Klout doesn’t measure what really matters

A few days ago, my good friend Joe Ruiz (@SMSJoe) asked me a question. He asked me how I stay connected with everyone that I do. It’s a question I get now and then. As serendipity would have it, the answer plays perfectly into this weekend’s #usblogs theme, which is how to improve Klout offline.

A bit about Klout

Klout seems to be the topic that won’t die. I am as guilty as everybody. I’ve written about my distaste for the whole concept of Klout, I’ve done a presentation exploring Klout with a more unbiased approach, and now I’m doing this post. Just this week, Mark Schaefer quoted an excellent exploration of Klout from the Boston Globe, Trey Pennington wrote a satirical post about things that are wrong with Klout, and Mack Collier wrote a post taking off on Trey’s post.

That’s a lot of content – and this is by no means an exhaustive search.

Here’s the main thing that bothers me about Klout. Despite all arguments to the contrary, it seems that Klout scores rise the more you tweet. Icing on that cake is how often you get retweeted. I’ve been taking a bit of time off Twitter over the last week or so, and my Klout score (I just checked) has dropped 3 points. In essence, to the point of the #usblogs theme, to get klout, simply being online is a good start.

I have a problem with that.

It’s about real connections

I don’t want to downplay the importance of Twitter for today’s online marketers and business people. It’s immensely important, not to mention pretty darned fun and interesting a lot of the time. But (and to quote Pee Wee Herman, everyone has a big but), you find that the more you get connected on a real basis with people, the less you center your communications on Twitter.

A lot of my communicating with people now happens on their blog sites, on my blog site, in emails, on Facebook, on the phone, or all kinds of other places. We wave to each other in the stream, but if you were to judge my relationships with some of my best buddies, like Suzanne Vara and Maya Paveza, merely by what you see in the Twitter stream, you would probably not think there was much going on there.

That is really how I stay connected with people, and I think that’s how people stay connected to me as well. It’s really not a conscious thing for me. I have been fortunate enough to build relationships via Twitter that I truly care about, so following up with that person is a pleasure, not something I check off of a checklist. Does that connection mean that we support each others’ blog posts? Sure. Does that mean that we tweet each other when we can? Yep. But Twitter – the thing Klout measures most – that’s not where the heart of the online world is headed. To me, Twitter, Facebook, and the rest of the online world – that’s your really nice car. But you’ve got to be going somewhere exciting for it to be truly worthwhile in the end.

Building Klout offline

Klout emphasizes what it calls “influence,” which has become a tired and controversial buzz word in this space. In my experience and in watching other people who just continue to grow and blossom online, influence is a side effect – a happy coincidence. It’s the relationships and what you do to keep and grow those relationships that really matter. It’s reading a post for someone before they publish it. It’s promoting someone’s e-book to help them out. It’s checking on someone who seems down. All of the things that Klout can’t touch and doesn’t try to touch are what matter the most to me. It may not all be offline, but it’s out of the range of Klout’s radar.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your take!

Image by Franque de Win. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/Franque

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

When Tom Moradpour reposted his post and I read this Margie, your post is timeless as well. I have many blog posts about Klout. It just doesn't replace real marketing and can be dangerously wrong in what it is measuring. CHeers!

Kenny Rose
Kenny Rose

I have been debating klout since I started on twitter. I started with no klout except what i had in my community and with people who know me. Know I have never gamed clout online or off. I like clout as a product and service I just don't think it has been developed to the point where is truly valuable and I have my doubts if it ever will. I share your values and perspectives and as ever you continue to have a clout rating of 100 with me.

Cheryl Keith Burgess
Cheryl Keith Burgess


This is one of your best posts! If the algorithms out there scored you less than 100% they’re flawed.

What you bring to your community is a sense of caring, trust and wisdom. Sure we can discuss Klout, but first we need to understand relationships. If Klout measured you both offline and online, their scoring would have more credibility.

