The Official Klout Blog

Does Klout Make A Difference?

March 8th, 2012 by Mark Schaefer
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Today our guest blogger is Mark W. Schaefer, Author of Return On Influence.

This question might seem like an odd one to have on the Klout blog! Does Klout make a difference?

And yet, I think this is a question on a lot of people’s minds. Is Klout really a measure of influence? Is it making a difference to brands and people’s lives? Or, is the whole social influence thing a noisy fad?

So that’s what I attempted to figure out when I started to research and write my new book “Return On Influence.” This was a very unusual project because when I proposed it to the publisher (McGraw-Hill), I told them that I really didn’t know what the book would ultimately be about! I had to let the research take me on this journey and let it the conclusions flow freely. They agreed to give me the chance to explore this topic thoroughly without even an accurate outline of a finished product.

Over the course of a year, I interviewed about 70 experts, ranging from people you probably recognize like tech blogger Robert Scoble and acclaimed author Dr. Robert Cialdini, to mommy bloggers and folks who were just out to game the system. I spent a lot of time with Klout CEO Joe Fernandez, his competitors, and even Klout’s customers.

After all this work, I came to several important conclusions which run counter to much of the thinking on the social web today:

  1. 1) There are vast differences between “online” influence and offline influence. One big difference is our ability to create and distribute content on the web. Influence has been rapidly democratized by our ability to publish.
  2. 2) Can you measure our content moving through the Internet? Yes. Can you measure how people react to it through clicks, tweets, and comments? Yes. So to the extent that you can measure the sharing of content — and responses to that content — couldn’t you measure influence … at least one small part of it? That is what Klout is trying to do.
  3. 3) Wouldn’t marketers like to connect online conversations to offline buying behavior? It’s already happening, and fast! Now that makes it really interesting, doesn’t it?
  4. 4) Brands are already integrating social scoring into traditional marketing programs in amazing ways. In fact, I document more than a dozen eye-popping new case studies in the book.



So yes. Klout and the social scoring trend is making a difference. A big difference. The ability to identify and nurture these new “Citizen Influencers” quickly, inexpensively, and on a mass scale is historically important. This capability has established nothing short of an entirely new marketing channel.

But is it making a difference to you? I think in small ways it can. While many companies like Google and Facebook are already “grading us,” Klout is one of the only companies to actually tell us about it and reward us for it!

The primary strategy for increasing your Klout score – sharing great content, building an engaged network, and active participation -– is good advice for anyone trying to be successful on the social media channel. To the extent that we can learn from our Klout score, I do believe that in some cases, it can be one possible measure of effectiveness on the social web.

So in ways both large and small, I do think Klout can make a difference. What do you think?

Mark Schaefer teaches marketing at Rutgers University, blogs at {grow}, and is the author of the new book, Return On Influence: The Revolutionary Power of Klout, Social Scoring and Influence Marketing.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, March 8th, 2012 at 9:00 am and is filed under social media. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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  • Khalil Sehnaoui

    I think Klout does make a difference as an intelligent scoring reference. But I wonder if Mark Schaefer’s findings would have not been in Klout’s favor, would his post still have made it to Klout’s blog ?

  • http://twitter.com/dallavilla Chris DallaVilla

    It’s definitely a solid frame of reference for how to think about what makes a difference in the social space. It’s hard to argue that. And considering the web is a sea of data (both front-end and back-end) I like how it’s thinking about metrics reporting for social media efforts as an early indicator. That’s highly useful. Will it become (remain?) the ‘leading’ model? Time will tell. What it’s not though – it’s not the down and dirty metrics matrix that marketers and business leaders crave and need to help inform and optimize their efforts. 

    Any thoughts on who’s leading that space? 

  • http://londoneer.org/ Pete Stean

    Mark, I’m an active participant in the ‘great Klout experiment’ but the issue I continue to have with the service is that it only measures a part of someone’s online influence – and perhaps not the most important part. I would argue that people who take the time to comment directly on the blogs that many of us run are our most engaged audience by far, rather than someone who sees your message flash past on Twitter and clicks the RT button on a whim - and Klout doesn’t measure those on-site interactions at all. 

