Will Klout kill twitter?

I am eager to be on top of social media trends. Accordingly I sign up for influence measuring sites as I see them including Klout, PeerIndex, and Twitter Grader. I am skeptical of all of them and do not put much stock in the scores.

For personal purposes I generally compare myself to twitterers who I admire such as @ckburgess, @kentfhuffman, @davidaaker, @chuckmartin1 and my other twitter friends: as long as I am in their range I figure I am doing OK. I am well aware that I am no Justin Bieber (Klout 100) or Barack Obama (K 90) for online influence…

My concern is that parties are taking these fledging measures seriously and making marketing target and even hiring decisions based on them. See a recent WSJ article about the importance businesses are assigning to Klout scores: GetKlout  In reality, I am not worried that my tenure committee will pass me over for Justin B. or Britney S., but I am worried about how the growing influence of the influence-measurers might impact the SM communities. If twitterers believe that their online status or even employability may be affected by their twitter behavior they may well adjust how they act.

There is a well-known management dictum that nothing can be managed until it is measured. The relevant corollary is that what is measured will affect behavior: Bad metrics can lead to bad behavior! That is my concern about the clout of Klout – I fear it will cause loutish behavior in social media!

@econsultancy did a nice job of summarizing some of the flaws of Klout’s measures in a recent blog post: KloutDoesntCount In one study a BOT achieved a 50 Klout score in 50 days simply by (1) tweeting gibberish once a minute and (2) not following back new followers. @Klout responded to that study by noting that they were working on algorithms to spot BOTs!

In other words Klout would attack the symptom head on but ignore the underlying issue: do we want to encourage twitterers to tweet excessively and not follow others?? What kind of “community” will twitter be when everyone learns these winning behaviors? Do you find it worthwhile to follow people who tweet hundreds of times a day? Is it really cool to have 10 times as many followers as people followed?

Be wary of these developing measures. Do not make hiring decisions or overly analyze twitter scores unless you honest believe that Justin Bieber is the perfect (100) twitter participant and the most influential person online! And please, please don’t start tweeting every three minutes!

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18 Responses to Will Klout kill twitter?

  1. Concise one, yet another flaw in Klout is their absolute inability to code and actually get their metrics: http://www.martijnlinssen.com/2010/11/why-i-think-klout-is-krap.html

    You might want to skip the first half there, and get to the bottom

  2. Mark J Owen says:

    I so agree with you!

  3. I was thinking about this same issue the other day. I realized that in my efforts to just amass followers and make sure that more people were following me than I was following, I was missing out on most of the fun. The value of Twitter comes from who you follow, not who follows you.

  4. gschirr says:

    ABSOLUTELY!!! It is supposed to be a COMMUNITY.

  5. Gary,

    First great post and second thank you for mentioning me with people I most admire and respect in our community.

    My real concern is the risk of misunderstanding and interpretations by many companies regarding the use of metrics that measure “influence”. Hiring, staffing, bonuses influenced by algorithmic scoring that could easily be skewed, intentionally or unintentionally escalates the fear factor. When I recently heard that Klout had a team of scientists researching new products, this reminded me of the next episode of Fringe.

    Audience relevance, content, reach and engagement is far more an accurate gauge and should be the goal.

    Your post is very important because it begs us to think about the implications of potentials misuse. Klout, PeerIndex, and Twitter Grader have been the source of a lot of debates. But in their defense, quantitative and qualitative analysis give some sense of direction in the swirling waters of social media. But now ask me if I look up someone’s Klout or Twitter Grader score to decide if I should follow them or not. The answer is simply “no”. What’s more important to me is their engagement, friendship, sense of community and if they’re a relevant audience. But ask me if I have looked at someone’s Klout, PeerIndex and Twitter Grader after I have followed them and the answer is, “yes”. Reason – I’m a victim of social media.


  6. Bill Nigh says:

    In general, I try not to be attached to the outcome of my efforts; Klout is a good example. I really don’t care what my metrics are, because I am participating the way I want, authentically, with personality, pursuing themes I find interesting or important.

    When you think about it, these metrics are just someone’s idea of what’s important. Why would they necessarily know?

  7. gschirr says:

    I regularly look up myself and tweeters I like on these sites. They are totally benign as long as they aren’t taken too seriously. But when follow decisions, special marketing offers and even hiring decisions start being based on these numbers I really worry about the potential to shape behavior online – in undesirable ways.

    I have never had a posting with so many quick hits (600 in less than 24 hours!). I think this topic struck a nerve.

    Or it could be my Justin Bieber (!) mention…

  8. gschirr says:


    It is redundant to thank you for a thoughtful post – your comments are always thoughtful, wise and on-target.

    It is all about engagement and I can’t think of anyone more qualified to talk about engagement than you. Maybe you should start the “Cheryl Index”?

    Thanks so much. When I check an index I feel OK if my score is within ten points of @ckburgess !


  9. Hello Gary, I’m Philip Hotchkiss – the Chief Product Officer at Klout.

    I appreciate your point of view and the questions you raise in this post.

    We constantly strive to better measure influence: in fact, we just announced a major upgrade to our platform and scoring algorithm on our blog:


    I think the way you use services like Klout is smart.

