Martin Waxman

Influence Scoring: All Klout(ed) Up and Nowhere to Go

By: Martin Waxman | August 27, 2013 | 

Influence ScoringBy Martin Waxman

My experiment with influence scoring started a few weeks back with a post on Spin Sucks about the future of public relations.

That post begat a second post on community management as a new model for PR.

And that begat a three-point bump in my Klout score!

Earlier this month, I wrote about my Klout Bump and, because the wonderfully energetic community here was mainly responsible for it, I decided to try an experiment.

I wanted to see if I could push it higher, and also determine what types of interactions would help boost it to my goal number.

That goal? Getting to 70 – a further two point increase. (Big whoop.)

I Have a Secret

Klout scores remind me of high school grades. So a 90 would be equivalent to an A-, 80 a B-, 70 a C-, and so on. Maybe that’s why my earlier analogy referenced high school popularity.

Essentially I was trying to go from being a D to a low C student. And I wanted to do this by enlisting the cheerleading squad, and not via hard work. In any environment, that’s a dubious path.

But it was all for scientific research, right?

Here are the Results

Drumroll please. Or maybe a sad trombone… I did reach 70, fleetingly on one day, then again a few days later, for a little bit longer. It’s now settled back to 69 (at the time of writing) and will likely fall back to its regular pre-post level soon.

That said, I’m sticking by my original offer, and giving out a couple of perks (for more on the perks, see below).

But First: What Did I Learn?

I’d always suspected an intense level of activity within a tight community over a short period of time would artificially increase a Klout score. And that seems to hold true.

But what does that say about influence scoring and actual influence? Not much. In the case of Klout, they seem to measure it over relatively brief time spans – reminiscent of day trading. Score increases aren’t really there for the long-term. Whereas true influence is built up slowly over time.

And while it’s fun to see the little graph increases, did I get any new clients or other opportunities from the bump? Nope. Nada. Nothing. So from a purely business perspective, this tells me it’s likely not a metric I should give much credence to.

Influence Scoring < True Influence

My big takeaway centers more on the concept of influence, and the way we promise it to brands. It feels like we’re positioning it all wrong. Influencers are not people who utter a command and their automatons blindly follow (at least, let’s hope not).

True influence has to do with deep, trusting relationships, as well as persuasive communication encouraging people to consider another point of view.

Influence is far more complex than a simple call to action, which seems to be what we’re offering. So let’s stop that.

I hope the @Klout folks weigh in on this because so far they’ve stayed out of the conversation. I’d be curious to hear how they define influencer.

And I’m equally curious to hear from all of you.

And Now, the Perks!

First off a big THANK YOU to Gini Dietrich, Lindsay Bell-Wheeler, Yvette Pistorio, and the entire Spin Sucks team and community for tagging along, supporting me and the idea, and for all your insights and comments. I really appreciate it!

I have two prizes to offer, and if you want to know the criteria I used to make my selections, well, all I can say is it’s a proprietary algorithm I developed and unfortunately, I’m not prepared to divulge what it measures. (Ed’s Note: This isn’t the Academy Awards, Martin.)

The Winners

Paula Kiger: For jumping on the bandwagon first, and creating a hashtag!

Rebecca Todd: For agreeing to be campaign manager and adding a Canadian flavor(u)r!

You both get a custom ‘I got my Klout Bump from Spin Sucks’ t-shirt (pictured above). We’ll post this on the Arment Dietrich Facebook page too, and organize the shipping details there.

And now this faux-scientist bids you farewell as my Klout roll of the dice comes to an end. I’d love to hear any Klout stories you have. And again, thank you!

About Martin Waxman

Martin Waxman is president of Martin Waxman Communications and conducts digital and social media training workshops. He’s a and LinkedIn Learning author, one of the hosts of the Inside PR podcast, and past-chair of PRSA Counselors Academy. Martin teaches social media at UToronto SCS and Seneca College and regularly speaks at conferences and events across North America. Find him on Twitter @martinwaxman.

  • giesencreative

    Great to see the results of your experiment! It might be interesting to measure whether an increase in Klout has any bearing on online product sales (as opposed to gaining clients.)

