By Joe Pulizzi published September 28, 2011

Your Klout Score: Why You Need to Care Now

Klout Score

Get ready to hear a lot more about Klout in the next few months.

What is Klout?  In basic terms, Klout measures your online influence and your ability to drive interaction on the web.

My good friend Drew McLellen wrote this excellent overview of Klout, but the power can be summed up in this paragraph:

There are a wealth of tools that count what you do. The number of tweets, how many comments your Facebook status update receives, and the quantity of thumbs up you get on your YouTube videos. But there are very few that allow us to see how the sum total of our interactions are perceived and what actions they inspire.

 That’s what Klout does…everything that you do on the web can be summed up with one little number…your Klout score.

Start Paying Attention to Your Klout Score

At the Exact Target conference a few weeks back, I had the pleasure of listening to Matt Thomson from Klout. Sometimes at events I have the terrible habit of multi-tasking during presentations.  For this one, I was intently listening.

Matt discussed the future according to Klout, and you know what, I believe him.  He gave this example:

When you check in at the Marriott after your long trip, your Klout score is immediately visible to the Marriott employee. While you may not have enough Marriott reward points to make a difference, your Klout score says that you are influential in travel, specifically hotels. You are immediately upgraded to a poolside suite AND you received a complimentary breakfast.

Matt says this is not fantasy.  That it is starting to happen now.

Klout for Business & Your Career

Although you may start to see perks within the consumer space, like travel discounts and friendlier service when you call AT&T, businesses will start using Klout for situations like:

  • Accepting speakers for an event that have a minimum Klout score.
  • Creating a short-list of candidates for a job that have a certain Klout score.
  • Invitations to be a guest blogger or published in your trade magazine because you have a higher Klout score.

Making Klout Work for You

First off, make sure you sign into Klout and work your profile by linking your Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other accounts so that Klout can see your full online influence.

Second, Klout can be a very important part of your influencer strategy. For example, if you are working  a short list of influencers, you can rank them by Klout and see which topics, related to your business, in which they are influential. Your blog commenting strategy can be dictated, in part, by using the Klout score as an indication of where you should be spending your time.

Finally, you can look at the topics in which you are influential, so see if what Klout sees matches your intentions.  If your goal as a business person is to be influential in small business marketing, but Klout doesn’t recognize that in your list of topics, then you have a bit of work to do in that area.

From a content marketing perspective, you can use Klout to tweak your content strategy.  Drew gives this great advice on that topic:

You may see yourself as a thought leader but discover that the world sees you as a dabbler or activist. Your Klout score refreshes every day – so you can experiment with different blends of content on the various social media tools to see how your new behaviors are perceived. This allows you to learn and change.

So, for now, own you account and start experimenting. Klout, like other online services, is just a tool, but businesses are starting to pay attention. So should you.

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi considers himself the poster boy for content marketing. Founder of the Content Marketing Institute, Joe evangelizes content marketing around the world through keynotes, articles, tweets and his books, Managing Content Marketing and Get Content Get Customers. Joe's latest book is Epic Content Marketing (McGraw-Hill). If you want to get on his good side, send him something orange. For more on Joe, check out his personal site or follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

Other posts by Joe Pulizzi

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    The thing that bothers me about this is that while Klout has good intentions, it is still such a young technology and imperfect science that it’s essentially creating a false sense of influence and rewarding the wrong people. All you have to do to get in the 50s or 60s is accumulate a lot of followers, which we all know can be gamed. If you put a little effort into retweets, sharing good content, you can grow big fast according to their number.

    But they don’t take into account where you publish, how many people read what you publish (outside of social networks), how influential you are offline. More importantly, they don’t measure what topics you’re influential about and present that in reasonable ways. Marriott only knows I’m influential. If I’m not influential among travelers or business executives that might use Marriott, why would they care?

    I have a considerably higher Klout score (I assume) than the Mayor of my town. If Marriott doesn’t know he’s the mayor, I get perks and he doesn’t? Does this make sense to anyone.

