Today let’s start things off with a self-affirmation a-la Stuart Smalley. You are not a number. Like a beautiful, intricate, and fragile snowflake you are as unique online as you are in the real world, and that’s ok… so step back from your Klout Score and take a look at the ways, rather than the amount, you are engaging with your networks online.

In the past few years, Klout has quickly risen to social media stardom as a provider of analytics measuring a user’s influence across social networks (primarily focusing on Twitter, Facebook and Google+). By measuring data from social sites, the size of a person’s network, and other factors, Klout gives users an influence rating (Score) on a scale of 1 to 100. Most Klout Scores are in the 20’s, and reaching the 30’s and 40’s tends to show a good amount of social engagement. This can create, as John Scalzi puts it, “status anxiety” and social insecurity, but the credence you put to what your Score says about you remains up to you.

Like any startup, Klout is still growing and developing. Even though recent adjustments and evolution have brought controversy, Klout as a measurement tool remains an interesting data point for social media users. Of course, the influence measurement is guided by the company’s own definitions and interpretations. Currently, Klout scores are determined by the following in terms of a user’s “ability to drive action”:

  • Twitter: Retweets and Mentions
  • Facebook: Comments, Wall-Posts, Likes
  • Google+: Comments, Reshares, +1
  • LinkedIn: Comments, Likes
  • Foursquare: Tips – Todo’s and Tips – Done

Klout says that users can also connect Facebook Pages, YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr, Blogger,, and Flickr accounts, though these networks do not impact your overall Score…yet. That last word is very important to keep in mind. Klout says, “The way influence is signaled online is constantly changing. New networks are born and new behaviors emerge overnight. The Klout Score will continue to evolve to support this change….and will always exist in a dynamic state of improvement.”

So what is missing? Klout doesn’t take private messages into context, nor can it measure influence between users in a network if their interaction is taken offline or onto email. That level of engagement is likely to carry many times more weight than conversations happening publicly on a social medium. Another missing piece relates to the importance put on the network size of an individual. Some advice we often give to PR clients when discussing media outlets is to keep the target audience in mind when setting goals for news coverage. The right trade publication with a circulation of 1000 readers has often brought in more new business for certain clients than a general newspaper with 10x that audience. The goal for online interactivity should not be the amount of content, but rather the quality of that content.

As Klout has grown, the data and measurements they pull from their users have added an element beyond the ranking and gamification aspects, and this is where they show the most potential from the marketing side of the equation. Using Klout as a resource to find experts in a distinct category has already caught the attention of some major brands. Agencies and marketers should also be looking at Klout as a directory, keeping in mind that the information being presented still needs to be evaluated rather than taken at Score value as a true recommendation engine.

What it comes down to is this: Klout is growing as an evaluator of the variety of social communities, but it is (self-acknowledging) nowhere near “done”. Those of us engaging with social media professionally (brand marketers, product managers, agency staff) now have another metric to consult with and take into consideration along with measurable KPIs. The fluctuations of an individual Klout Score, however, should be taken with a grain of salt. Use Klout as a gateway or marker in broader research, focusing on the content and conversations on a deeper level than a simple score.

Sources: AdWeek, CNN Money, Klout, YouTube, The Star Group, Content Before Klout – Why Social Influence is More Than A Score

Adam Leiter is a Vice President of Social Media for The Star Group, a marketing communications firm dedicated to driving engagement with B2B and B2C brands operating in today’s hyper-competitive, rapidly evolving digital marketplace.