What your Klout Scores really means

An attempt at redefining the concept of influence

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I am currently in the middle of doing some research around digital influence and consumer behaviour when Wired’s What a Klout Score Really Means conveniently popped in my stream, giving me the opportunity to develop my thinking.

I was horrified to find out about Sam Fiorella not getting the job he went for on the basis of his Klout score despite having 15 years marketing experience. It’s not something that would happen in the UK.  in hindsight our relationship with social media as a nation, is very different from that in the US.

Let’s all get out of our bubble for a sec and take a look at the real (non-digital) world around us.  We, as a nation, are a lot less active in social media than our American counterparts. In fact most of my offline friends (i.e. my non-digital marketers friends) hardly use Facebook.

I remember walking into a random pub in New York a couple of years ago, and started talking Twitter strategy with the landlord; this would never happen in the UK! The bottom line is that we are a lot less active and influenced by social media than our American friends. And we, marketers, maybe care less about Klout and influence as a result.

The excellent Influencers documentary which came out last year, offers a number of interesting definitions of influence. My favourite definition, and arguably the most relevant when it comes to defining online influence, is by Sky Gellatly:

Influence is  someone who’s respected and whose opinion is very valued. 


From watching the video in full, it’s quite clear that there are different types of influence, and as such services such as Klout or PeerIndex will never be able to evaluate these different types of influence with an algorithm. There will always be a human element involved in understanding whether a Tweet was retweeted because the content was interesting, or whether the Tweet was retweeted because it genuinely had an impact on the person and swayed their opinion.

When Klout’s algo was originally created in 2007, Fernandez was onto something:  building an algorithm that measured who sparked the most subsequent online actions. However social media has evolved, and an action no longer means influence. We are Retweets and Likes junkies, even  for the least digitally-savvy amongst us.

What Klout does an OK job at, however, is measuring interests and areas of expertise (primarily) through lists. Perhaps this terminology should be more widely adopted moving forward?