Get ready. Social scoring will change your life.

There is an interesting, and perhaps alarming, trend brewing on the social media scene.  Take a look at a couple items in the news last week:

  • The Palms Hotel in Las Vegas is providing perks to guests based on their Klout score (an assessment of social media influence)**
  • By the end of the year, Twitter said their new analytics will provide influence scores for every user.
  • People are now curating lists of the most influential bloggers by Klout score.
  • Virgin Airlines offered free flights on a new route to people with high influence scores on Twitter.
  • Hoot Suite allows you to sort Twitter results by the influence of the people in the list.

I’m guessing that within a 12 to 18 months, you will be able to use new augmented reality technology to scan a room of people with your smartphone and get a numerical social rating for every person in sight.  I constructed the graphic above as an example, but the technology is already there to make this happen.

OK, first I need to get this out of my system. This CREEPS ME OUT.

Good. I feel much better now. On with the show.

While it may be a sad and disturbing reality that we’re about to create a new social media caste system, the business benefits are obvious and powerful. This system can provide highly-targeted marketing and PR opportunities.

Advertising Age reported that the Virgin promotion generated 4,600 tweets about the new route. This led to more than 7.4 million impressions and coverage in top blogs and news outlets like the L.A. Times and CNN Money.

This week, Klout began pulling in Facebook data to get a fuller picture of an individual’s social media footprint and they also have their sights set on LinkedIn, MySpace, Digg, and even Youtube, for future integration.

And this is just the beginning. Forget about Klout scores, there will be competitive rating systems for everything and it will be available to anybody at a push of a button. Wouldn’t it make sense to assign numbers for single people on the dating scene based on “user ratings”?

It seems inevitable that you and “your number” are going to be compared, analyzed and dissected by everyone you meet.

Think about the implications of this.

1) Social influence is the new black. Your social score may ultimately be more important than your resume when getting a marketing job, especially at an entry-level position. Your information is going to follow you around and be available to every person you date, every potential employer, every waiter at your favorite restaurant.

2) Take this seriously. You know how some people whine that so-and-so blogger is only big because they got there first? Well guess what — the folks reading this blog today are probably already way ahead of the curve on social media sophistication. When it comes to social scoring, you have a chance to “get there first” too. Once these scores go mainstream — and it’s already happening — everybody is going to want a number … a high number. You have a head start. Do something about it.

3) Personal branding starts with social influence. Don’t take my word for it. The Harvard Business Review said that creating a robust online presence is the first step toward building a C-suite personal brand.

4) Prepare for the gamers.  If you think all those people selling lists of Twitter followers is annoying, wait until people figure out how to game Klout scores.

5) Do you have a Klout coach? Here’s the business opportunity of the year. Become a personal Klout coach. Basically this is “personal branding SEO” right?  Social scoring is going to become so important that people will certainly pay money to pave the way to a high influence score.

I hate the fact that we are on the brink of creating social media caste systems. However, we can’t live in a world we wish for. We have to live in the world that is.  So let’s deal with it. Go figure out how to improve your Klout score. Watch for new scoring systems that are emerging. Participate. Dominate. It’s going to be important.

This is a new perspective on technology and personal branding that is more than a little icky. What do you think about this concept and its implications?

**If you are unfamiliar with Klout scores, here is a definition from the company:

The Klout Score is the measurement of your overall online influence. The scores range from 1 to 100 with higher scores representing a wider and stronger sphere of influence. Klout uses over 35 variables on Facebook and Twitter to measure True Reach, Amplification Probability, and Network Score.

True Reach is the size of your engaged audience and is based on those of your followers and friends who actively listen and react to your messages. Amplification Score is the likelihood that your messages will generate actions (retweets, @messages, likes and comments) and is on a scale of 1 to 100. Network score indicates how influential your engage audience is and is also on a scale from 1 to 100. The Klout score is highly correlated to clicks, comments and retweets.

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  • Anytime I see a story about a company using social “aggregate” to determine if you get service or not is the time I add a name to the list of Never Go To These Materialistic Dossholes.

    I’ll hang out where the real people do, instead of the places where the faux celebrities and the self-indulgent get together to talk about AdAge rank and Technorati authority.

  • I’ve been worried about the same thing for some time. The social influence score is always skewed—it only works in environments with relatively large numbers of participants. If you’re a nobody from nowhere, you won’t be able to increase your score much, however “ideally” you behave.

  • markwschaefer

    @kimmolinkama I think the systems will probably evolve taddress this. I do know of a few folks with relatively few “followers” who have high influence scores. Thanks for your perspective!

  • markwschaefer

    @Dannybrown I’m with you on that sentiment. I can only hope that this does not become widespread but sense that it will. I think that both individuals and businesses could become intoxictaed with this idea. Always an honor to have you contribute Danny!

  • ericpratum

    On 1 hand, this is not significantly different from car companies giving Motor Trend writers, Car & Driver writers, and so on loaner cars to write about. Similarly, I was part of a promotion Ford did last year where they gave loaner cars to ‘influential’ people in a ton of different online verticals with the only stipulation being “if you blog, tweet, etc about this, please note that you got the car for free.” In these cases, it does not bother me so much. There are cases though where it seems like an arbitrary or meaningless application, like in the case of The Palms.

    That all being said, I wouldn’t claim that I’ve gotten jobs solely as a result of point #1 above, but it has most definitely been a factor 😉 Of course, growing your online footprint is 1 thing. Knowing how to apply those skills in another area or to another entity is another.

  • markwschaefer

    @ericpratum I think that is a good analogy. Now, think about a situation where anybody can have access to those perks if they work he system. Has nothing to do with position or authority — relies on math! : )

  • philsimon

    Really interesting post. I agree with Eric’s comment about this not being entirely new. At the same time, though, it’s a little icky.

    I hate the fact that we are on the brink of creating social media caste systems.

    Kind of reminds me of high school. It’s inevitable, though. I suppose that it might make it harder for newbies to overcome the advantages of authors, consultants, and folks with already established social presences. Or not… This stuff is way too dynamic to try and predict.

  • ericpratum

    @markwschaefer I won’t name names, but I know a certain someone, who gamed a scoring system for Twitter and got a bazillion followers as a result of seeming influential. It took this person all of 30 minutes to set it up and literally no technical skills. I’d hire people like that to come up with clever schemes…but not to help clients legitimately increase their influence 😉


    Being the optimist that I am, I think reason will prevail in the end.

    However in the interim things like Klout, and other influence gauges will evolve and drive people (like you and me and Danny) mad.

    I like your business opportunity of a Klout coach and the software ericpratum mentions which will select only people with influence for you to follow; who cares if you are interested in what they tweet or any engagement with you. Celebrity marketing has always been around, people susceptible to it likewise…… it’s just another trend, maybe a strong and persistent one at that, for people who analyze and watch SM to keep and eye on and write informative posts about, like you. @CASUDI

  • RaymondMunoz

    I tried to intentionally sabatoge my Klout score because I think the concept is ridiculous, but instead I got it higher… to a 57 last time I checked.

  • Mark,

    Most social listening tools are already calculating a social influence score using their own algorithms. This score can then be used to determine who to reach out to when there is a customer complaint or new product launch that needs attention (remember the Maytag incident with dolce?).

    Agree that this seems a bit creepy but it has already started.

    Thanks for the post,


  • BethHarte

    That Harvard Business Review blog post on so-called “thought leadership” was not on par with the critical, intellectual thinking that I expect from HBR. I was really surprised they ran it. If they keep running posts like that, I think I might need to cancel my subscription. I mean if you can’t look to an Ivy League school for real thought leadership, where can you turn?

