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Your Klout Score: What It Means and How to Use It

Earlier today, I had an exchange with Steve Radick and Christopher Whitaker about the nature and value of Klout scores (embedded below).

I’ve spoken before about what Klout scores mean, how to use them, and when to ignore them, but I wanted both to share my current thinking, and hear your thoughts in a medium that doesn’t constrain us to 140 characters.

What Klout Means

Klout is only one of a few influence-measuring sites. PeerIndex and Kred do much the same thing, albeit with different visuals and ratings systems. But they all try to take into account many of the same variables to answer one basic question: how influential are you in the realm of popular digital social media? On a more basic, pragmatic, level, what they are actually assessing are these metrics:

1. How often do you post to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Linked In?

2. How many of your followers find your content engaging/timely/relevant enough to repost?

3. How well-connected are you within these social media?

3. How many of your followers are themselves well-connected within these social media?

A higher Klout score (or Kred Score or PeerIndex rating) means that (a) you post often (b) you have many followers, who (c) have many followers and (d) they engage with you and the content you post.

How To Use Your Klout Score

My score is currently 46.6. It’s been as high as 52 and as low as 33; recently, though, it’s been hovering between 45 and 48. I try to visit the site once or twice a month, and never more often than once a week. What’s important, I think, is the trend line, rather than the raw number.

For most people, using social media is a means for getting their job done, it’s not the actual job itself (here, online marketing and communications professionals may be excepted). Think of it this way: If you were a carpenter, for example, you wouldn’t be graded on how well you used a hammer, but rather how well you built cabinets. The same is true if you’re in government communications–you’re graded on how well you disseminate information through every channel–digital and otherwise–and social media channels are only a portion of your workload.

What I recommend to people is that they use social media in the way that seems best for them for a few months or a few years and then look at their Klout (or PeerIndex, etc) scores as a baseline so that they can see how their results change in relation to their scores. When you find you more successful in your job, is there a concomitant rise in your Klout score? Conversely, is there a dip in your score? That might mean that social media activity is distracting from, rather than adding to, your success.

Finally, it’s important to remember that many social media are not online and cannot be measured by any online tool. Conferences, collaboration spaces, meet-ups, hackathons, internal working groups–these are all important social media that are not measurable by Klout, but may be far more important to your job performance than Twitter, Facebook, or Linked In.

In short, use your Klout score as an indication of your use of social media, and look for trend lines rather than raw numbers. And don’t forget that the most important social media for you may bot be online.

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Corey McCarren

I’m just trying Klout now because this post made me curious. I actually do find it kind of interesting to look at, especially seeing what I’m considered influential in. Apparently I’m pretty influential in science and technology.

Christopher Whitaker

My biggest issue with Klout is that it tends to skew reality.

I understand that it ONLY measures social media influence, but I would argue that it isn’t a useful measure without having some indicator of real-work impact.

For example:

LordVoldemort_7 has a Klout score of 82. He mostly tweets snark and gets lots of retweets and followers because he’s a funny parody account.

However, as far as real world action – there’s no where for He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named to spend that influence. He could tweet out an ad, but I would guess that not many people would click it because thats not why we follow him.

Now, the Sunlight Foundation has a score of 56. However, that organization tweets about advocacy issues and will from time to time ask for a call-to-action from their followers. These calls to action – particularly those that encourage followers to contact a member of Congress – do have a real world impact. I would argue that their social media score should be much higher because their social media actions have an impact.

The EFF doesn’t even have a Klout score, but they were one of the lead organizations that killed a major piece of legislation (SOPA) – in part – because of their online organizing.

To me, the effectiveness of ‘calls-to-action’ should be the REAL measure of social media influence. Klout doesn’t measure that and there’s no research there’s a correlation between number of retweets and a real world action being taken.

I think HopeMob.org (@Hope) may be a great way to test this, but they don’t have a Klout score either. For those not familiar, HopeMob takes a story and sends it out over the social media airwaves in hopes that people answer a call to action (donations, networking) in order to help somebody in need.

Gadi Ben-Yehuda

I understand your point, Christopher, but I’d offer this analogy:

A deep-red filter over a camera will also skew reality, but if what you want is a black-and-white image with high contrast, it’s just the thing. And if what you do is take black-and-white pictures on sunny days, well then you’re going to use that deep-red filter quite a bit. If, however, you shoot more in color, then that same filter is worse than useless–it will ruin your shots. That’s Klout.

In the Wired article, the author doesn’t state where the applicant was being interviewed, or for what type of job, exactly. If the job was for someone to help clients jump into Twitter with both feet and increase their footprint (har har) in that and other social media venues, then looking at Klout scores makes sense. The applicant’s “15 years of experience” may have been in “earned media” placements on television and radio–not really tailored to a social media position.

I’m just saying: right tools for the right jobs. That applies to rulers as well as hammers.

Corey McCarren

I don’t like the idea of using Klout scores to judge applicants. I personally am cutting Facebook “friends” left and right because I just don’t keep in touch and we weren’t that close to begin with. Does this make me a less valuable social media marketer? I guess in-house it theoretically could if you expect me to share company updates, but certainly not if working at a firm.

Corey McCarren

Also I’d say that Klout doesn’t consider what content you’ve created. If Klout was used for news sites, the Huffington Post may have a higher score than the Washington Post even though it just aggregates content. That doesn’t really add up in the end.

Christopher Whitaker

Right tool for the right job is fine and all, but that’s not how people are treating Klout. Klout is either touted as the something VERY important to your career or the worst thing ever. For better or worse, this is the way things are.

Like all tools, I think the purpose of using the tool is important. Organizations shouldn’t use social media for the sake of social media. There should be a defined purpose. For government, a lot of time thats either to spread info or to ask citizens for feedback. Klout only measures the amount that a message is spread. I might make a really stupid, inflammatory tweet that spreads like wildfire…but if I’m trying to get a call-to-action for people to come to the townhall it’s not going to really work.

Klout is OK for seeing how far somebody’s message will spread. Reporters may find this a good measuring stick. Advocacy organizations should care more about the effectiveness of their call-to-action messages. Klout’s useless for that. It’s important to have a nuanced view of the tool, but that’s not what it’s advertised as. It’s advertised as a way to measure online influence and how to know more about how to leverage influence.

As an example. Chicago’s Chief Technology Officer John Tolva (@ChicagoCTO) has a Klout score of 44. Mine is 48. According to Klout, my tweets are more likely to get spread, get replies, and re-tweets more than his.

Which, isn’t really true. There is no way that people pay more attention to me than the CTO of one of the most exciting cities in the OpenGov/Gov20 scene right now. Klout takes into account the volume of your tweets which is probably why I have a higher score. I tweet more – but I sometimes tweet about silly things that nobody cares about. But when ChicagoCTO tweets, it’s almost always something either important or very interesting to the civic hacking scene in Chicago. People’s ears perk up.

Klout is still in ‘beta’ – For organizations to make hiring, firing, or strategic decision based on a klout score is a mistake. Social media has multiple uses, and Klout’s not always good at detecting if the user is using social media in a way that accomplishes that purpose. I think to really figure out if people are taking action based on a tweet, you’d have to do surveys the same way that Nielsen Ratings do. There’s no way that Klout can measure that the way things are now.