    • giesencreative Thanks. Maybe that’s for the next one!

  • To the fine and forgiving editor of this blog, belllindsay – I do realize it may not be the AAs but a guy’s gotta dream…

    • martinwaxman belllindsay WOW! Lucky day! When I first pulled this up, I thought, “now there’s a tshirt I would love to have.” Something to wear while making “twoast” and (phase two) “twcoffee”! This has been SO fun – but on a serious note I agree with you that it was fairly indicative of what Klout does (or does not) really do. For a long time I was an “influencer” in toilet paper because I had participated in a White Cloud related twitter party once! And the other long term benefit for me is establishing a Twitter/Social Media relationship with you Martin, and that’s a points-getter for me, personally!!!

      • biggreenpen martinwaxman belllindsay I would like to hear more about the toilet paper party.

        • Word Ninja I want to hear about it too. That’s where biggreenpen and I have something in common – I had a toilet paper client a loooong time ago.  And a funny story that I’m always happy to share over drinks. I’m glad you like the shirt. belllindsay – thank you for being such a great editor!

        • martinwaxman Word Ninja biggreenpen belllindsay What have I started? A long time ago, I participated in a Twitter Party that was sponsored by White Cloud. The hashtag was something like #whitecloud (no, not #comfybottoms or anything). I can’t for the life of me remember the questions/how we talked for an hour about the topic but Klout surely remembered!! It considered me an “influencer” in White Cloud!

        • biggreenpen martinwaxman belllindsay Thanks for sharing…I think…

  • Oh, I used to see bumps like this after live-tweeting an event. And I have seen people use platforms such as Empire Avenue to artificially inflate their Klout scores, long-term, even. I opted out of Klout finally because it was just so silly and the perks were no longer any good.

    • AmyVernon It’s funny how easy it is for the so-called influence to go up or down. I’m noticing more people opting out – I guess if enough did, Klout’s influence among brands would be diminished – and maybe as you mention, that’s a reflection of the current perks being offered. Influence is so much more than a number between 1 and 100 – and hopefully we can stop simplifying the idea. Thanks Amy!

  • Forget the trombone, you’d need a stage full of violinists for my Klout score. As far as considering someone an influencer, I’ve never taken into account their score, maybe clients do. I don’t believe clients in my industries pay attention as I’ve never heard the term even mentioned. What you have to say is authentic, interesting and educational…that makes you influential in my books.

    • Word Ninja Thank you! That’s the criteria I use, too. The numbers part is a bit of a silly game. PS I’ll see if I can round up the violins…

      • martinwaxman Word Ninja I think it’s mostly marketers who pay attention. One thing that surprised me when I started using hootsuite was that when you look at your contacts it shows, among other things like # of followers, each person’s Klout score. I try not to let that influence my decision over whether to follow back, but I can’t say I don’t notice it. Ultimately I judge on the content they tweet.

        • RobBiesenbach You’re right about marketers paying attention. Sometimes I wonder how much stuff is just for the echo chamber (a lot…). Like you I think content and engagement are important. But it is hard to break away from the big-numbers-with-no-context-habit. Word Ninja

  • biggreenpen

    Just ramped up production of twcoffeemakers #soexcited MT martinwaxman today’s SpinSucks RebeccaAmyTodd –

    • martinwaxman

      biggreenpen Thanks!! Can’t wait to see them. SpinSucks RebeccaAmyTodd

      • biggreenpen

        martinwaxman They’re gonna be trendsetters! cc: SpinSucks RebeccaAmyTodd

        • EricPudalov

          @biggreenpen martinwaxman SpinSucks RebeccaAmyTodd Can you tell me more about that, @biggreenpen?

        • EricPudalov Eric, it’s kind of a joke. When I reach a “round” number of followers on FB or Twitter, I send them a “twoaster” graphic in celebration – sort of like the old “thanks for shopping here” gift. Martin hit it just right – he was close to a round number and he needed (wanted?!) Klout so he got one too. Now he suggests I extend the line to twcoffeemakers! 🙂

        • RebeccaAmyTodd

          biggreenpen martinwaxman SpinSucks YES!!! Martin for class Prime Minister!!!

