7 truths you need to know about Klout

Klout logo

Outside of the bubble occupied by bloggers and social media specialists, Klout is largely irrelevant. And yet within that bubble it is something many worry about a great deal, particularly in parent blogging circles where it is one of the eight components of the Tots100 rankings.

And yet this system for ranking an individual’s online influence is poorly understood, with lots of false myths circulating among bloggers.

So here are seven facts about how Klout works and some pointers for improving your score, based on current information from both the Klout website and an academic paper published by the Klout team themselves last year.

1. What your score means

Anyone who registers with Klout and links at least one of its measured social networks to it is assigned an individual score between one and 100 which is updated daily (usually, but not always, around 4pm UK time).

Klout is a measure of a user’s social ‘influence’ – their ability to transmit messages across global networks – based on 3,600 different factors collected from nine platforms for 750 million users. The average score is 40, Barack Obama’s is 99, Rihanna 94, David Cameron 92 and Mark Zuckerberg a lowly 85. More realistically, a score of 63 puts you in the top 5% of all users.

It’s worth noting the scoring system is not linear, so it’s harder to improve your score from 50 to 60 than from 40 to 50.

2. What networks influence your score?

Klout takes a variety of measures from seven popular social networks plus Wikipedia and Lithium Communities (which includes Klout itself – you can ‘give Klout’ to other users recognising their expertise on selected topics). They will soon be adding Bing.

The seven networks are: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, Foursquare and YouTube.

Klout also allows you to register other accounts such as Tumblr, WordPress, Pinterest and Flickr. These are for the purposes of providing links in your personal profile only – none of them contribute to your Klout score.

3. Adding networks to Klout CANNOT reduce your score

This is the single biggest myth associated with Klout, with many bloggers claiming that adding more social networks led to a reduction in their score (or, conversely, that removing some added to their score).

It is clearly stated on Klout’s website that your score is made up from the accumulation of all your networks’ scores and not, say, an average. So adding your little-used LinkedIn account will, at worst, have a minimal but positive impact on your score.

4. What factors drive my Klout score?

Klout prioritises user interactions over volume. It’s not about how often you post but about how successful your content is at attracting likes, shares and comments.

So posting 20 tweets a day that no one engages with has a lesser impact than posting one tweet that is RT’d 20 times. Similarly, receiving 100 likes across ten Facebook posts counts for more than 100 likes across 1,000 posts.

The exact factors measured vary from network to network. You can find out more by hovering over the individual social media icons at the bottom of this page on the Klout site.

5. Timing is everything (well, mostly)

Klout measures its various signals on a daily basis across seven different time periods, ranging from three to 90 days. This has a number of implications on the way the score is calculated, such as:

  • Your Klout score is recalculated daily, so activity from today will not count until tomorrow.
  • If you have a ‘big’ day today, it may not have as big an impact as you might think, as Klout is taking up to three months’ data into account.
  • Impact decays over time. Something you did two days ago carries a greater weight than something you did two weeks ago, which in turn scores more than something you did two months ago.
  • Fluctuations in your daily score can be driven as much by the ‘ageing’ of old activity as it is by what you did yesterday. This means your score can go up and down seemingly at random from day to day.

One additional note. A number of factors which influence your score are not time-dependent. Some of these are obvious: Twitter and Instagram followers, YouTube subscribers, Facebook page likes and so on. Others are less obvious: your education level and job title (both taken from LinkedIn) also influence your score.

6. Not all interactions are created equal

There used to be a display on your personal Klout page that attributed a score of between one and five to your social media posts depending on the number of interactions. This suggested that simple volume of engagements was the key measure.

This isn’t true. It’s more sophisticated than that.

Klout attributes differing weights to interactions based not only on recency as discussed above but also on the characteristics of the people who interact with you. For instance, being retweeted by Barack Obama counts for more than being RT’d by Joe Bloggs.

In a similar vein, Klout also suggest that an interaction from someone who doesn’t like or retweet other people’s content often is worth more than one from someone who likes or retweets everything.

Finally, 100 interactions from 100 different people count for more than 100 interactions from the same person. This rewards people who influence a wide sphere of other users and reduces the impact of people who try to ‘game’ the system by liking or sharing every post they make from a second account.

7. It’s all about content (and a little bit of luck)

By now, you have hopefully understood that the mechanics behind Klout are complex, hard to understand and not easily manipulated.

So what is the secret to success on Klout? Fundamentally, it comes down to posting high quality, relevant content, as this is what drives all those likes, shares and comments.

Here are a few additional tips:

  • Forget what some people say: connect all your networks, even ones you don’t use often. Every little helps.
  • It’s better to focus on being brilliant at one or two social networks rather than being mediocre at everything. Barack Obama doesn’t have a score of 99 because he’s posting to Foursquare and Google+.
  • Remember, quality not quantity! Just as one brilliant photo is worth more than 100 blurry ones, 2-3 great tweets per day will boost your score more than forcing out 100 a day just to fill a self-imposed quota.
  • Interact with key influencers in your field (i.e. those with high Klout scores). Engage in conversation, share their content and make yourself known to them – but be sensible and don’t overdo it. No one likes to feel they are being spammed or manipulated. And don’t focus solely on the big names to the exclusion of everyone else. It’s easier to spot sycophantic brown-noses than you might think.
  • Invest a little extra time in liking and sharing other people’s content (but, again, don’t overdo it). It doesn’t increase your score directly but it makes it more likely they will like or share you in return, which does boost your score.
  • Sometimes you may just get lucky, when a key influencer such as a celebrity shares your tweet or a Facebook post goes viral. Enjoy the boost – but remember it only counts in Klout for 90 days.

Above all, enjoy what you do. Building your Klout score should never be your primary reason for being on social media. Focus on quality, enjoy interacting with others and watch as your Klout score grows all on its own.

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