Klout Responds to Questions and Critics

Mike Johansson
Mike Johansson Senior Lecturer at Rochester Institute of Technology and principal at Fixitology, RIT and Fixitology

Posted on October 29th 2011

Klout Responds to Questions and Critics
Questions and criticisms have been swirling around the changes to the Klout Score this past week. I decided to post some questions to Joe Fernandez, CEO of Klout. He was traveling so Megan Berry, Marketing Manager at Klout agreed to step in and answer on behalf of Klout.

Her response is below. It arrived Friday (24 hours after she offered to answer the questions) by email and as a comment – cited here - on a previous blog:

Hey Mike,

As I mentioned, I was getting you the responses to these questions. I was in the process of drafting them when I saw this post so I sent them to you in email just now and I'll also post here:

1. Some of the criticisms of the new Klout are that it is not transparent enough. In other words you made changes that altered scores in some case by 20 points, but have not given explanations about why those changes were so dramatic. What do you say to this criticism?
Hey Mike, we announced the upcoming changes the week before with Joe's post on why we believe the change was needed and we also had a post on the day of announcement explaining the changes. As you know as someone in the field, social media is constantly evolving and as a measure of your influence there, we need to evolve as well.

2. A quick, early analysis seems to show that those who have linked all of the accounts Klout currently allows users to connect have kept their scores relatively the same or now have higher scores. This would seem to penalize, for example, non-iPhone owners who cannot have an Instagram account of those who blog on something other than Tumblr or Wordpress. Your response?
Hey Mike, we measure influence equally independent of network. Lady Gaga, for instance (http://klout.com/#/ladygaga), is only measured based on Twitter and has one of our highest Scores. You do not need to connect multiple networks to have influence but if you do influence on a network, it will help you to connect it (we can then give you credit for that influence).

3. One of the themes in the criticisms is that there could have been an “old Klout” and a “new Klout” or “Klout+” as a way to allow users to decide how serious they wanted to be about their score. Your reaction?
Hey Mike, do you mean letting people choose which scoring system they want to use? Technologically it takes a lot of infrastructure to process 3 Billion pieces of content and connections daily so apart from any other concerns having 2 pipelines isn't feasible in the long term. We are always looking to move forward and improve, we think once people look at these scores in context and get a chance to see the improvements they will grow to like them.

4. Another prevalent criticism: It seems the new Klout Score penalizes people who are genuinely involved with others on social media regardless of their influence scores versus those who are selective and only “talk” to high influencers. This seems to encourage a new form of social media class snobbery. What are your thoughts?
You are never penalized for talking to people with lower scores. We believe * everyone * has Klout and anytime someone takes action based on your content that adds to your influence. Yes, if they have a higher score, that adds to your influence *more * but either way we give you credit for that and you are never penalized.

5. Twitter and Google+ have been full of people saying they have or will rescind permissions for Klout in protest, the *OccupyKlout and *KloutPout hashtags have cropped up. Can Klout survive and thrive this reaction to what you consider a big improvement?
We definitely are working to listen to feedback and are always improving. We believe once people get a chance to interact with our new scoring system they will grow to understand its improvements.

So, how did Megan do? Did she answer the questions you have?

Related posts:
Klout questions for CEO Joe Fernandez
Klout changes ... scores drop and complaints rise
Mike Johansson

Mike Johansson

Senior Lecturer at Rochester Institute of Technology and principal at Fixitology, RIT and Fixitology

Mike is a strategist and teacher who helps businesses and students understand and get the most from social media. He currently is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Communication at the Rochester Institute of Technology where he teaches advertising, public relations and journalism (all with a social media twist). 

See Full Profile >

Comments

Posted on October 29th 2011 at 12:36PM

Hi Mike,

I, and many others, appreciate you addressing these concerns directly with a representative from Klout.  However, I don't feel your questions were answered thoroughly...more like danced-around and given sufficient replies.

Thankfully for me, and those other people I referred to above, view Klout as more fun than serious.  We don't actively go out looking for, and trying to raise our Klout on purpose.  What does concern us a bit is the people on the web who view it as highly important, especially when it connects to our business profiles online. 

