Klout Myth Busters: Thoughts From the Experts

I have heard so many crazy things about Klout and I am seeing the same myths repeated over and over again. So, I asked some of the leaders in our industry some questions related to the Klout myths I see often. I highly suggest that those that are doing SEO, social media and also those looking to hire an employee to run social media read the following Q&A closely.

Rand Fishkin@randfish

Should people be concerned with their Klout score? If so, why?

Probably not, unless you’re very interested in receiving Klout “Perks” from the vendors who participate in that program. Your Klout score is unlikely to have an impact in any areas of your digital marketing, and it’s not yet perceived by the industry to be reliable or accurate.

In your opinion does Klout have any impact on rankings?

I assume we’re talking about rankings in Google/Bing’s search results, in which case, no, definitely not.

Can you manipulate the Klout system?

Yeah, absolutely. One common methodology is to have a large number of @reply conversations with others on Twitter, which appears to inflate the scores. Another is to simply add followers (somewhat regardless of quality/authenticity/relevance).

Should employers in our industry be concerned with Klout scores of potential employees?

They most certainly should not. If a potential employee is applying for a social marketing position, it’s great to see their social profiles, review the types of content they share, whom they interact with, and the stats around followers/fans/etc. But using a scoring system like Klout is as nonsensical as using a website’s Alexa score to measure their success with building traffic.

Have any thoughts on styles or scores?

I really like what FollowerWonk has done in this space, giving more transparency around a score that uses simple metrics. Scores can be useful when they have great mathematical correlations to things you care about (for example, if Compete/Alexa/Quantcast/etc scores correlated well to actual traffic, which they sadly don’t) or when they provide a simple way of thinking about several stats in unision (for example, Followers divided by Following on Twitter to give a sense of how much of your following is authentic vs. merely gained through follow-back gaming).

Be honest, how often do you check your Klout score?

Every 2-3 weeks. I’m curious about what they’re up to and have been tremendously impressed with their brand adoption and marketing, so I’m definitely interested in their product updates as they occur.

Danny Sullivan@dannysullivan

I’m not a big fan of Klout. I have an account. Occasionally, I go in to take a look, maybe once per month, usually if there’s been some type of particular news about it. I literally have no idea what my score is right now, or whether it has gone up or down in the past days or weeks.

When I have poked around, I’ve seen a few features that might be useful if you were trying to identify people with potential reach. I can certainly get that some people might like it as a way to gauge if they’re doing better on social media or not. But it just hasn’t been one of the tools I’ve used or particularly liked.

I probably dislike it mainly because I generally dislike things that seem to be about proving “who you are” rather than just getting out there and actually being who you are, if that makes sense. Most of what I hear about Klout tends to be people I see on Twitter bitching about their scores on Klout having gone down.

That doesn’t speak well for the service, I hate to say – but there it is.

If I’m trying to assess how well I feel my social media efforts are going, I’m looking at stats from the services themselves. Are followers increasing? Do those seem to be real followers, rather than spam accounts. Do I find that things shared get retweeted, liked and +1’ed? Do those links drive traffic back to my site?

Those are metrics that matter to me. And if I was looking to hire someone, and I wanted them in part because of their social media connections, then I’d be looking at their accounts directly and what they do on them, rather than taking a Klout score. That’s more work, but that’s also because it’s a better way to assess, I’d say.

Marty Weintraub@aimClear

Should people be concerned with their Klout score? If so, why?

Klout is a naive measurement that takes a 3 dimensional universe of influence and reduces it to a one dimensional snapshot. Like all other algorithmic people-scoring utilities, it only works as a very general indication of a person’s importance in the social media universe.

First, there are no empirical algorithms. Sure, “Influence” can be reduced to rebroadcast quotients, quantity of influential associates expressed in layers by degrees of separation, but there are a huge holes in that perspective.

Life can not be expressed as math. Many highly effective circles in real life are smal,l and “Influential” means a lot more than online. Say a user has a low Klout score, but carries him or herself with a lot of class. The 1,245 followers is indicative of the size of the niche’ the user hangs out in, say a philanthropic community in a small Midwestern community. The user follows back about 1,000 others and is not rebroadcast in high quantity, because the circle is small and a very insider group.

What about if a small amount of networking causes three (count em’ three) users to attend a charitable function surrounding mental health for children? What if two of those users donate $150,000 each, where the funds go to service mentally ill children? What if ONE life is saved? How many hundreds or even thousands of lives are deeply affected. What if that person saved is Steve Jobs? Tell me how the hell KLOUT measures the influence of that!