    I still harken back to the original argument about Klout for me. Malcolm Gladwell has a Klout score of zero because he doesn’t use social networks himself. If all of us watching our scores are more influential than him, ship me off to another planet please. This one’s screwed up.

    I applaud Klout’s work in trying to define influence. But their data set and parameters of measure are far too infantile to make a reasonable stab at this. And it will be a while before they can.

    • http://blog.junta42.com Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Jason…well, there you go blowing up my post ;)

      Of course, you are right…it’s the perception of what the Klout score means to others that counts. I do believe that Klout will have to start changing their algorithm, much like Google does every day, to account for people that can “game’ the system. Just like a few years ago, we could game a search with the right keywords and some gray-hat tactics to make our listing stick on a Google search, Klout will have to evolve. In hearing the folks from Klout talk about this, I think they know this.

      As for your Mayor analogy, your Mayor needs to be more active online. As we say in content marketing, we want our great content to be where your customers are at online. The Mayor’s customers are online, so he/she needs to be actively involved there, right?

      Keep up the great work JF!

    • http://www.engagesimply.com Judy Shapiro

      Jason – I completely agree! I questioned it this past May in this Ad Age piece” “Why Social Media is a bad measure of influence” http://adage.com/article/digitalnext/social-media-a-bad-measure-influence/227557/.

      I question how someone who has 175,000 followers and also follows that many people can be “influential”. I end that post thus:

      “In understanding influence – it’s the fundamentals of trust that marketers really need to think about. Everything else is noise. ”

      That pretty much sums it up for me…

      Judy Shapiro

  • http://www.contentmarketing.dk Joakim Ditlev

    Klout gets a lot of attention these days – and the examples you mention, Joe are not far off. Not at all.

    But as Jason reflects, the bad thing about measuring Klout scores is, that it’s based on quantity rather than quality. If real world perks starts to get common due to high Klout scores, you will see a spam-tsunami on social networks.

    Another reason why I’m not in favor of online influence services like Klout (and Peerindex for that sake), is that it’s not true to the basic social media idea. Social media is about having dialogues and building relationships. But that takes time and all Klout does is to break your networking efforts down to a number that you could achieve in less time by doing random retweets.

    Klout supports more spam-behavior on social networks and I don’t like this trend.

  • http://philbowyer.com Phil Bowyer

    Klout is entertainment.

    The problem with it is that there’s no context to it. It has no way of measuring conversations and how those influence.

    In my opinion listening to Klout is dangerous (I call Klout scores a “danger number”), and can send you in the wrong direction in how you engage.

    Gaming Klout, as Jason pointed out, is rampant. I actually heard someone talking about (in a presentation) on how to game klout… what’s the point?

    We should just focus on the people behind the numbers (klout scores, followers/friends) and forget about these useless metrics.

  • http://www.findandconvert.com/blog Bernie Borges

    Joe,
    I’m with Jason on this. I definitely applaud Klout’s intent behind their score. But, as he points out people can game it. And, his point is valid that there are many influential people that have little or no meaningful online presence like his mayor example.

    That said, your suggestions on how to track the effectiveness of your content strategy in Klout are excellent suggestions. I don’t see anyone else doing anything similar to Klout right now. So, it’s a safe bet to monitor your Klout performance. Hopefully, they’ll strengthen their algorithm to gain more credibility, which they probably know can use improvement for the reasons discussed here.

    Thanks for starting this conversation. I think it will go on for a while.

    Cheers,
    Bernie

  • http://www.kilkku.com/blog/ Ville Kilkku

    Another reason to care about Klout is that it is being used as a filter, not just by businesses, but by many people, including influencers.

    Hootsuite, for example, allows you to filter out any tweets sent by people below a Klout score that you can determine with a slider.

    To expand on the content marketing perspective, you need Klout in order to be heard at all – getting filtered out ruins all content marketing efforts.

    I recently wrote some words on Klout as part of the trends in content curation in my blog. It’s from a different point of view, yet has some relevance on content marketing and Klout’s place in it, because content curation is relevant for content marketing.

    • http://blog.junta42.com Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Ville…I like the idea of using it as a filter. It can be used as a helpful tool, not the end all be all.

