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The Klout Problem: Why multimillionaire investor Ron Conway has a lower score than you!

It’s week number 3 of my Klout experiment and I have already seen enough, to be able to form some solid conclusions regarding Klout and how it scores people.

I have invested many hours of my time digging into Klout, monitoring not only my own account, but also the accounts of people I know. I have also studied some ‘Klout Superstars,’ people with very high scores. I wanted to see what Klout was rewarding. I wanted to see what they ‘thought’ was influential.

Here’s what I found

The good:

  • Klout can tell if someone has lots of social media connections. Within days I had a Klout score of 62, which is apparently a good score, though it looks uninspiring.
  • Your Klout score is regularly updated. The number changes slightly every day.
  • Klout was able to see lots of people sharing my Google+, Twitter and Facebook updates.
  • A new Klout button may soon allow content providers to have the popularity of their content included in their score. This could be helpful, if implemented correctly.

The bad:

  • The Klout algorithm can’t seem to tell the difference between an influential person who posts 1 update, which is shared 20 times, and someone with little influence who posts 20 updates, which are each shared 1 time. I’m basing this on my own results and monitoring those with high Klout scores, who posted all day long with very few people resharing them.
  • Klout is too easily fooled. There are thousands of web pages dedicated to showing you how to easily game the algorithm. This needs to improve as anyone with enough spare time can get a high score.
  • Anyone who really cares about their Klout score, needs to be careful about taking a holiday! Your 2 weeks in the sun can hit your score hard and take you weeks of over-sharing, to get back to where you were. I spent just 1 day where I hardly used social media and my score dropped from 63 to 62!
  • Currently, even though my blog posts reach thousands of people every day, this has zero impact on my influence, according to Klout.
  • The Klout scoring method encourages people to post masses of updates, if they want to get a higher score. This can damage your reputation with your followers, who may not want a constant barrage of updates from you all day.
  • Klout can’t see how influential Ron Conway is. More on that in a moment!

Klout has potential

klout, influenceOverall, I believe Klout has a huge amount of potential if it makes the improvements required. The core idea is valuable to individuals and brands. It also seems like the problem of gaming it should be solvable or at least, that the algorithm can be vastly improved. Just as Google constantly works hard to try and stop black hat SEO from ruining their search results, Klout must up its game and do the same.

Otherwise a high Klout score will cease to mean anything.

Klout doesn’t know how influential Ron Conway is

The example of multimillionaire businessman, Ron Conway, exposes the current problems with Klout scoring.

Mr Conway is not someone who spends most of his days sharing information with his buddies on Facebook. He’s a busy guy. Ron is what’s known as a super angel investor. He invests millions into companies you may have heard of, such as Google, Paypal, Facebook etc and has built a fortune in the process. This extremely influential person is a business associate of; Henry Kissinger, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tiger Woods and Shaquille O’Neal.

Ron Conway’s Klout score is just 48. That’s a lower score than many of my readers have. It’s also an indication of the challenge ahead for Klout, as it strives to accurately reflect influence.

What did I learn about Klout?

The key lesson for me has been that the Klout score is currently too easy to game, for it to live up to its self-proclaimed ‘standard for influence’ title. It also seems unable to score people who have huge influence, but who are too busy to spend huge amounts of time on social networking sites. I see the latter as their main challenge.

Overall, I am optimistic that Klout will improve. No matter how much love Klout gets from its powerful friends in the media, it has no choice other than to improve if it wants to truly become the standard of influence, which it NEEDS to be, for it to succeed in the longer term. With so many people voicing their concerns at the accuracy of Klout and others very publicly deleting their accounts, Klout CEO Joe Fernandez will be very aware of the need to improve their scoring. And fast!

FYI: Joe Fernandez has a Klout score that is almost 50% higher, than Ron Conway!

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  1. I love this post Jim.

    I deleted my Klout account in protest last year and I think I made the right decision based on your post.

    if it improves I will return but right now the only people I know with big Klout scores are people with dead businesses or out of work.

  2. Mark Harding

    May 12, 2012 at 18:44

    The main problem with klout is that you have to use social media like a noisy kid, if you want to get a good score.

    I’d rather show a little class and to hell with klout.

    • Great example with Ron Conway. Klout measures high-school-like popularity, not necessarily influence or success.

      To your point, someone who has a thriving, successful business is busy; he or she doesn’t have tons of time to spend on social media. Same thing with anyone who has a full time job. (Although, social media is a must in today’s business climate, I don’t necessarily believe we need to tweet every hour of every day. Personally, I prefer to see one or two meaningful, thoughtful posts than posts every hour from someone who shares little meaningful information.)

      Thank you for providing one of those thoughtful, meaningful posts. :) Bravo!

      • Thanks for the feedback, Vicki.

        I agree totally, that quality should outrank quantity on Klout – Because that’s how we assign influence in the real world.

  3. I agree with the overall perspective of this post. However, regarding Ron Conway, I think you’ve missed the mark. As stated in Klout’s FAQ, “Klout measures influence online.” It is not intended to measure a person’s influence in business or any other discipline.

    • Hi Steven. With Ron being an investor behind Paypal, Facebook, Digg, Google and many other ‘online‘ businesses, wouldn’t you say he’s influential online?

      • Good point Jim.

        When I first joined Klout when Klout first came to be, I was “Scheduling” Tweets, to go out roughly every 4 to 8 minutes, my Klout score quickly shot up to a 78/79, with seeing many retweets and favorites and such per day, but very little if you did as Ron says, and average the number of “Influenced Interactions” into the number of Tweets. The moment I smartened up and decided to inject myself and quality back into my “Social Media”, my score plummeted to a 29…

        I was only Tweeting a few times a day, seeing double sometimes triple the RT/Favorite volume per tweet, but the total count was again, lower as Ron pointed out.

        There algorithm certainly needs a push towards recognizing “Influenced Interaction” volume PER published content piece, NOT total volume, or at least not total volume alone.

        Secondly, there should absolutely be a big FAT “ALPHA” sign back on Klout, I don’t think it’s Beta yet…

        This morning at 5 O’clock a.m., I got an e-mail updating me about our new Software for SOCIAL MEDIA called “Mashoutable”, it updated me telling about our raise in score to a 69, I logged into Klout today at 9 O’clock a.m. and our score was a 10, showing NO activity past or present across the Social Web for Mashoutable™…

        I would say if they are going to do anything, the first step would be to pull the bugs like this out, because if they can’t keep track of data, how are they going to score it?

        Klout certainly has more issues than not.

  4. Hi Jim

    I think that Klout is just trying to level the playing field.In favour of the people who are the most active in Social Networking. Instead of the people who have the most money or are the most famous.

    I personally applaud them for that. Because they have realized that giving a high Klout score to somebody rich or famous… is far to obvious as a method. To measure online Influence.

    • Hi Paul. This is a screw-up, rather than some kind of levelling of the playing field. Justin Bieber has a Klout score of 100, Bill Gates has a high Klout score too, as do many celebrities and wealthy individuals.

  5. Hi Jim. I know that I said that Klout are trying to level the playing field. But as you already know. There are always exceptions to every rule.I must admit to you. That I’m shocked to here that Justin Bieber has a perfect Klout score. MY money was always on Chris Pirillo to be the first person to do this.

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