Best regards~

Lanae

Posted on October 29th 2011 at 1:01PM
I sent two questions to Klout after this change, but they never responded. Megan touched on them here, but seems to have danced around any hard questions to tow the public party line. and no one seems robe talking about t he apparent ramification of Klout that is going on, with earning and giving +Ks for more things than before. 1. Are you penalized in any way for linking to other networks that you no longer participate in? For example, if I "have" a Tumblr account, but don't use it, am I better off not linking to it at all or is there some value assigned to possessing one alone? 2. Does Klouts new algorithm "punish" tweets that come from 3rd party apps like hootsyuite as opposed to twitter.com? All of that said, while the drop in scores is frustrating, at least everyone's dropped. I appreciate Klout trying to better their algorithm and improve their service and like most people, will continue to utilize them after the bitching and moaning is done, see Facebook. They can't release too many details of their scoring system without running the risk of people "gaming the system", but I do wish they'd give us something... Also, I wonder if Klout will be adjusting perk score levels. After the change I was no longer eligible for perks I used to be able to claim (or have claimed).
Posted on October 29th 2011 at 1:17PM

Great post, Mike. It does not appear she asnwered your questions transparently in all cases and certainly not all the one's many people have. Influence scoring is arbitrary and Klout scoring has always been flawed but they took a step backward rather than forward in our opinion.

Posted on October 29th 2011 at 1:27PM

No. And I just sent them my fifth email. They've yet to even acknowledge my feedback. But then again, I'm just a number to them so who would even begin to THINK Klout actually cares? $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ And this has literally nothing to do with my score. My sore ROCKS.

 

Klout needs new PR. They are royally screwing this up.

Posted on October 29th 2011 at 1:31PM

I think it is perfectly understandable for Klout to make changes to their algorithm. However it is still not clear what changes they have made and why people dropped so much?

Posted on October 29th 2011 at 1:34PM

They are doing a terrible job at explaining what this is and businesses are using it to decide how "important" someone is. Such BS. I'm revoking access right now.

Posted on October 29th 2011 at 2:09PM

Excellent post, Mike - and I see many valid points in the above comments. People don't like abrupt change - esp. when it comes to social media (remember all the facebbok backlash when they implemented so many changes recently?) - and to most Klout users this was not only highly abrupt, it was very frustrating to say the least. While I take Klout for what it's worth, having a lot of online influence IS becoming more and more important ...For one thing, job recruiters take these scores into consideration when trying to choose between candidates and the one with the higher score quite often gets the job because of it. In addition, numerous brands on facebook are offering special perks to those with the highest scores - and klout's own 'perks' are often score based (i.e. you must have a score of 60 or higher to claim this perk). If anything, I believe Klout did this as a PUBLICITY STUNT knowing everyone from the most influential social media bloggers to the media to people who'd never even heard of Klout, et al. would take notice and they'd get a ton of publicity ...Granted, this is mostly VERY BAD publicity but if it didn't hurt facebook, will it really kill Klout?

ChrisSyme
Posted on October 29th 2011 at 2:55PM

They may need to get their people together and come up with a consistent message. Above, the marketing gal said that you are not "penalized" by not talking to influential people and their official blog said Klout scores were based on three principles: "how many people you influence, how much you influence them and How influential they are." (http://corp.klout.com/blog/2011/10/a-more-accurate-transparent-klout-score/) Klout can't escape the fact that there wiill never be an algorithm that can truly measure influence because influence is always relative to the context. Klout just measures actions and no more. All they can interpret is numbers, never context. It's a vanity metric and nothing more. Interesting platform? Yes. True? Not so much. 

Posted on October 31st 2011 at 4:57AM

Exactly, and very limited actions at that with no bearing on actual ability to get things done in the real world.

Example: I have a friend who DJs at a local college radio station [maybe a hundred listeners or so] and has a small band [maybe a hundred fans or so]. Her Klout score is higher that of the largest independent record label in Canada and is some 10 points higher than the guy who manages Nickelback. Fortunately she recognizes it for the joke that it is and doesn't take it as some serious indicator that she's actually got any pull.

