Courtesy of Involver

Dear SEO consultants,

If you are taking a healthy dose of digital marketing every fortnight or so then you have probably heard of the new boys in town, yes the infamous Klout!

Klout has received a lot of good PR, if I can recall correctly they have been featured on New York Times, Mashable, Washington Post, ZDNet and I think they have been talked about on CNN as well (although I am not too sure).

Here is what Klout says about their scoring mechanism:

“The Klout Score measures influence based on your ability to drive action. Every time you create content or engage you influence others. The Klout Score uses data from social networks in order to measures your True Reach, Amplification and Network Score – you can find out more about all those three elements here.

Some brands are using Klout to measure user influence and based on certain thresholds of KScore they offer Perks, offers or in some cases coupon code on Facebook. A few months ago Klout teamed up with Involver to create Klout based applications for social media marketing on Facebook.

In their announcement Involver states:

Brands facilitate this engagement by setting an appropriate threshold for how influential a user needs to be in order to receive their most valuable content. Users are rewarded for getting their Klout score but given an even greater reward if their score is high.

Involver describes their Klout Coupons application as follows:

“The Klout Coupons App from Involver is an innovative way to engage users while targeting your most valuable promotions to your most influential fans. Klout is the leading way to measure online influence based on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles.”

Big brands like Audi have used Klout Coupons, the question is, do they really know how accurate Klout is? Can it be relied upon to measure someone’s social influence?

Is Klout’s scoring model based on complex scientific analysis or is it just a simple mechanism which can be influenced through simple manipulation? Well, some of your might argue that it is scientific, accurate and so on.

Personally, I don’t buy all the hype and the marketing talk but I do like their PR agency, whoever it is, they are doing a good job – so far.

Anyway, it is really late at night or morning should I say, 1:42am to be exact. Let me introduce you to @_BorgCollective and shed some light on Klout’s scoring model.

@_BorgCollective follows 46 Twitter profiles, has 104 followers and is listed 6 times (as of 22/09/2011 at 01:43am). Wonder what its Klout score is?

A whopping 57, see screenshot below:

So scores 57 out of 100 which means (S)he is more influential than me, by two points so far. At this point you should be asking yourself – how did (S)he manage to get that score, right?

Now based on Klout’s advice, you and I should do the following to increase our Klout score:

  • Create content worth sharing
  • Start discussions
  • Register and connect your networks (Latest being Google+)

As you can see in the screenshots below, @_BorgCollective’s klout has been consistently increasing in the past couple of weeks.

Score Analysis

So everything looks fine, @_BorgCollective’s profile is getting some juice, (s)he must be really engaging with some influential people to have that steady increase, right?

Klout Fails

What does @_BorgCollective talk about and who does (s)he or it engage with? The account is only connected via Twitter and no other networks so Klout can only assess its influence level based on Twitter’s data. Problem is, @_BorgCollective doesn’t really engage with anyone, it doesn’t really “influence” anyone but it has a higher score than me. In fact, all (s)he or it does is tweet the same thing over again and again – basically spamming other Twitter profiles!

As you can see below, the entire timeline is full of @someusername “YOU WILL BE ASSIMILATED”:

_BorgCollective’s public timeline on 22/09/2011

How to do you game Klout?

Look at what @_BorgCollective has done, that profile is simply mentioning random people with the exact same message three to four times every hour. It is not connected to any other networks, no profile information and no external links.

Should you invest in Klout based campaigns?

No. How can a brand like Audi depend on such a flawed analysis and scoring model? How could other marketers who are currently offering perks on rely on such a flawed and what seems to be easily game able system?

I have been monitoring Klout and Peerindex for a while now and I have always thought that Peerindex is more realistic in terms of its analysis. Now even though I believe Peerindex is slightly more accurate in some ways I wouldn’t buy things at face value purely because all these technologies are very new. With that said, personally I have developed a tool that fetches me Klout, Peerindex, Followerwonk, looks into some other stuff and gives me a mean score. I think it is slightly more trustworthy because I am getting data from several scoring systems. That is my automatic way of doing it, I highly recommend carrying out influence research manually if you are planning on a big budget campaign.

What is with sudden Klout score spikes?

Here is another anomaly, the CEO and co-founder of Klout, Joe Fernandez scores 72 out of 100. But here is an interesting fact, on August 24th he scored 68.47 and suddenly on 28th August keep jumps to 73.06 out of 100, see blow.

I will be honest, tonight I have not had a chance to investigate why Joe Fernandez’s score shot up so quickly. It could have been as a result of a PR campaign or something similar but taking the scenario into account I think Klout is not and can not be “the standard measure of influence”.

Now that you are here, it can only mean two things, you either want to share this post on Twitter or you are interested in reading Google: The Small Business Serial Killer.

UPDATE: Made some more shocking discoveries about Klout, check my new post.