13 Experts Chime In on Klout’s New Algorithm to Determine Social Influence

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Social influence matters to businesses. After all, the promise of influencer marketing that engaging with those who have “influence” in social media can help to more effectively sell more products or quickly gain significantly more brand awareness is the holy grail that any business would want to chase.  As more users join and spend more time on the various social media websites, and as more companies ramp up their social media marketing budgets, we can only assume that social media influencer outreach campaigns will increase. That’s why whenever the most famous of the platforms measuring social media influence, Klout, announce any changes to their scoring algorithm, it is big news to both companies as well as power social media users.  This post, however, is not about looking at Klout from a consumer perspective but from a corporate perspective. In fact, it started with a question I received from Windmill Networking’s own contributor on Social Media Influence, Raymond Morin:

Are these new Klout Score changes really upgrading the influence marketing science, or just [trying to promote] sponsors with perks?

Let’s first get the social media user perspective about the changes out of the way. I am in complete agreement with how Jason Falls, author of No Bullshit Social Media and founder of Social Media Explorer, concisely put it:

Klout is a nice way of looking at influence but not the only way and dangerous if it’s all you care about. Changes in its algorithm are worth monitoring, but not worth getting worked up over. If you do, you’re putting too much emphasis on it. ~ @JasonFalls

But what about companies? If your active social media account starts to get more tweets and posts than you can respond to, how do you prioritize when you respond to who? What about Customer Service? Everyone wants to avoid the type of situation that @Dooce made famous in the early days of Twitter. Do these new Klout scoring algorithm changes mean that this is a metric that can now be trusted throughout the enterprise and used as the sole metric to determine social media influence and thus help in segmenting social media users? As Monsieur Morin asked, has the science of influencer marketing really been upgraded by this change?

Because Klout and social media influence is such an important topic, and upon Raymond’s excellent suggestion, I asked many people who I know and look up to as being authorities in social media and/or have influenced my own views of social media and influence to chime in on the subject. As you read through them, I am confident that you’ll get a comprehensive view of the challenges that Klout has, the positives (and negatives!) about the new scoring algorithm, and even the future of how we might go about measuring influence. [Note: Selective boldface was added by me to emphasize points, not the individuals being interviewed.]

Let’s first chat with Jeremiah Owyang, a true social media thought leader and Partner in the leading social media think tank, the Altimeter Group:

Klout is already used by some large brands to segment customer influence. Klout is available in systems like Radian6, Genesys, and browser extensions so customer agents and marketing managers can segment those that have more brand impact vs those that don’t. To continually refine this, Klout has changed the scoring to reflect offline influence. Considering that pure social media followers can be gamed, and engagement can easily be gamed, Klouts new moves to tie in other sources of data are an improvement. With this said, Klout must continue to foster ‘relative influence’ on the specific influence in a topic, not just broad ‘absolute influence’ that assigns only a universal single number. Competitors like PeerIndex and Awareness Networks have focused on relative influence, providing brands with a more meaningful number — although Klout has started to already become an industry number many rely on.

The bottom line: Klout’s new changes show continued maturity in tracking influence, but the savvy user knows that relative influence by specific topic is more accurate than any single number. ~ @jowyang

Jeremiah suggests a shortfall in Klout’s metric in the creation a single universal number to measure influence on everything. The person who actually has the highest Klout score of everyone I interviewed, self-proclaimed “Social Media Change Activist” Jure Klepic is more critical of the shortfall in the way that Klout measures influence:

Klout don’t measure influence. Influence is power to sway. So in order to measure influence, Klout should measure behavioral changes or actions that change behavior. Instead Klout measure only “brand” awareness. Number of Tweets, Retweets, shares, likes, comments, recommendations and so on are only indicators of increased awareness. Klout is hyped because of its personal delivery of Maslow’s highest state of self-actualization — building YOURSELF. Klout, Kred and others aren’t influencing anything but ego of people. ~ @jkcallas

We find more criticism about the Klout scoring algorithm when we start to look at the social media channels that it seems to emphasize in its scoring. Mark Schaefer, author of Return on Influence, gave a great review of the new Klout algorithm. Here’s some excerpts from that post, in which after praising that Klout deserves credit for listening to their critics with regards to making the right moves in terms of privacy and transparency, they are sill missing the mark on the actual scoring algorithm:

By quadrupling the inputs to personal scores, the scope of their influence assessment far surpasses any rival. But it also adds substantially to the complexity of the algorithm and creates opportunities for things to go wrong. The changes will not significantly impact the fact that a Klout score will still be weighed more toward Twitter- and Facebook-centric activities.