        • RebeccaAmyTodd

          biggreenpen martinwaxman SpinSucks I just got caught up! Thank you SO much! I will wear it with pride. Will ginidietrich autograph them?

        • ginidietrich

          RebeccaAmyTodd biggreenpen martinwaxman SpinSucks Sure I will!

        • RebeccaAmyTodd

          ginidietrich biggreenpen martinwaxman SpinSucks Doubled the value.

        • SpinSucks

          RebeccaAmyTodd ginidietrich biggreenpen martinwaxman Ha!! Love the t-shirts 🙂

        • RebeccaAmyTodd

          ginidietrich biggreenpen martinwaxman SpinSucks can Prime Minister Waxman’s tag be on there, too? Maybe at #SpinCon…

        • biggreenpen EricPudalov That’s because I’m much too reliant on coffee – virtual and otherwise…

        • @RebeccaAmyTodd That’s a good idea. Though right now, I’m happy to be in opposition 🙂 biggreenpen SpinSucks

        • @SpinSucks Well, if Gini’s signing – maybe I can come up with a couple more for the Spin Sucks folks 🙂 RebeccaAmyTodd ginidietrich biggreenpen martinwaxman

        • martinwaxman

          RebeccaAmyTodd As long as you write the acceptance speech 🙂 biggreenpen SpinSucks

  • biggreenpen

    martinwaxman And although the tshirt is awesome in itself, I really enjoyed the whole experiment! cc: SpinSucks RebeccaAmyTodd klout

    • @biggreenpen Glad you like it. And thanks so much for helping out!! If you ever do a social experiment, I’d be happy to take part! SpinSucks RebeccaAmyTodd klout

    • @biggreenpen martinwaxman SpinSucks RebeccaAmyTodd klout Loved the experiment – so much fun!!

    • @biggreenpen martinwaxman Wait. Do *I* get a shirt??

      • ginidietrich martinwaxman I’m replying to these in reverse order. Yes, you absolutely do! As long as you or yvettepistorio can supply a hi-res logo so they’ll look good. Maybe they can be part of Spin Sucks Pro 🙂

  • EricPudalov

    Thanks for this post!  I hadn’t even joined Klout until I read this.  Clearly I was a bit behind in that dept!!  Interestingly enough, I’m just gradually raising the score, and correct me if I’m wrong, but the more I participate in social media and build a community, the better this gets?

    • EricPudalov Basically. Klout measures how much you talk about certain topics and how much people talk with, or about, you regarding certain topics. It’s a great way to cast a wide net for potentially influential people. However, if you want to become “Klout Influential” about the topic of your choice…just start tweeting about it. Klout is ridiculously easy to game.

      • MattLaCasse It is really. And I liked having fun – but I think that brands should take this so-called influence measure with a big grain of salt. EricPudalov

        • martinwaxman Agreed. I think Klout is a great place to start looking for influential people on a certain topic, but you need to vet them out before doing anything w/ that info. Starting to be that way with “Endorsements” from LinkedIn as well. EricPudalov

        • EricPudalov

          MattLaCasse martinwaxman That sounds like very sensical advice!  Do your research, more or less.  Also sounds like a good reason not to “drunk tweet.”

  • Your experiment simply reaffirms what I’ve believe personally all along about Klout – it’s a great starting point to measure someone’s activity in the digital world, but not a true measure of influence. As many others have pointed out in the comments, developing a true voice of authority by providing valuable information in an engaging fashion is the best way to develop TRUE influence, but having a somewhat leveled starting point is always a great place to start. Thanks for sharing, Martin!

    • dave_link Thank you, Dave! You’e so right about creating/curating/sharing valuable content as being the best measure!

  • Yvette Hamlin Pistorio

    Paula and Rebecca – there’s a little surprise for you both!!!

  • Paula Kiger

    Lucky, lucky day!

  • Yvette Hamlin Pistorio

    Congrats 🙂 For some reason I couldn’t tag Rebecca the first time though…user error?!

  • susancellura

    Did anyone else see a bump in his/her Klout score?

    • susancellura That’s a great question. Thanks for asking it.  I’d be interested to hear other stories.