Maybe if you live your life online and your business is in social media consulting and you're established there Klout might conceivably have a link to reality, but that's it. And the comment about Klout doesn't penalize you if you only use Twitter based on how Lady Gaga only uses Twitter but she has a high score... come on! She's got a couple million followers, no matter how screwy Klout's algorithm is she's well beyond the point of critical mass where it matters.

Posted on October 29th 2011 at 3:43PM

 

I think that Klout is fine if you are a person who is influential in the media world but for 99% of the population (forgive the Occupy Wall St ref) this doesn't matter as I truly only care about what people think within my own social networks. I have a site called Cliqsearch.com and we care about influential people in media in order to get coverage but the greatest benefit to our consumers and businesses, products and places that are on our site is to identify those 'normal' people who are the biggest influencers. My friend who has been to a restaurant or used a local service such as a contractor is infinitely more valuable to me than Robert Scoble suggesting the same thing.
I haven't crunched the numbers but for the <1% of major influencers out there, how many people do they truly influence vs the influence that comes from their close ties in their social networks? My guess is that ultimately the opinion of the <1% doesn't influence much (lest say people such as Steve Jobs).
Interested in your thoughts.

I think that Klout is fine if you are a person who is influential in the media world but for 99% of the population (forgive the Occupy Wall St ref) this doesn't matter as I truly only care about what people think within my own social networks. I have a site called Cliqsearch.com and we care about influential people in media in order to get coverage but the greatest benefit to our consumers and businesses, products and places that are on our site is to identify those 'normal' people who are the biggest influencers. My friend who has been to a restaurant or used a local service such as a contractor is infinitely more valuable to me than Robert Scoble suggesting the same thing.I haven't crunched the numbers but for the <1% of major influencers out there, how many people do they truly influence vs the influence that comes from their close ties in their social networks? My guess is that ultimately the opinion of the <1% doesn't influence much (lest say people such as Steve Jobs).Interested in your thoughts.

 

Posted on October 29th 2011 at 4:15PM

Hi Mike!

 

Great post!  I contacted Klout a week or two ago (prior to their change and before I even knew there would be a change) with some questions on their scoring.  I haven't heard back.  They mostly had to do with how individuals' privacy settings impacted Klout (or not):

  1. Does Klout recognize the actual number of LinkedIn connections that I have, or does it just see "500+"?
  2. Does Klout recognize the LinkedIn groups I belong to and/or manage, and the frequency with which I interact in those groups? 
  3. Does Klout analyze all groups (and subgroups), or just open/public groups? 
  4. Does Klout analyze only groups that are displayed on my profile, or all groups even if they're "hidden" from my public profile?
  5. Does Klout recognize Q&A interaction on LinkedIn?
  6. Does Klout recognize interactions with comments and "likes" on LinkedIn updates with connections?
  7. Does Klout consider LinkedIn events I've created and the interest/attendance level indicated as well as comments and views?
  8. On Facebook, if my profile is mostly private, does Klout still analyze the interaction with my friends?
  9. Do my friends' privacy settings on Facebook impact how Klout analyzes my Facebook influence?

Hope to see you soon.

--Arthur

jkcallas
Posted on October 29th 2011 at 4:19PM

LOL sorry Mark but what did Megan really answer ? Nothing concreate as always, they are spining words around, again nothing else then deception. As for answer 4, please look at http://jureklepic.com/2011/10/27/have-you-been-put-in-klout-timeout/ You will see Email from Klout Employee advicing me that my score went down becasue I was talking to less influentual people. So does Klout always needs to have double Standards ? 

 

Posted on October 29th 2011 at 4:50PM

Questions not answered completely. I tried deleting my Klout account awhile back and was told you could not, that you could only "deny access" to linked applications (for example, fb). Not a fan

Posted on October 29th 2011 at 5:02PM

the entire klout thing stinks to high heaven! .. klout is only for them, not the users.. you are sucked into promoting them and it's tiring.. who has time to add all their followers and tweet all the crap they want you to? .. in the end, all you are doing at Twitter is tweeting about klout!.. I log into Twitter to have fun! I talk to people I now have known for almost 3 years NOT to KEEP mentioning KLOUT and HOPE my score goes UP.. it's CRAP .. I will never allow access again.. you can KEEP your crappy KLOUT.. 

