KLOUT is not a measure of online influence!

Much has been written about the nature of online influence and I didn’t want to add more to the debate, but when you hear somebody that, supposedly, has real influence talking rubbish – ironically about real influence – well, I felt compelled.  I don’t know how you measure influence, but I certainly don’t use a smoke and mirrors algorithm that measures… well, we’re not actually sure what it measures.  I certainly measure influence in the amount of interactions I have with them or the number of books that they’ve sold.Influence is a complex, and subconscious, thing to measure and it’s personal to me.

So, when I heard Scott Stratten of Un-Marketing ‘fame’ saying, in an interview with small business website CanadaOne  “…you can go to a site like Klout.com and run somebody’s twitter name and it will show you how much real influence they have.”, I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing.

Klout – a tool for measuring REAL influence?  Really?!  How do you measure real influence from social media activity alone? How does that work?

Scott, an ‘expert’ in “viral, social and authentic” marketing explains that, “January 1st, 2009 I said that I was going to live on Twitter for 30 days. Literally live on Twitter. I tweeted 7,000 times. I literally lived there and I went from 1,200 followers to 10,000. The key is not the number but they key is that there was engagement in conversation and 75% of those 7,000 tweets were replies. It was talking with people, not at them.”

Right Scott, but what were you saying to them?  Were you actually giving them good advice? Demonstrating that you knew what you were talking about? Because, if you were telling them that Klout is the place to go to see who has real influence then… well, you don’t know what you’re talking about.  You might be able to persuade people to take action – I guess that’s influence – but what’s the point of influence if you’re giving them bad advice? You’d lack credibility then wouldn’t you? You can’t have real influence without credibility, can you Scott?  How authentic is a metric measured on the number of  engagements, without actually measuring the value or credibility of what you say?

If you’re really suggesting that a tool that, effectively, measures the number of times you respond to others across a small number of platforms – rather than measuring the validity of what they say – can tell you who has real influence then you’re lacking real credibility.  You can check out Scott’s interview with Canada One here:


Admittedly, the video was shot a year ago – but was published in November 2012 on the CanadaOne website.  It’s only because I googled “Scott Stratten + Influence” that I found  out when it was recorded [May 2011].  Now Scott may have changed his view of Klout since he recorded it, but I couldn’t find anything from an hour searching specifically for it on Google.  If I’m misrepresenting your views on Klout Scott, please tell me and I’ll update this post.

I wrote about false experts a few months ago and this is the best example I’ve seen in a long while… [I don’t think anybody can consider themselves to be an expert in social media in what is still a very young discipline]

* Final sentence added Thursday 15th Nov. 2012 for clarity.

9 Replies to “KLOUT is not a measure of online influence!”

  1. As far as I’m concerned Klout is one of those dark alleys of technology where the unwary will have their sense of reality and meaningful perspective ripped from their minds.

    You are right to ask ‘but what were you saying to them?’ – that is precisely the point. As far as I’m concerned Klout, as a measuring stick for influence, relies on misplaced blind faith in technology rather than anything remotely scientific. At best it’s like measuring the success of a company by the number of telephones it has. Laughable *and* sad.


  2. Amen! You are preaching my sermon brother!

    Nothing replaces real people having real conversations! I get those tweets all the time, as I am sure you do, that ask me if I’d like another 5000 followers. Once in awhile I’ll actually reply back with, no, I don’t want more followers, I want to connect with more people who really want to engage in conversation, not social media zombies!

    As far as “experts” go, I stay away from anyone who introduces themselves as an expert.

    Good stuff!

  3. I am the creator of the Scott Stratten video. Your attack on Scott based in part on your belief that CanadaOne published that video in November 2012 . That is not the case; the original interview was published in May 2011, and your failure to contact me first to try to determine the correct date is disappointing.

    The comment Scott made that you singled out attack was made in April 2011. A technical glitch, which has now been fixed, caused the page you found to incorrectly get the date of Nov 2012. What’s more, even if we had chosen to publish the video in November, Scott would have no control over that.

    So you have taken a single quip and have distorted it by severing it from the context of Scott’s full answer, in order to attack Scott as a false expert (your label, not mine).

    You chose to ignore the fact that Scott said, in that very same answer, that what works for him may not work for another person and that someone who can help a business with Twitter and/or social media does not necessarily have to have a lot of followers.

    That decision was your choice; but others reading this thread have the right to know that all is not quite as it seems in Wonderland.