    I am sensing an undercurrent of sarcasm in this post… I hope my ‘Spidey senses’ are correct. 😉

    Sadly, it seems that all of my experience and education (two degrees dammit!) are for NOTHING. I mean, seriously, why do we need either when we can just tweet, Facebook, LinkIn, blog, and check-in our way to the C-Suite! High Klout score… Here. I. Come. Oh, and by the way… Can I sue Klout for emotional damages when I hear back from CMO after CMO that he/she won’t give me their job just because my personal brand is more “influential” than theirs as verified by Klout?

  • PeteHealy

    “Social media caste system” seems like exactly the right way to describe it, Mark. And even keeping it solely within that context–ie, aside from whether our personal scores will come to affect our chances of getting a freebie or even landing a job–I worry that this will drive us toward comfortable, simplistic conformity. Why express a novel thought or unconventional point of view if it might put others off and damage one’s “score?” It starts to feel like a popularity contest on steroids (or the echo-chamber conversations of too many “social media gurus” taken to the Nth degree). It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out against “authentic” personal branding.

  • @BethHarte Spot on!

  • Randy_Gage

    I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over this. Think of how many years now we’ve have PEOPLE magazine’s most beautiful people list and all those “Power 100” “Power 25” “Most Influential Leaders Under 30” and scores of other lists in the print media. As print dies off and things migrate to the web, it was only natural that these kinds of lists and rankings would also.

    Some are vapid, some are actually usefull. Over time they will sort themselves out and we’ll all find the ones that are actually useful to us.


  • Randy_Gage

    I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over this. Think of how many years now we’ve have PEOPLE magazine’s most beautiful people list and all those “Power 100” “Power 25” “Most Influential Leaders Under 30” and scores of other lists in the print media. As print dies off and things migrate to the web, it was only natural that these kinds of lists and rankings would also.

    Some are vapid, some are actually usefull. Over time they will sort themselves out and we’ll all find the ones that are actually useful to us.


  • lauraclick

    It will definitely be interesting to see how this trend emerges. I’m with you, Mark – this creeps me out a little bit. I understand the benefit that social scoring offers, especially for marketers. However, it is only a matter of time before people start figuring out how to game the system. This is when real life connections are going to become even more important.

    P.S. Love the site re-design, Mark! It looks great!

  • Randy_Gage

    BTW, just noticed something. Under mine and the other pix of commenters I see a point system you comment scoring caste system you! 🙂


  • Thank you Mark for the “heads-up!” We’re counting you to keep us up-to-date on the Social Media scene for us to choose to take action {or not} 😉

  • @Randy_Gage Very interesting observation Randy. Thank you for making this connection for me 😉 Was this what you had in mind when writing this post Mark?

  • Mark

    I agree that the technology is hard to predict, but human behavior is not ; ) Thanks for the great comment.

  • Mark

    Yup. There you go. People are probably setting up shop right now!

  • Mark

    Last night Justin Bieber won four American Music Awards. Madam, logic has nothing to do with our world : )

    I’m an optimist too but also tempered with a good deal of realism. I had somebody call me the other day that had just purchased 6,000 Twitter followers. Yes, there is a market for instant gratification, instant fame and instant Klout whether it makese sense to you and me or not! Thanks so much for dropping by today Caroline!

  • Mark

    That is hilarious. Thanks Raymond!

  • Mark

    I think the appetite for this is going to be insatiable. Everybody from college grads to spammers are going to be chasing scores. Yuck. Thanks for your contribution on the discussion Josh.

  • Mark

    Yeah, I found article strange. At first I thought it was from Fast Company or something. Honestly, I have a professional fear of these scoring systems. I don’t even have time to keep up with my Twitter account let alone figure out klout scores. I can see myself in a meeting with a potential client saying, “but wait, I have some real work to show you!!” Perhaps we should set up our own scoring system based on experience + education + customer satisfaction. Reality — What a concept.

    Honored to have you in our community today Ms. Harte.

  • Mark

    Wow Pete. This is a very powerful comment. Had not even thought about this angle and yet it is an obvious implication of this trend. You really gave me something to think about here! Thanks!

  • Mark

    This is a useful analogy Randy. Now here is the next question — how many housewives would pay big money to be on a list like that? We are entering an era of digital cosmetic surgery. Who will know what is real? You are such an extraordinary thinker and I’m grateful that you took the time out of your busy schedule to comment today Randy!

  • Mark

    Agree Laura. Thanks for the compliment. It is a work in progress but we’re getting close!

  • markwschaefer

    @philsimon Agree that the technology is difficult to predit, but the human behavior isn’t : ) Where corruption can occure, corruption WILL occur. Thanks Phil!

  • markwschaefer

    @CASUDI I am an optimist — but a realist (if that is possible). I think the market for this will be insatiable from everybody from college students to spammers. Ugh. Thanks so much for adding to the dialogue Caroline!

  • markwschaefer

    @RaymondMunoz Hilarious. Thanks for letting us know!

  • markwschaefer

    @JoshuaDuncan Well said. Yes I remember the Maytage incident and wrote a post about it. Let’s face it. She would not have had the repair done without her influence. Honored to have you here today! Thanks.

  • markwschaefer

    @BethHarte Yes I thought that artilce was a bit weird. At first I thought I was reading Fast Company. I propose that you and I work on a new scoring system based on experience + education = customer feedback. Reality – what a concept! : )

    Thank you very much for commenting here Ms. Harte. Always an honor.

  • markwschaefer

    @PeteHealy Wow. This is such a powerful comment Pete. This is such an obvious angle and I missed it completely. You have me thinking now. Great point!

  • markwschaefer

    @Randy_Gage Of course you are correct but I go you one better. What would happen if the readers of People could pay for a way to be on one of those “most beautiful” lists? My gosh, can you imagine what they would pay for something like that? We are entering an era of digital facelifts. You are one of my very favorite authros on the web and I am so glad you took some time out of your busy schedule to contribute here today! Thanks Randy!

  • markwschaefer

    @lauraclick Thanks Laura — a work in progress but a big leap forward!

  • markwschaefer

    @Randy_Gage Dammit I suck. This is a new commenting system but I am not so sure about this point system. When it comes to blog design and strategy I simply do whatever @dannybrown tells me : )

    I’m not even sure what the purpose of the point system is. I think it racks up comments from all livefyre comments around the web. Don;t ask me. I just live here. : )

  • markwschaefer

    @DrRae Hey, we’re all in here learning together. : )

  • @markwschaefer Indeed Mark, thanks for the reminder. ; )

  • chieflemonhead

    Thanks for sharing, Mark. It is creepy – you called that out right!

    Social media is meant to be a place where transparency and authenticity reign supreme. As soon as you start “grading/scoring” people, you take away the desire to be authentic and impose the desire to compete. If you are only jostling for a higher score, are you being real?

    And, are all scores equal? If, for example, I’m a company that is looking to reach the outdoor hiking enthusiast, does it matter that their Klout score is high if the reason it is high is because Pepsi, Tiffany’s and Virgin Airlines has been retweeting their post on proposing in France by putting the ring in a Pepsi can? My point is, that’s a story that would be picked up like crazy, but shows no value to a company trying to sell hiking boots… I would seriously wonder about the value of the score.

    Agreeing with ol’ DB here… go where the real people are. Nothing will ever over-ride someone’s personality, authenticity and “fit”.

    Thanks again!

  • @markwschaefer @Randy_Gage Originally there was both a Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down option. The goal of Livefyre was to try and cut down on the crud that you normally seen on TechCrunch or Mashable comments – you know, the personal attack comments?

    What would have happened is that, had someone really stepped out of line, you could vote them down, but to do so you had to use one of your Thumbs Up points. That way, you couldn’t just vote people down for the sake of it – it had consequences. The aim – make a better community and one that values the blog, blogger and other commenters.

    I think Livefyre removed it because too many people were voting Gini Dietrich down…

  • markwschaefer

    @Dannybrown @Randy_Gage Gini Dietrich Actually Livefyre still has the thumbs up and thumbs down. I took it out because I don’t want to quash dissent. I’m perfectly fine if somebody takes me on and I want them to feel Ok doing it even if it is an unpopular decision. I want this to be a positive community, not a place where people will get a thumbs down so for better or worse I took that option out.

