What Is Klout And Why Do We Care? Or Do We?




Seth Stevenson’s April 24th post on Wired.com got a lot people talking about Kloutagain. “What is Klout and why do we care?” they wondered, their words flying across the social networks and microblogs of the web. Stevenson’s post started by telling the story of a guy interviewing for a VP position in a Toronto marketing agency who lost out to another candidate with a higher Klout score.

What is Klout?

What is a Klout score? What does your Klout score mean? Not so surprisingly, even after multitudes of blog posts and Twitter comments, video clips and traditional media mentions, most of the world doesn’t yet know what Klout is, what their Klout score means, or why they should care.

Klout is an online personal influence measurement tool. Using proprietary algorithms, Klout calculates the value of your participation in social networks, like Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and Foursquare, and awards you a numerical score based on your activity. Klout scores range from 0 -100 with 100 being the most influential. The average score is 20. Scores above 50 rank in the 95th percentile.

Marketers, public relations professionals and customer service teams are using Klout, and other personal influence measurement tools, to quickly and easily identify people who are considered highly influential. Some public relations firms are using Klout scores as part of their crisis management planning. Human resource departments are beginning to factor a job candidate’s personal influence score as part of the hiring process. The tool can act as shortcut in finding influential people online–if they are active in social networks.

Klout also contracts with brands to run campaigns targeting influencers and offering Klout Perks, free stuff designed to excite the influencer and encourage online word of mouth activity. Klout perks vary depending on the brand’s campaign objective and desired user demographics.

Klout has inspired both praise and passionate criticism.

Well known marketer and blogger, Mark Schaefer, has written Return on Influence, a book devoted to the topic of measuring online influence. He speaks highly of the tool and sees it as the preeminent online influence measurement tool. The Klout website showcases successful campaigns run by Audi and Disney and includes Nike, Virgin America, Subway and Fox as among brands leveraging the Klout Perks feature.

The four year old company has been taken to task for privacy issues, marketing to minors, creating false profiles, secrecy about the algorithms used to create Klout scores and the ease with which the system can be gamed. Whether your Klout score accurately reflects your ability to influence others has been challenged, as has the fact that Klout scores change from day to day depending on the level of your social network activity.

Each of these concerns are valid and some of them prompted a mass exodus from Klout last year, with thousands deleting their Klout profiles in protest.

So why do we care about Klout? Because it isn’t going away.

For better or for worse, Klout is here to stay and is evolving to meet new market demands. Klout is just one of a growing number of online influence measurement tools. Other tools to measure personal influence online include PeerIndex, Kred, MlBast, Traakr, Tweetlevel and TunkRank and more. Understanding the trends of influence measurement and influence marketing is important for marketing and public relations professionals today. You need to be able to identify and build relationships with influencers for your business or clients. You have to know which tools are most useful for discovering and measuring influence. You must understand the difference between Personal Influence and Contextual Influence – and why it matters.

Need more information?

Tonia Reis, of the Realtime Report, an online resource for people managing social, mobile and realtime business, has published The Realtime Report’s Guide to Influence Measurement Tools. This 59 page report is packed with valuable information that will help you get up to speed quickly and provide a framework to understand the larger picture of influence measurement and the tools that are being developed to address growing demand. The Realtime Report’s Guide to Influence Measurement Tools is available for free download right now (I bought mine!) so get your copy quickly. You’ll find it an invaluable resource.
Looking for a giggle in the influence measurement department? Visit Klouchebag.com and run your Twitter ID to determine your level of “asshattery”. According to site developer, Tom Scott, the site uses a proprietary algorithm to measure how much of an asshat you are on Twitter using the ARSE rating system. Anger: profanity and rage. Retweets: “please RT”s, no or constant retweeting, and old-style. Social Apps: every useless checkin on foursquare or its horrible brethren. And English Usage: if you use EXCLAMATION MARKS OMG!!! or no capitals at all, this’ll be quite high.

