Does Klout Matter?

Klout scores are rising in popularity as an indicator of online influence, which begs the question… “Who cares?”

In case you’ve missed the memo, here’s some info about Klout from its website:


"Our friendships and professional connections have moved online, making influence measurable for the first time in history. When you recommend, share, and create content, you impact others. … Uncover your influence and find people who share your interests. … Klout is more than a number. Understand your impact on others and use your Klout to make your life better."

So basically what we’re dealing with is the shift from physical, tangible, look-you-in-the-eye leadership, to a more conceptual level of online influence. My question is this: Does online leadership count?

There are three general ways to answer this question:

Yes. Leadership is leadership. As technology advances, so does everything else – including the best way to influence others. If a person’s tweets influence and inspire, they are a leader. Bottom line.

Yes and no. Online leaders are also offline leaders. Those to whom we give the most credence online are the same people who create things that influence us, speak at conferences we attend, and head up effective organizations. Online leadership counts, but only to the extent that offline leadership is practiced.

No. In the dictionary, leadership is defined as the action of leading a group of people or an organization. This is an active role that can’t be done from behind a computer in 140 characters. Leaders are role models who inspire others to action by first acting themselves.

Where do you land?

  • Is Klout worth pursuing?
  • What’s the value of a “follower”?
  • Does social media make everyone a leader?

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  • To me it matters. It helps me keep a ‘score’ of how well I’m engaging. Plus, it’s fun to share Klout with others, who seem genuinely delighted in getting their daily portion of #kloutjuice. I give a grade of “A” to the “K.”

    • Micah Smith |

      Darren – I agree with you here. I don’t know how much faith I place in Klout, but if anything it’s consistent enough for me to track my engagement. If I go too long without engaging other users or linking to things of interest, my score will start to dip. This is usually a good indicator that my posts are losing some relevance. It’s definitely a good motivator and reminder to put some thought into the things I’m throwing out into the universe.

  • Online leadership certainly, without a doubt, counts – I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody seriously dispute that. The question is whether Klout is a reliable indicator of online leadership. I personally feel that using tools like Crowdbooster to find my actual engagement rates and drawing my own conclusions is preferable to feeding those numbers into an unknown, constantly-changing algorithm that gives over-weights the extra factors it introduces itself.

    • Micah Smith |

      Good point, Max. Putting all your faith into a trendy website can be less than reliable. I sometimes feel that I’m maintaining a similar level of post quality while my Klout keeps rising. It makes me feel like they’re trying to hook me and get me to come back. Shouldn’t my goal be more about engaging others by generating responses and shares (you know, things I can actually, tangibly see as influential), rather than working on raising an number on a website?

  • Matt Cheuvront

    I admit that I don’t – or at least haven’t – paid much attention to Klout (except when I got my early Spotify account by signing up for something with them – probably signed my life away without even knowing). That being said, as we talk about buisnesses/organizations and how they can connect with consumers, fans, and followers via social media, it comes down to finding those influencers who can act as brand evangelists (that’s where Klout comes in) and then focusing on NATURALLY building a relationship with them – not forcing it – and eventually extending that relationship to where the consumer becomes the marketer for you – aka – the best kind of marketing their is.

    All that being said – You hit the nail on the head, Micah: “Online leadership counts, but only to the extent that offline leadership is practiced.” – If action isn’t taking place in a real, measurable, tangible way, what’s the point?

  • Adam Smith |

    I would have to say “online leadership” counts to the extent it can drive others to action. It is great and all that I can tweet and blog about influencing people and the great ideas I have, but if doesn’t incite people to action then its just talk. Leadership is more than influencing and engaging others, thought thats necessary, leadership is driving people towards a shared goal. Our technological resources can aid us in sharing vision but I believe whole heartedly it doesn’t give leaders the platform they need to move people to action and sustain it.

    • I think this is a great point and really ties in well with what Matt said above, “If action isn’t taking place in a real, measurable, tangible way, what’s the point?”

      I guess the question is, “Is inspiring someone to the ‘action’ of retweeting or sharing a blog post enough to constitute leadership?” I mean… Technically, you’ve motivated me to action, right?

  • Social media does not make everybody a leader, but it might make them an influencer … about something. I think that is something most people miss about Klout. It recognizes influence from unlikely places. An important development. Historic i’d say.

    • Micah Smith |

      Good point about the difference between leading and influencing… I sometimes use them interchangeably, but they definitely have different implications.

      I also like what you said on your blog post from Sunday about how Klout scores provide a shortcut assessment of authority – essentially social proof – but this can be deceptive when people with the most web-authority often have the least amount of experience.

  • To me, Klout is inherently ridiculous, but perhaps that’s because it tells me I’m an authority on pork and salmon and I thought I wrote mostly about Catholic education and culture. Maybe I’m missing something.

    Of course, I reinforce that by going around the Internet saying “Klout is so stupid, ha ha! Pork! Salmon!” so perhaps it’s more astute than I realize.

    Still, I’ve noticed that my Klout is usually much higher than that of people whom I know for a fact have followings 10x the size of my own, so I question how accurate a tool it is.

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