Posted on October 29th 2011 at 6:37PM

Hello Mike, 

It is interesting that Klout still uses as a claim "Everyone has Klout". I for one got them to remove my account permanently. I wrote a post about how everyone can do it to, if they so wish:

"How to get Klout to delete your account permanently"

 

Furthermore, I have filled a complain to the European Union and I would expect them to start a full investigation of Klout's practices of setting up a public profile without the user's knowledge. 

According to the EU's Data Privacy Directive, article 7, Klout - or any other company - can't do this. 

Megan Berry does not answer any questions: she only repeats what Klout has been saying since the whole thing blew up in their face and finally users, and power users, perceived how flawed Klout's system is. 

As I said on Google+ last Thursday, Klout Netflixed itself and I don't think there is nothing they can do.

If you so wish I will keep you update on the EU's investigation. 

 

 

BolivianEmbassy
Posted on October 30th 2011 at 2:22PM

Hi Fernando. After going through two iterations with Klout-- asking them to delete my account, then asking them again to delete my account-- and being told "NO" by someone called Jessica, I filed a complaint with the Department of Consumer Affairs as you suggested in your posting above. "Everyone Has Klout" seems to be a marketing slogan that goes against all standards of consumer privacy. By offering neither "opt-in" NOR "opt-out", Klout is clearly not a nice company at all. My question to you: although violating best practices is bad for business, is there something ILLEGAL that Klout is doing within U.S. law? And how do they know which country I am in at any given time and therefore which set of laws to follow?


By not following best practices of the whole Internet, Klout is damaging itself and its reputation-- perhaps fatally. Please keep us updated on your progress with the E.U.


Posted on October 29th 2011 at 6:52PM

I don't feel there were any answers there. It was a friendly chat to keep the wolves at bay, but still the questions remain. What people keep forgetting is that any incentivized consumer use app i.e game that allows you to track your influence with badges and prizes...well, it's a game and nothing else. My ego, err klout, is bigger than yours. It's ego showboating and as a consumer game, that is fine. Stop considering it a Brand/ad campaign game changer because such a system isn't a reliable gauge of true topical influence.

learnit2earnit
Posted on October 29th 2011 at 11:16PM
Thanks Mike for sharing the feedback you received from Megan Berry, Marketing Manager at Klout. I particularly found it interesting with regards to her comment about ‘everyone has Klout’ but then did confirm that if you do ‘talk’ to those with higher scores, adds to your influence. Something I believe Klout should certainly change. One of your comments from Arthur pointed out questions he asked Klout with regard to Linkedin. I would like to hear Megan address that. I was one of those scores that dropped 20 points. (From 72 to 52) have been very social, active, influential – it will be interesting to see how my score changes in the next few months.
TomPick
Posted on October 30th 2011 at 12:19AM

Mike, great post, but the responses are pathetic. Sorry, but Megan sounds like she attended the BP school of PR: no apologies, no (real) explanations, no acknolwedgement that Klout screwed up (big time), no promise to make things right. Klout has lost all credibility at this point. Their competitors will benefit.

Posted on October 30th 2011 at 12:44AM

http://online.wsj.com/video/the-measured-life-what-your-klout-score/DFE1848E-E3DD-4D9D-8CAD-6BBE3BC73BA2.html  

 

Klout gives users of Facebook, Twitter and other social networks a score based on their online influence. WSJ's Andy Jordan looks at how the score is calculated, what it means for getting freebies, and why the score is so valuable to advertisers.  

Posted on October 30th 2011 at 7:54AM

Hi Mike, thanks for sharing this, you did well to get a response. I remember Google making comparable updates to their algorithms which led to many websites and optimisers getting knocked back; this led to annoyance from those those were smacked and amusement to those whom knew that actually what the optimisers were doing in order to get their sites higher in the rankings. The actual question of where the sites were more relevant or not did not matter. I see a little of that going on here, my own Klout score went down. I would have expected this as frankly I was trying to manipulate the Klout score in the same way as we try to with search engine optimisation. Maybe I am being too honest here... The fact is that Klout is a game. There are too many incentives, badges etc for it not to be. Unless you're a celeb, sports star etc then surely what you're after is Klout and influence within your niche. Great blog here, Best wishes, Mike

Posted on October 30th 2011 at 2:15PM

I personally believe that i have far more important things to worry about in life than Klout. We live in a country where our neighbors are homeless and hungry. People are without jobs. Our kids and young women are bought and sold into sexual slavery. Why don't we use our voices on social media for good, instead of giving Klout any more than the 15 minutes of fame it has already had? Just my two cents worth.

