Does Klout Matter?

11 06 2012

This week is Book Expo America, a.k.a BEA, a large book expo that many publishers, bloggers, authors, and agents attend. One of the features of BEA is the Book Blogger Con, an event that was started in the past few years to be an event for bloggers. I did not attend this event, but I was watching closely on Twitter, where a discussion was forming under the #BEABloggerCon hashtag.

One of the panels was entitled Demystifying the Book Blogger & Publisher Relationship”.
This panel, according to the direct schedule, was supposed to: be a  “panel with book bloggers and publishers discussing challenges and opportunities”. The people on the panel included a director of marketing for Simon & Schuster, a representative from NetGalley, and a blogger.

One of the points brought up by the Netgalley representative was that she felt that Klout mattered. The Simon and Schuster representative stated that she disagreed with that statement and felt that Klout did not matter. On Twitter, a discussion formed about whether or not Klout did or did not matter.

Klout is a social media site that was started in 2008 to “help you measure and leverage your influence”. The basic idea is that it charts how influential you are on the web and social media, how many people you are influencing and what you are influencing in (ie, books, movies, cars). Everyone who joins Klout receives a number showing how high your social media influence is. The numbers range from 1 to 100 and the higher the number, the better.

Here are some numbers, taken from Scott Westerfeld:

Scott Westerfeld: low 60s
Youtube Magnate John Green: 71
YA Twitter Queen Maureen Johnson: 74
US President Barack Obama: 88
Genuinely Famous Person Lady Gaga: 94

My score usually ranges from the 50s-60s.

Since its inception, Klout has generally been the subject of controversy as people wonder if this really matters and if it is accurate. On the hashtag, the general reception was dislike.

So, in this post, I’m going to look at some of the reasons people both like and dislike Klout, and what Klout’s role (if it has one) in the blogging world is.

Is Klout even accurate?


There are two complaints about the accuracy of the site: if the numbers are accurate and if the things Klout says people are influential in are accurate. First, let’s look up at the list from Scott Westerfeld. The highest person on that list is Lady Gaga. Now I would agree that Lady Gaga is important and has a lot of social media klout (ha, see what I did there?) She has millions of Twitter followers, her albums top the charts, and she constantly is mentioned in media — for her outlandish clothes, for her support for GLBTQ rights, and for her albums and position in the industry. Her number is a 94.

On the other hand, President Obama, who obviously has a ton of power — he can control the armies and navies, he has major diplomatic powers, he has the power to control legislation — is lower than “Queen Gaga”. He also has a lot of social media presence, on Twitter and Facebook and ad campaigns all over the web for contests and other sponsored events. His number is a 88, six points below Lady Gaga. 6 points isn’t a lot but it is a difference. And it is a lower number. So is this accurate? Both Obama and Lady Gaga have a lot of fans and admirers (and haters) and they both have wide social media presences. But what makes Gaga’s number higher? I don’t know.

Klout’s website simply tells me that they measure the numbers based off of:

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

and that they are working to include:

Facebook Pages, Youtube, Instagram, Tumblr, Blogger, WordPress, Last.fm and Flickr.

So does Lady Gaga get more re-tweets and mentions, more Facebook posts and Google+ +1s than the president? I am not entirely sure. I could go look at the data. But it does seem strange, as they are both key players in the world (for different reasons), and one would expect the president to be higher. So are Klout’s numbers accurate? It seems unsure.

The other issue with Klout’s accuracy is, like I mentioned, the things that people are influential in.

both tweets from Colleen Lindsay

(For understanding how strange this is: Colleen is a community manager for an online site called BookCountry — a workshopping community for genre writers.)

Klout has a tendency to say that people are influential in erm, strange things. (Klout thinks that I am influential  on penguins and money.) Some of the things that Klout thinks I am influential in make sense — Publishing, Creative, and Movies, which I would agree describes me — but really? Penguins and money? I love  a good penguin but I don’t think I influence people on them much. (I think Klout actually means the publisher Penguin, but the money? Erm.)

So with this strange mixture of things that actually make sense and things that are like, erm, what?, is Klout unreliable? Can it be trusted when it is sputtering out a mixture of true and wildly incorrect ideas? Klout had most of my influential topics right, but those two tiny ones — penguins and money — that made me laugh hard is what I’ll remember. I won’t remember the things they got correct; I’ll remember their unreliability. So is Klout trustworthy or just something funny to laugh at and giggle over what the service thinks you influence people in?

And if Klout is unreliable, that brings me to the next topic of discussion and constant argument (and an argument that was brought up on #BEABloggerCon):

Is Klout useful in the blogging community? Is it useful for publishers, authors, and bloggers?

This was was the topic that people were rapidly discussing on #BEABloggerCon when it came up. At the beginning of the post, I showed a screenshot of a tweet from The Book Smugglers. On the panel, the representative from Netgalley stated that they felt Klout mattered in the blogging community while the representative from S & S disagreed.

The people who agree that Klout matters say that it shows people about your social networking and your ability to influence a group on different topics, and be an influential member of the blogging community. These supporters say that social media is a key part of the blogging world and that is important for publishers to see how people do in social media. If they aren’t so hot in social media — say, a Klout score in the 20s or 30s — then maybe they won’t be as “useful” to work with. They also say that when you blog, you are constantly attempting to influence people — you want them to subscribe to your RSS feed, you want them to like your Facebook fan page and follow you on Twitter, you want them to enter your contest.

But then again, there are drawbacks to Klout. What about all those random things Klout said I was influential in? Money, penguins. Are publishers going to want that? What will they do with that? Promote me books on financial advice and childrens’ books on penguins? Send me more books about money and penguins? Add me to their Penguin mailing list?  How is me being influential in those topics helping my blog? How do publishers know, from my Klout, that I have a good review or a good blog? If I don’t have a good Klout score, will I be banned from something — a conference, an ARC, a blog tour?  With all its randomness and unreliability, is Klout useful?

Personally, I think that Klout isn’t useful, because of its unreliability and it isn’t a good tool for publishers to base things off of. I think that seeing these comments about Blogger Con has really cemented my idea that it isn’t a good tool and not one that I use, though I’ll admit I check it sporadically to discover (like Colleen’s tweet above) what ridiculous things Klout thinks I influence in.

What about you?

What do you think about Klout — useful or not, helpful or not? Leave a comment and share your opinions.

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