At the end of the day, Klout, Kred, and PeerIndex only measure one thing: Can a person create content on the social web that gets shared and elicits a reaction? That of course is a legitimate source of power on the web today in this Era of the Citizen Influencer where everyone can publish and have a voice. But after several years of effort, Klout is still missing out on a real gold mine of online influence — blogs and YouTube videos. These are the forums where rich content is created, discussed, and shared. Today, Klout scores are impacted only by activity on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Google+, Klout, and Wikipedia. You can also connect YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr, Blogger, WordPress, Lastfm and flickr, but they don’t compute in your score. ~ @markwschaefer

Mark’s comment opened up an interesting discussion: Which social media channels should be prioritized to analyze social media influence? Jay Baer, co-author of The NOW Revolution, suggests that perhaps the future of influencer marketing analytics might become more channel-specific:

I like where Klout is headed in terms of adding transparency with their Moments feed. But I’m most interested in their new pie chart that shows what social channels account for your influence. In my case, Twitter is responsible for 49% of my influence; Facebook is responsible for 40%, and LInkedin represents 5%. Klout says I can drive more behavior on Twitter than i can on Linkedin. This is true, and I can look at my Buffer and Argyle Social stats to prove it. This is an important acknowledgement from Klout (who of course have always possessed this data, but didn’t show it), because nobody has evenly distributed influence. Nobody. Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, a blog, YouTube or any other corral, everyone has places where they are more connected and more capable of moving the behavioral needle. Sometimes this is evolutionary, stemming from how and why and when you joined/embraced a particular network. Other times it’s by choice, as with Chris Brogan publicly eschewing Linkedin and Facebook in favor of Google + and Twitter alone (which is one of the reasons I now have a higher Klout score than Chris, which of course does not reflect reality). Because influence varies by channel, I wonder if the future of influencer analytics isn’t with the single score from Klout (and Kred) but with channel-specific data from Plexus Engine, Peek AnalyticsPinfluencer and others? ~ @jaybaer

Jay Baer wasn’t the only one who found interest in the potential that the Moments feed – and analyzing influence by channel – can hold for the social media marketer. Leading social media strategist and the unofficial Queen of Facebook, Mari Smith, chimed in on the potential for Klout analytics to help our content marketing:

Measuring influence accurately — and influencer marketing — will only continue to grow over the coming months and years. Much as I take the various scores out there with a pinch of salt, I’m actually glad to see Klout increasing its’ scoring variables from 100 to 400+. The more components that go into making up an overall influence score the better (Kred is doing a great job with this). I look forward to Moments being active across all Klout profiles; this seems akin to Facebook’s Insights and Google+’s Ripples or services like Crowdbooster.com. Being able to tell exactly what posts resonates best with which of your social channels can certainly help improve content marketing. ~ @MariSmith

While there is agreement about some of the positive steps forward made by Klout, there is still general dissent as to whether measuring influence can ever be an accurate science or not. Deirdre Breakenridge, author of Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional, reminds us of the limit that any “score” will have on someone’s ability to truly influence action:

It appears Klout is moving in the right direction with the ability to analyze over 400 different types of “signals” to determine real world influence, online and offline. I still challenge one main question regarding the well known Klout score. Can you really uncover certain characteristics such as trust, passion and motivation that cause people to react or behave a certain way? Influence is about action and behavior; it’s different for everyone and it comes all shapes and sizes. We have to remember that Klout is a number and one score (even if it’s made up of more signals) can only tell so much about someone’s ability to steer behavior in a desired direction. ~ @dbreakenridge

Marcy Massura, Digital Strategist & Influencer Counsel for Weber Shandwick, also questions whether or not Klout is simply a tool to measure someone’s online usage and following – and nothing more.