Posted on October 30th 2011 at 6:22PM

What an interesting response to number 4. Take a look at this repsonse from a Klout representative. 

http://jureklepic.com/2011/10/27/have-you-been-put-in-klout-timeout/

Posted on October 30th 2011 at 8:19PM

This is an excellent post, which reveals the duplicity and professional immaturity that Klout has displayed since this debaucle first surfaced.  I posted the following on Klout's blog immediately after the public outcry began, and of course I have heard nothing in response.  Please read the following as context before my last comment at the end:

 

Dear Mr Fernandez:
It is neither my habit nor inclination to complain, but this surprise has ruined my day.  
I am not an Internet hobbiest, I am a professional with over 20 years of online experience.  I also spent many years as the Senior Vice President of a multibillion dollar company.  In short, I take my business, online and offline, very seriously.  And to the point, my Klout score is one of my marque distinguishing factors.
Imagine my chagrin this morning, when my score dropped from 74 to 54 in one day, a 30% plummet.  It dropped so far as to reside completely off the Maximum Score Change graph above.
As one of Klout's most ardent and vocal admirers, if this is not an outright systems error that will be instantly corrected, it strikes me as a serious error in professional business judgement.
The Netflix CEO made a similar choice when he arbitrarily changed the company's approach to doing business without first checking with his real audience, the customers. The Netflix stock dropped like a rock.
I'm sure that this change was made for the long-term benefit of everyone.   But for those who really care, this enormous shift seemed unwarranted and certainly unwelcome.
Here are the details, just in case someone takes the time to look at my particular situation:
I have 60K Twitter followers (@jerichotech) and I am re-tweeted by the dozens every day.  I do not encourage Facebook friends because my business model relies solely on Twitter.  My blog, (which is privately hosted, not on WordPress.com, for very intelligent reasons), apparently doesn't count at all.  In addition, over the last 18 months I have tweeted over 20K times, with worthwhile articles that have been appreciated by my followers.  There are nearly 200 articles on my website that are also visited consistently.  These apparently are also irrelevant now.
Normally I would be circumspect about such things, but this change is not only arbitrary but incomprehensible.  I can neither explain why it happened nor assist my clients for whom this is also a very unwelcome surprise.
I spend many hours per day working toward an improved Klout score, doing everything I have been told to do directly by Klout and Klout experts.  I have a book being published in a few weeks that highlights Klout and explains in painstaking detail how to advance your score.   Not only is that now inappropriate, but my personal faith in Klout has been severely impacted.
I hope to hear from you.  After thousands of hard hours taking your company's advice I believe I deserve it.
Respectfully,
Michael R.H. Stewart
President
Jericho Technology, Inc.

"Dear Mr Fernandez:


It is neither my habit nor inclination to complain, but this surprise has ruined my day.

 
I am not an Internet hobbiest, I am a professional with over 20 years of online experience.  I also spent many years as the Senior Vice President of a multibillion dollar company.  In short, I take my business, online and offline, very seriously.  And to the point, my Klout score is one of my marque distinguishing factors.
Imagine my chagrin this morning, when my score dropped from 74 to 54 in one day, a 30% plummet.  It dropped so far as to reside completely off the Maximum Score Change graph above.


As one of Klout's most ardent and vocal admirers, if this is not an outright systems error that will be instantly corrected, it strikes me as a serious error in professional business judgement.


The Netflix CEO made a similar choice when he arbitrarily changed the company's approach to doing business without first checking with his real audience, the customers. The Netflix stock dropped like a rock.


I'm sure that this change was made for the long-term benefit of everyone.   But for those who really care, this enormous shift seemed unwarranted and certainly unwelcome.