  • http://www.rwenger.com Robert Wenger

    I think there’s an important difference in just caring about your Klout score and caring how well you actually know your subject. If you are knowledgeable about your subject and have good conversations with others about it, your Klout score will fall in line.

    People tweeting just to improve their Klout score really annoys me.

  • http://www.ConverStations.com Mike Sansone

    Baseball has a pitcher’s E.R.A. Football has its QB rating. Social Media has Klout.

    These stats are “a” gauge, not “the” gauge. My pastor (just getting started on Twitter, et al) has gobs and gobs (is that a measurement?) more influence than a lot of us – but not on Klout. He does have a wicked ERA in the softball league though.

    Klout may have the most value as a self-awareness tool rather than a rewarding hey-look-what-I’ve-done thing. But isn’t that true for many stat tools?

    • http://www.cdginteractive.com CDG Interactive

      Totally agree. Klout is useful for monitoring levels of engagement and identifying people to interact with who are more active online. (Our take here: http://bit.ly/pQbJ05)

      But our concern is that the algorithm isn’t mature enough to justify the kind of gate-keeping behavior in the Marriott example, or others.

  • http://www.codytalks.com Cody

    I have tinkered with Klout and explored it so as not to speak ignorantly about it. It is another perfect example (along with twitter follower counts) of creating a scoreboard that serves no purpose other than to be gamed and allow folks a lazy way to feel like they are accomplishing something. Technology will never be able to assess “True Clout” or influence across the board. Yes Ashton Kutcher of Mike Arrington can accomplish things when they broadcast… but that is fame… not “true influence.” Fame is easy to measure… Neilsen ratings and ticket/merch sales do that. Website clicks from a tweet do that. But influence or Clout is an internal, psychological measurement based on every individual. Some of the folks on SOcMed that have the most influence over me, have double digit followers, no fame and don’t want it. Klout (any tech that attempts to measure influence) will always have these holes and always attract gamers. Influencing will always be done with sincere engagement… and the communication of that influence will always have to be done by individual “word of mouth” (yes possibly digitally) when you create a system for measuring individuals trying to communicate word of mouth tesitmonials of influence… it will get gamed. i.e. @aplusk could tweet out “please go give me a +K on toiletries and boom he owns that topic. We need to stop looking for shortcuts to gaining clout, need to stop creating them and convey to folks that it’s the way you gain clout, the way you become an authority is to bust your ass and engage people.

    That being said… I think Klout will be very successful because I do believe the folks behind it seem genuine and their mission true. But if/when it hits critical mass… it will have a huge den of cheaters “gaming” it.

  • http://bit51.com Chris Wiegman

    Good post. As the technology improves Klout and some of its competition such as PeerIndex, etc have a lot of room to grow.

    I will be curious to see how this plays out in a legal sense. If a company/organization/etc gives favor to someone with a higher score will that ultimately expose them to litigation?

  • http://twitter.com/eleanorpierce Eleanor

    I agree with Jason to a point. There clearly need to be changes in the the way influence is figured – I, personally, am influential about “dishwasher,” though I don’t own one – but I don’t see that as meaning it’s a total throwaway. It’s useful when you’re considering only a certain type of influence. In certain fields, that particular type of influence really is of value.

    • http://blog.junta42.com Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Eleanor…love the dishwasher thing. I’ll ping you when I need advice ;)

  • http://byronfernandez.wordpress.com Byron Fernandez

    Joe – I like the example of strategy for blog commenting. Jason, Gladwell was Klout before Klout existed so agreed, moot point.
    Scoring systems seem to be a double-edged sword. Trolls, gamers part of the picture, but there are those who AREN’T lazy and earn influence as well.
    I personally am not a fan of location-based apps. I also don’t consistently throw down pics of my breakfast, kids I don’t have yet, or awesome places I’ve been (someday perhaps) — nor do I see anything wrong with those who do. To each his own.