Klout has always done one thing extremely well, and that is measure online activity. Not necessarily the quality of that activity…but rather the volume and frequency itself. The concept of ‘measuring’ influence is fairly hysterical to most people (a bit like having a measurement tool for charm or charisma), so no matter how many tweaks or changes to their algorithm they make- they are never going to be accurately assessing the power of someone’s word to their followers. As I recall they have made at least 3 other ‘adjustments’ to their formula since launching, and each time seems to do little for accuracy. For instance this last update says to include ‘offline influential factors like book authorship’. Which again SOUNDS good, but does the fact that someone claims to have written a book REALLY make them more influential? I do actually love Klout – as a very quick way to establish someone’s online usage and following. But beyond that – we are all bit silly to think it represents anything more. ~ @marcymassura

Windmill Networking’s own Social Media Influence contributor Raymond Morin was even more critical of Klout’s changes, likening them to an imitation of the approach taken by one of their competitors, Kred:

Imitating is not innovating. The changes in Klout’s algorithms, and the new features they announced, were supposed to be innovative, and helping us to get more complete and relevant measures of our social media influence. In fact, these four new features and metrics look very similar to what Kred already proposed. Is Klout trying to imitate what it considers to be the differentiator of one of its principal competitors just to gain more users? Or are they just trying to achieve more efficiency for their perks programs they developed with their client brands? The Moments feature wants to help us to determinate what makes a user’s social score rise (or fall), but will it enable us to know precisely what are the metrics that build this “Hall of Fame of content creation?” Now, they cover 90 days of social media activities to establish the Klout Score, but will it be relevant enough to tell more about real influence? And, they pretend that they will introduce new metrics of real-life influence by adding signals from Wikipedia and LinkedIn, as by scoring the +K received by users. Klout explained that they now filter more than 400 different metrics to determinate the Klout Score, but we still don’t know which ones. If you already use Kred, you’ll recognize that all those changes are very complimentary to Kred’s own metrics.

So, do Klout’s changes add value in the new science of social media marketing? Personally, I don’t think so, and they are certainly not an innovation. And, the fact that Justin Bieber is no longer the most influential social media user on Klout, replaced by Barack Obama (oh surprise!), will not make me change how I view Klout as a measure of social media influence. ~ @RaymondMorinV2

I wanted to get an even broader perspective of how experts view the Klout changes, so I went outside of the marketing realm to ask Windmill Networking contributor on Social Media & Public Relations, Judy Gombita, how she felt about the new algorithm from a corporate PR perspective:

Personally, I’m agnostic to Klout-style influence. From a corporate perspective, I’d be hard pressed to think of a public relations benefit (“reputation, value and relationship building”) to highlighting an employee’s high Klout score (even in the C-suite). Likely that would induce smirks in the majority of sectors (or media). From the marketing department’s perspective, I suppose its influence marketing science improved, as Klout increased ranking factors (from around 100 to 400). For example, if your company makes use of Mom Bloggers in its outreach, it wouldn’t hurt to know they have an increased external profile beyond Twitter or Facebook. (An example would be bloggers or subject experts featured in the Monetizing Mommy-hood radio doc.) I tend to doubt many Klout influencers that focus on the social side of things (in-house, agency or consultant) would have a Wikipedia page, though. If a lot of them do, I’d be worried about the declining influence of Wikipedia!

At Social Media Week Toronto or Brainrider-sponsored #torontob2b (case studies) meetups, I look to people doing innovative offline work in social businesses, not to online chatterers. After all, per Philip Sheldrake, “You have been influenced when you think in a way you wouldn’t otherwise have thought or do something you wouldn’t otherwise have done.” Ergo, if Klout is looking to better promote sponsorships with companies and/or perks to its top-ranked influencers, I would remain lukewarm to participating from a PR perspective as a social business. ~ @jgombita

At the end of the day, did anything change? Despite the “huge” change promised by Klout, some experts I interviewed didn’t see their scores change at all. Here’s what blog marketing expert Kristi Hines had to say:

Last year in September, before Klout made the major update that resulted in a lot of people’s scores dropping, I had a score of 73.26. Fast forward to almost a year later, after the most recent change, and I have a 73.42. It’s hard to believe that with the addition of 7,000 followers on Twitter and the integration of activity from Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and other networks that my “influence” would change so slightly over the course of a year. It is nice that they have added some insight into what goes into their scoring. Of course, I think they should take a look at Facebook page likes & interaction vs. profile friends & subscribers as well as blog engagement to really get a better scope of someone’s overall influence. ~ @Kikolani

My own conclusion? Influence will never be able to measured accurately by any one algorithm, and perhaps this explains why every change in Klout’s algorithm is met with fanfare but little seems to change, as Kristi Hines found out. In fact, the need to repeatedly make major changes to the algorithm -and then announce them with some fanfare – remind us of the challenge that any measurement platform has.  I still feel that, as Marcy Massura suggested, that Klout is one measure of online activity, and as a social media marketer any tool that helps us to segment out social media users online activity is a welcome addition to our social media marketing toolkit.