  • @markwschaefer @Randy_Gage Gini Dietrich Hmm, you must have the Super Dooper Version – I only have the thumbs-up version. Bugger. 🙂

  • markwschaefer

    @chieflemonhead Danny B Is not really that old. He just LOOKS older than me. Agree with you. Here’s to keeping it real but it sure is going to an interesting couple of years huh? Thanks!

  • GiniDietrich

    @Dannybrown @markwschaefer HOLY COW! I only have the thumbs-up version, too! They must have known what Danny and I would have done to one another.

  • CharityHisle

    No good can come of a virtual caste system. Glad to see the word is spreading. Klout has the responsibility to educate the businesses that use their tool. As you know, there’s a similar convo taking place on It seems many of us are in agreement that while this technology is helpful, it can also be harmful. Rule of thumb: take everything with a grain of salt.

  • @markwschaefer @chieflemonhead It’s all the partying with the rest of the Wu Tang that makes me look old. 🙂

  • Randy_Gage

    @markwschaefer Truth is, if you have a good publicist, you have a better shot at being on any of those print lists. And Klout, TwitterGrader and other scoring systems don’t take money for listings, so I think it’s about the same offline and online. In the end, we all need to use discenment whenever we see a list like that.

  • NicWirtz

    It’s been an argument put forth in the journalism industry that you will eventually be hired not because of your skills but the audience you can bring. It seems that time is getting an awful lot closer.

  • markwschaefer

    @CharityHisle Glad you have joined The Resistance!

  • markwschaefer

    @NicWirtz Nice point Nic. That is already happening in the blogging world. Which is kind of like journalism, only it’s not. : )

  • chieflemonhead

    @markwschaefer Very interesting… considering that the rampant growth of social media was due to the consumers wanting a place where authenticity would be king, it is a little disturbing that this type of scoring system may alter the landscape – and not in a good way.

    Hopefully we will continue to see the good stuff come to life… Hey, maybe we could use the scoring for good. How can we shape behaviour toward positive action for causes?


  • NicWirtz

    @markwschaefer A social score post broke out in a bloggers v journalism argument? 🙂 Obviously the concern with that is you’re not getting pure journalists but columnists/talking heads. Asides anything else this just encourages people to follow/follow back. I guess this is where social media is at, for old industries that don’t want to change just use it as a numbers game. For purists it’ll always be about the relationships.

  • samtitle

    A social media caste system?! Creepy isn’t exactly how I would describe it.

    The mere thought of it makes me want to skip math class, go for a smoke and play cards in the cafeteria. It’s a highschool “clique-o-system” rearing its pimply head on monitors and iPhone screens.

    I’m a bit put off by a ranking system that relies on an algorithm to measure value, worth, acceptance and influence. It used to be that social media was the great online equalizer…not so anymore unfortunately.

    I realize the big brands will use Klout scores much the same way they check traditional media circulation/readership numbers and viewership/listenership to determine traditional media strategies (both paid and earned). They can’t help it…it’s corporate genetics. But that doesn’t mean they ignore everyone else…

    BAH! Klout is the Internet’s highschool football team! Can someone please let that kid out of the locker he was stuffed in? I have a sudden urge to help him with his KLOUT score…Ronald Miller* style!

    Sam Title
    Chief Executive Cofficer

    *80s movie reference…kudos to those who get it…

  • thebrandbuilder

    “Your social score may ultimately be more important than your resume when getting a marketing job, especially at an entry-level position.”

    You must be joking.

    As in… “Screw Harvard, mom! I’m getting a Klout Coach.”

    Come on, Mark.

  • wabbitoid

    Should anything like this come to pass, I will be obliged to oppose it by any means necessary.

    What you describe here is nothing less than an attempt to define and control the separation between the Haves and the Have-Nots in a way that is fundamentally anti-American.

    The only thing that stops me from taking this seriously is that I trust my fellow citizens to oppose something like this as vehemently as I do.

  • sydcon_mktg

    @NicWirtz I agree! I have already seen posts where people or firms are looking for web developers and a requirement is your Facebook count and how many followers you have…to be a developer!!!

  • markwschaefer

    @sydcon_mktg @NicWirtz Please talk to Olivier Blanchard about this example since he doesn’t seem to believe me that this could happen : )

  • markwschaefer

    @thebrandbuilder Dude, it’s already happening. See sydcon comment below (or above if I get my comments fixed)

  • markwschaefer

    @wabbitoid I will happily join you in The Resistance. Thanks for your comment today.

  • shellykramer

    @GiniDietrich @Dannybrown @markwschaefer I wanted to beta Livefyre and they turned me down. You guys suck.

  • markwschaefer

    @shellykramer @GiniDietrich @Dannybrown It has not been a perfect system but we’ll give it a try.

  • @shellykramer Hi shelly, I promise you’re not turned down 🙂 We’ll send your beta invite tonight. @GiniDietrich @Dannybrown

  • @markwschaefer Jordan from Livefyre here. We were able to re-create the slow typing in Firefox issue on your site, it looks like a CSS conflict with another plugin on your blog. We’re going to create a work-around for it, so the that kink should be worked out very soon! We’re happy you’re giving Livefyre a try, and appreciate the feedback we’re getting from you and your community. cc @shellykramer @GiniDietrich @Dannybrown

  • @shellykramer @GiniDietrich @markwschaefer At least they don’t take into account Klout score 😉

  • shellykramer

    @markwschaefer @PeteHealy By the way, I know someone who was part of the Virgin Airlines Klout schwag and Klout could set her on fire and she wouldn’t say a negative word about them. She wants MORE opportunities and wouldn’t damage her “social cred” for the world. I think this is part of the danger of this scoring business. There will always be people who are willing to sell their souls for a few schillings. Me, I’m going to say what I want, when I want, where I want, and Klout score be damned.

  • @JKretch And this is exactly why I love Livefyre. I had issues on my blog that weren’t caused specifically by Livefyre, but they dug in and came up with a workaround, so the blogger didn’t have to choose between plug-ins. That gets my vote any day. 🙂 @markwschaefer @shellykramer @GiniDietrich

  • Wordmasters_

    Intresting move on the advertisers part. Instead of having to build influence on their own, they just coop it from people who do have it. I would expect to see more of this.

  • @shellykramer @markwschaefer @PeteHealy That makes me sadder than you could ever know…

  • JoeFernandez

    @wabbitoid I am one of the cofounders and the ceo at Klout. This idea of separating the haves from the have-nots is definitely not what we are about. We believe that every person that creates content online has influence. Our goal is to understand what topic each person is influential about and who they influence.

    In terms of how companies use Klout data, I think it’s important to point out that companies have always found ways to give certain people preferential treatment. The hot girls get in the club before me and the guy who is dressed nice get all the sales people attention at the mall. With Klout the person who is most influential about Rolls Royce might be a 16 year old kid who has never even touched a Rolls Royce but is the one creating all the content that is impacting the decisions that others make. We think this person deserves to be recognized.

  • JoeFernandez

    @chieflemonhead I am one of the cofounders and the ceo of Klout. Totally agree that influence is only helpful if it has context. We actually measure influence by topic and this is the data we use when we work with brands.

    In terms of how this kind of data can be used for good I believe the score drives positive contributions to social media. Only by being a positive contributing citizen online and engaging in conversations can your score go up.

  • JoeFernandez

    @shellykramer @markwschaefer @PeteHealy I am one of the cofounders and the ceo here at Klout. Saying what’s popular (in general, about a brand or about Klout) will never help your score. There is no algorithm for this but we do measure how your network reacts to you. We believe that people are smart enough to identify when someone is being authentic and their engagement is something we can reward.

