Klout Myth Busters: Thoughts From the Experts

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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?

Do ya’ think? 🙂 Klout has more holes than Swiss cheese.  Klout is like negotiating a divorce with children involved; a mediocre solution to an impossible problem.

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

Sure…it’s a fine indicator of the general influence a person has on average and in transients over time. Klout is like PageRank. It’s better to have it than not have it, but who cares.

Have any thoughts on styles or scores?

The graphs are cute and pretty. I like the fancy colors.  The labels are so creative. I don’t believe in some of the algorithms behind the labels. Who cares?

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

Never personally. I really don’t care at all. I encourage clients to have a periodic look, taken with a grain of salt, as a general indicator of whether their influence is growing.

Check out Marty’s Facebook Marketing Workshop at SMX West 2012.

Timothy Carter@TimothyCarter

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

I don’t think people should be concerned with their Klout score. In the grand scheme of doing business socially, basing your social value or influence on a number is a mistake. People should be more concerned with the daily activities of targeting new people based on niche and/or interest, connect with those people. Engage in relationship building activities via DM, email, phone or in person seeking to convert them from strangers into subscribers, clients, customers, friends, partners, influencers…whatever the goal is you’ve set to reach from the social activities. That is where your focus should be

In your opinion does Klout have any impact on rankings?

Can you manipulate the Klout system?

Manipulate is a loaded word. Can you “influence” the Klout system? Sure. Provide content that is shareable, retweetable, +1-able at the optimized time of days based on the social network along with generating enough conversation all day every day within those networks can increase a score. Miss a day or two of activity and watch that “influence” drop.

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

Definitely not. Klout is far from accurate in reflecting actual influence or work performed. Better information can be found in recommendation letters from previous clients and/or former employers.

Have any thoughts on styles or scores?

One thing Klout does get right it seems is the style of influence a person has From Observer, Socializer, Broadcaster to Celebrity. There appears to be some accuracy in whatever metrics they use to determine that.

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

Every couple of weeks to see if based on my Klout-fluence has earned me any free swag worth claiming. Other than that, I don’t think too much about Klout.

Selena Narayanasamy – @selenavidya

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

Interested? Absolutely, but not fanatical. Concerned? Not at this point in time. Klout is still settling in and I’m sure there are lots of changes in store.

I’ve come across users who are fantastic to follow on Twitter- they share content that I find interesting, engaging and that is retweetable but have a lower Klout score than might be considered the “norm.” If you’re judging the quality of what you’re bringing to the table by a little number in an orange box, without considering tons of other factors about your online identity, then something isn’t right.

Users should be viewing their online/social identity as a whole rather than in chunks. We also have to remember that we’re still learning how usage of other networks affect the Klout score. Sharing and engaging on Facebook, Tumblr, Google + etc. is completely different than Twitter. So until we understand the weight that those other networds add, and how those metrics are calculated, we shouldn’t obsess too much on our personal score. I think when they have a more solid system down, it’s something I’ll give bigger credence to.

In your opinion does Klout have any impact on rankings?

As in, search engine rankings? No. Especially with how tight Google seems to be getting in regards to bundling up all its privacy/data into one neat little package and the roll out of SPYW. I can’t see them really allowing Klout to be a factor right now as a stand-alone. It’s seems like something Bing might jump on eventually, if at all.

Can you manipulate the Klout system?

Manipulate had such a bad connotation to it, but in terms of “influence” or “sculpting” I’m sure you can- both intentionally and unintentionally. Klout is generally pretty good at understanding what you are ‘influential’ in by what you share and how you interact. The problem is, those very same metrics that it’s analyzing can be influenced once someone starts to understand a little bit of how its working.

It’s like psychological questionnaires. Once you realize how you’re being scored and rated, you’ll subconsciously adapt to answering in such a way that you’re viewed as the ideal user you want to be.

There’s also the ability to give +Ks, which can easily be gamed by asking others to say you’re influential about a topic. But that’s happening with Google + also with +1s. The only difference is that you’re relatively limited in Klout as to how much +Ks you can give at any given time. That forces us to put more thought into it, because it’s an initially limited resource that gets replenished every so often. Then it allows us to be the K+ fairy again and we’re generous.

