browser as one of several methods to make sure I don’t miss someone that was not known to me before but was known to and respected by the many more people on the web than myself. In other words: “We all have an inherent sense of who is influential” is a statement that only makes sense if you keep looking at the same people all the time or assume that you already know everyone influential.

I suppose I could get a good feel for how influential a person I do not know, from a place I’ve never been, is if I took 30 to 180 seconds to make that evaluation manually (who can’t judge another person quickly these days?) but if you’re looking at hundreds or thousands of people then Klout can be a useful tool.

For example, see below a Twitter search for the hashtag #occupysf, with the Klout browser plug-in turned on. Scanning down these four accounts Tweeting the term, the numbers tell me that the first and fourth accounts are less weighty than the second and third. If I stopped and looked closer you know what I’d see?

I’d see that the first is a Sarah Palin satire account that almost no one pays attention to and the fourth is a political rabble rouser with little traction on Twitter either. The second and the third are documentary film makers who have built audiences for themselves online. I stopped to find that out, but I didn’t have to thanks to Klout. When I’m in a hurry and there are lots of twitter accounts to evaluate fast – I can scan down those numbers and see who’s got a history on Twitter and online, and who doesn’t. I don’t know any of these people, but some of them have a greater demonstrated history of contributing content that’s appreciated by their communities than other accounts have. Is that the be-all-end all metric? No. Is it a useful tool? Yes. Klout is great for quick judgements and fast sorting of a bulk of people online in lightweight circomstances.

All social networks assign scores to the accounts inside them, Klout just surfaces those as its central value proposition.


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  • http://www.freddestin.com Fred Destin

    We need a way to navigate influence. She’s right on the score (I don’t think she quite said Klout is worth nothing, she was attacking the concept of perpetuating the A list), you’re right overall. The Klout API is unique and valuable. So is PeerIndex.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=505017627 Anonymous

    Excellent post. I am a Klout fan & their perks are lovely :)

  • http://crowdbooster.com/ Ricky Yean

    We’re definitely supporters of Klout here.

    Marshall, on Crowdbooster, we’ve integrated with Klout so that whenever someone with a high Klout follows you, you get notified via our dashboard right away with an opportunity to engage them right there and then. We think that’s pretty cool and we’re looking to take it a couple steps further. If you’re interested, give it a try!

  • http://readwriteweb.com Marshall Kirkpatrick

    Thanks for your comment Fred. Perhaps I misunderstood Alexia’s comment but I’m not so sure. And yes I agree, navigating influence is an important and interesting problem to solve.

  • http://readwriteweb.com Marshall Kirkpatrick

    I think the perks stuff is bunk, myself.

  • @jimbojoyce

    Spot on Marshall, bottomline it’s a useful imperfect measure. For me personally it really helped understand the very confusing question of who might be important to me or my businesses on twitter

  • Helenannegregory

    I totally agree and am a big fan of klout!

  • http://philgo20.com/ philgo20

    I’ve thought PeerIndex was a superior metric (especially their topic metric) for quite some time but they now seems to be lacking the capability of indexing as many profiles as frequently as Klout…

    Interesting to follow

  • http://www.mysocialagency.com/ Muhammad Uzair

    I love/d Klout but i don’t really understand how it works. My score has been dropping from 68 constantly and now with the new changes, its at 39. How do we engage with our audience for our Klout to rise?

  • http://www.mysocialagency.com/ Muhammad Uzair

    I love crowdbooster. Good job guys.

  • http://www.commun.it SharelOmer

    Hi @Marshallk,

    Thanks for this post, indeed, Klout help us to get another view of a problem we all share on Twitter.. the lack of structure which is the power of Twitter make us sometime to miss someone that was not known to us before :)

    The main issue with Klout is that it’s relative to the world, not to you… so for you one person is an influancer where to other he is not… and it’s keep changing by the second as your twitter community grow…

    If i have 100 mentions now, and i want to know who from this 100 ppl matter to ME the most… it’s hard…

    Hope it make sense…

    Have a great day and thanks again form making us think about how we can better build relationship on Twitter :) my personal passion :)

    Thanks,
    @SharelOmer

  • http://twitter.com/Thinkbirth Carolyn Hastie

    Thanks for this post. I had no idea what Klout was. I was sent a score, but was mystified. Now I can go explore and with your suggestions, see what the site reveals. Thanks again.