Here are the details, just in case someone takes the time to look at my particular situation:
I have 60K Twitter followers (@jerichotech) and I am re-tweeted by the dozens every day.  I do not encourage Facebook friends because my business model relies solely on Twitter.  My blog, (which is privately hosted, not on WordPress.com, for very intelligent reasons), apparently doesn't count at all.  In addition, over the last 18 months I have tweeted over 20K times, with worthwhile articles that have been appreciated by my followers.  There are nearly 200 articles on my website that are also visited consistently.  These apparently are also irrelevant now.Normally I would be circumspect about such things, but this change is not only arbitrary but incomprehensible.  I can neither explain why it happened nor assist my clients for whom this is also a very unwelcome surprise.
I spend many hours per day working toward an improved Klout score, doing everything I have been told to do directly by Klout and Klout experts.  I have a book being published in a few weeks that highlights Klout and explains in painstaking detail how to advance your score.   Not only is that now inappropriate, but my personal faith in Klout has been severely impacted.


I hope to hear from you.  After thousands of hard hours taking your company's advice I believe I deserve it."


Respectfully,

Michael R.H. Stewart

President

Jericho Technology, Inc.

 

Additional comments dated 10/30/2011:

The feeble answers to the legitimate questions posed by many, make this situation even more incomprehensible.  

Klout insists that they are the "Standard for Influence."  With this statement comes enormous responsibility.  If they wish to lay claim to unequalled prominence, then they must act with real transparency.

Many of us considered our Klout Score as important as money in the bank.  Imagine if your bank suddenly reduced your checking account balance by 30% -- without a cogent, detailed and verifiable explanation. Imagine if they refused to answer your frantic questions, instead marching out their customer service people with pre-programmed answers?  And imagine if when your frustration boiled over and you tried to cancel your account they said "No."

With all due respect to Klout's management and staff, the longer this situation remains neither corrected nor explained, the more damage to their reputations it will cause.

 

Posted on October 30th 2011 at 11:48PM

The issue is less that people's scores are decreasing, and more that the scores no longer seem to reflect any sense of influence.  I run an account that is one month old that has a score fo 72, while a real influencer and active social media user like Jason Calacanis has a score of 67.  I wrote up my own detailed observations out the new Klout score on my blog: http://llsocial.com/2011/10/klout-score-0-72-month-system-broken/

Given that Megan Berry only provides non-answers to the questions, you might enjoy reading the post . It proposes that the new way that True Reach is used, is part of the problem.

Posted on October 31st 2011 at 1:45AM

I didn’t ask to be on Klout. It just showed up without my signing up for it. Thought Klout was good until I figured out you could not get answer on why you are under certain categories (e.g. Toys), what activity actually determine your score and why after receiving the score Klout says you must have the receive perks, Perk says you don’t qualify because these are reserved for others.

Don’t appreciate being punished for actually getting retweeted, mentioned and active in my other social media (FB, LKin etc.)

Why can’t we get a straight answer regarding the drop in scores?

Only those with media influence receive high scores?

This is crazy.

MarketMeSuite
Posted on October 31st 2011 at 3:27PM

I've heard a lot of people saying they didn't ask to be on Klout, and I had never really thought of it because often we are ranked without asking to be. For example, your website will have an alexa rank, and a google page rank, and a compete score.  They are taking public data and putting a score on it, but I find it interesting that people find it to be an invasion of privacy or, in some cases, just offensive.

I wouldn't have predicted that, but it's interesting.

Mike, thanks for posting!

Best,
Tammy 

Posted on November 3rd 2011 at 5:38PM

But your Alexa, Google, and Compete scores are based on quantifiable things... hard numbers. Either 1000 people visited your site today or they didn't. Those scores don't attempt to judge (and present to the public, including prospective employers) the quality of the content on your site. That's what Klout's doing. It's trying to make something qualitative - the quality and influence of your online interactions with others - into something quantitative - a number from 1 - 100.

Posted on November 5th 2011 at 2:24PM

I am writing about Klout. Basically, as Fernando Fonseca said, it is a breach of EU law.

Could any EU citizens concerned about Klout please get in touch with me.

Secondly, if anyone has seen any job vacancies in the EU asking could you let me know, especially if any are for people receiving EU funding.

My Twitter: @quarsan

 

 

Mike Johansson
Posted on November 7th 2011 at 4:09PM

Thanks for all the great feedback here. It is greatly appreciated.