The problem is, as co-author of the brand new book Solving the Social Media Puzzle, Kathryn Rose, reminds us, that it’s unfortunate that many brands don’t look beyond the singular scoring number:

Whether we like it or not, influence scoring models are here to stay and Klout at least is answering some of their critics by expanding the data points of their rating system. By expanding to include sites outside of traditional social media i.e. Wikipedia, and using the number of inbound links, they are attempting to even the playing field.

The idea that a company can measure something as subjective as influence is a bit absurd to me but the fact is, potential clients, journalists and some retail outlets actually use it to decide which person to hire, interview or even allow in the door! Is Klout a marketing company disguised as a measurement tool? Perhaps, but they are offering a sought after service to brands much like Nielsen which rates the number of viewers a TV show gets. Klout sells access to members they deem influential, and Nielsen sells its research. It is unfortunate, however, when brands don’t look behind the score. Like with any measurement tool for social media, there are no absolutes. Just because someone has a high Klout score doesn’t mean they’re necessarily engaged or influential. Klout is just another tool in the toolbox and can be used to build relationships but should not be used as the only measure of one’s influence. ~ @katkrose

Another Windmill Networking contributor, Lilach Bullock, who’s Secondary Customers: Talkers, Influencers and Social Media Power Users post is a must read to help distinguish between true influencers and mere social media power users, ends our roundtable interview on this note:

What a relief that Klout have finally realised that influence isn’t only about vanity numbers game. The change in Klout algorithms is welcomed because as they say they it now incorporates four times as many variables including balancing real world influence with your cyber Klout. My own Klout has gone up as a result which is nice; but let’s just wait and see if it makes a real difference in measuring how influential a person is rather than simply just raising the bar for everyone. ~ @LilachBullock http://www.socialable.co.uk

At the end of the day, I would simply repeat exactly what I blogged last year after Klout’s previous algorithm change in The Final Word on Klout?, which I think still applies today:

At the end of the day, market economics will determine the success of Klout. Will brands feel that the new algorithm is better? Will those that they choose to be “influential” because of their Klout score “deliver” what they were looking for? One brand that I am working with realized that they did not even need to use Klout scores to determine potential influencers and merely reached out to a few people that they considered “influencers” and asked for their recommendations as to who had social influence in a particular sphere.

Perhaps some of the competition, such as PeerIndex and Kred, will look at this as an opportunity to gain influence (pun intended) with their services.

For social media marketers, having a selection of various metrics to choose from in measuring social media influence can only be a welcome addition to our toolbox. Just as brands will have to determine if they feel the new Klout algorithm is a step forward or not, we social media marketers will also need to determine which metrics we feel best justify “influence” or at least help us in our analysis of social media users. ~ @nealschaffer

And, as I ended that post, I will do the same here: I still expect continued debate on this subject of social media influence and Klout, here and on Twitter, so here’s your chance: What’s your take of the latest algorithm changes?

This is the first in a series of social meda roundtable posts featuring experts on a variety of issues that are vital for the successful business use of social media. If you would like to be considered for inclusion in future posts, please contact Neal.

About the Author:

Neal Schaffer, Founder and Editor-In-Chief

The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professional strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer
The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professional strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer
#smss2014

Comments

  1. malharbarai says

    Great article Neal!!

    I agree with Jure, that mere brand awareness cannot be treated as a measure of influence and I do have big reservations on the scores, since they are easy to be gamed.

    Loved the views of others!! Thanks for sharing, substantiates my view that Klout scores is just a ‘game’

  2. says

    Great article, Neal! I also agree with Jure: behavior can’t be measured unless you are able to visually assess what the person’s intentions were. As we have witnessed with the latest controversy of the Like button on Facebook, no one knows what someone’s intentions may be when they click this button. Therefore, behavior is difficult to measure.