  • http://twitter.com/loyals Imran Jafri
  • http://how2startup.com/ Roy Rodenstein

    Hi Marshall, definitely agree there is value in measuring influence. My view is that “overall” influence is too broad, though. We started SocMetrics to measure *vertical* influence- the same person may be highly influential in Biotech, and totally irrelevant in Photography.

    Would love to show you a quick demo and get your thoughts- socmetrics.com

  • Anonymous

    Sorry Marshall but when I have a higher Klout score than Chris Pirillo – you know there is something seriously wrong with the scoring!

    I sure hope that people scanning down their tweets using Klout would realize that!

  • Mary Barkley

    The correct spelling is JUDGMENT – not that I’m judging you. Thatt would be @KLOUT.

  • Jen Zingsheim

    Klout has nothing to do with influence, influence is contextual. If you’re using it to pass judgment on who you choose to interact with, that’s fine for you I suppose, and if it’s useful to you, again fine. But Klout is a measure of online activity and the ability to transmit information via social networks. That’s it.

    I will caution people until I am blue in the face about using Klout scores for business purposes such as triaging customer care issues. Just because someone has a low Klout score does NOT mean they aren’t influential. It just means they aren’t on Twitter that much. Big difference.

  • http://vanderwal.net/ vanderwal

    Klout and all others claiming influence measurement are horribly misleading people. They do not measure influence in the slightest, but measure interaction and engagement with a service, people, and occasionally are correctly offering a valuable measure related to subjects of interest when they interact / engage more heavily.

    I have run across so many organizations that have learned their lesson the hard way with Klout and other influence measurement service claims. Klout has a very small value in the way you are using it, but be heavily cautioned that it can bias people away from people who may actually have more actual influence and put a target on people who putting time, energy, and perks into that will not provide benefit back to the organization.

    Having been though semesters of social analytics in grad school (public policy) it was very easy to see first hand that measuring influence takes capturing a wide and broad array of measurements from early engagement all the way through to people taking actions as well as how those actions worked out. Klout nor any of the other influence claiming services do anything close to this. But, even with the measurements and analysis, there are so many other contributing factors that can not be measured that come into play with real influence that any algorithmic analysis is going to fall sort and most often it is much more cost effective (as well as getting much higher results) going with a broad brush approach. I have yet to run into any social researcher with analytic background that finds things different to this day.

    How you are using Klout is something that there really needs to be a solid service for. Klout’s measurements are a small step to solving the issue, but I’m not sure it is a step in the right direction or more problematic and I can’t find anybody who has the background working with this type of measurement that can sort that question out either as the results just are not there.

    Klout’s biggest fan base are those receiving perks and Klout itself gets great mileage out of that. As well the people at Klout are wonderful people and that goes a long way. But, as a service both of these are problematic when a business is depending on a service delivering what they hope is work their time, money, and energy.

  • Mleonardo

    Klout is a nice app for consumers, but near worthless for businesses and agencies.

  • http://twitter.com/TINYVOX TinyVox: Tape&Tweet

    If Dropbox is “a feature, not a product”, well, Klout is a feature, not a product.

    “I had a name, now I have a number. One two three repeater.”

  • http://DrThomasHo.com Dr. Thomas Ho

    Actually, the problem is NOT Klout. The problem is how some people OBSESS about their Klout score!

  • http://twitter.com/danyork Dan York

    Agree on finding REALLY limited value with any of the Perks stuff.

  • http://twitter.com/danyork Dan York

    I agree with you that there is *some* value in “influence metrics” that allow you to do quick and high-level sorting in situations where the stakes aren’t high… like the sorting you mention in Twitter. I get troubled when I see people start to use Klout Scores (and other similar metrics) as the ONLY way of sorting through online accounts. I guess I just know enough about the systems to know that every metric has problems and that there is no silver bullet. Definitely agree with Jen Zingsheim’s comment here.