  • @JoeFernandez @wabbitoid Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of Klout, Joe? Or any kind of influence tool? The example of the 16-year old kid, for instance. How can someone (who can’t legally drive) influence purchasers of a product if he doesn’t actually have any experience of using it? Wouldn’t more influence come from someone like Jeremy Clarkson of the UK show Top Gear – someone who lives and breathes autos, drives a ton of them for a living and knows what he’s on about?

    The other problem with Klout (and, to be fair, other automated tools) is that they can be gamed. I know of someone who used the methods certain mommy bloggers were using to game the system. The exact words were:


    “I um, may or may not have (read: did) implemented 2 ‘gaming klout’ tactics suggested by Mommy Blogger friends who have been playing with it. In one week, my Klout score jumped to nearly 150% of what it was, (from 41 to 62).

    I don’t quite believe that somehow I really got more or less in one week.

    What I did:

    1) Leave 12-15 characters out of every tweet so that it is ‘easily’ retweetable by 3rd party apps that still use ‘old style’ RTs.

    2) Rather than back channel people I usually DM, email, or message on Twitter & Facebook @ them & comment on their FB statuses.

    That makes me ‘more influential’? I would think it just makes me noisier.”


    When it’s easy to game something (and it becomes attractive to gain because of “perks”), then maybe it’e easier to see why there’s such a conversation about Klout (and others like it), and that the conversation isn’t all that positive?

  • JoeFernandez

    @Dannybrown @wabbitoid Not that someone like Jeremy Clarkson doesn’t have huge influence but I think there are a lot of other unrecognized people that drive actions and should be recognized.

    In terms of ways to game your Klout score. This is something that we are constantly monitoring and addressing.

  • BloggingBizMom

    You’re right, Mark- it is scary.

    Right along with being “watched” by cameras everywhere you go- in stores, in schools, driving in traffic and just about anywhere else!.

    I am OPPOSED to the whole KLOUT idea.

    I have enough people “spying” on me between the aforementioned cameras and my kids!

  • BloggingBizMom

    You’re right, Mark- it is scary.

    Right along with being “watched” by cameras everywhere you go- in stores, in schools, driving in traffic and just about anywhere else!.

    I am OPPOSED to the whole KLOUT idea.

    I have enough people “spying” on me between the aforementioned cameras and my kids!

  • markwschaefer

    @JoeFernandez Joe thanks for joining in the discussion. I should have thought to reach out to you proactively.

    While separating the haves from have-nots may not be your intent, any time you assign a numerical rating to people that is the end result, so it is what it is.

    As I mentioned, I’m a realist about these things. You get props for building — and monetizing! — a business built on publically-available information. The service you provide serves an un-met need for companies and their marketers, you’re adapting to changing conditions and you’re expanding to dominate your niche. I also appreciate the fact that you don’t have “secret” scores. You put it out there. Well done. Capitalism is not evil : )

    Still, you are bound to get negative reactions like many of the comments here as this thing plays out. The idea of being publically rewarded or ignored based on a number you have been assigned is Orwellian (or worse) and offensive. You might start thinking about ways to address people’s concerns and overcoming the social implications of what you’re creating. I obviously have not had time to put a lot of thought into it, but off the top of my head I would say hire an ombudsman, create an independent board of advisers (I nominate @dannybrown as a start) and blog about the negative things as well as the positives. Open up the idea in a forum like this one and I’ll bet you would get some amazing ideas and insights.

    Thanks again for adding your vital voice to this topic. I’m sure this will be just the first of many times the humanistic and sociological implications of social scoring will be debated.

  • JoeFernandez

    @markwschaefer This is a great conversation you’ve generated. Always happy to chat about what we are working on here at Klout (joe + at + klout dot com).

    Yeah, I totally get that what we are doing and how others are using our data can cause concern. That’s why we make every attempt to be very public with our scores and participating in conferences and conversations like this one. I do really like your idea of an independent board of advisors to help guide us through this quickly changing landscape. Our goal is to create a standard around this so transparency is key.

    Thanks again.

  • @markwschaefer Will there be perks? 😉

    (hehe, sorry, couldn’t resist!)

  • @JoeFernandez Joe, your reply is probably the reason I’m not sold on Klout.

    “Not that someone like Jeremy Clarkson doesn’t have huge influence but I think there are a lot of other unrecognized people that drive actions and should be recognized.”

    There are other unrecognized people that drive actions, and agree, it’s great to recognize them. But you’d think someone with authority in the field should be the ones promoting a brand or product, as to someone with just blind numbers/influence.

    Let’s say the 16-year old kid you’re on about is Bieber (he gets a perfect score on your system). If I’m looking for a Rolls Royce, am I going to trust motoring expert Jeremy Clarkson, or the teen fans of Justin Bieber who can’t drive?

    I think this is the crux of any influence system that seems to bypass relevancy for retweetability. @wabbitoid

  • JoeFernandez

    @Dannybrown @wabbitoid I am talking about someone who in the context of Rolls Royce (or whatever) is highly influential. Their overall influence might be low but in that specific topic they are the person you (as a brand) want to understand your product.

    We measure how influential people are related to specific topics.

  • @JoeFernandez @wabbitoid Right, and that makes sense. Perhaps the 16-year old and Rolls Royce wasn’t a good mix? 😉

  • steve_dodd

    @PeteHealy – Perfectly stated. Unfortunately it’s fundamental human nature. Popularity is something many strive for. Therefore any vehicle that can be used to contribute to it or measure it, will ultimately be manipulated in an attempt to achieve it.
    @Mark – Just like your recent blog on SEO, did you use those terms because they were relevant to the post or just to attract attention to it?
    Yes this is a scary trend, but unfortunately an inevitable one. Good Catch!

  • markwschaefer

    @steve_dodd Since I have just coined the word “social scoring” this is not exactly an effective search term is it? : p Thanks for your comment.

  • markwschaefer

    @BloggingBizMom Whether opposed or not, I thinkt is something we at least need to be aware of. Thank you for your view!

  • markwschaefer

    @Wordmasters_ A brilliant move actually and a great way to leverage the power of the social web. Thanks taking the time to comment today!

  • markwschaefer

    @JoeFernandez I was thinking about the comments on this topic today and I have a suggestion for you. While Klout provides a tremendous amount of value to your customers, it really does little for real people other than set up this caste system and make them further vulnerable to advertisers.

    So why not put the power in the hands of the people and allow them to dream up any rating sytem they want? I call it Klout Custom (patent pending! ) . The idea would be to allow people to create their own algorithm to allow them to find and connect with people their way. So let’s say you ant to find people who are connectors, sharerers and nurturers. You allow them to slide “bars” up or down to use your databases to find people who most fit the profiles. They could save this setting to view people by your own standards, not something dictated to you . Any way, just had this thought today. When will I start receiving my royalty checks? : )

  • samtitle

    @BloggingBizMom Oh my! Where are you?! I may have to take it off my vacay destination list…don’t need EVERYONE knowing my tastes in holiday destinations…


  • I’m delighted that Klout exists – I’ve found it to be a very useful, even if imperfect, tool for measuring who has true influence in the land of silly reciprocal and ‘get more followers’ schemes and scams.

    I have no doubt that Klout will just get better over time – and also that alternatives will emerge. But the trend toward scoring is undeniable – and unstoppable.

    Great post Mark – and kudos to Joe for participating.

  • markwschaefer

    @ChrisSelland Well said Chris. Thanks contributing this perspective!

  • ODsays

    Thanks for your posts Mark, always engaging.

    I find it strang that everyone is so wary of this when just about every social tool has some point of rank or metric attached to it. LinkedIn is about # of connections, twitter/followers. we (you) even have buttons to display the # of times a particular blog has been tweeted. Friend feed, etc, etc. It’s always been about image in so many ways..

    PS. I don’t neccesarily like it either but I do understand it from a business perspective.

    PPS. Creepy thought # 2: Imagine when they start using Tagging and Facial Recognition SW for the massess. We will have to start wearing berkas….