    Loved when Chris Barger mentioned there’s “a significant difference between drawing attention to one’s work and calling attention to one’s own perceived importance” in Digital Sneetches http://goo.gl/8oFsP

    SM’s enabled so many quick and easy ways to appear influential online now — but those who celebrate the art of critical thought, engagement and creating “awesome stuff” are the ones I get jazzed about.

  • http://digitalbrandmarketing.com Basil Puglisi

    I have to say the connect to G+ has had scores fall drematically so I hope they tend to that…. Also while I have been covering klout for a few months on digitalbrandmarketing.com and generally have been a fan of it, the group should give more consideration to the connections, i.e. a great twitter account should not comne close toa person with a good twitter account and is connected to G+, LinkedIn Facebook etc.
    Social Media is also about diversity and platform”s”, a good twitter account does not make influence.

  • http://notes.tomhenrich.com/ Tom Henrich

    This post makes some good points, but like many (if not all) other posts I’ve seen, it essentially boils down to “people should care about Klout because some other people care about Klout”.

    It’s never “you should care about Klout because it’s a useful indicator of what you’re actually, truly influential in”, because as Jason points out, it’s just too young to be a good source. Like with Google (at least in Google’s early days) no one really knows what Klout is looking for.

    Klout scores seem almost arbitrary – mine’s been dropping like a rock for the last couple weeks despite no change in my posting style or frequency.

  • http://blog.junta42.com Joe Pulizzi

    Some amazing takes here. I guess I would respond to the “gaming” part of Klout (which is true right now), is that the same was said about Google at one time. Klout will need to work, like Google has, to try to capture the authentic representation of someone’s social presence.

    I also like what Drew says in his post about Klout being a “mirror” of someone’s social activity. As Klout refines itself, it could become just like your driving record or voting or tax record.

    Honestly, I’m not sure where this will go, but due to the sheer number of non-Internet people asking me about this (which makes me think it’s on its way to critical mass), we need to be paying attention.

    Thanks to all the great comments.

  • http://ChicagoBrander.wordpress.com Dan Gershenson

    I don’t completely disagree with Jason’s point about “real world” authorities like Gladwell sometimes lacking in Klout score or even that there is potential for it to be gamed by some people who aren’t influencers. I would sometimes wonder the same thing (“How can I possibly be approaching the Klout of this other guy who has been on the cover of Time Magazine?”) But despite the fact that there are many different metrics of social media, how many of these tools have come close to converging these metrics together to give us a better picture of influence? A very limited number. Klout is one. PeerIndex is one. And there is room for improvement in these, I’ll grant you that. But it’s evolving – Klout just added Google Plus and WordPress so the picture of where we are online is at least becoming more complete. I don’t know how we’ll come upon a tool that factors in both online and offline influence, but if and when we do, Klout and the others will have something heavy to contend with if they want to stay relevant. In the interim, I think it gives us a decent measurement of influence that we shouldn’t outright dismiss but not brag about too much to others at the next cocktail party.

  • http://qaqn.com Daniel M. Clark

    Klout is a very, very flawed system and having a single company in charge of a system like this is dangerous.

    Friendlier service when you call AT&T? You know, there was a time when we didn’t need to have a lot of Likes on our Facebook page or a lot of retweets in order to get friendly service. Is this really what we’ve become? You don’t get good service because you don’t have enough thumbs-up on your YouTube videos?

    • http://blog.junta42.com Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Daniel…I see your point. I’m not saying it’s good or bad, just saying it is and people are looking at it.

      BTW, Google owns the majority of search, so the same could be said for them regarding helping people find stuff. I too believe that is dangerous, which is why we don’t overly rely on Google for traffic generation.

      Thanks for the take.

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    While the Klout score is useful as a reference point, the real power is to be able to find influential people in your niche across social networks. It’s a one stop place to find links to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I’ve written a few articles on Klout over the past few weeks. It’s a great tool for business

  • http://www.globalcopywriting.com Sarah Mitchell

    Well there you go, Joe, blowing up my comment.

    I work with a young guy who has a really high Klout score. He got it by retweeting nearly everything in his stream. It’s obnoxious. He’s intentionally gaming the system.

