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The backlash to Klout: How much value do we place on social media influence?

20 Sep, 13 | by Deji Sodipe, Digital Intern

When Klout launched in back in 2009, no one could have predicted the extent to which it would polarize public opinion. This analytical tool, which measures your ‘social influence’ by way of a numerical score, has proved to be the marmite of the social media world. Its staunch advocates devotedly post content to increase their ‘Klout score’ whilst its detractors question the validity of its scoring system. Whatever your opinion, it’s clear that social influence is something that is causing more and more people to sit up and pay attention to their online profiles.

Klout’s unique selling point  is the Klout Score, whereby a number is assigned to a user which signifies the strength of their influence online, with a 100 as the maximum – Barack Obama currently has a score of 99.  User data is acquired from various sources including FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle+Instagram and Foursquare. Klout then monitors how often you update and the level of social interaction your content receives, through factors such as monitoring retweets, shares, number of followers/friends, likes etc. It then combines this with how influential the people who follow, retweet and mention you are to measure your overall social influence, all by way of their unique secret scoring algorithm.


Where it was once deemed niche, Klout has now gained much prominence and subsequently assumed a firm standing in the online domain. Notably this is not just among individual users as brands and various companies are now utilizing Klout and its user database. In addition, Klout is significant to marketers who need to measure and evaluate in numerical terms when determining success.  Klout claims to provide the quantifiable means to know the exact extent to which you’re reaching your desired audience.

One of the ways Klout has achieved its popularity is through the incentivized reward scheme it operates through the use of ‘perks’. These are exclusive offers from specific brands that are only offered to people with high Klout scores.  The benefit to brands comes from the knowledge that these select individuals have the social influence to facilitate discussion about their products through various social media channels. From free mobile phones to meals at restaurants, the number of companies subscribing to the Klout Perks scheme is ever increasing.

As well as potential material gains, your Klout score might also garner positive results in your working life. In the US in particular, an increasing number of employers look to higher Klout scores as a desirable criterion for potential employees. This has gained much attention in articles published by the likes of Wired and Forbes.


The backlash to both Klout and its method of turning social influence into a quantifiable score has been widespread and at times vitriolic, with a multitude of scathing critiques from bloggers and unforgiving comments referring to the service as ‘socially evil’.  The scoring model has been derided for causing people to become overly obsessed with increasing their score, rather than sharing content to serve real purpose.

Klout claims that its algorithm measures the ‘True Reach’ of an individual – that’s to say how many people actually engage with one’s content, and it does this by eliminating inactive and spam accounts from its analysis. Nonetheless, the methodology behind Klout’s algorithm remains shrouded in mystery and therefore open to criticism of being arbitrary. There was widespread outcry in 2011 when the calculations for the algorithm shifted, resulting in mass drops in user scores.

What next?

Following on from huge investment from US backers,  plus a partnership with Microsoft (Klout Scores now show up in Bing), Klout now appears to be making moves into the workplace. This is demonstrated by their collaboration with Microsoft’s Yammer service. Not content with influencing the working sphere in the recruitment process, the Klout score also features on Microsoft’s social media tool for businesses. This means that within a corporation, the influencers and top contributors will be immediately identifiable.

In a series of upcoming posts looking specifically at social media influence, we’ll be looking over the numerous analytical tools and the ways in which they measure influence. We’ll be analysing services that also adopt numerical scoring models as Klout does, as well as competitors who measure social influence via alternate means. We’ll be casting our eye over analytical services including ProskoreTwitalyzerSocial Mention and Topsy, to name but a few, in order to show you which social media tools can help you to manage your online profile.

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