Klout: What’s in a number?

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43Most folks who use Social Media know about Klout – the ubiquitous rating/ranking system that shows what you’re influential in. Love it or hate it (and there are equal numbers of people on both sides of that argument) most folks just plain don’t understand it.

There are many rating and ranking systems for Social Media, from Kred to Twitgrader and back again. Klout seems to keep its status as the perennial favorite though, and many writers, employers and pundits are beginning to look at Klout scores to see if someone is really as big as they say.

The first major question I get is “Do I have a Klout account?” followed closely by “I didn’t sign up for this! Why is it there?”

Everyone who has a *PIBLIC* Twitter account, and most folks who have G+ and/or Facebook accounts, also have a Klout account by default. Your score gets tracked based only on PUBLIC information you share on those networks, and nothing more. They’re not doing anything illegal, and without you specifically signing up and confirming who you are (Klout uses OAuth to confirm identity), no one can give you +K or otherwise interact with you on Klout. You just have a public score, nothing more. Note: You can get rid of even your public score by opting-out if you want to.

Once you do log in, you can see your score, and see how you appear to be influenced and what you’re influential in yourself. These metrics are managed by the Klout numbers and algorithms.

But, how do they get to those numbers?

Unfortunately, the ranking systems used by Klout are proprietary and confidential. They’re also subject to change at any moment – and a recent change that knocked most people’s scores down about 10 points created a near exodus from the service itself. There are, however, a few things we know Klout looks at:

1 – Your number of followers, and the ratio of how many folks you follow to how many follow you back. This means you can’t bump your score up by just getting 1000 bots to follow you, and also that you can hurt your score if you follow significantly more folks than follow you back. Again, the equations are a closely guarded secret, but these metrics appear to influence your score.

2 – How you interact with others, and how they interact with you. This means Likes, ReTweets, Replies, etc. Klout is looking to see if people actually read what you tweet and post, or if they’re just following you and never actually looking at what you share.

3 – What topics you appear to influence. This is the most confusing topic – based on questions I get asked all the time about why people appear to be influential in one topic or another. It’s not what *you* tweet about, it’s what the people who interact *with you* are tweeting about most. If the majority of folks who follow you tweet about cars, Klout figures that you must be influential about cars, since the folks who specifically follow you are talking about that topic a lot.

4 – How influential your followers are. Not only do you need to interact with other people, but you should interact with influential people if you want a higher Klout score.

All that (and – according to the company – some more too) gets put into a mathematical formula that attributes different weights to different components. This spits out your current Klout score.

In addition, what you appear to be influential about and those you appear to influence on those topics (as well as those who appear to influence YOU on those topics) are calculated.

Then, when you visit your Klout page, you see a readout of your current score, the topics you seem to be influential on, and who you appear to influence and be influenced by. Klout doesn’t say when scores are calculated, but I have never noticed my score being updated more than once a day or so.

Now, what does all this mean? Not much really, in the grand scheme of things. You can happily ignore Klout entirely, and even opt-out of the scoring completely if you want. However, if you want to see what you appear to be influential in, Klout can be one (of many) ways to find out that information.

How to use Klout is another story. You can give someone who influenced you a nod by giving them +K on the topic they influenced you about. If they don’t show up on your influencer list, you can search for the person and give them +K that way. As you gain more Klout, you can even add topics to other people, but they (and you) always have the ability to remove any topics from lists. Other folks can give you +K and add topics for you as well via the same methods.

With enough Klout in certain topics, you can become eligible for perks. These are discounts and free stuff from advertisers who want you to see and play with their products and services. You’re never under obligation to accept a perk, and even when you do you are not required to say anything about it online unless you want to. It’s entirely up to you if you wish to participate in any given perk, and you can tweet and post whatever you want about it afterwards.

Personally, I’ve found some perks useless, and said so on Twitter and other places. No advertiser has ever come after me for doing so – though a couple of times they did indeed try to reach out to help with whatever was going wrong. I’ve also had great perks and tweeted about how good the item or service was – so advertisers know they can get free publicity through Klout.

One last thing, you should avoid spamming your Klout interactions whenever possible. I, personally, limit myself to 3 or 4 Klout tweets per day at a maximum, to keep the timeline manageable. I’ll give +K to a few folks each day, and acknowledge one or two of the folks who gave me +K as well, but that’s it. Spamming your score, metrics, and/or 10-20 +K’s each day is a great way to ensure your Klout score will go DOWN as tons of people unfollow you – so remember to use it wisely if you choose to use it.

If you don’t want to be part of it? That’s fine! You can ignore any Klout-related posts and just ignore the whole thing if you want, or you can opt-out if you really hate the idea. For the rest of us, it’s a fun way to see who and what we influence. Nothing more, nothing less, and nothing to even pay attention to if you don’t care.

Photo Credit: Sean Rogers1

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