    I agree with you. Klout scores are in their infancy. People gamed Google for years with both white hat and black hat SEO. Google keeps refining their algorithms to shut the gamers down. Klout will do the same.

  • http://www.mandarainmaker.co.uk Chris Windley

    Thanks for the post Joe ( and Drew when I get to that link ). I was just about to write something on this subject on my blog when this was re-Tweeted. A few days ago some friends of mine got all upset when I sent out a Klout invite to them ( sounds like they had got on the wrong side of a Klout score and had a fundamental philosophical objection to it )and then on G+ there were some very upset people who had had dramatic drops in their Klout scores after connecting to G+ ( although I noted that Klout were also apologising around the same time for a Linkedin issue ). It also seemed to me that whether right or wrong we had better pay attention to Klout, Peer Index etc etc.

    Some very interesting comments here which have given me more food for thought.

    Perhaps the good news is that there is competition and also that people who write and post good and interesting stuff will prevail at the end of the day.

  • http://www.pagerank-seo.com Robert Visser

    FYI: I placed a similar comment on Jay Baer’s post, Why Critics of Klout Are Missing the Big Picture: http://goo.gl/zUtMJ .

    Regardless of whether we would view Klout ‘s algorithm as the be-all and end-all in assessing influence on social media, the real question is one of trust. This is true when assessing the value of a new follower’s / friend’s / connection’s social media profile (in large part this is an assessment of the advise and links in their timeline / stream / updates) or trusting a link on a search engine results page. Earlier this month Matt McGee covered this in his post, Trust: It Is, Was, and Always Will Be the #1 SEO Ranking Factor: http://goo.gl/OOvoY .

    There are a myriad of sites providing reviews for local businesses — not to mention the roles played by Foursquare, Gowalla, etc. Facebook’s ‘Like’ and Google’s ‘+1′ have joined the foray. Just as a five star rating is a badge of trust, so is receiving a ‘Like’ or ‘+1′ endorsement. Both ‘Likes’ and ‘+1s’ are now also SEO ranking signals. To this we can add Michael D. Moffitt ‘s experiment, twitBitz: http://goo.gl/22fW3 , which seeks to provide a barter system for social currency.

    One of the great features of Klout as well as some similar services — PeerIndex for example — is to provide an ability to share topic lists of recommended users across multiple social networks.

  • Liz

    I’ve heard that JetBlue, for example, determines how they respond to user questions on Twitter depending on the user’s Klout score. I find this chilling.

    I’d like to correct one aspect of your article. I’ve had extensive DM exchanges with Klout (they’ve been kind enough to respond) and there is nothing, nothing, a user can do to influence your own Klout score aside from producing quality content. The entire Klout algorithm is based on how OTHERS react TO you and who those others are (i.e. if they are considered “influential”).

    It doesn’t matter how many followers you have, how much Tweeting you do, when you update your Facebook status, how many +Ks you’re given, etc. You could create a lot of phony accounts to ReTweet your messages and like your updates but if they have lousy Klout scores (which they will have), it won’t help your score. So, unless you are going to ask some influencer to help you out (which will likely backfire), it’s not under your power to “up” your Klout score.

    My only problem with Klout is that companies treat it as if it as THE authority. It’s just one system and there should be competitors that use different kinds of systems to gauge influence. There needs to be vital competition in the influence measuring marketplace.

    • http://blog.junta42.com Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks for the clarification Liz. Exactly why creating the best content on the planet in your niche is so important.

  • http://www.mandarainmaker.co.uk Chris Windley

    Interestingly my Klout score has rebounded and regained the ( upward ) trend line that it had before whatever caused the ” crash “. Probably something to do with either Linkedin or G+ connection or both.

  • http://tworiversmarketing.com Dan Johnson

    Twain probably said it best, “There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.”

    Thanks for this fresh angle on Klout. I find Klout amusing but increasingly relevant. This is still a wild west that clamors for ways to quantify and measure influence. To this point we’ve been unable to find one that does it better than Klout. Far from perfect but you gotta’ start somewhere. I applaud businesses that find innovative ways to use Klout.

