The Problem with Klout as a Measure of Influence

Klout has quickly become the standard measure of social media influence. Bloggers and other social media “experts” are finding that their Klout scores are being used to determine everything from job opportunities to hospitality perks. On Tuesday, Huffington Post blogger @2morrowknight revealed he was rejected after an agency looked up his Klout score. Hotels and clubs in Las Vegas also admit to using Klout scores when putting together VIP lists.

Klout provides a score that is supposedly indicative of a Twitter and/or Facebook user’s influence across their social media networks. The score is calculated via an algorithm that takes into account factors such as Twitter retweets, @messages, follows, list inclusions, comments on Facebook, and Facebook likes. While these specific factors are used to determine “network influence”, Klout also looks at “True Reach” and “Amplification Probability ” to determine the size of a users’ engaged audience and “the likelihood that a users’ content will be acted upon”, respectively. Together, network influence, true reach and the amplification probability determine the Klout score, which is the “overall online influence.”

Klout has finally admitted that users’ profiles may not be accurate, causing discrepancies in everything from profile information to the “achievements” which directly impact the Klout score. In an email exchange with Klout representative Ashley, she conceded that “[t]here are a number of reasons that cause discrepancies and Klout is working very hard to fix them.” Users may see some profiles that underestimate a users’ actual unique mentions, retweets, retweeters, or list inclusions – just to name a few of the factors. The Klout algorithm also considers influencers, and within some Klout profiles this information is completely missing, or severely out of date. Prior to contacting Klout, I lacked “achievements” for retweets, mentions, and lists, as well as a module for other users I influence. Even after Klout recently manually recalculated my profile, I am considered an influencer of Twitter users of only those I have not engaged with in several months – and I am still lacking “achievements” such as list inclusions and reach. It’s not like I need a Klout score to validate my existence, but if this is the metric against which we are being judged, someone needs to call out the inaccuracy of the measuring stick.

In November 2010, Klout switched their application to automatically reprocess each profile daily, removing the function that allowed users to push for a manual update.  But when my Klout profile was clearly out of date by several weeks, and was lacking pertinent information crucial to the algorithm, I began to question the accuracy of any Klout score. As of this writing, the Klout profile of fellow girl geek @sarahaustin, who covers the industry for Forbes, has over 3,000 followers and is listed on over 200 lists, does not include any achievements or influence. As a result, Sarah’s score, compared to her actual influence in the industry, is shockingly low.

Klout scores always seem arbitrary, but when obvious information is missing or understated, how valid is the entire concept?

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Kelly Clay, author of Blog Without Boundaries, is a freelance writer and lifestyle advisor.