In Defense of Klout Measurement for Social Media Influence

Neal Schaffer President, Maximize Your Social

Posted on February 17th 2011

My social media consulting clients always ask me as to who they should be trying to “influence” on social websites, and I always have to remind them that any social media user could potentially be an “influencer.”  That being said, some people or businesses use social networking sites more than others, some have more reach than others, and some are considered to have thought leadership in their industries or professions more than others.  An exact measurement of social media influence is impossible because it will be different based on 1) the context of what exactly you’re trying to influence as well as 2) the big question of how many people will actually act upon the recommendation of an “influencer.”

I blogged earlier this year looking at two tools to measure social media influence: Klout and PeerIndex.  Of course these are only two potential tools that a social marketer has at his or her disposal.  In fact, there are many tools to measure social influence, but they mean nothing without a relevance filter for the particular product or industry.  For instance, Ashton Kutcher could have a high Klout score, but I certainly wouldn’t consider him influential in the B2B business services market.

With that in mind, and a disclaimer that I have no professional relationship with Klout other than that I met their CEO Joe Fernandez at BlogWorld 2010 and he was a cool dude, I want to blog in defense of Klout as a measurement tool for social media influence by giving a very good example of why the score works as one practical metric.  The example I use is something that I know a lot about: the social media industry.


Klout as One Measurement Tool of Social Influence

I have added Custom Social Media Influencer Analysis to my own social media consulting services because of demand from my clients.  While I can’t divulge how I go about analyzing and determining social influence for any given company, brand, product, or industry, I can tell you that it involves looking at a number of different factors and a lot of “analog” analysis of users on the various social platforms and their conversations.  One of the metrics that I look at, without doubt, is Klout.  When I look at Klout, I initially look for “anchor” people that I am fairly confident are both influential in that industry as well as an active social media user, and from there look at a number of factors, including who they influence and who they are influenced by – excellent data which Klout provides.  This introduces me to other profiles to analyze.  From there I look at whether these people with high numbers are even relevant, and then I make a list to do detailed content searches on.  There are a lot more factors that go into this list, but let’s look at an analysis of social media influencers just based on what the Klout scores reveal: (Twitter handles are followed by their present Klout score)

If I had to ask you who do you think is truly influential in social media, meaning that if they posted a blog article about a new tool that it would induce many to try it, would you have listed some of the people on this list?  I believe you would.  Now for my analysis:

1.) Klout Measurement is Primarily about Twitter Influence. I’m sure that I’m going to get a comment on this blog that Facebook at the present, and LinkedIn in the near future, are also analyzed by the Klout measurement tool.  But just for the sheer fact that probably 99% of tweets are public where as Facebook and LinkedIn posts aren’t necessarily so, those who actively tweet on Twitter, especially those that have a large, relevant, and engaging following, yield huge influence in social media.  That is why @TweetSmarter should be on this list, because they are endlessly tweeting out the greatest tips on Twitter from across the world with great frequency and have a huge reach on Twitter.  FYI @TweetSmarter has about 240,000 followers, is listed on more than 13,000 lists, and has tweeted almost 40,000 times!

2.) The New Mass Media are More Important than Bloggers. I often refer to Mashable as the CNN of social media.  They really are.  Everything they say gets hundreds of ReTweets by a wide variety of people.  Furthermore, their frequent introductions of new social tools and tips on a daily basis have a plethora of readers who will act upon what they say.  That is true social influence, and that is why sites like Mashable as well as TechCrunch have higher Klout scores than the New New Media of bloggers and authors.  The measurement tool for social influence is working.  After all, if you were trying to introduce a new product to the social media world, would you rather get prime coverage on Mashable or a blogger’s site?  I would pick Mashable in general, but for certain genres (like blogging) ProBlogger may make more sense.  But remember, this is a list for general influence on the general topic of “social media.”  This leads me to:

3.) Is the User Relevant to Your Product? I had a tough one with Huffington Post. Once again, similar to Mashable, Huffington Post is undoubtedly influential enough to be bought out by AOL, and thus deserve a very high Klout score.  The question is, how influential are they in the scheme of social media?  Huff covers social media along with a lot of other topics, so it is not their primary focus.  But, you know what, Mashable is covering a lot of different topics as well.  This is why a relevance filter needs to be added to any Klout score.  If there was any user on this list that I have my doubts about vis a vis yielding influence on the topic of social media, this would be the only one.  I left it in there for the purpose of this paragraph as well as to get your feedback!