  • markwschaefer

    @ODsays I am definitely not ready for creepy thought #2! Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  • sydcon_mktg

    @markwschaefer Oh, it can happen! This particular RFP wanted to know how many Twitter followers we had. Specified that those with higher numbers got more consideration to help spread their word. Seriously your Twitter follower number should not be a major consideration when hiring a developer, there are many other important things to consider.

  • ginidietrich

    @sydcon_mktg I am SHOCKED by this! Sure, I think everyone who uses the web in business (especially in selling services for the web) should have a presence. But to place those with higher numbers above the others? They clearly haven’t read dannybrown post on why numbers aren’t what matters!

  • @ginidietrich @sydcon_mktg And the crazy horse gathers speed…

  • browneyedgirl65

    Interesting. How does this account for people who double up on the internet? A pseudonymatic online presence behind which they remain anonymous, and a “real” online presence which keeps a bland online presence to keep family and employers at bay. There’s quite a number of these folks.

  • sydcon_mktg

    @DannyBrown @ginidietrich I was shocked too….and that doesnt happen often! Needless to say we didnt waste time drafting a proposal. I agree if you use the web you need a presence, and maybe if you are hiring a social media or PR firm, follower #’s are important, but it shouldnt out way other key elements or qualifications. I havent read @DannyBrown post on that…off to find!

  • Anyone seen the movie Heathers? Personal branding is one thing (#1 above)— but this context is serving it up as a popularity contest re: Klout.

    and, a Klout coach? Seriously? Isnt that code for PR? Seems we are rebranding age-old traditional services everyday as well. Just sayin…

    Everyone’s their own PR agent these days…and most importantly If Social Scoring will “change my life”, I don’t know if i want to play.

  • laurelmackenzie


    As usual, a very interesting and thought-provoking post. I agree with you about the creep factor here, however I also am somewhat energized by the prospect of social scoring, depending upon how it’s implemented.

    Talking about “influence” as a broad term in comparison with everyone else in the world is a bit difficult when, as you pointed out recently, we’re in a world where peple are creating their own unique experiences, new feeds, cultures, etc. However, if “influence” could be effectively sliced and diced by topic, that is something I could really see value in.

    If Klout, for example, were to deepen its “Content Analysis” segment – maybe a partnership with social monitoring software like Radian6 – we could really get into influence and relationships on a meaningful level. Although, then we might just further be segmenting people into “known” groups that offer little in the way of broadening one’s horizons, so I guess it’s just another catch-22.

    It will be intriguing to see how this shapes up. What an exciting time to be around!


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  • gazoombo

    This sounds like Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story.

  • markwschaefer

    @browneyedgirl65 Klout double agents. Awesome. : )

  • markwschaefer

    @JaeSelle Thanks for joining in the conversation. Appreciate the comment!

  • markwschaefer

    @laurelmackenzie This is such a fascinating topic. We got into this a bit last night when i did a guest lecture at a university psych class. We were talking online versus offline relationships, emotional intelligence and even influence scores! I’m sure i will be writing a lot more about these issues! Thanks for your contribution today Laurel!

  • markwschaefer

    @gazoombo Actually looks like an interesting book. I’ll have to read it. Whoa. Didi I just say i was going to read a book? What a concept. Perhaps a “novel idea?” : ) Thanks!

  • scottcowley

    I’m glad you highlighted this, Andrew. The industry is still trying to find the right modeling approaches and ways to measure electronic word of mouth and influence. Klout comes in response to that, as do other sites and more to come. “Influencer effect” is completely legitimate in marketing, so I don’t see why we should get up-in-arms over attempts to better quantify these effects. I think it’s a step in the right direction in advancing marketing theory, even if I’ll never be one to get the “perks.”

    (Speaking of which, I didn’t see anyone mention It seems Klout is actively soliciting business partners to make offers to influencers. Personally, I think it makes a lot more sense from a marketing standpoint than location-based perks through things like Foursquare, etc. I’m anxious to see where it goes, Disney being the most recent Klout perks sign-on:

  • scottcowley

    I’m glad you highlighted this, Mark. The industry is still trying to find the right modeling approaches and ways to measure electronic word of mouth and influence. Klout comes in response to that, as do other sites and more to come. “Influencer effect” is completely legitimate in marketing, so I don’t see why we should get up-in-arms over attempts to better quantify these effects. I think it’s a step in the right direction in advancing marketing theory, even if I’ll never be one to get the “perks.”

    (Speaking of which, I didn’t see anyone mention It seems Klout is actively soliciting business partners to make offers to influencers. Personally, I think it makes a lot more sense from a marketing standpoint than location-based perks through things like Foursquare, etc. I’m anxious to see where it goes, Disney being the most recent Klout Perks sign-on:

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  • mombloggersclub

    Thanks for linking to my curated list of mom bloggers with Klout. It was important for me to create the list (in fact I created two) because I can see the writing on the wall. These social media scoring sites are here to stay.

    I also interviewed Azeem Azhar, the founder of PeerIndex, a competitor to Klout. One thing I like about PeerIndex is it also measures blogs and sites and it already can measure LinkedIn engagement that I don’t Klout does at the moment.

  • teachergreene

    “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom” much?

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  • As someone who has a high Klout score, though not because I’m really trying for it, I’m actually very intrigued and happy to see this.

    Virgin offering free flights on that new route to people with high Klout scores is probably the best type of marketing they could’ve done for it. As you mentioned, they got a hell of a lot of press, and I’m sure it was well deserved. Not every company is willing to embark on such a new initiative in such an old industry.

    I’m going to figure out how I can leverage this for my own business. I’m sure it’ll be better than simply tweeting, blogging, and Facebooking alone – if I can target people that fit my ideal customer profile, I’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.

  • markwschaefer

    @dereksilva It’s a legitimate business model and I’m sure entrepreneurs will find lots of ways to use it creatively. There are hundreds of third part apps that suport Twitter and I am sure there will be a cloud of Klout apps too. Thanks Derek!

  • markwschaefer

    @mombloggersclub Nice! Thanks for the heads-up on this cool interview!

  • markwschaefer

    @scottcowley Of course you are correct that this is a commopn marketing approach, but I thinthe difference is, if P&G identified “influencers” for their campaign, who cares? But when the information is made public, curated, dissected and displayed, that is another matter. But that is certainly the world we are entering, isn’t it?

    Thanks for pointing out the perks site Scott. Very intersting additon to the conversation.

  • sparker9

    A VERY prescient post Mark. I am slightly encouraged by the number of commenters who seem to agree this sucks. I am quite disappointed in the prevailing attitude that this is an inevitable steamroller and we all should just roll over and play dead and “resign ourselves.” WHY??!!

    Caste systems are POISON to free and open societies.At a time when our country is already deeply divided over politics and economics, it would be a travesty if social media, instead of helping to heal those divisions, instead creates new divisions of haves and have-nots.

    Mark I am really sorry that you did not put the full force of YOUR influence behind calling BULLSHIT on this, or at least, offering some ideas on either how to stop it or how to thwart the scammers and fraudsters. I am also willing to go out on a limb and propose that the ACTUAL VALUE of this data to marketers is going to be extremely limited and sometimes ZERO. This will quickly DEVOLVE into the social equivalent of near-useless DEMOGRAPHIC data to be routinely ignored.

    The ultimate irony here is that those with the highest scores will be rewarded for telling the rest of us that high scores count for something. That’s a built-in conflict of interest. What’s sure to follow is a lot of BS in which influence is peddled like trickle-down economics, using the big lie that somehow helping those with “Klout” also helps the little guy, and by extension, “everyone.”

    Social media is a powerful tool; powerful tools can be used for good or for evil. Let’s at least be clear on one thing: scoring PEOPLE is NOT one of the good uses.