    Same can be said with sharing content (i.e., this blog post) throughout your network. You could assume I enjoyed the article and wanted to share it with those in my network and help them stay aware, or you could assume I shared it simply to help give you exposure as a colleague and friend. At the end of the day, I am the only one who knows my behavior.

    Influence can be somewhat measured based on content sharing. When content (i.e., this blog post) is shared, it is given exposure to other networks it might not have had the chance to find – what I call the Ripple Effect. What I would like to see is a solid measurement of what happened as a result of that sharing: did you buy the product or service, did the article inspire you to write one of your own, did the information help you in a 1-2-1 client meeting?

    • says

      Thank YOU Mari – this post would not have been the same without your expert input! On controversial topics, it really does help to get the broader perspective – and help everyone find a particular POV that resonates with them. Looking forward to doing more of these in the future!

  3. says

    I agree with you, Mari Smith. What Neal Schaffer did not indicate in his post was that none of us had prior access to what the others would be saying (at least the answers that weren’t pulled from existing blog posts).

    In retrospect, given the calibre of answers provided, I think I would have been more nervous about articulating my opinion if I’d had a sense in advance of the great commentary (and areas I hadn’t considered) about how the final post would read. :-)

    Quite the mammoth task for Neal to compile and then also comment on each and every response, too.

    • says

      Thanks for the compliment Judy, and you’re very welcome. First of all, I need to thank Raymond Morin for the idea, but I didn’t want to make this a mere compilation – in that case, what is my own value-add as a blogger? That’s why I approached everyone individually asking the same question without letting them know that I was talking to others – just as if we were having a conversation offline. I felt that would add to a natural conversation. Then, it’s as if I came back from an event where I met you all, internalized your comments, and then wrote a summary which I could send to my clients. That was the thought process – and I look forward to doing more of these social media roundtables, especially on “controversial” topics, in the future!

    • says

      Judy, When doing a compilation piece like this, it’s great when it’s clear that each responder is speaking in their own voice, not influenced by the other responders.  I always appreciate your comments because you have a definitive POV and don’t mince words.  Glad to know you.

      • says

        Thanks, Susan. By not “mincing” words I suppose you are referring to my use of “smirk” in the answer. Keep in mind that much of my working life was in-house in the financial and education sectors. The CFO (professional accountant) is going to be much more interested in how correctly he projected growth in revenue for the next year or how well she did investing the company assets (during the continued economic downturn), than how much he or she cares about a personal “Klout score.”

        I have to say that I think “social influence” platforms are ones that appeal the most–by far–to marketers. At its heart it is ego-driven, so I can see how well it plays into marketing campaigns.

        Forbes just named German Chancellor Angela Merkel as the most powerful woman in the world for the second year in a row on its annual list (followed by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and then Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff–you have to love these strong female politicians!). Anyhow, before entering politics, Chancellor Merkel was a research scientist. Forbes named her #1 and noted her “resolve in preserving the European Union and her INFLUENCE over the euro zone’s ongoing debt crisis.”

        I just checked her Klout score: it’s 55. Somehow I don’t think the Chancellor would care…..

  4. says

    It is so refreshing to read a post that seeks to ground the discussion of ‘social influence’ from the marketing/brand perspective versus from the individual perspective (although many of the responses don’t seem to focus on brands.)  In my job, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with many of the key players in the ‘social influence’ sphere.  No surprise:  The heart of the discussion on this subject surrounds data/ analytics. Marketers are approached by numerous agencies and platforms daily with similar sounding pitches.  I believe that the players with the most robust and highly regarded data will ultimately win and we will quickly see a consolidation where the leaders break out from the pack (e.g., Buddy Media bought by Salesforce, Wildfire bought by Google.)  As it relates specifically to Klout, I think their new algorithm is a definite step in the right direction for individuals and also for brands seeking insight. For the many large brands that use Radian6, Klout gets a big credibility boost from its extension association. Is Klout perfect? Of course not. But nothing is and most large brand marketers are smart enough to understand that. Is Klout the only game in town?  Of course not, but they are the one to beat.