    • http://blog.junta42.com Joe Pulizzi

      Good take Dan…it’s a good start.

  • http://michaelqtodd.com Michael Q Todd

    Because my score is 83 Richard Branson just gave me a complimentary seat on his next Virgin Space flight

  • http://www.twitter.com/toddwheatland Todd Wheatland

    Great post and even better comments. Here’s my take: marketers mess with everything til it breaks. But we also help usher in the next thing as a result.

    Marketers created email spam, making it that much easier for social media to take seed.

    We killed the old SEO by the weight of our own manipulations, giving Google renewed relevance as a result.

    We are killing online customer reviews with, ahem, fake customer reviews – forcing FB and Google+ to get passionate about ‘genuine’ individual accounts.

    We are killing any vestige of genuineness about bestseller lists – anyone miss the Paolo Coelho circus last week?

    We will, very likely, kill content marketing, or at least change what it looks like.

    Content marketing has hit a massive overlap with the ‘expert industry’ – the currency of books, speaking engagements, blogs and social ‘klout’ are all messed up as a result. It’s in more and more people’s interests to promote themselves as experts – and number of twitter followers, youtube channel subscribers, nytimes bestseller rankings – these are all metrics that can be manipulated to grab a slice of the limelight. It’s not pretty, but it’s also not new – Seth Godin readily admits it was a cornerstone of how he established himself. But it’s going to get a lot more crowded short-term.

    So – I’m with most of the people who’ve commented above. The thought of getting better service just because of an ‘influencer’ number leaves me cold. But at least it takes more effort to manipulate a bunch of social channels than just one, and for that at least Klout is going to have an interesting run. Ugly or not, people are dreaming up dozens of ways to use data like this, and I think we’re just scratching the surface of how big it’s about to get.

    • http://blog.junta42.com Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks Todd. I think at some point (in the very near future), gaming the system will be VERY difficult. People tried to do that with Google, and succeeded. It can still be done in some situations…but it’s harder than ever. My hope is the same becomes of Klout…and that people start to use it for what it is…a nice intelligence tool.

      • http://twitter.com/3sarkar M Sarkar

        I wish you were right, Joe, but I agree with Todd’s predictions above. These reputation/identity/ranking systems can be gamed. There are always more loopholes than eyeballs looking to plug them.

        Todd Wheatland, your post was very thoughtful. Awesome comments, folks.

  • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

    I’ll take real world experience and business acumen over some imperfect, limited “influence” score any time.

    Choice: You can bring me sales leads and profits, or you can bring me 10,000 Twitter followers and 60,000 YouTube views.

    I know which I’ll go for. Every time.

    • http://blog.junta42.com Joe Pulizzi

      Of course, I agree Danny. I think the goal would be to use Klout as a tool to get those sales leads and profits (finding influencers, for example). That said, we need to be aware that companies are starting to use tools like this, and how it affects our businesses.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      • http://tiffanyabrown.wordpress.com Tiffany Brown

        I just read through all of the comments to this blog post and the one fact remains: if large corporations like Marriott are paying attention to your Klout score, then fact is that it does matter whether or not it’s a true measure of “clout” because perception becomes reality. This trend is one I had not heard of and am curious to hear more about it in the future! I’m wondering who at Marriott decided to integrate such a metric into their hotel check-in process, and why they believed it was a good indicator of a guest’s rank. I’m wondering what other measures in place to track such information about customers?

        • http://blog.junta42.com Joe Pulizzi

          Thanks Tiffany…I think the Marriott’s of the world are experimenting with this now. Who knows where we are going, but I’m with you…if businesses are taking notice we need to be aware of what is going on here.

  • http://www.wtflungcancer.com Jennifer Windrum

    Here’s the deal. We think we should care about Klout because of the public perception of it? Hell no. We need to be educating those businesses/agencies/orgs who are using and/or experimenting with it and let them know what it really is and what it really isn’t. We all know it’s flawed right now. Isn’t it our job to keep things real and honest? I’m not into perpetuating fantasies for anyone – especially not for Pop Chips.