Can your influence in social media be measured by a single number?

The power of the digitally connected community is great. Marketers are understanding that consumers and their connected communities select and favour the products and brands that are engaged in the most relevant dialogue with them.

So, before a marketer can engage with an influencer, they first need to identify who those influencers are. To satisfy that demand, the race is on to create the algorithms and one stop-shops that will determine the influencers from the big mouths; the positive sentiment-ers from the detractors, the activist from the trend-setters.

In the May 2012 issue of Wired, Seth Stevenson article Popularity Counts puts Klout into context. In a quick and dirty effort to make sense of who the brand influencers are, Klout scores everyone with a single number, on a scale of 1 to 100 based on a mysterious, proprietary algorithm.

Photo: Garry McLeod

Klout has been criticized for not only its mysterious scoring algorithm but for what calls a Sneaky Klout Trick Designed to Suck You In. In his article, author Anthony Wing Kosner sets the expectation quickly in his warning “Prepare to be manipulated”.

Manipulation notwithstanding, Klout recently stepped up it’s game. The company is ready to infiltrate consumer marketing. Large corporations are discussing how to use Klout scores to determine the kind of service, perks or shopping discounts to offer based on a person’s score.

Joe Fernandez launched Klout in 2007. In the Wired article, Stevenson describes Fernandez vision as a “form of empowerment for the little guy”. Maybe it is. However, influencer research is not valuable if the marketer can’t understand the influence or measure the Vector of Influence.

The Vector of Influence is the nature of the influence that any particular influencer wields in a particular social space and the signals that influence. On Twitter, influence can be measured by who you’re following, followers, tweets, re-tweets, @mentions and replies. On TripAdvisor the vector is different. On Facebook, different again… and so on. Each social space has it’s own signals or collectively it’s own vector. And social space, by social space the vector changes significantly because it’s unique to the community.

So, do identify your influencers, but don’t put them all in the +K basket. I won’t attempt to wrap it up any better than Wing Rosner from

Klout is a really interesting concept that fails in some important ways. Being able to apply a single number to a person is useful in some situations, and being able to identify the topics that a person has some clout with their peers about is even more useful. But the Klout score is still a blunt instrument, and as such, dangerous in the wrong hands. Your mileage may vary, so while Klout is scoring you (which they are whether you participate or not) be sure to keep a tally on what that score is worth to you, and drive accordingly. –Anthony Wing Rosner


One Comment

  1. Klout fails in the most critical measures of social media. I emailed them and asked if they have the ability to measure blogs and websites which are not on generic platforms like wordpress, etc. They said they have no way of doing that.

    How dumb is that? Who is likely to have their own blog and website platforms? People with the most social media involvement.

    My blog, is on a proprietary platform which many others have asked if they could replicate. It gets up to 500 readers in a single day. I have four other interactive websites offering video, content, downloads and other social media activity. All of them are on proprietary platforms programmed in Ruby on Rails. Klout doesn’t have a Klue they exist. With 21k Twitter followers and a reasonable Facebook and LinkedIn presence, I get a 50 Klout score behind people who incessantly Tweet pictures of food they are eating.

    Klout needs to figures out how to measure the most salient and serious of platforms, those that are designed specifically for someone to express themselves in social media. Until they do, Klout indeed has no Klue what my social media influence really is.

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