The reality is that “influence” is so much more than math and there are variables that a program like Klout could never track.  What was the Klout score (or an equivalent measure in Facebook), before the transient groundswell, of the person who caused the Arab Spring uprising, in comparison to Chris Brogan or Mari Smith? What if a subtle saying in a destination marketing Twitter feed, otherwise barely influential on average, causes a single business to consider moving a high tech company to a regional economy. What if a cancer survivor catches one inspiring tweet from someone who has minuscule Klout influence. Really?  Considered in such a light, obsession with Klout Score, while perhaps mathematical best practices, is rather trivial. Klout is just one puzzle piece, and over simplified at that.

In your opinion does Klout have any impact on rankings?

Whether Klout, the tool, itself has impact on rankings does not matter. The concept of algorithmic influence-scoring certainly does impact…even it it’s just to remove spam.  Google has it’s own Klout style tools, as does Bing. So does Facebook. My guess is that Klout’s scoring is less robust than Google’s, by far.

Can you manipulate the Klout system?

Melissa Fach

Melissa Fach

Melissa is the owner of SEO Aware, LLC. She is a consultant and trainer helping companies make the most of their content marketing and SEO. She specializes is the Psychology behind blogging and content marketing. Melissa is also an associate on the Community team at Moz, an associate and writer at CopyPress and an editor at Authority Labs. She is a self-proclaimed Star Wars and Internet geek and volunteers with big cats at BigCatHabitat.org.
Melissa Fach

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10 thoughts on “Klout Myth Busters: Thoughts From the Experts

  1. From @NotKlout: Klout is fun and entertaining, and should be viewed that way. It is really a measure of people’s ability to get their friends to say they are influential. Real influence is something different. “Klout Perks” incentivize users to artificially manipulate their scores. Klout needs to explain how they can be considered reliable if users can inflate their scores by more than 100% in just a matter of days. It was Sun-Tzu who said, “”Keep your friends close and your enemies closer” Historians now believe this may actually have been his way of cheating his Klout score. Cheers from NYC.

  2. Melissa,

    Great article! I’ve been waiting to hear from a panel of experts on Klout, and what a great group of experts you got!

    I get asked about Klout often and now i have the perfect resource to send them to. Also this gives me some ammo to use against my friends whose scores are always beating me because they are obviously cheating.

  3. Excellent article. I think Rand nails it: “using a scoring system like Klout is as nonsensical as using a website’s Alexa score to measure their success with building traffic”.

  4. I really like Marty’s explanation! My favorite line “Life cannot be expressed as math.” This is so true! I know Klout to be faulty because of my experience with Facebook birthdays. On my birthday, I had over 100 something people write on my wall- my Klout score jumped about +5. “Happy Birthdays” do not measure and shouldn’t be calculated as influence in my world!

    Thanks for the interesting article, Melissa!

  5. Klout states that an average score is 20 to 30, this gives a 10 point swing on scoring.
    I’m a numbers guy and enjoying having something to compare things to.
    Looking at the scores below, the following people obviously have influence across the web

    Rand Fishkin – 71
    Danny Sullivan -86
    Marty Weintraub – 51
    Timothy Carter – 61
    Selena Narayanasamy – 53
    Jordan Kasteler – 57
    Benjamin Beck – 53

    If a person shared with me that they are social and they do influence others and had a current Klout score of 10 to 20 I could make an opinion on if I should believe them or not.

    In no way do I believe Klout is an exact science, but it does show some consistencies if you use the 10 point swing.
    I do like the Joe Fernandez story and why he decided to created it.

  6. I think it’s important to some degree, but it’s not the end-all-be-all. It’s just one factor in many when evaluating a leader, follower, business partner, or other type of relationship that starts in the social media space. — I’m running a survey that will close this week about it actually if you want to answer it — Just look on my blog (linked on my name) and it should be the top post for now.

  7. I think one of the scariest things about Klout is that it’s not an opt-in service. If you have a Twitter account, you have a Klout score, and you don’t have a choice about it. There’s a rumor going around that you can now cancel klout, maybe that’s one of the myths this article should have touched on?

  8. I’ve noticed that Klout has been having problems with Facebook in the last few days – I don’t know whether that speaks to a technical issue or whether Facebook is now playing hardball with them in some way…

    I think it’s also worth pointing out that in many cases Klout doesn’t take into account your most important asset – your blog/website. Unless you’re on a free platform you can’t add your own site (and who, if they’re serious, doesn’t have their own domain these days) so any comments etc that aren’t shared to Twitter, Facebook, or given a Google +1 simply don’t exist as far as Klout is concerned. Neither do the hundreds or thousands of articles that you’ve written, the mainstream publishers that reproduce your content and so on, and so on.

    Regarding Selena’s comment in the article, I’m influential about cars – I haven’t driven one since moving to London 20 years ago, and I haven’t watched Top Gear or any motor-racing events in almost as long…