Have you heard of Klout?  Klout is a service that measures social media influence and distills it down into a numerical value: the Klout score.  This number can range between 1 and 100, but it's not a linear scale.  Klout scores are exponential.  It's an interesting concept, but it's not without controversy.  The methodology behind Klout scores has never been disclosed.  This secrecy lead most people to question the legitimacy of the score.  After all, how accurate can an influence measure that ranks Justin Beiber as more influential than Barack Obama really be?

Klout logo

Some of this criticism is unfair.  How many people get upset over the search placement Google assigns to them?  Unlike Google, the Klout score is personal in a way search listings are not.  This is an attempt to describe your role in the world to a number.  This number already has consequences.  Customers with higher Klout scores are sometimes treated with greater deference by companies.  

Many customer service organizations have been trained to examine the Klout score of customers who engage the brand via social media.  Klout has become a staple of community management.

I know that I've been given goods, services and upgrades just because my Klout score is above 60.  Flawed though it may be, Klout is still the most popular and known service of its kind.  It's become the de facto measurement of social media influence.

In my life, Klout is mainly an inside joke with my coworkers.  We "+K bomb" each other.  You can use a virtual currency called +K to indicate who you consider an influencer and in what areas of expertise.  My coworkers have resoundingly agreed that I am an expert in the Fancy Dress Political Party and Kittens.  This information appears on my public Klout profile.  It's possible to hide this activity, but I don't.  Good natured +K bombs are fun, and I don't want to imagine a world where social media is stripped of whimsy.

Yesterday, Klout announced major changes to its scoring system.  I can't remember an update from any company that seems so tailored to my criticism!  The new Klout score pulls in more data points, and discloses what those points are.  Klout makes better use of LinkedIn and Wikipedia to gauge influence, so someone who is prominent-but-not-active like Warren Buffet receives a Klout score more inline with their real world stature.  Klout is also using "moments" to show its users what specific pieces of content resonated with their audience, and in doing so contributed to their Klout score.

The results of the new system are positive.  Barack Obama now (rightfully) scores higher than Justin Beiber.  Don't misread me: I don't want to detract from Mr. Beiber's influence.  His audience is large and devoted.  It is likewise clear to me that the elected leader of the free world wields even greater influence and Klout now scores this correctly.

As I've looked through my own network, the scores seem likewise validated.  Some of my friends are influential, but relatively quiet in social media.  Their scores have all risen–probably based on LinkedIn data.  They are influencers of the influencers, and I'm glad to see their score reflect that.

From my perspective, the new scoring system is a great win for Klout.  The increased transparency makes this metric more trustworthy.  The addition of more networks and platforms acknowledges and addresses that rapidly shifting landscape of social media.  Moments will be a great tool for individuals and companies alike to understand which content posts are most meaningful to their audience across their entire social media presence.

If you haven't tried Klout yet, I can finally recommend the service with a straight face.  Click the link below and sign-in with your Facebook or Twitter account.

Try Klout.