I scored 44. I guess I retweet too much and use too many exclamation points. Note to self…

And your Klout score? Well, it doesn’t hurt to know what yours is, but I wouldn’t spend too much time worrying about it. You’ve got bigger fish to fry. For now.

Still looking for information about Klout? Watch the WSJ video below. H/t to Ike Pigott for including the video in his post about Klout.



  1. Thanks for this Allen. Serves as a great first read for those just hearing about it.

    I will say that my beef with Klout was very different than the privacy or child issues, but it’s one that will likely resonate. Short answer: Klout marketed to a friend of mine that I had won a perk — but I was later told I was ineligible. We have a word or two for that, and the FTC will want to watch that sort of thing closely.

    And to this day, no one from Klout has apologized to either me or Joe.

    •  @Ike wow – first time I’ve heard a story like that, Ike. It’s pretty amazing that a company with that level of funding can get away with so many slip-ups…

    •  @Ike I saw that in your post and wanted to work it in but I was already at like 2K words…that’s unfortunate, Ike. Hard to believe they haven’t reached out. In the old days they used to and quickly (course I’ve had a Klout profile since before electricity almost).

      •  @allenmireles Allen, at the time I wrote that, the rest of the PR-blogoscene was all up in arms about the creation of Klout profiles for juveniles. I agree, that’s bad too, but I don’t know that anyone else ever bothered documenting the smoking gun I did. It was a colossal transgression — and apparently my Klout score isn’t high enough to rate an apology from Joe Fernandez.
        (I have intentionally NOT deleted my profile, because I don’t want them to come back later and claim I made anything up.)

  2. brandcowboy says:

    I worry sometimes that people in the social media world are so desperate to believe in Klout that they’re blind to its problems. It is, in fact, worse than flawed. It is, in fact, worse than no influence measurement at all, and all the more so because it seems objective and scientific. Two things:
    1) Its assignment of influence is wildly, dangerously inaccurate. 
    2) Its for-revenue product is not influence data, but social media audience aggregation. 
    So, it doesn’t work, and it has a vested interest. Come on, guys. Yes, we need a way to measure influence, but this isn’t it. This is fraudulent, and I’m coming to actively mistrust anyone who defends it as either having a vested interest themselves, or as not really understanding the commercial importance of measurement of any kind. I say we keep looking. 

    •  @brandcowboy I think you make entirely valid points here, especially in the mention of a vested interest in the for-revenue product. My intent here was not to defend Klout but to explain it for those who are as yet unfamiliar. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I appreciate the input.

    •  @brandcowboy great points.  The only disagreement I have:  the problem is not that Klout is inaccurate, but that people completely mis-understand what it is that it’s actually measuring.  They call it “influence.”  The truth is, Klout is a measure of specific activities on specific social media networks.  If you want to know who spends a lot of time on Twitter and Facebook, and has content that is shared and responded to, then Klout will give you as good a measure as any.  Does that mean this person has any specific influence that’s relative to your given topic or market?  No idea.
      Your #2 point, however, is even more important.  The audience is the product.  And, for Klout to be successful, they need the audience to buy into the game.  So far, they’ve been pretty successful with that, haven’t they?  :-)

      • brandcowboy says:

         @tonia_ries I guess what I mean by the first point is this: Klout claims that I have influence on topics about which I know absolutely nothing and that imply communities of which I am absolutely not a part. Lots of people have this experience, and it can be comical. It could also be harmless, except… except they’re selling that ‘influence’  to advertisers in the form of a supposed audience vertical. At that point, claiming that I am influential about cats or lacrosse because I used those words in Twitter posts for one reason or another starts to feel like misrepresentation when, as you so well put it, “the audience is the product.” I think the measurement of participation and interaction could be a useful tool, but the implication that this can be qualified as ‘influence’ is a problem. 

        •  @brandcowboy  @tonia_ries I see your point here. I know we often laugh about adding foolish terms to someone’s Klout as a joke, and yet, selling random terms as spheres of influence isn’t funny. Thanks for pointing this out.

  3. AdeshSaxena says:

    Nice information thanks for sharing


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