    Neal, I liked the consolidation approach. I did something similar for a work post where Kred, Conde Nast, Unruly Media and Disqus each provided their perspective on the subject of ‘social influence’ as a key component of the paid, owned and earned media mix. If you didn’t see it, here’s the link: http://bit.ly/SsZiYn

  5. says

    Thank you so much for the comment Susan! I actually used Twitter DM to ask others to contribute, so I couldn’t go into too much detail as to the perspective I was looking for, but I think that most understood it was from a corporate perspective, even if they did talk about their own score as an example of the accuracy of the algorithm.

    Regardless of what we all think about Klout, I believe it is early days for companies truly using Big Data to analyze and engage, especially with regards to influencer marketing, so I think you are bang on with your analysis of the importance of Big Data and why other social media companies have been bought out by large enterprises because of it.

    As for the consolidation approach, glad to see that we have similar minds ;-) Thanks for sharing the link!

    • says

      The perspective on this post is how businesses should look at the Klout score. As you say, there are definitely many who try to “game” the system – but not everyone! And whether we like it or not, businesses are looking for ways to segment social media users, so I don’t think the concept of a “Klout” score is going away anytime soon…

  6. says

    Thanks for the comment Lisa – and sorry that your comment somehow got into my Disqus spam filter! #boohiss

    All of what you say is well said. There can never be any algorithm that can perfectly measure all of that. It doesn’t mean that businesses won’t continue to invest money to try to perfect one – and businesses will keep looking for ways to better segment social media users. We can only hope that brands use these numbers as one small metric in a gigantic holistic approach to understand what “influences” people.

  7. says

    Neal:

    I agree with Raymond that new Klout is largely and imitation of Kred, not innovation. (I wrote a post about it on servicecocreation.com)

    Some of the imitation of Kred by Klout, such as more data and transparency is good. But including Wikipedia and +K in the measure makes a dubious measure even murkier. I suspect it will be some other firm that ultimately comes up with a useful influence measure.

    - Gary

    • says

      Thanks for chiming in, Gary, and I agree with your assessment. When I met the CEO of Kred in London, he was talking about how social media users and brands wanted transparency in scoring, and that that was one of their main missions. Clearly this revision by Klout is in response to the emergence of Klout as a competitor.

  8. says

    What has been missed in the entire discussion is how Klout actually works. It relies on the programming APIs provided by the social media platforms to access people’s profiles to measure their social media influence. The problem is that these APIs are designed to facilitate the sharing of information between social media platforms and third party developers. They were not designed to provide social media profiles in a way that can be quantified and measured.

    The fact that Klout is heavily biased towards Facebook and Twitter activity has more to do with the maturity of these social media platform’s APIs as opposed to their importance in the social media ecosystem. Klout is and probably will be for quite some time a hack. They are attempting to use the social media APIs in ways that they were not designed for.

    For now Klout offers limited paternalistic explanations for how the ranking system works and one is left with the impression the Klout algorithm  is more voodoo magic then actual science. I think if the Klout score is to be taken seriously it will need to be totally transparent with how it scores and accesses social media profiles.

    I understand that Klout may view these scoring algorithms as a trade secret/work in progress and perhaps they worry that social media platforms may change their APIs if they knew how they were being used but if Klout is to be taken seriously it needs greater transparency. I think Klout is protecting their scoring algorithms because for the most part they are mostly hacks and voodoo magic.

    The accountability firestorm that could be potentially launched if they were to be opened up I think one that Klout is not prepared to answer at this stage in its young career. Klout asks for our co-operation and openness so it can assess our social media presence. I think it is only fair that we get the same back.

    • says

      Todd – You bring up an excellent point. You can only analyze what the platforms provide you, right? That’s why I think most of these algorithm have always been biased towards Twitter because you can extract the most information from there. On the other hand, LinkedIn has always been conservative as to what information they give out, and even Facebook has had to walk the line of valuing its users privacy.

      It would be interesting to see if young companies like Klout could handle it if all of these platforms suddenly doubled or tripled the amount of APIs they were willing to allow 3rd parties to access.

      You almost begin to wonder when a “big player” will come in and buy out Klout, Kred, or PeerIndex…

      • says

        If there is any company that is in a position to collect, analyse and present data from across multiple networks it is Google. Since Google is trying hard to get into social media I would not be surprised if they get into social network scoring with a heavy bias towards the Google+ platform.  

