Sunday, December 04, 2011

Don't Trust Klout

There was a lot of hubbub on the interwebs when Klout recently changed their scoring algorithm to make things more accurate. The problem is, they still haven't figured it out and according to this ZDNET article describing the craziness, your score does actually matter for your career and possibly the level of customer service you receive.

Since I first heard about Klout, I've been worried people may use it as a sort of online "credit score." I worked for Dave Ramsey for almost 4 years and completely agree with his opinion on the "I-love-debt score". Unfortunately, people still use credit scores like they matter.

Your Klout score really doesn't measure how good of a "friend" you are or how healthy your online relationships are. Much like a credit score, this "score" isn't really trustworthy and doesn't really matter. But it will be used like it does.

So why is that a problem? Like the author of the ZDNET article above, my score (and probably yours as well) can get screwed up without a moment's notice. If people make decisions based off that score because they trust it, where does that leave us? I changed nothing in my online activity and consistently saw my score tanking:

For a while I figured the new algorithm thought I was "doing it wrong." I was a little curious about no Google+ activity showing up for my account and confused because I hadn't changed anything. Prior to the algorithm changing, my score was consistently going up.

Then all of sudden this happened:

I'm still not seeing any Google+ stats, but how come I'm "doing it right" again? That's obviously not the case and to Klout's credit, they are up front about their issues:

That's all from last week alone. As it stands right now, I just can't trust the score. More and more systems are integrating with Klout but if the number can't be trusted, is that a good thing? Twimbow, for example, has it conveniently available every time you view someone's profile:

So am I Klout basher? No, not at all. If I didn't think it was important, I wouldn't waste time blogging about it. Klout has taught me a lot about Twitter and social media in general, but they still have a lot of work to do. For example, their "influential topics" is laughably broken. They are now trying to get users to do the work the computers are failing at by giving each other "+K". I think that's a good idea, but please don't share all of them with your Twitter stream. That gets annoying really quickly.


Firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.
Believe in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of.
noun.  confidence - faith - credit - reliance - belief
verb.  believe - confide - rely - credit - hope

My point here is that the score can't be trusted. Don't let it turn into a credit score. If you want to know how well you're doing with social media, count the number of smiles and laughs you have between friends. Count how many times a conversation goes from online to offline and back again via your posts.

If your score is low, don't be discouraged. Dave Ramsey's credit score is 0 and he's perfectly OK with that. Learn what you can from it, but don't let it determine your social value online. Klout claims to measure your influence online. It simply can't do that today and so for now, by the definition, I don't trust it.

What do you think? Can Klout be trusted? Does "scoring" social media influence have any value?


Martijn Linssen said...

Hi Luke,

your @mentions tripled overnight (from 376 to 969) so that's why your klout sky-rocketed.
Well of course they didn't, you got 24 @mentions in the last 7 days so multiply that by 13 for the 90-day period and you get 312: seems 376 is a good alternative for that, and 969 is a wet dream (oh and yet another major mess-up by Klout)

Klout's product has been erratic, volatile, off, wrong - feel free to use other words - for the last 2 years, and it keeps making the same mistakes. The product itself is fundamentally flawed, and will never get any better. In stead, more marketing is slammed onto the product, and more networks (well only Facebook and Google+ so far, but hey) as well

A word to the wise: don't write a post about how bad Klout is, and end with social media scoring or analysis in general: bloggers do that all the time, yet they are two of a completely different kind. One cow having foot and mouth disease doesn't mean all cattle should be destroyed

Luke Stokes said...

Thanks for stopping by, Martijn!

I hope my comment about scoring social media through smiles didn't come across as being completely anti-social scoring. I understand what they are trying to accomplish and I do think there is some value there, but I also feels it's a dangerous thing if it's not accurate.

As far as the cattle goes, here are a few other sites I know about:

Is there one you recommend or think is more accurate?

Joel Fortner said...

I'm not a Klout fan at all. I see it as nothing more than a well-marketed, well-intentioned easy button to measure something for measurements sake.

Luke Stokes said...

That's definitely one way to look at it.. but check the comment here:

They make a really good point about how every media industry has spent decades measuring involvement and influence in order to properly value advertising and the like. Social media is the new frontier and it _WILL_ happen... it's just a matter of time. Klout seems to be the leader as far as visibility goes, but they are also taking the brunt of the criticism for paving a new path.

I actually have respect for what they are trying to accomplish, building something new that didn't exist before. I just think they aren't there yet.

The score should measure more than their system performance at any given moment for it to have any value at all.

btw, how cool is it that this article got picked up by I created an account there the night before and then next thing I know hundreds of people are sharing it. Surreal. I've been on cloud nine for about 24 hours now. :)

Darragh11 said...

I really am struggling to see the purpose of Klout. I really like the way you have described it as credit. Very apt. Im a third year marketing degree student and we are being urged to work on our scores. But the website promotes sharing and tweeting of actions on klout so often connected users to your other accounts will have their news feeds choked with klout spam, which may lead to them unfollowing you which in turn decreases the klout score. That's been my experience so far.

Luke Stokes said...

Wow, that's kind of scary to think they are urging you to "work on your scores." That just sounds crazy to me. As for the sharing and tweeting of Klout specific stuff, from what I understand that doesn't impact your score (or so they claim). So tweeting about +K's doesn't really help anyone.

My score has been dropping not stop from around 58 to whatever it is now. Last time it did that, it bounced back up again (as seen here). I have no confidence in whether the score accurately represents anything other then their system status.

Oh well. More important things to do anyway. :)

Thanks for commenting. Definitely interesting to see how marketing education is approaching these topics. Please feel free to share more of your experiences.