Hey Klout! I’m Kalling You Out!

If you’re into social media, you’re likely familiar with Klout.  Klout attempts to measure social influence online by analyzing True Reach (number of people you influence), Amplification (how much you influence these people), and Network Impact (the influence of your network).  Using an algorithm, their analysis assigns a score of 1 to 100, giving you the ability to compare your social influence to others.  You can also see topical areas of influence.

Having worked in market research for many years, I find their behind-the-scenes metrics and analysis fascinating.  In a way, it’s a great combination of what I enjoy professionally:  marketing + market research + data analysis + social media.  That’s why I love Klout (the occasional perks don’t hurt either!).

Recently, Klout changed their algorithm in an effort to more accurately reflect true reach.  Most people saw their Klout score drop (some significantly so).  Mine dropped, but that’s not my problem with Klout.  If you’re doing social media correctly, a Klout score shouldn’t be of much importance to most people.

While I’m not privy to their algorithm, I believe there may be a big flaw in their analysis.  LinkedIn is a major component of most people’s social media usage.  Yet, to what extent does it analyze your LinkedIn profile?  Specifically:

  1. Does Klout recognize the actual number of connections that I have, or does it just see “500+”?  There’s a big difference between having a network of 500 and having a network of 1,200!
  2. Does Klout recognize the groups I belong to and/or manage, and the frequency with which I interact in those groups?  Is it all groups (and subgroups), or just open/public groups?  Is it only groups that are displayed on my profile or all groups?
  3. Does Klout recognize Q&A interaction?
  4. Does Klout recognize interactions with comments and “likes” on updates with connections?
  5. Does Klout consider events I’ve created and the interest/attendance level indicated as well as comments and views?
I have similar questions with how Klout interacts with Facebook, given your privacy settings and those of your connections too.  Twitter is pretty open, so that seems more straight-forward.  I’m not so much concerned with what my score is, or how it’s trending.  But as someone with a 20-year career in market research, I am concerned with the accuracy of what they’re measuring.
While I don’t expect Klout to fully disclose their secret formula, depending on how they analyze LinkedIn and Facebook, all 3 components that comprise their Klout Score would be impacted.  I’ve asked them, both through a public blog comment and more than one email.  I’ll share their response if I hear from them.  Sadly, I must not have enough Klout because I’ve been waiting for nearly a month to receive an answer.  Perhaps that will be a future Perk they’ll offer.  😉 
Besides a lack of transparency, that’s not the best customer service experience.  So what are your thoughts on Klout?  Do you find their lack of transparency frustrating?

10 thoughts on “Hey Klout! I’m Kalling You Out!

  1. My score dropped significantly as well. Why I find suspicious is that Klout has become most focused on you getting more of your friends to join. It states you need to “influence” more people, and bring in more “influencers”. It just wants you to bring in more people for it’s (potential) advertisers to take part in perks and what not. It’s become a deal site. My Twitter network has grown immensely, so has my interaction and my score has gone down on Klout, that right there tells me it’s not really measure anything.

    • I tend to agree with your assessment. I’ve grown my connections on “the big 3” (Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn), have had more interaction, and added my blog site. I can see the twitter interaction using bit.ly metrics, so I know articles I share are being read and shared. All of that and it’s still a downward slope. I think the original idea behind Klout was good, and they’ll likely continue to tweak things along the way. Like all social media, they won’t be the last and competition will surely come along for them too.

  2. It seems like Klout is a pretty easy thing to “game.” You might be interested in the following article by someone who has decided to “opt-out” of Klout. And I would agree with you about a score not really mattering that much–I think in social media it’s more relevant to measure engagement, and not just followers or tweets sent.

    • That’s a good article Matt – lots of good points made in it! Thanks for sharing it here. It’ll be interesting to see if/how Klout evolves. As that author stated, Klout is a business, so they’re doing what’s best for their business, not necessarily what’s best for social media.

  3. Arthur,
    Great post and, yes, I think what Klout measures and how they measure it is a lot less that the “increased transparency” CEO Joe Fernandez promised when the changes were made. If you are interested in having some fun with this you should check out http://winatklout.com/ a site that somewhat tongue-in-cheek “shows” people how to game Klout.

    • Thank you for sharing that site Mike! It gave me a good laugh over my morning coffee. And if what they claim is true, you get rewarded for many things that don’t necessarily make you a “good citizen” in social media. It will be interesting to see what happens when competitors start to get traction.

  4. Arthur,
    I mostly agree with your post about Klout. I have a strong hunch that LinkedIn may not be as popular as you think. Sure, it is a player, but Facebook is much stronger. I was surprised myself at the usage of social networks by employers and job seekers in Jobvite’s most recent studies. Check out the demographics and stats. Pretty interesting.

    Thanks for this post!

    Hannah Morgan
    aka (careersherpa)

    • Thanks for commenting Hannah! Facebook is definitely king when it comes to social media. Their own site claims they have 800 million subscribers! LinkedIn claims 120 million, followed by Twitter which claims “100+ million active” (then fails to define “active” on their page). Google+ just passed 40 million last month.

      At the center of my question, is how do individual privacy settings, and the privacy settings of our connections, impact Klout’s ability to measure what it does? When I’ve attempted to research this question on what’s already been posted elsewhere, there’s usually tip-toeing around concrete answers (if they’ve answered). When I’ve tried to contact them privately (no response) or publicly through a blog comments (one of the blogs being their own), that too has been ignored. So, it was time to call them out!

  5. It might be useful to make a distinction between reach (Facebook, with its huge numbers) and depth (LinkedIn, with smaller numbers, but perhaps better engagement). Depending on what you are looking to accomplish, either might be more attractive–not sure.

    Measurement algorithms are interesting. At some point, any company doing the measuring will probably say “we can’t answer that” since its proprietary and knowing the algorithm would totally open up anyone to “gaming” the system.

    Thanks for this post, Arthur!

  6. Pingback: Klout Responds | Arthur Catalanello Consulting

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