      • susancellura

        martinwaxman I did. Just a couple of points, but being more active during this research did bump it up for a day or so.

  • I’d like to thank my parents for deciding a fourth child was a good idea, Lil G for running this blog, my co-nominee Paula and mostly Martin for allowing me this incredible opportunity. Lastly, to my boyfriend RDJ, I would never have made it here without your love and support. Thank you all.

    • RebeccaTodd Such a good acceptance speech!

      • ginidietrich RebeccaTodd Yes! It’s a great one. Can I borrow parts when I’m elected????

    • RebeccaTodd That RDJ…..ruining other 25-45 year old guy’s lives like it’s nothing..

    • RebeccaTodd Your boyfriend is Robert Downey Jr.?

  • Arment Dietrich, Inc.

    Oh, Paula and Rebecca – can you private message me your mailing address for stalking purposes…I mean, for your t-shirts? Please and thank you 😀 ^yp

    • @Arment Dietrich, Inc. Done, the stalking can commence!

  • Ooh congrats to RebeccaTodd and biggreenpen, n’er were there a finer pair then those two 
    @martinwaxman  Interesting results, although not unexpected. It sort of puts me in the mood to quote one of Frank_Strong’s recent blog interviewees, who said “Trust…is quieter, but it’s the ultimate conversion – and there’s nothing that scales like it.” (full link in case anyone wants to read, it’s excellent –

    • Thanks JoeCardillo! I’m not surprised either – I think a lot of people have experienced something like this or figured it would be like this. Insightful quote about trust – so important in any relationship and hard to establish – though easy to ruin… RebeccaTodd biggreenpen Frank_Strong

  • martinwaxman

    ginidietrich Thank you so much for giving me a platform! And I think the t-shirt helped!

  • That is an awesome test.
    I don’t care about my Klout score, but it feels similar to my Amazon raking for my books. A short concentrated burst of sales (usually from running an ad) will move the book up the rankings. Once the ad is done (they last one day) the rankings drop.

    That isn’t so bad, though, because there is also a bump in sales after the ad runs, so those sales slow the decent.
    Though Klout might not have value, knowing how it works does. If one was competing for a client and knew it mattered to said client, and the rival was one point better, then a short move might seal the deal.

    • ExtremelyAvg Thanks! Interesting analogy about Amazon rankings/sales. I wish Klout could also show an increased score correlates to increased business results…

  • martinwaxman

    I prefer tests-but if the shoe fits… MT ginidietrich martinwaxman tests (games) Klout scoring & gives away prizes

  • pjanssen

    brechtjedeleij Op deze. Sorry…

    • brechtjedeleij

      pjanssen ah! Ja, heb me al tijden geleden afgemeld.

      • pjanssen

        brechtjedeleij Verstandig.

  • rheawithpixels

    brechtjedeleij so true!

  • This was an interesting read. Bet you had fun watching the Klout graph go up! 🙂 Hope you embark on more scientific adventures soon. I’ll be listening.

    • Nabiha Thank you. It was a fun and silly game. As I think I said before, watching it is a bit like day trading. And at the end of it I get a few insights – so that’s not a bad trade.

  • TadekSolarz

    helmatimmermans brechtjedeleij Bij elke tweet maak je gebruik van je social influence. Ook Brechtje wanneer ze over Klout twittert.

    • helmatimmermans

      ‘influence’ raten & rondtoeteren is niet zo … 😉 True influence has to do with deep, trusting relationships. TadekSolarz brechtjedeleij

      • @helmatimmermans TadekSolarz brechtjedeleij Great point – couldn’t agree more.

  • martinwaxman

    SharpSchuette remarkmarketing ginidietrich CrazyPens30 Thanks for sharing the post! SpinSucks

    • CrazyPens30

      martinwaxman SharpSchuette remarkmarketing ginidietrich SpinSucks You’re welcome! I got a lot out of it.

    • remarkmarketing

      martinwaxman Well done Martin! Klout is interesting (cute?) for 1st level snapshot but certainly not a strategic influencer tool, IMHO.