    I would agree that its a loose proxy for online influence – clearly someone with a Klout score of 50 is far more engaged online than someone with a score of 20, but is someone with a score of 51 more influential than someone with a score of 48? I’m not so sure…

  • http://twitter.com/RyanSauers Ryan T. Sauers

    Mark, well done. 
     At this time, on the web, Klout provides the most quantitative way to measure someone’s content and contributions.  As you wrote in the foreword of my new book– Everyone Is in Sales– http://www.everyoneinsales.com we are all influencing others in some manner.  So, then, the question is not “if” but “how?” I think you bring up some interesting points here and are on “mark” no pun intended :-)  Ryan http://www.ryansauers.com 

  • http://twitter.com/olinjoseph Olin Graczyk

    Mark, 

    I want to read your book and give this an objective shake.  But, a couple of immediate thoughts:

    1. I agree with Pete.  The difference in Klout scoring is usually not a clear measure of the gap between influencers.  Additionally, Klout leaves A LOT unaccounted for.  Period.
    2. To say the algorithm is “erratic” still doesn’t quite define how poorly it measures.  Usually, I refer to Klout scoring as IBS… you never know what it will bring tomorrow.  I know, from measure of my own score, that weeks where I have MORE 1:1 conversation with Twitter followers than ever before, I will trend downward. Yet, on weeks I go dark (due to schedule) I’ll trend upwards.  Hmm.  The problem is, Klout has a really good idea, but nothing real actionable here.  It is an idea, w/o the execution.
    3. (my last point) – the Perks are a joke.  The idea is to get your products into people’s hands of high influence, in hope they’ll provide an objective POV on the value.  However, Perks is becoming something hauntingly similar to an arcade prize booth.  You manipulate the system to win prizes.  Klout should be working with brands and retailers to identify (not publicly) individuals of influence and recommend sending samples to them.  Instead, we’ve got a ticket redemption counter.  That’s not a great execution of ways to leverage influencers.  It’s poorly thought out.

    Just my two cents.  

  • http://twitter.com/bjboulden Brian Boulden

    I personally think Klout is a great idea. However it drives me crazy that one day I can be an expert in something and the next day its no longer listed. If I am expert, then I am an expert.  When some of us are trying to build up are on-line Klout with others, it seems Klout does more to damage it by not letting us retain our expertise listing.

    Also not enough people know about Klout. I want to invite friends but there is too advertising for Klout everytime I want to Tweet something from Klout.

  • Isa Massi

    I love using Klout.  I’ve been using it for a couple of months now, and I work harder to keep my Klout going up and it does. =)  Often times it happens when I don’t even know it. =)  I just work hard to try to keep my influence growing.  I actually have more Klout than Hayden Panettiere right now. =)  Of course I don’t know how long that will last now that I mentioned her name in this post. =) lol  However, I will continue to try to build my Klout.  I think it is a fair and accurate measure of exactly how much we can potentially influence people online.  Until next post, get more Klout! =)  Salam!  

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=506813484 Isa Massi

    I love using Klout.  I’ve been using it for a couple of months now, and I
    work harder to keep my Klout going up and it does. =)  Often times it
    happens when I don’t even know it. =)  I just work hard to try to keep
    my influence growing.  I actually have more Klout than Hayden Panettiere
    right now. =)  Of course I don’t know how long that will last now that I
    mentioned her name in this post. =) lol  However, I will continue to
    try to build my Klout.  I think it is a fair and accurate measure of
    exactly how much we can potentially influence people online.  Until next
    post, get more Klout! =)  Salam!

  • Mandira

     My thoughts exactly!

  • Mandira

     My thoughts exactly!

  • Gideon Sheps

    Klout’s major weakness is that context & content is an important part of influence. If you make a fool of yourself in front of a lot of people that isn’t necessarily influence.

    Klout also measures very little today – basically twitter. As far as I can tell activity in other realms, like WordPress, LinkedIn and Facebook is largely ignored. In this I agree with what Pete says.

    Klout is an interesting idea, but very immature technology at this time. I’ll keep with it because I want to see where it goes, because I think it can become better – but a the moment the number is largely meaningless in my view.  My initial thoughts were blogged at http://wp.me/p28lgH-94 and http://wp.me/p28lgH-9L

  • http://likesup.com/ The Liking Authority

    Mark, thanks for your words.

    I agree with Pete Stean regarding Klout only measuring a part of someone’s online influence. 

    POWERFUL conversations are not measured and those have more real-world influence than a score.  True content creation is not valued.  Your book mention with 70 interviews is just a tweet. It gets Klout when there is viral volume.

    You are mentioned in this blog post http://likesup.com/likes-up-klout/  

    Thank you!

    Sherrie Rose
    The Liking Authority

  • http://twitter.com/bennyearl Big Ben

    Mark,
    Thank you for your blog post.  The fact that it is here on the official Klout blog makes it somewhat biased.  The fact that you are also selling a book on influence is also interesting.  Regardless, I did some further research and like what you have to say on your {grow} blog.  I will look forward to following your success.  You have definitely found a niche in generating interesting content and moving it.

  • Dmitry Karagodsky

    good blog tx

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