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Klout: What is it and how does it work?

Have you got "Klout"?  Do you even know?  I think I've learnt some things about Klout in recent weeks and months and so thought I would share them here.  However, as with any algorithm-driven machine, we can only guess while the Klout people tweak and change the mathematics to keep us guessing.  Because fundamental to the success of Klout is that it can't be "gamed" - i.e. you can't cheat it.  But hopefully what follows will be of some help in trying to understand it. klout-score-graphic

What is Klout?  Klout is one of a number of services that seek to provide a global benchmark in Online Influence.  Two others are PeerIndex and Kred and while they seem just as robust, the people at Klout have done a far better job brokering partnerships with all the Social Media tools that count - Twitter, Hootsuite, Chrome, Radian6, Seismic and so on.  They are also making far better inroads into working with the big brands to reward influence through their "Perks" service; which seeks to give brands the ability to trade their products and services in exchange for leverage of that Influence.  If you have a high Klout score you might have access to discounted or even free products and services from brands that hope you will then speak highly of them online.  US Airlines, for instance, are using this to offer high-Klout Social users access to their Lounge services in the hope that they will amplify them online.  (As a guide, brands usually see a Klout score of 50 and above as a good indicator of influence.)

How do you use it?  You must first register all of your Social channels at the Klout site.  Before registration, Klout still awards your Twitter account a score, which is publicly visible to everyone who has deployed the various Klout plug-ins within their Social tools.  So, it is important to register all your channels with  Klout in order to get the score you richly deserve as registration is almost certain to increase your score as Klout learns more about the size of your network and your engagement with it.

There are three strategic ways to use Klout:

  • Whether you're sold on it's accuracy or not, it is a great way to KPI your Social activity.  If your Klout goes up you are doing something right, if it goes down, you are doing something wrong.  If you are seriously trying to grow your Social profile and footprint, Klout is a useful benchmark against which to measure yourself
  • Klout is a very useful benchmark spectrum on which to judge influence and so if you are looking for your Amplification Cohort, you can use Klout to rank your followers in order to select those you might single out for cultivation.  If there's someone with which you engage often, who re-tweets your content often and lives and works in your City and/or industry, then use Klout to identify whether they merit special attention
  • Brands will increasingly use Klout and services like it (but currently, Klout leads the field in relationships with "engagement consoles" such as Radian6 and Hootsuite) to prioritise Social users for engagement.  For instance, a Telco with many hundred Social mentions on its desk which require response - e.g. complaints about poor network service - will use Klout to rank those users for urgency.  Someone with a Klout ranking of 60 is going to receive far quicker response most likely than someone with only 15 because the belief will be that negative coverage from the former is far more damaging to the brand than the latter.  (Moreover, it is worth mentioning that if you wish to use Social Media to get a result from a brand - it is worth logging all of your networks with Klout and getting the highest possible score before you do so!)

How does it work?  Two very informative articles about Klout and its ilk are:

In the first, Brian Solis - who had his own spat with Klout quite famously a few years ago - makes the important point that Klout measures "not your influence but your potential for it."  Perhaps more usefully, in a very intelligent article, Tom Webster reaches this important conclusion about what these services score:

"Influence scores measure your ability to move content–to spread a message throughout 'the system.'"

What I've learnt lately is these algorithms track ratios - ratios of those you are following to the those who follow you back, and looks at the ratio of the content volumes versus engagement related to that content.  If you follow scores of people who do not follow you back, your Klout will go down.  If you reduce the number of people you follow, your Klout score goes up.  Equally, if you tweet a large volume of content that resonates with your audience who either respond to it or amplify it, your score will go up.  However, huge volumes of content that provokes no reaction at all will damage your score.  So in general, large amounts of apparently unilateral activity causes you to be marked down.  (Incidentally, a useful tool for managing followers is called Manage Flitter.)

The key is engagement - study your audience, provide them with what they want and not merely what you want to share for your own benefit.  Achieving a good Influence score of any kind - either as an individual or a brand - means adding value.  Klout rewards those who successfully contribute to a community something that they need.  That is why, while Twitter is the primary channel for demonstrating influence, what happens on Facebook and LinkedIn - where you have a much tighter community who know you well - is likely to have a far greater impact on your score in many ways as the engagement tends to be greater.

What have you learnt about Klout?  Please share your view in the comments below...

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