    I’d note that with this latest change, to me Klout’s bigger issue was not that they changed the algorithm (I’m glad that they are actively working on making it better), but rather that they went back and revised the history of the scores. I wrote about that here:

    http://www.disruptiveconversations.com/2011/10/klouts-other-major-fail-violating-historial-integrityaccuracy.html

  • http://dempseymarketing.com/journal/media/ Robert Dempsey

    When a service requires that I be part of an influential clique to be seen as an influencer myself it’s time to declare shenanigans.

    Megan from Klout summed it up best in an email to Jure Kleptic (http://jureklepic.com/2011/10/27/have-you-been-put-in-klout-timeout/) when she said, “… it may be that you’re getting engagement from less influential people than on other days.”

    I find that a sad statement. My clients who have helped their clients make millions of dollars have no idea who Klout is nor do they care. Does this make them less influential to their clients? Not in the least.

    I understand the importance of being active on social media and have spoken continuously with my customers about it (and help them to do it) however because someone isn’t active on every social media site that Klout supports doesn’t mean they aren’t influential.

    Klout has a very long way to go before it should be seen as “the standard” for anyone.

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  • http://twitter.com/jasonprobert Jason Probert

    I think that Klout is fine if you are a person who is influential in the media world but for 99% of the population (forgive the Occupy Wall St ref) this doesn’t matter as I truly only care about what people think within my own social networks. I have a site called Cliqsearch.com and we care about influential people in media in order to get coverage but the greatest benefit to our consumers and businesses, products and places that are on our site is to identify those ‘normal’ people who are the biggest influencers. My friend who has been to a restaurant or used a local service such as a contractor is infinitely more valuable to me than Robert Scoble suggesting the same thing.
    I haven’t crunched the numbers but for the <1% of major influencers out there, how many people do they truly influence vs the influence that comes from their close ties in their social networks? My guess is that ultimately the opinion of the <1% doesn't influence much (lest say people such as Steve Jobs).
    Interested in your thoughts.

  • http://digicraft.com/ daveevans

    I’d like to see negative Klout. You screw me over on a deal, and you get dinged.
    Klout is hazy transparency because “You can’t handle the truth!”

  • http://twitter.com/nelson Nelson Minar

    I only talk to people with at least Klout of 40. If you’re below 30 you don’t even deserve health insurance. (In other words, reducing people to numeric scores is offensive.)

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  • http://www.siliconvalleywatcher.com/ Tom Foremski

    Marshall, yes, in your use case Klout plays a role but for the rest, it’s mostly shortcuts without insights. http://www.siliconvalleywatcher.com/mt/archives/2011/05/klout_peerindex.php

    I can increase my Klout score by Tweeting my score. How does that make me more influential? Doing actions that publicize Klout does not make me more influential but makes me a sucker. I’d deduct 50 points from anyone that does that because they just want to game it for points. If they do that, then they probably will do other things that game the system.

  • http://www.commun.it SharelOmer

    Amazing discussion via comments :) we all learn a lot from it…

    It seems we al try to find structure in our social media activities… Klout is one solution that give a very specific angle of the people you interact with… looking forward to see the completing solutions for klout :)

  • http://www.businessesGROW.com/blog Mark W Schaefer

    Klout seems to stir up a lot of emotion, and undoubtedly it always will when it reduces people to a number, but there is a fundamental trend here that many people miss. Klout is not measuring ALL influence, and it never will, but it is attempting to measure how content moves through a system and how people react to it. I’ve been studying this for a new book and have also explored how brands are using the system. Too long to include here, but a summary of the real innovation behind Klout is contained here: http://www.businessesgrow.com/2011/09/12/why-klout-matters-a-lot/

    Thanks for the great post Marshall.

  • http://crowdbooster.com/ Ricky Yean

    Thank you!

  • http://27183.myopenid.com/ Voter nom

    You’re a technology journalist?

    More like an internet asshole, amirite bro?

  • Marcus

    lol the Patriarchy has Klout. The pope has Klout, a whole lotta people still listen to him. Cops have Klout, also known as desperate need for reform. Money has Klout, if you don’t got it, you go to jail, if you do got it, you get front covers of magazines.

    Chimps have Klout. We do too. Hierarchies. Alphas.

    Hurray!!! Klout IS AWESOME!!!

  • Marcus

    Can’t see how this can go wrong, nope. lulwat?!

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