I’ve also seen Klout score jumps with users once they’re a little more active and spend some time replying to others. I think in time the algorithm will adapt so that it can predict random spurts of engagement from users and not uptick them for it, since it’s the normal for their personal behavior. I also think it’s a little easier to manipulate something that has a fast reaction time rather than a system that sculpts slowly over time. Since it’s relatively young, I’m sure it’ll get harder to influence over time as it gets smarter.

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

In general, I don’t like the idea of scores being attached to the decision of hiring an employee. The marketing space is kind of an exception because a lot (most) of those in the space are extremely active on social networks of their choice. But we also have to consider that influential or great potential employees may not have consistent social network usage because they are wrapped up in things involving real-life meetings outside of social media, team building, teaching, etc.

While a Klout score might reflect poorly on the low engagement and sharing, it doesn’t reflect on how they perform as an employee, their skills, or how they interact and work with a team. Employers should really be looking at their online presence as a whole, what their reach is, what their engagement style is, and draw their own conclusions from that. Don’t leave your decision in the hands of a number- especially when that number relies on an algo that you’ll never fully see/understand. Use your own noggins.

Some things that might be of interest to employers is what topics the potential employee is “influential” in and talk the most about, as well as their overall reach. Even though sometimes there are completely random things in the “influence” column, the topics overall are a good reflection of what that individual tends to share the most. A good example of influential topics not making sense is the fact that I’m influential about “helmets” and was influential at some point about “cookie monster”… so… there’s that.

If employers can use certain parts of Klout in a smart way it can provide some valuable information as a starting point for further research.

Have any thoughts on styles or scores?

The styles seem to be pretty spot on from what I’ve seen. I’ve noticed users being shifted around fairly quickly depending on whether they’ve been sharing more content than usual, engaged and replied to more users, retweeted more than usual, etc. I think from a brand marketing perspective, scores and styles are useful when targeting who you’d like to give “perks” to.

Higher Klout scores don’t necessarily equal influence in the way you might need it, but it’s a good starting point when coupled with “influential topics” and overall reach. The score’s algorithm still seems like it’s settling in; like I said before, you can tell when they adjust things because most user’s scores jump or decline across the board.

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

If I was capable of blushing, I would be doing it right now. Admittedly, I check my Klout score a lot- probably weekly. But only because I’m a sucker for the perks and I am slightly competitive by nature. C’mon, who DOESN’T want a coupon for a Chicago pizza coupom and a free pizza cutter.

Jordan Kasteler@JordanKasteler

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

I look at Klout like I look at PageRank. In other words, it’s something to be aware of as a general indicator but not something to focus or dwell on.

In your opinion does Klout have any impact on rankings?

No. However, it’s Google derivative AuthorRank/InflunceRank will sometime soon. I was actually scoffed by a “top SEO” for writing about InflunceRank a couple years ago before there was much of any buzz about it, but now every marketer should be aware of this concept.

Can you manipulate the Klout system?

Yes, indeed. I’ve read many articles on people who have but never thought it’d be worth my time to even try or test. Klout definitely has it’s flaws and it’ll be interesting to see how Google figures out the holes Klout hasn’t patched.

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

Depends on the job position. If it’s a social media job then it’s worth a look to see if this person has a decent social presence themselves. It should be taken with a grain of salt though and only looked at as a indicator.

Have any thoughts on styles or scores?

Scores are obviously flawed. It’s funny to look at people I know in real life and compare their scores side by side. I’ll know for a fact one person is more influential in social media than another but Klout scores speak differently.

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

The only time I check my Klout score is when I read an article about it and am reminded of it. This happens VERY rarely.

See Jordan’s Book A to Z: Social Media Marketing

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.... Read Full Bio
Melissa Fach

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  • @NotKlout

    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.

  • Benjamin Beck


    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.

    • Melissa Fach

      Thanks Ben!

  • Mike Gracen

    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”.

  • Courtney

    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!

  • Don Wiggins

    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.

  • Oscar Gonzalez

    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.

  • Brendan Delaney

    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?

  • Pete Stean

    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…

  • Michael Rurup Andersen

    So one of the take aways are that klout score is no more than a vanity score and basically should be put in the same category as PageRank?