    In the meantime, I have written an article that was prompted by your blog post, The (Elusive) Search for the Social Media Guru: http://www.canadaone.com/ezine/nov_2012/elusive_social_media_gurus.html

    In closing:

    If you want to attack Klout, fine. While I think it provides a good way to “check in” once in a while from a very general, huge-grain-of-salt perspective, everyone with even a small bit of experience realizes its algorithm is wacky. Over a year ago, probably 4 months after our interview, I recall that Scott himself was poking fun at Klout because it said he had authority for unicorns.

    What you do not have the right to do – and I don’t mean this is my *opinion*, but the law related to defamation – is to make false statements about a person, especially if those statements could be construed to impact the person’s livelihood or to bolster yours. So I would suggest that the next time you decide to go on a tirade against another person you have decided is a “false experts”, you ask yourself whether the small burst of attention is worth the potential legal fallout.

    And BTW, your Twitter and Google Plus links on your Contact page both link back to the contact page, rather than the appropriate social media accounts. That might make for an interesting blog post about people who throw stones first cleaning up their own houses…

    1. Hi Julie,

      Thanks for your comments.

      First, let’s get one thing straight – I don’t claim to be an expert and I still have work to do. I don’t claim otherwise. I’ve also checked the links to my social networks and they all appear to be working fine, but I’ll monitor it to make sure there is not a problem.

      As for ‘throwing stones’ that wasn’t the intention, it was to take issue with a point made by somebody that is seen by many as being knowledgeable. I don’t believe anybody has the experience in social, viral or authentic marketing [I’m not even sure what authentic marketing refers to]. Viral is, well, viral – it’s controlled by users and, as a result, I don’t know how you can guarantee a viral marketing ‘hit’.

      I can have no way of knowing that there was a technical glitch – the original story appeared to be published in November 2012 and I also included in the piece that I found out, only by searching on Google, that it was recorded back in 2011. I’ve now added a note to provide the specific details in the post so that it is clear. The transcript of the video is also included in the link so that people can read the full interview and place my comments in context to draw their own view.

      If Scott’s opinion on Klout has changed then, as I point out in the piece, I’ll gladly add a note to that effect. I spent more than an hour looking for information on a more recent view on Twitter and watched videos of a number of his most recent presentations online to see whether the issue is raised in them. I didn’t have time to read through 18 months worth of his tweets.

      The post – and your response – raises another issue that we all increasingly face in a real-time world. It was always so before the days of the real-time internet, but is more of a challenge these days – the perception is reality problem. It doesn’t matter what the truth is but what it appears to be from whatever viewpoint we look at a subset of the facts.

      Finally, there are lots of things that I agree with Scott about. The problem isn’t so much one with him per se, but of the age of ‘experts’ [the definition of which is not clear] in something that is, as yet, an ill-defined art.


  4. Lyndon,

    You say you had no way of knowing if the date was a technical glitch, yet in truth you had a very easy way of finding that out: When you discovered that the video interview was done in 2011 from your Google search you could have *contacted me* and *asked* for clarification. My Twitter account and other details were included in the original article and are very easy to find elsewhere on CanadaOne, or on the web for that matter.

    The second thing you could have done, instead of spending hours checking out what Scott had to say online, is to again, contact him. He is also very easy to find. Just throw @unmarketing in a tweet and you’ll reach him; as he points out in the interview much of what he does is spend time replying to people on Twitter.

    Finally, you really should get some legal advice if you think that the approach you have taken with this post is not defamatory. The online world sometimes makes it easy to fall into the tap of thinking the real world rules do not apply. They do. In Toronto right now we are seeing a great debacle over a defamation lawsuit against Mayor Ford for things he said during the election about a local business and kickbacks. Interestingly, your comments against Scott – from my non-legal perspective – seem much more likely to meet the test of defamation than those that landed Ford in court.

    When you step onto a soapbox and challenge the credibility of someone else, you are implying that you have the right – ergo the expertise – to do so. So while you say that you don’t claim to be an expert, your approach to writing this blog post belies that claim.

    If you read the article I wrote, you will see that what really concerns me is the way service providers try to tear down the competition or “lay a false trail” in an attempt to elevate themselves.
    I can tell you from over 15 years of experience in business that this approach may be good for short term bursts of attention, but in the long term this approach is destructive and it actually drives businesses away from taking action, because when we are confronted with fear, or too much information, or conflicting information, for many the solution is to pull back and do nothing. And that result is not at all helpful for the companies struggling to figure out how they are going to start using tools like social media in their businesses.

    1. Julie,

      I appreciate the additional comments. For the record, I included Scott in a tweet with a link to the piece two days ago and have yet to receive a response from him.


      *In the interest of full disclosure…

      I studied media law as part of a BA Broadcast Journalism degree

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *