the problem with Klout (and other online influence measurement tools)

Earlier this summer I wrote a blog post about the importance of influence. And while I still believe in the idea of Klout and what they are trying (or hoping) to achieve they are still a little way off from a perfect product.  

Don’t forget context

I have come across a number of professionals and agencies who use Klout scores in the creation of influencer programs and strategies.  (Full Disclosure: I am a managing partner and co-founder of a social media and community management communications agency. We haven’t used Klout for our clients.)  And it astounds me that brands pay good money on account of a Klout score with no context.

Here’s what I mean.  What does a Klout score of 40, 76, or 29 (pick any number you want) actually mean?  Nothing in my opinion.  What does matter is context.


What market is a brand targeting? For argument’s sake let’s say that the product is a fluoride-free kids toothpaste.  The brand wants to give away 250 tubes of toothpaste to parents of young children.  The hope is to generate valuable word of mouth buzz to help the toothpaste maker (and their agency) earn some online media mentions.  Does it make sense for the agency of record to work with Klout to identify 250 people with high scores? What if Klout could identify which Klout accounts were parents in a specific target geographic area?  Even if Klout could identify parents who love trying toothpaste and want to use a floride-free brand.

Influence doesn’t end (or begin) online

And herein lies the real problem.  Most parents concerned about floride-free toothpaste are not concerned with their Klout scores.  And this is wildly assuming that these parents are even registered on Klout.

Wait Karim! If these floride-free advocates have high Klout scores won’t that help the toothpaste maker generate valuable online mentions? Maybe.


There is greater value, I think, in directly engaging in conversations with these people.  Here’s an idea: Connect directly with a dozen or so popular parent or mommy (even daddy) bloggers.  Find out what their needs are.  Find out what their readers (and community) are interested in. Work with them to create a program that benefits all parties involved: The blogger (or influencer), the blogger’s community, and the client.

During this process you may even find out that the influencer and their community you are engaging with are not interested in the fluoride-free toothpaste. Which allows you to move on to another influencer and engage with them.

Moving forward

The simplicity of measurement tools like Klout is that they tend to make people who work with brands’ communications and marketing programs lazy.  It’s too easy to take a bunch of influencer scores and blast them with messaging.  What’s not as easy, and therefore more rewarding in my opinion, is taking the time to properly engage with potential influencers.  Take the time to deliver a quality product and service to your client.  Don’t take the shortcut.

What is your opinion on Klout?

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