  • PeteHealy

    @sparker9 Your “trickle-down” analogy seems dead-on. I’ve found that many of the college students in my marketing classes can hardly believe that once upon a time people actually walked around in clothes that were *devoid* of brand logos, slogans, and the like. Many of us now pay good money to be walking billboards for brands; and if you’re a 17-year-old high school student, your inability or unwillingness to display Abercrombie&Fitch on your chest will cause many of your peers to ostracize you.
    My concern is that systems like Klout–especially if combined with Augmented Reality cameras or other viewers–will instantly brand many people as “virtual peasants” in a brand-obsessed culture where (as dereksilva describes below) corporations are “laughing all the way to the bank.”
    Sounds like I’m a conspiracy theorist, but I’m not. I just see this as a new “capability” that will debase people while actually *eroding* the brand loyalty marketers seek by encouraging fickleness among consumers who want to boost their Klout scores by following the pack.

  • rideboulderco

    I wonder if this type of hieararchy will erode some of the trust that exists between friends. If I know you are getting preferential treatment because of a higher Klout score, am I likely to trust your opinion? It seems that this trust/authenticity forms the basis of the rapid adoption of social media tools and what will be the impact once people begin “gaming” their social scores.

    And while I understand the appeal of assesing someone’s social ranking, isn’t the focus too myopic. If there way a way to incoproate your offline reputation, standing in the community, then I might be more excited. I guess I am still getting my head around this but I guess the best strategy is just to embrace it?

  • markwschaefer

    @sparker9 Steven, I love the way you challenge me here!

    I have to wear two hats on many of these issus. For example, from a personal standpoint, I dislike the implications of Foursquare. I think it is dangerous to be teaching the “machine” our personal location and behaviors. Our society is becoming grossly de-sensitized to what they are sharing and eventually this data will be corrupted.

    However, as a consultant and an educator, I need to take a more dispassionate and balanced view of the technology. I tried to strike that balance here, stating my personal view and yet examining the business side too.

    I think I would be doing a disservice to the community if all I did was rant. But I deeply appreciate the strong stand you take here. That passion — and your willingness to share it — is what makes this community so GREAT! Thank you!

  • markwschaefer

    @PeteHealy @sparker9 Great point Pete — Maybe soon with this augmented reality we will also be displaying paid advertising on these little screens wherever we go. Yes, you too can look like a NASCAR driver!

  • markwschaefer

    @rideboulderco Tremendous insight. I had not even thought about the implication of interpersonal relationships and inevitable jealousies. You gave us all a lot to think about. Thank you!

  • webby2001

    I’m concerned that business are actually using these data – and making that use public – when these measures are so far from being baked it’s redonkulous. Klout is iterating daily, true, but there are still heaps of problems with their algorithm – yet companies like Virgin are using them *today* to “triage” customers. I’m all for experimental marketing, but not when customers are the guinea pigs.

  • shanerhyne

    @teachergreene That was my thought exactly when I first encountered Klout. While I’m a fan of the concept of a “Whuffie factor,” I find I’m on the fence with the attempts to evolve it into reality through Klout or whatever comes down the pike next.

  • PeteHealy

    @rideboulderco Yes, the effect over time could be to degrade both interpersonal relationships and, ironically, brand engagement among a large number of people who subscribe (literally or figuratively) to scoring systems such as Klout. So today I tell all my friends how much I love drinking Acme Beer (because I’ll get some kool swag if my score hits “X”); but tomorrow, Bleck Beer’s the one for me, since I’ve learned that it’s what Ken Kloutmeister drinks, and I want to get into that social circle.

    The closer we move to assigning value based on instantaneous, simplistic scoring systems, the more we doom ourselves as marketers trying to build brands that truly matter to people.

  • shanerhyne

    What a great thread of conversations to read. Like Mark, I can see that some form of measurement is bound to evolve. My concern with Klout or Klout-like systems is that it seems to me the scoring rewards noise more than content. I would value a way to gather more relevant demographic information but I don’t know why I should trust a Klout score as a method to identify who may or may not be of potential benefit to my clients.

  • sparker9

    Couldn’t agree more with PeteHealy, rideboulderco and Webby2001. Instead of enhancing a brand’s ability to engender trust, this just mucks everything up. Where is the trust? These vendors are just making up influence formulas they pull out of thin air. There’s no science here, certainly none that is peer-reviewed. Does ANYONE know what the difference between a Klout of 47 vs 67 vs 87 is, beyond the briliiant “higher is better”? Is there any commonly understood meaning? We don’t need to support some company’s business model if all they’re really doing is listing the Top 100-200 and no one pays attention to the rest. (Ask Technorati.) The fact that social networks offer their own stats (like Twitter or LI followers) is no defense; it’s not the same thing. Show me some real science and market research and I’ll listen. Until then it’s frivolous stat aggregation that anyone can concoct.

    I have a hard time concluding anything but the following: you can’t trust the score vendor’s formula, you can’t trust their data integrity, you can’t trust that their system hasn’t been gamed and you can’t trust that their security hasn’t been breached. Other than that, killer data! And the impact it would have on your relationships with personal and professional contacts? Who knows. Good luck trying to sell this voodoo to corporate marketers. Imagine if all the banks suddenly made us walk around with our account balances live updating on our foreheads? Where’s the value? Where’s the benefit?

    Mark I wish you weren’t sitting on the sidelines on this one. This is exactly the kind of tough issue your blog is known for tackling, and deftly. This is the kind of thing we expect you to lead on. I’m puzzled why you’d bring it up, say you’re creeped out, use the senational “change your life” headline and then talk a walk. As for the normally reserved me, maybe I’ve just had too much coffee today…

  • steve_dodd

    hmmm, @mark – you’ve certainly struck a nerve in a few people (me included), and it seems obvious there are concerns with this trend (where will this leave the next generation?). But, like all other “free” services, they will continue to be used until serious damage (to a lot of someones’) is done. Call me stupid or “chicken little” but the unaware consumer (being the majority of the internet user community) will adopt these technologies and all we can hope for is the vendor “catch me if you can” strategy eventually gets addressed. Unfortunately, as long as someone keeps making them richer in the near term, long term collateral damage becomes irrelevant.

  • @sparker9 Steven – your bank analogy is interesting because that’s exactly what a FICO / credit score is – companies who are ‘making up formulas’ which aren’t actually ‘made up’ but ARE secret. They have to be because if they revealed how they were developed, they would immediate get gamed and become useless. Same analogy holds true for Google’s search algorithms.

    If you don’t think Klout is useful, don’t use it. It’s as simple as that. But I fail to see the harm. If Klout does a good job capturing the essence of influence (and I think they’re off to a good start) they will succeed. If not, they will fail – but either way other alternatives will emerge. The good ones will get used and become more useful as they are.

  • NicWirtz

    @browneyedgirl65 Only two accounts? What about the anonymous troll account? We’ll soon have accounts per specialisation.

  • markwschaefer

    @webby2001 Is there social software development these days that is not highly iterative? LinkedIn refreshes four times a WEEK! I’m not defending the software per se but I think their process of innovation and adaptation is probably pretty standard and probably desirable. Always an honor to have you comment Tom!

  • markwschaefer

    @shanerhyne See my comment below to the founder of Klout suggesting a personalized rating system. Thanks Shane!

  • markwschaefer

    @ChrisSelland @sparker9 I agree that Klout seems to be doing a decent job. They pass the “sniff test” : ) Seems to be in line with my perceptions any way. Thanks Chris.

  • markwschaefer

    @sparker9 Steven, how do we get you to come out of your shell? : )

    You make a superb point about pushing for scientific correlation. But here is a data point that has my attention — Disney is doing a deal with Klout. They are among the best marketers in the world. I’m sure Klout had to open their kimono to convince a brand that powerful to give them a whirl. I find this quite interesting.

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  • jacobvar

    @JoeFernandez @wabbitoid Can you elaborate? The 16 yr old who has not experienced the product is impacting decisions? And that adds value to who?