      • martinwaxman

        remarkmarketing Thanks – I’d agree with that and like the snapshot analogy.

  • All I want is that shirt. Lol.

    • staceylamiller Who knows – maybe that could be my side business :).

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  • With 99.9999% of our lives private from Klout can they really measure anything about us? I think the whole influence thing as it stands is ridiculous. None of the Case Studies on the Klout site prove they worked. Same with the case studies on Social Chorus and Collective Bias. They tend to show earned media (though seems plenty use bloggers they compensate).
    We don’t listen to people online like we do in real life. And we are hugely influenced by what other people wear, eat, drive etc in real life…things we can’t see of our virtual friends.

    • Howie Goldfarb Great point! Most of our real influence is missing. Someone said this is a measure of a small part of our online engagement – how active we are on certain platforms in a specified period of time. But saying it that way doesn’t have the same ring as influence…

  • videoBL

    JeffSheehan martinwaxman SpinSucks #SWEETWEETS #Sharedya on G+ Lina Jones

  • gernijkamp

    oostdam: Exact een zelfde test heb ik een jaartje geleden uitgevoerd. Zelfde resultaat. Je kunt de score krijgen waar je ‘m wilt hebben…

    • oostdam

      gernijkamp weet ik maar wie weten dat nog meer?

      • gernijkamp

        oostdam: Te weinig mensen, in ieder geval 🙂 Ergste: er wordt serieus waarde aan gehecht. Terwijl het gebakken lucht is.

        • oostdam

          gernijkamp en dat is net zo erg als geloven in Google…

        • gernijkamp

          oostdam: Klopt, voor beide geldt: belangrijk om te weten hoe het werkt. Maar ja, wie wil dat nog weten..? Het is er toch gewoon…

  • OK, in my high school, I would never go to the cheerleading squad to get a bump in my grade…physics club, maybe.
    I still think a good experiment would be for the day-trading Klout algorithm (I liked that analogy) to start using Livefyre and Disqus comments in their algorithm. However, that still will not prevent a more “daily focus” with only occasional bumps if you say something particularly witty or insightful in a comment thread (like day trading…or cheerleading squads).
    And at the end of the day – it still didn’t impact the old bottom line, so back to a different – or at least more extensive – measure of true influence.

    • dbvickery Thanks. And good point. I guess I should have enlisted the cheerleading squad to help me get elected to school office…
      It is all about that bottom line, otherwise it’s a lot of sizzle or false ego-boosting – hard to take that to the bank :).

  • Klout is not the standard of influence, as it claims (at least not yet). It simply measures our ability to create content that moves on the Internet. That may seem like a simple thing but it is actually insanely complex and although limited, it can be useful. How many jobs today depend on an ability to move content? Once we understand the limitations and what it can and can’t do, it becomes a more realistic and useful indicator. It is misunderstood. It is mis-used. It is a blunt instrument. But that doesn’t mean that, in the proper context, that it’s not useful.

    • markwschaefer Thanks Mark. That’s a good point.

      • martinwaxman markwschaefer great comment Mark. I am very very skeptical about influence online as you know. More because I feel it is being sold wrong by almost everyone. I can’t see using strangers to start an influence campaign vs say your 100 best customers.

        Your point on moving content is partially valid. I have joked what if I got a million people to retweet/share my article online and no one clicks or reads it. Success or fail? Obviously fail. That is why the case studies from Klout, Social Chorus, Collective Bias to me are fraudlent because content creation and sharing is a means to an end not the end itself. and none have ever shown me the end result (increased sales, loyalty etc)

        I just feel with so little of our life online it is so hard to measure anything (your point about how hard and complex). The NY Times wants to move content but need it read. But Ford wants a sale.
        That all said….tools like Klout can be valuable to research your fans. But I recently shared with ginidietrich a client customer who joined twitter just to ask what the ice cream sandwich flavors are. In talking with her seems she brought at least 40 new customers. Klout would never find her. I could never find her.  But she is more influential than almost all the top Twitter fans. Private word of mouth (email, in person, phone, sms text) overwhelms social to me by a magnitude of 100x. Which proves influence exists  but are we looking in the wrong place and in the wrong way for it?

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