Why Is Klout Important?

My post about three secrets to improve your Klout score generated a lot of discussion, partly about other techniques, but also wondering why Klout is even important.

Billy Kirsch asked how it would influence him on Twitter. Brooke Randolph wanted to know how it would help her, and why she would want to improve her score beyond bragging rights. And Ivan Torres said it was just an artificial number that didn’t affect the experience.Screenshot of a Klout.com score

To answer these questions, let’s take a look at what your Klout score means.

Your Klout score is basically the best way we have to quantify whether you’re doing a good job on social media. While it measures mostly Twitter, it also looks at your activity on Facebook and LinkedIn. It’s a measurement of your social media influence — your clout — and whether people like and trust you enough to respond to the things you do. In other words, if your social media footprint were a sales letter, would your readers respond to your call to action?

Your Twitter “call to action” includes things like:

  • Do people click on the links you send out. If it’s to a new blog post or an interesting article, do they follow the link, or ignore it? If you typically write and tweet interesting stuff, they’re more likely to follow it.
  • Do people retweet the interesting tweets you send out? Do they respond and share it with their networks, or do they just go “meh” and let it rot at the bottom of their Twitter barrel? If you’re engaging, witty, or really smart, then you’re probably tweeting interesting stuff that other people want to share.
  • Are people talking to or about you directly? Are they asking you questions, pointing out interesting articles to you, or inviting you to stuff? Or are you an unknown quantity like that weird kid in high school no one really paid attention to? If people know who you are, you’ll be top-of-mind when it comes time to write original tweets to specific people.

Klout measures things like this and compiles your score, based on a scale of 1 – 100. However, it’s different from your traditional grading scale: 60 is not a D, and you have to be an international star to get 100. Chris Brogan has one of the highest Twitter scores, and he has a 81. Ashton Kutcher has 81, and Justin Bieber has 100. (I also have a higher score than Helio Castroneves, even though he has more followers and more Indy 500 wins than I do, so being a celebrity is no guarantee you have a high Klout score.)

So what does a good Klout score do for you?

Truthfully, not much. You don’t win prizes, you don’t gain fame or fortune, and you don’t get book deals. Beyond bragging rights, there’s not a lot that Klout will do for you.

Except…

Except people with higher Klout scores are considered influencers. People with high Klout scores have worked hard to grow and polish their reputation, and become the kind of person other people want to click through, retweet, and talk to. And these people get some benefits from marketers who want to reach people with good reputations.

  • I received some swag and DVDs from the makers of the TV shows Lone Star and Southland. Lone Star sent me a t-shirt, some beer and martini glasses, a cooler, and a tin of popcorn. Southland sent me similar stuff. Both shows wanted me to watch their show and tell all my followers about it in the hopes that they would watch it to. (Sadly, Lone Star was canceled after two episodes.)
  • Audi asked influential designers, technology pros, and luxury lifestyle thinkers with high Klout scores to test drive their new A8 model at an exclusive San Francisco event. The hope, other than finding that Klout influencer with 100,000 bucks laying around, was that people would talk about the A8 to their friends via Twitter, their blog, YouTube, and Flickr. For the price of a what is normally an automotive journalists’ trip, Audi was able to get some word of mouth advertising and reaching a non-automotive audience who might not normally consider an Audi.
  • Bottlenotes Chicago offered tickets to the Around the World in 8 Sips Chicago free wine and cheese tasting to wine influencers. Restaurants and special events always give away free meals or passes, but by reaching out to Klout influencers, they are able to get some digital ink from the social media influencers for their food costs, without spending any more money on print advertising, or TV or radio commercials.
  • Movie studios have offered free passes to fans in the hopes that they’ll tell their friends about the movie, again providing word of mouth marketing for a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing and advertising. Rather than putting together a special screening for people, they give away free passes and reap the same benefit as the screening.

So what is the benefit to you to having a decent Klout score? Right now, not much. Free movies, free swag from TV shows, free meals, and a chance to drive a car that costs more than the average national salary. Plus, you get to dog on your friends who may have a score lower than yours.

But, and this is what’s most important, you’re getting a good indication of how your social media efforts are working out. Think of this as analytics for your social media influence. It may be an artificial number, but it’s the closest thing we’ve got to a quantitative indication about how well we’re doing. And while people are still debating the efficacy of the Klout score, it’s the best indicator out there.

So use it, take it with a grain of salt, but don’t ignore it or dismiss it out of hand. If you care about whether you’re actually making progress in your social media efforts — or you just want some cool swag — pay attention to Klout until something better comes along, or until they improve.

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    About Erik Deckers

    Erik Deckers is the President of Pro Blog Service, a content marketing and social media marketing agency in Indianapolis, IN. He co-authored three social media books, including No Bullshit Social Media with Jason Falls (2011, Que Biz-Tech), and Branding Yourself with Kyle Lacy (2nd ed., 2012; Que Biz-Tech), and The Owned Media Doctrine (2013, Archway Publishing). Erik has written a weekly newspaper humor column for 10 papers around Indiana since 1995. He was also the Spring 2016 writer-in-residence at the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando, FL.