  • markwschaefer

    @steve_dodd Not sure I follow you => “like all other “free” services, they will continue to be used until serious damage (to a lot of someones’) is done” There are plenty of free services that enrich people’s lives. Let’ start with email. How would paying for email make it better or less dangerous? I think maybe you are resurrecting an old debate between us? : )

  • MartijnLinssen

    Thanks Mark, fine post

    Yes it is scary, in a lot of ways. The most scary thing is the fact that Klout is just an old-fashioned 1.0 marketing mask, and their underlying stats obscure, erratic and blatantly static where they should be dynamic, and creepingly dynamic where they should be static

    My latest post, called Why I Think Klout Is Krap, says it all: I’ve made all my points on my own blog, just search for Klout there if you like

    I’ll tell you one thing: I’ve been an Enterprise Architect for years, and at that level mostly Powerpoint presentations and smileys are exchanged. Personal relationships, trust and recommendations is all that counts

    I think you’ll be very, very interested in Joe’s latest reaction to Tom’s latest post:

    I’m trying very hard at this moment to find time to write my own post…

  • markwschaefer

    @MartijnLinssen Obviously you have a lot of passion brewing on this topic. I hope you do write your post, Martijn!

  • steve_dodd

    @[email protected]_dodd
    There’s a lot of concern in this discussion about quality of scoring systems, their integrity and ultimate purpose. Again, since it is “free”, the credibility of the technology or its ultimate use is not in the control of the user, but the vendor. All the information gathered by these systems is being sold to anyone who pays and used for whatever purpose they like. Although I really am (as you are) creeped out by this kind of stuff (just like I am about location services) their growth and adoption is inevitable, IMHO.

  • MartijnLinssen

    @markwschaefer I did, Mark.

    Before we all go crazy and influence-tool worshiping, I think we should ask ourselves: who are these people? What are they doing? What do they want to achieve? And, most importantly: what’s in it for us?

    I’m not particularly fond of following the masses, religion or politics, but like to point out that “Measuring Influence” is an explosive mixture of all three – where are the checks and balances? Who’s doing the QA here?

    You’re a marketing guy Mark, judging by your bio here. How would you justify Klout as a good choice to your clientele? Marketing is only the scouts reconnaissancing the scene: you have to beware of the upcoming product backlash (…). And bluntly telling your customers that you don’t have Support staffed isn’t really helping, is it?

    Last: may I remind you that you are helping creating the world that will be? A bit more bias would be appreciated 😛

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  • PeteHealy

    Enjoying a day-after-Thanksgiving lunch of a bottle of Schlafly ESB Winter Ale while catching up on the latest Comments. Fantastic debate and insights!

    Thanks again, Mark, for starting this up: what a blast! For what it’s worth–and with a different POV on this aspect than sparker9 and others who have posted great comments–I think you’ve done well to offer up the question without trying to drive the conversation one way or another. You’re a great moderator and host, with a clear perspective but a light touch. That’s why I keep reading {grow}–and am looking forward to more!

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  • markwschaefer

    @PeteHealy I think it’s great that people feel comfortable expressing an alternative point of view here. We’re not going to grow and progress if everybody is just in lock-step. Thanks for your support and kind words, Pete.

  • markwschaefer

    @MartijnLinssen I appreciate your passion and perspective on this issue. And thanks for writing that post! In the end, if I can write something that gets people to think, engage and comment, like you did here, I really don’t need a klout score to know that I’m having some impact on an issue. It’s rewarding enough to have extraordinary people like you pushing us to think in new ways.

    As far as me taking a stand, I have already expressed quite strongly from a personal perspective that I find the notion of numerically assigning grades to people as a terrible concept. From a business perspective however, I don’t see any point ripping into one technology or supporting another at this early stage in development. The marketplace will decide, won’t it? Adapt or die.

    My main point is that whether Klout emerges as a winner or something else, it is a reality we need to monitor and consider, no matter the personal disdain we may have for the concept.

    Thanks again for taking some strong stands here Martijn. I’m honored to have independent thinkers like you participating in this form!

  • So, of course, after reading this, I HAD to check out my klout score. The interesting thing is that you can connect your facebook and linkedin profiles if you wish. I know I wouldn’t do that simply because I keep my twitter separate from sites that reveal my actual name. But still, I’m definitely curious about these things.
    Also, right now, I know that a lot of my friends get information from me via Google Buzz/Google Reader. So, within my “actual” friend, I end up influencing what they read quite a bit. Just something else to add to that list.

  • DagiCueppers

    @markwschaefer @thebrandbuilder
    Wait! But of course people who hire you for a marketing position (as an employer or as a client) are going to look at the things you are doing online. When you work or want to work in marketing today, the internet is your resume. Nobody has ever asked me for a degree. If they did, I would have to tell them that in business school I learned what marketing used to be, but that whatever I know about Social Media, I learned out on the streets. I myself wouldn’t hire the guy with the Harvard degree over someone who has proven intelligence, courage, creativity, personality, and versatility in creating a brand on the internet. I know that you, Olivier, are wicked smart, super brave, extremely driven, and a very talented writer; that you have a ton of knowledge about the space and that you want the best for it. I know that by looking at what you do. If I was in charge of hiring someone as a Social Media Consultant, I would hire you based on that. It would’ve never occured to me that I needed to know what university degree you hold.

    The Klout Score comes in when people who don’t know much about Social Media are in charge of hiring for it. We tend to think that everybody gets it by now, but a lot of people are really not there yet. I look at my own clients. They are people who have been busy navigating their company through an economic crisis, and Social Media has touched them only marginally. By now they’ve been told that they HAVE to be part of it. They probably don’t know why, and only have a very vague idea of what „it“ is. They are people who have been running successful companies for decades, but don’t know how to use their personal Facebook account. Or why they should. Now they try to find someone who does „Social Media“ for them. Once the Klout Score makes the rounds, of course they are going to jump on that. It gives them a reference point in a world they are otherwise completely lost in. Even if they wanted to hire based on a university degree, what would they look for? Other professions have recognized the need for standardized certifications to level the education that people are bringing from different universities. There is the BAR for lawyers, the PE for engineers, CPA for accountants… Universities have just started picking up Social Media, so there are no standards, success rates or experiences.

    That’s why it’s so important to let people know what a Klout Score can or cannot do, and where it needs work and improvement.

    Thank you, Mark, for having the vision to foster this discussion.

  • markwschaefer

    @GraduatedLearning Good point and a great addition to the dialogue. Thanks!

  • markwschaefer

    @DagiCueppers I have said it before but you are absolutely one of the best writers on the web. Well said. Thanks for taking the time to provide this insight Dagi.

  • jacobvar

    @MartijnLinssen @markwschaefer Your last: ‘may I remind you that you are helping creating the world that will be?’. Is really my take away from all this. Thanks Martijn!

  • PamMktgNut

    Interesting post & conversation. I like you find the human side of social media most interesting. I am most excited about how business leaders can use such influence data to drive efficiencies in building communities, identifying business partners and of course growing revenue.

    I have always said that someday soon we will look back on the early days of Twitter (including today) much like we laugh at the early days

    of the first cell phones that were the size of Texas.

    I agree with other comments in that we need to continue to ask the right questions regarding the sources for such scores and their purpose for doing such. However, I also agree that the tools will obviously continue to evolve. The best will survive and they will as any technology do so hopefully based on market needs.

    I am one with a decent Klout score but do wish I better understood the algorithm. I do look fwd to advising my clients on best practices for managing their influence.

    Similar to social media I don’t think we can avoid influence scores. Either got on the bus or be left behind. Those that choose to sit on the bus stop will end up sitting there for a long time if the scores do take off as early trends show signs of.

    Thanks for a great post and making me think! I’ll look forward to further connecting with you and digging my teeth into more of your content!