    Here are some thoughts:

    1. We measure people’s ability to drive action across the social web.That’s what influence means to us.

    2. The evolution of our algorithm is placing a much greater weighting on people’s influence network – we have made these adjustments because it is a better way to measure influence and it penalizes bad actor bot accounts. Interestingly, some bot accounts are good actors. They have genuine followers who look to these accounts to curate relevant data for them. These followers than act on this data via sharing, clicking on links, etc. In other words, the bot issue is not black and white. Internally we have passionate discussions about this-everyone at Klout cares about getting influence measurement right and being the standard.

    3. Regarding brands making marketing decisions using Klout scores – we work with some of the biggest brands in the world to help them reach influencers in ways only limited by their creativity. These brands use many marketing strategies and tactics – we have to compete based on the performance of our campaign results to earn and retain their business.

    4. Regarding measurement and action: yes. When any measurement creates value people will adjust behavior if they benefit. Think how big the SEO industry is around Google’s PageRank. Online influence is becoming an important currency in certain industries. Writers at GigaOm for example have referred to our business as “building PageRank for the social web”.

    5. We hear anecdotally that employers are using Klout as one metric in their decision making process to make certain hires. We’re glad they find our score useful. However, we don’t encourage employers to make hires based solely on our score. We certainly wouldn’t make a hire at Klout based solely on someone’s Klout score;)

    6. Finally, regarding the comments you made about twitter follower counts, follower to following ratios and excessive amounts of tweeting – these factors do not drive our score. For example, we don’t care about follower counts. And the only way high frequency tweeting would move the needle on our score is if those tweets are driving actions and those actions are being driven by influential people. So, there’s quite a bit of misinformation out there – we get asked questions about follower counts, etc. a lot – and the answer is always the same – don’t worry about your follower count, focus on generating high quality content and engaging in authentic conversation.

    Again, thank you for sharing your point of view – we are always striving to improve.


  10. Pingback: Tweets that mention Will Klout kill twitter? « Service (Co-) Creation -- Topsy.com

  11. Carri Bugbee says:

    You bring up several good points. The problem with KLOUT (and many other tools like it) is that we have no idea WHAT goes into their formula for determining influence. What if they are heavily weighting things I don’t care about? What if they’re ignoring things I do care about?

    Smart marketers will have to evaluate influencers on a case-by-case basis just like smart PR pros have done forever when they develop press lists. Companies can come up with all sorts of scores and ratings, but there is no short-cut to determining exactly who you might want to reach out to on behalf of a business. That will always be part research, part intuition, and hugely dependent upon KNOWING and EVALUATING each potential influencer.

    It would be just as stupid to use KLOUT to reach out to a whole group of unknown people as it would to subscribe to a press list service and not read articles from each and every journalist on the list before pitching them a story. Maybe people who don’t have a PR background don’t know this, but this should be a no-brainer.

    I sure as hell hope no employers are so stupid that they wouldn’t do the same with job seekers.


  12. Eric says:

    “If twitterers believe that their online status or even employability may be affected by their twitter behavior they may well adjust how they act” <~~~ One can only hope! The behavior needs to improve anyway! That can only be good!

  13. I agree with this. I have two followers that I know in real life who are creating a whole sub-culture (as I call it) of tweeters who just spew out tons of “stuff” with no interaction. To me, first and foremost, social media must be SOCIAL! I do love the total reach score that Klout offers. I reach almost as many people (fully a third of my followers) as the guy who is just spewing stuff (he reaches 1/60th of his followers). Sorry, I’d rather engage and be engaging. Great article!

  14. Mark J Owen says:


    Just wanted to comment on your comment. You say that that social media must be SOCIAL. Can you define, exactly, what you mean by that?
    I follow a lot of people who, as you descried it, “spew out” tons of stuff. This includes articles on the internet that are of interest to me, but that I would never have found myself. That is, they are sharing knowledge and information. I see this as also “social”. It’s the people who tweet about the fact that they are “drinking a cup of coffee”, or “waiting at the bus stop” that annoy me. Those sort of tweets really add no value.

  15. Paul Boos says:

    Great post,

    One thing I have always found interesting for its inaccuracy is who it says I influence and who it says I am influenced by… I know I do not influence the Plone community, yet it states I am an influencer of Plone. It also states several people I am influenced by, yet I knwo I am not. I may have Twitter conversations with them, but often on fairly mundane matters. I am certainly not “influenced” by them at all. In fact, often the conversations are polite debates on a topic.

    I like looking at how Klout slices and dices my tweets, but just for fun, certainly not as a use of measure. I’ve moved all around the center and lower center portions of their grid map since signing up. My conclusion? They can’t really say what I am…


  16. Anne Adrian says:

    I have been hopeful of Klout, but I am more concerned now more than ever on its accuracy and why it is important. I am the administrators of my own account and have registered my Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus (which I really like), and Foursquare and another “group” that I have only registered Twitter. They are the same square, 46, though the group Twitter account has much fewer interactions (in terms of raw numbers) . Actually I am administrators of several accounts, but these two are the most used.

    In some ways I should be proud that the numbers are identical, but it makes no sense….Should I disconnect some of my other accounts to raise my score?….Makes little sense about influence, and possibly a little more sense about interaction, but the calculations still seemed flawed.

  17. Pingback: Midiendo la influencia en Redes Sociales (1) « Be-Klan

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