4.) Influential Social Media Bloggers are Social Influencers. The remaining people on the list are definitely top notch influencers in the realm of social media.  Is Problogger influential on LinkedIn or Guy Kawasaki influential in the realm of Social Media for Non Profits?  Maybe not as much as others with lower Klout scores.  And that is the point I am trying to make and why I wouldn’t add them to lists on those topics (unless you tell me otherwise!).  That being said, when any of these individuals write a book or come to town, they will have a big audience paying $$$ to see them and potentially acting upon their advice.

In my mind, and with the above reasoning, the Klout score measurement makes perfect sense as a tool.  Now, if we were going to look at people who have scores in the 60s and 70s there may be more debate, but I hope that you’ll agree in this example that Klout is doing a pretty good job as one tool to measure social influence.  While I don’t question the above scores, what you do with these scores to embark on a certain action for your business is a completely separate subject for debate.

So, do you still not believe in Klout as a measurement tool for influence?  A fan of Klout?  What do you think about the topic of social influence? The mic is yours!


Neal Schaffer

President, Maximize Your Social

Forbes Top 50 Social Media Power Influencer two years in a row and creator of the AdAge Top 100 Global Marketing Blog Windmill Networking (recently rebranded as Maximize Social Business), Neal is a global social media speaker who also teaches as part of the Rutgers University Mini Social Media MBA Program. As an author, Neal is best known for his definitive book on social media strategy creation, implementation, and optimization “Maximize Your Social: A One-Stop Guide to Building a Social Media Strategy for Marketing and Business Success” (Wiley)  but has also published two other award-winning and critically acclaimed social media books: ”Maximizing LinkedIn for Sales and Social Media Marketing” and “Windmill Networking: Maximizing LinkedIn.”

As a leading social media speaker, Neal currently speaks on social media at dozens of corporate, professional association, and online events each year. In parallel, he continues to consult with, coach, and train clients on strategically leveraging social media for their business. Since launching his social media strategy consulting business in January, 2010, Neal has worked with dozens of companies, from small startups and solopreneurs to Fortune 500 enterprises and a Grammy Award-winning celebrity. In addition, Neal is also founder and editor-in-chief of Maximize Social Business, a leading social media for business resource featuring industry thought leaders.

Neal works with clients seeking his social media expertise in the following ways: 

Social Media Strategy Consultant - Neal works with companies in auditing their current social media efforts company-wide and creating a comprehensive social media strategy that aligns corporate objectives with the potential for social business. For smaller businesses who need to have an expert social media advisor on call for practical advice, Neal offers this service at reasonable rates to help as many companies as possible with their social media.

Social Media Speaker - Whether it’s a keynote speech, presentation for a professional association or a hands-on workshop for an internal audience, Neal delivers customized content with concrete takeaways to meet your needs.

Social Media Content Creator – Need a recognized social media author to ghostwrite or help in writing a social media book, ebook, whitepaper, or magazine article for your organization or enterprise? Neal is available for such work.

See Full Profile >


I'm a numbers guy so I can see huge faults with Klout - I can also see what they're trying to do and the potential. Klout doesn't work for every business ... in fact, it probably doesn't work for 95% of businesses looking to measure, track and learn more about social media influencers.Businesses need a TAILORED measure that not only fits their audience, it also needs to fit their social media strategy. Not every business is focused on Twitter or would be covered by Mashable.

I agree with Chris. not only that it doesn't work for every business, it does not take in consideration other languages. So if you have a user with huge influence in Brasil, Klout will not undersatnd that influence and will translate it to a regular user in the us market.

Aside from that, the numbers you used as example, although all of them are influential, are hight because Klout needed influential or early adopters to be able to spread the tool.

I would like to see more people from different backgrounds and languages be used as example, instead of using the same people for everything. It looks like there is a social media mafia and people must be part of the inner circle.

Just my thoughts

Christian Lisogorsky