Klout is a website and mobile app that uses social media analytics to rank its users according to online social influence via the “Klout Score,” a numerical value between 1 and 100. Klout measures the size of a user's social media network and correlates the content created to measure how other users interact with that content. Klout’s not new–it was launched on Christmas Eve of 2008 with a single tweet from its developer and CEO Joe Fernandez. It built slowly for awhile, but between April 2011 and May of 2012 Klout climbed in popularity and utilization as much as 90% to reach its peak, according to Google Trends.
Within the following two years, its usage, and, ironically, its own influence, dropped like a stone, about 85%, about the same level that it currently operates. But Fernandez was able to sell it to Lithium Technologies for a reported $200 million in March of 2014. Early Klout proponents were wildly enthusiastic.
“This is the democratization of influence,” says Mark Schaefer, an adjunct marketing professor at Rutgers and author of the book Return on Influence: The Revolutionary Power of Klout, Social Scoring and Influence Marketing. “Suddenly regular people can carve out a niche by creating content that moves quickly through an engaged network. For brands, that’s buzz. And for the first time in history, we can measure it.”
But since then, there have been questions.
Is Klout the Best Way to Measure your Authority?
Is Klout the great determiner of all things influence and the predictor of future social, business, cultural, and economic trends? Or is it the ultimate internet troll, relishing in its ability to sway the behavior of the faceless crowd, agitating the status quo of long-established business behemoths in favor of smart, new startups that have less experience (and funding) but are using social media more effectively?
How is your Klout score calculated?
Klout measures influence by using data points from Twitter, such as following count, follower count, retweets, list memberships, how many spam/dead accounts are following you, how influential the people who retweet you are and unique mentions. This information is blended with data from a number of other social network followings and interactions to come up with the Klout Score. The main social networks that influence a user's Klout Score are Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn (individuals’ pages not corporate/business), YouTube, Instagram, Wikipedia and Klout itself. Klout scores are supplemented with three nominally more specific measures, which Klout calls “true reach,” “amplification” and “network impact.” True reach is based on the size of a user's engaged audience who actively engage in the user's messages. Amplification score relates to the likelihood that one's messages will generate actions, such as retweets, mentions, likes, and comments. Network impact reflects the computed influence value of a person's engaged audience.
Is Klout even relevant today? (Is Klout dead?)
Noel Hartshorn, Director of Engineering at Klout says, “Klout is very much alive and healthy. We have been quiet about changes to Klout because we have been busy developing them. On the consumer side, we are working on ways to make the Klout score more useful for more people. And on the brand side, we are looking at powerful ways to use Klout data and the Klout score more broadly within communities and social analytics and response tools.”
While Klout has definitely racked up a fair amount of detractors, there’s no denying its impact–influence, if you will–on the marketplace, or its value to marketing and ad-techs. But to stay relevant, there had to be changes.
How has Klout evolved?
Klout’s clout peaked in 2012 under the original business model which was based on delivering a score designed to judge individual impact in social media and identify influencers. Under this model, Justin Bieber’s January 2011 score–a perfect 100–superseded the scores of then-President Obama (88) and the Dalai Lama (90). At the time, Warren Buffett had an abysmally low score of 32. Obviously, there are issues. News coverage over individual Klout score competition has declined in importance since then, and rightly so; but Klout has flexed its mission and purposes to embrace areas of marketing and content curation, etc.
In those heady, early days it was reported by Klout execs that a number of major companies—airlines, big-box retailers, hospitality brands—were discussing how best to use Klout scores. They predicted that people with formidable Klout would “soon” board planes earlier, get free access to VIP airport lounges, stay in better hotel rooms, and receive deep discounts from retail stores and flash-sale outlets. It was already being used by some employers to cull job applicants. But Klout is based on an algorithm and calculations, and systems by their very nature can be faulty and they can be manipulated.
The Klout of today is all about originality. According to its homepage, “Klout suggests shareable content that your audience hasn’t seen yet.” The user dashboard has a newfound emphasis on “creat[ing] great content,” rather than obsessively tracking one’s performance on various networks. Today’s Klout has become an interesting way for individuals and brands to measure their reach and social media engagement. It’s also a fairly decent curation tool for Facebook and Twitter, helping to unearth good, relevant content you might actually want to share, and scheduling it to post at times when your friends and followers on those platforms may be most active and likely to re-share or comment.
How can you increase your Klout?
Like other algorithms, it’s not difficult to game the results when you know the rules. But false tactics render the results valueless in a world where Klout scores have less clout and competitiveness over scores is no longer a driving factor. Called “Growth Hacking” by the Home Services blog (who opined in May 2017 that Klout doesn’t accurately represent social media influence), they say it’s “easy as pie” to artificially boost your score by abusing automation tools for social media posts. But if you are prospecting for the real value of Klout, the ability to measure and increase your impact on social media for the marketing value for yourself, or your brand or product, then what kinds of actions can you take that will deliver real results to your bottom line?
Marketing Insider Group featured some common sense ideas to help you increase your online influence and raise your Klout score, based on active and meaningful engagement on social networks:
- Create and share interesting content.
- Make it easy to share your content.
- Become a source of helpful insights of the audience you have.
- Seek to grow the audience you have.
- Engage with people on your social channels.
- Ask and answer questions.
- Like stuff you like.
- Identify and engage with the influencers around your topics of interest.
- Look for a connection between the approaches you might take on social channels and the impact on your score.
- Sign up for Klout and connect all your social accounts.
These are all things that an UpMyInfluence membership will help you create much faster. When authentically-engaged social media communication becomes a regular part of doing your business, you’ll naturally and powerfully increase your visibility and influence on social media. It’s not a popularity ranking and it wasn’t meant to be; it’s a way to direct your social media communications so they can bear fruit and increase your impact.
What does Klout deliver?
Mark Schaefer says in Return on Influence that, “it is not enough to have great content. You have to have influence” to help your ideas spread and get a return on your marketing investments. Rather than a pop culture score sheet, Klout can help illuminate your relativistic influence: a measure of one’s tastes and behaviors as they seem to affect the tastes and behaviors of others. That kind of powerful intel is what drives the marketing efforts of every business. In its own words, Klout helps people who want to be great at social media. If you fall into that category (and who doesn’t?), and social media influence is important to you and your business, then Klout is a great way to connect with an audience of current and future users. It’s an indicator to help you hone in on what’s working and what to do more of. It gives the smaller players a way to compete and begin to emerge from an unintelligible glut of untargeted information and be seen by those who want and can use it.
Now… go and increase your Klout score by doing more of the good stuff you’re already doing.