Klout Updates Its Super-Secret Algorithm of How Cool You Are

If you’re a Klout user, you, like many of us, were furious a week ago as you stood by helplessly while your precious Klout Score pummeled in rank.

Such hard-earned likes and mentions! The groveling it took to get those +K’s! The awesome free stuff that you will no longer be deemed cool enough to receive!

Don’t know what Klout is? Well no matter, you’re probably not very influential anyways. Right?

Welcome to the world of Klout: the San Francisco startup that has attempted since 2009 to measure and rank your personal influence on the social web.

Here’s how Klout works. You sign-in with either your Facebook or Twitter account, you connect Klout with the rest of your social media sites, Klout crunches the numbers and then poof! Now you’ve got your personal Klout Score.

The problem is that’s really not far from the extent of what we know about how the Klout Score algorithm works. This remains true even after Klout recently implemented “the biggest step forward in accuracy, transparency and our technology in Klout’s history.”

The update, according to Klout, involved a major overhaul of their PeopleRank (no relation to Google’s PageRank) algorithm that determines your Klout Score based on three factors:

  • How many people you influence
  • How much you influence them
  • How influential they are

These three factors translate into what Klout terms as True Reach, Amplification and Network, respectively. Klout does this by number-crunching approximately “2.7 billion pieces of content and connections daily” across all of your connected social media profiles.

Klout qualifies these concepts more on their Web site, but the true details of Klout’s famous secret sauce are subject to much speculation and debate.

On a more important note, Klout’s latest update also did one more thing: it lowered a ton of people’s scores.

Despite optimism from Klout that most users’ scores would rise or remain the same, the social media sphere was ablaze with public outcry that week over lowered scores, sometimes even in the double-digits for some users. While many took the opportunity to take shots at Klout as a service, my Twitter and Google+ feed was a bit reminiscent of the Greek street riots this past summer.

This is the level of influence that Klout itself has taken on in the social web.

Whether you hate it or love it, Klout has got everyone talking. The Klout Score may just be the most controversial subject among social media junkies everywhere. The reason? It’s really hard to ignore.

Imagine you’re in middle school again and suddenly all of the guys at the school are given a score that’s written on a giant list at the front of the school. The girls of the school have secretly convened and determined each guy’s score. To the guys, there’s no identifiable criteria, what the scores mean, who decided them or what it implies — the only thing for sure is that bigger is better.

Well to the rest of us who didn’t get in the top ten of that list, who cares right? Girls are lame anyways.

Keep telling that to yourself as you notice your friend’s score mysteriously rise and your own start to drop. How and why? Did I do something to be less worthy of attraction or stature? Insecurity can start to kick in.

Insecurity aside, social media or marketing professionals are now being hired over their counterparts based on Klout Scores.

I talked to digital technology guru Mike Schneider who is the Digital Incubator Director and one-half of the video-blog Tech Interruption at Boston marketing agency Allen & Gerritsen (he also has a Klout Score of 60.)

“The nice thing about Twitter is that it’s a level playing field where people act like brands and brands act like people,” he said. “Klout seems to be trying to make it more like a caste/class system with the scoring…I don’t care for the spectacle and I don’t care for the elitism.”

This apparent perception of elitism has perhaps born the recent #OccupyKlout movement who recently invaded the last #KloutChat with chants of “We are the 95%!” after learning that a Klout Score over 50 correlates to being within the top 5% of Klout influence.

Apart from the critics of Klout’s social implications, there are also those who simply question how well it works. While it’s still hard to speculate the flaws in a highly-secretive algorithm, all I know is that I’m now apparently not influential about anything according to Klout.

My colleague, according to Klout, has been for the longest time considered an expert on South Korea (she’s never been) and Edgar Allan Poe (she’s never read him.) And Schneider? “I’m apparently influential about Tylenol and the New York Yankees. What?” he said.

Did I mention that Klout thinks I’m not influential about anything? It’s not as if my Klout Score was 54 and have had the opportunity to work with a few other influencers! See, now I’ve got my Klout-envy talking.

What are you influential about on Klout? Do you ever get Klout-envy? Send me your thoughts in the comments section below! Who knows, it just might raise your Klout Score.

Image Credits: adria.richards, Leander Wattig, AJC1

Hiroki Murakami I'm the Community Manager of The Next Great Generation and Mullen's busiest intern. Emerson College marketing and entrepreneurship student graduating this May. I'm a Seattle native studying in Boston, working with startups, and your local coffee shop's #1 customer. Drop me a line at @hnmurakami.

View all posts by Hiroki Murakami

8 Responses to “Klout Updates Its Super-Secret Algorithm of How Cool You Are”

  1. Five Social Media Trends for 2012 |

    [...] spread the word about their product or service. Influence-ranking services such as those above, as maligned as they are, are merely trying to help marketers cut through the clutter of tweets and blog posts to figure out [...]


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