The only redeeming factor is that Klout seems to accept input and realizes they need to improve their functionality. Perhaps, they should read your blog and re-think their concept of “influence”. l



Karen E. Lund
Karen E. Lund

My experience was a bit different, Margie. I took three days off from the online world over the New Year's weekend (earning a little IRL influence with my Dad) and when I checked my Klout score afterward it had gone UP two points. Kinda made me wonder what the algorithm was doing....

After following the Klout conversations on #UsGuys, reading a few other articles and blog posts, and watching my own score, I am willing to concede that Klout does a decent job of measuring one's effectiveness in the Twitterverse. But it has not yet figured out how to measure other kinds of online interactions and I doubt it will ever come up with an algorithm that includes offline actions and influence--and, as you write, that is most of what matters in life.

Gaby O'Rourke
Gaby O'Rourke

Hi Margie

I loved this line..."you’ve got to be going somewhere exciting for it to be truly worthwhile in the end". How we communicate and connect with people out of the stream and in our real lives is so much more important than any collection of numbers concerning amplification, reach or network.

Mack Collier
Mack Collier

Hey Margie, thanks for the link. As you said, it seems that Klout scores do indeed increase the more you tweet. Which to me actually makes sense, because if Klout is going to attempt to measure influence in a community, participation and interaction in that community should be a big factor in determining influence.

The bigger problem, IMO is that Klout is heavily tied to Twitter. You could be an influential person online, and not be active on Twitter. But to many companies, Klout is the service that measures online influence, so if your Klout score isn't high, then they believe you aren't that influential.

As Trey says, there is a real need for a service that connects companies with influencers. For now, Klout doesn't serve as the perfect matchmaker. But that doesn't mean they can't eventually get it right. I'll be watching, either way.


Thank you for contextualizing the historical moment so well. Listening to Biz Stone talk about Twitter in relation to the Obama admin. and Egypt, there was something Messianic thread--although the guy himself sounds grounded.

And you (as per usual) make some great points. How do measure "empathy" or "compassion." Influence, like ambition, can be angelic or diabolical.

I love ruminating on this subject--my thought was how can I best satirize it. Can't wait to post, but I have to go shred beets for my wife's borscht and call my mother. Mother's don't like it when you live 5000 miles away and whittle away one's time on twitter.

This, Margie, is far better.


Nick Kellet
Nick Kellet

I love all the things you list, but I don't see them being out of bounds for long. They is value in a friend sharing that you pre-read their post. Of that you asked to care.

All these acts of being a true friend are ultimately trackable.

Hashable is taking baby steps in this direction. Their vocab just has the wrong focus right now and all their actions carry equal weight. A social marker place for what matter would fix that

I'll take 10 #postsreviews to one #coffee, if not more. Each action has a unique value.

The world is changing, but people seem willing to log just about anything.

Next stop is getting them to log the real deep personal stuff. These acts are not invisible nor confidential for the most part.

I love your posts. We see the world from different viewpoints, but that's awesome. It gets me thinking.

Trey Pennington
Trey Pennington

Thank you for including my post in your discussion. Klout is fatally flawed, but is meeting a screaming need in the marketplace. What does that tell you about the level of thinking and commitment in the marketplace? Kinda sad, huh?

Any measure that has Justin Bieber as the perfect, penultimate exemplar and Warren Buffett at 1/3 the "influence" of Justin Bieber, is seriously flawed. What I want is a list that has Warren Buffett at the top and connects me with more people like him.

We discussed this phenomenon at my house (I have six children, so it's always interesting to get their perspectives on pop culture). My 8, 10, and 13 year old children were unanimous in their disdain for Justin. So nice to know that I have more clout in my own home than Justin Bieber, even though he has all the Klout there is.

Rufus Dogg
Rufus Dogg

A good rule of thumb for selling your house used to be: Never list your house with the agent who answers the phone at the office. He is the one sitting around with nothing to do. The same could be said of twitter. What Klout calls "influence," busy people call sitting around doing nothing.

Remember all the smart dead guys whom we quote for motivation and inspiration all have a Klout score of 0. Always will. Perhaps we should all aspire to be that smart.