    • says

      I do like what you have to say,  @twitter-17150586:disqus . Even though I’m Klout agnostic, personally, it does annoy me that Klout keeps telling me that my score will improve if I add in my Facebook account, as I’ve opted to not have one. 

      I don’t want to be scored or defined on whether or not I have/include a Facebook account!

  9. Socialplanetmarketing says

    The majority of the social networks that Klout uses to measure influence will be gone in 10 years, so Klout will always be chasing after the wind. Klout will never come close to attaining an accurate view of a person’s true influence.

  10. says

    The most interesting part of this whole debate is what the philosophers would call an ontological issue: just what is The Thing Called Klout that Klout purports to measure?

    Since I’ve been working in trust definition and metrics for over a decade now, some of the debate sounds very familiar.  Trust, like influence, is a concept that simply has to be understood contextually. Are you talking about trusting, being trusted, or the end result of that interaction?  Are you talking about credibility, reliability, or a sense of intimacy? Is it behavioral, or intentional? What are the trade-offs of using reputation vs. behavioral data?

    I’m with those who emphasize the relative metrics. Influence on Twitter OR Pinterest is more meaningful than influence on Twitter AND Pinterest. 

    Similarly, I’m with those who emphasize data over methodology, and behavior over testimonials. Anytime you can show people who have been influenced, you have data on effect, and can infer cause; if you’re only working with cause, the assumption of effect is a lot weaker. 

    Finally, I think Judy Gombita is on to something when she says (I’m paraphrasing) that Klout’s value lies more in marketing than in PR.  I may want to market to people with high Klout; but for me to claim that I have high Klout doesn’t impress anyone. Similarly, I want to do business with people that I trust; but proclaiming to others that I am trustworthy just sounds contradictory, as in “humility is my best quality.”

    And more shall be revealed, I’m sure. 

    • says

      Charles, thank you so much for adding your perspective to this conversation. You bring up some thought-provoking issues that un-peel a new layer in our understanding of whether or not we can ever calculate such a metric as well as what value that metric might not have after all. As you say, more shall be revealed, but at the least I hope this opens up the eyes of businesses who simply want to use the metric at face value…

    • says

      Thanks for the positive feedback, Charles. I may make use of your “humility is my best quality” quote down the road! Maybe I should give you a Klout point in humility, in fact. :-)

    • says

      I also wanted to indicate Charles that I appreciate the fact that you recognize there IS a difference between public relations and marketing. It’s a constant battle I have, particularly with marketers (who dominate many of the social media channels):

      1. A recognition that it IS a separate discipline.
      2. Recognition that it is stand-alone to be most effective. By that I mean that it doesn’t occupy a small corner under The Big Marketing Tent.
      3. (To quote Sean Williams) “All marketing is communication, but not all communication [or public relations] is marketing.” Meaning that public relations remit is much wider/bigger than simply “marketing PR” and/or consumers. There are a lot of stakeholders/publics, above and beyond consumers/shareholders.

      I see Klout’s area (or effectiveness) to being limited almost entirely to marketing.

  11. says

    Excellent article – great how you sourced opinion from multiple voices of authority.  Personally, I
    could talk all day about Social Influence and the failings of the free
    tools. Klout grates me because it boasts that it is the “Standard for
    Influence” with its users at its core. We’re not at its core – we’re
    merely digital playthings for its affiliate marketing programme. Here’s
    the post I wrote on it recently – fair play to PeerIndex CEO, Azeem, in
    posting a quick comment on my piece. http://digitalmusings.net/does-social-influence-really-matter/

Trackbacks

  1. [...] While the concept of influence marketing and the importance (or lack thereof) of influencer scores such as Klout still sparks debate in many circles, the integration of social scoring into the most popular social media dashboards means that this is a topic that will continue to engage social media marketers into 2013. Fellow instructor of social media marketing at Rutgers University Mark Schaefer provides a good introduction into influence marketing, Klout, and social scoring. Additional reading: 13 Experts Chime In on Klout’s New Algorithm to Determine Social Influence. [...]

  2. [...] 89. Klout Use this tool to find out what your “Klout score” is. Connect your social networks to Klout (Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn) and then it crunches this data and gives you an overall score. There has been much controversy about Klout’s scoring and how their algorithms work, I wrote a post here about it.  They did however recently change their algorithms, another useful post which lots of experts chimed in on (including myself!) is here. [...]

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