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  • markwschaefer

    @PamMktgNut Such a pleasure to have you comment Pam, thanks. Here’s the problem i have … I don’t have the time or patience to figure out klout scores let alone do something about them. I think I am just going to have to keep going on instinct and let the cards fall. Yes, i will sub-optimize my “influence,” but probably optimize my life : )

  • PamMktgNut

    Mark – I couldn’t agree with you more. I honestly haven’t done any research on HOW the Klout scores work. I have only focused on being me, hoping I inspiring others and focusing on being the crazy, real and authentic me. Obviously, whatever I am doing is working according to the scores. When people ask me how I have accomplished what we have with our biz in less than a year… my only response is God and being my crazy self with a focus on others.

    I dread the day that the masses learn to influence and control their influence scores to the point they really won’t matter. Although it’s cool that airlines are offering free tickets for high scores. There is also negative in that obviously.

    My thought true influence is similar to a book. You can’t read a book by it’s cover. You need to know what’s inside! 😉

    Anyway, I am glad our paths crossed Mark! Looking fwd to connecting with you further and helping one another grow our biz’s in authentic ways in 2011!

  • markwschaefer

    @PamMktgNut Glad to have met my social media soul mate. We are on the same path and I look forward to seeing how we can help and support each ot along the way!

  • margieclayman

    Everything I was afraid of when Klout first started getting buzz is now happening. I find it all very disturbing. Blegh.

    Great post tho! 🙂

  • margieclayman

    Everything I was afraid of when Klout first started getting buzz is now happening. I find it all very disturbing. Blegh.

    Great post tho! 🙂

  • JoeJestus

    Very interesting, this is also a wake up call to actors and actresses as well. As a Producer of Marketing & Distribution for an Indie Film Studio (Trost Moving Pictures) we have to make sure we get the most bang for our buck when casting a film so in addition to costs, availability, look, acting ability, IMDB Star Rating (like a klout score for actors), we also check if an actor/actress has an active facebook page or twitter account and what type of following they have. If all things are similar and one person is interacting about what films they are in to a following of 10,000+ people compared to the other who has just a few hundred the one with the higher following is going to win out. It’s a marketing advantage and actors/actresses should use it as such and at the very least add it to their resume. Good post Mark!

  • michelini

    does me leaving this comment add to my Klout score? or my blog? we all know this is going to happen……in a way it will make business happen faster, relationships happen faster but on the flipside…if we make mistakes in life, it will follow us more now too….. can never escape our professional lives

  • sparker9

    (I had to return for more!) There are much bigger and broader issues going on here than just Klout or any single company. No analysis is complete without a look at the following.

    1. There’s a tendency (as well as a desire by some) to think that because certain things can be measured and those measurements can be aggregated that it somehow conveys value and meaning to the aggregation. But the mere aggregation does no such thing. In many cases it may actually remove value by eliminating specificity and context.

    2. Simpler social influence measurements, such as number of followers, may be limited in their value, but actually much more useful because they are universally understood. They are transparent, unlike the opaque formulas (algorithms) that aggregation vendors concoct. To its credit Klout describes their formula in fairly plain language, but of course the problem is what is omitted and left to the imagination and therefore uncertain. Someone in my tweetstream recently posted how funny it was that Klout rated Jason Falls 77, Tiger Woods 75 and YouTube 81. (I verified these scores at Klout.) I’m sure there are reasons for those scores, but it becomes obvious immediately that their formula is totally opaque and incomprehensible to anyone who would use it. How could we possibly understand and rationalize the differences in those scores? If people can’t understand the rating, almost intuitively, then how good is the rating system?

    3. Klout and their competitors are in conflict with their need for transparency. It’s making people’s scores public that gets them into trouble. Others here have noted the similarity to FICO credit scores, but the difference is the public cannot obtain your credit score, at least not without your permission and/or paying a fee to someone who lawfully has it.

    4. In general I believe in the ability of the market to eventually decide the fate of services such as Klout. But in practice, there are problems. First is the fact that for many Internet services, the market is just too slow. Often a start-up will get built up and sold to a giant vendor long before the market has really voted it up or down. The giant vendor then finds out they bought a boat anchor (but no one feels sorry for them, since they are a giant vendor and may be slow or stupid or rich–whatever). But the larger problem in this business of rating people’s social influence is the lack of transparency as to what the scores mean. The market can’t sort the vendors out if people don’t know how to judge the rating system. And you can’t rate the system if you don’t know how the system rates you.

  • markwschaefer

    @michelini I have It good authority that leaving a comment on {grow} doubles your klout score. Or something like that : )

  • markwschaefer

    @sparker9 These are all great points Steven but I’m afraid it may be all academic. Yes these scores eliminate specificity and context. But the public doesn’t want specificity and context. They want a headline, or at the most, a list. You and I like to dig in, but we are in the vast minority.

    I’m not defending klout or any of the other systems that undoubtedly will emerge but I do think they will play a useful role to marketers. While @jasonfalls may not have the global influence of Tiger Woods, in his world of social marketing, he is influential and may be a good bargain for a marketer aiming at that market.

    The one thing I am certain about is that the market will sort this out. Whether klout is an anchor or an angel, it will not be supported by the marketplace unless it delivers true value. This means it will have to out-hustle and out-algorithm anybody else, which will be very difficult to do since they are using public information as their raw material. I think a range of scores will emerge to meet various corporate needs and like it or not we are facing a future of being endlessly sliced, diced and evaluated.

    Thanks for the tremendous thinking here Steven. You’ve helped develop a fascinating discussion here.

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  • Awesome! I’m a 72!

  • Jim I’ve been checking out your blog. Where you have been? You’re great! I’m your newest subscriber. Hope to see you around here more often!! Thanks for connecting.

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  • It could end up like the credit rating systems: the big three. You and I end up being charged by our credit rating for interest on cars, etc…

    Probably be the same sort of thing when the big three Klout like agencies stake out the turf.
    We will face the same sort of ratings…

    What happens when something like bankruptcy hits us financially… we go down into the credit rating equivalent of hell.

    Will the same thing happen to us with our social score???

  • Anonymous

    I completely agree with the stance in this article. A caste system based on social media is inevitable because of its innumerable benefits to businesses. Thus, we should learn to deal with this system and try to improve our social scores. However, I cannot help but wonder how legal this actually is. Most of us today are securing up the information we post and share on social media platforms as we become savvy of the need for privacy. How is Klout able to access those information in order to give me a score in the first place?

  • Anything you publish on Twitter, Linked In, etc. is permanent and searchable. These companies can legally slice and dice that data any way they want. Thanks for the comment Tom!

  • Anonymous

    A certain hierarchy is inherent within all human interaction and it is accordingly inevitable that a social media caste system will emerge out of such virtual interconnectivity as we are experiencing in today’s society. However, a scoring of social influence is perfectly appropriate in our virtual climate where sites like Facebook and Twitter are an important part of advertising and PR. Someone’s social scoring can thus be an accurate indicator of their suitability for a given job and/or rational cause to give them perks in order to earn positive comments on their blog

  • Well, I would say it might be ONE thing to consider in a job … but your point is well made. Thanks Caity!

  • Thank you very much for this very interesting post! It was very interesting to read this info. but… I think it’s the most unuseful thing I’ve ever heard about!!!

  • Anonymous

    I think I just threw up a little

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  • Jessica Alvarado

    I am shocked by this article. I didn’t know anything about Klout and social influence or that creating a social media cast system was even possible. I kind off felt like I’m living under a rock because I do not have a Twitter account nor a LinkedIn, MySpaxe, Digg or even a Youtube account. I only have a Facebook account and even with Facebook, I am concerned about my privacy settings and currently I have very strict privacy settings but when I read in this article that Klout has began pulling in Facebook data to shape an individual’s social media footprint, I began a little alarmed. In addition, after reading that a social score is very important in the marketing industry, I felt a little relived that I will not have to worry about my social score for my future career as an elementary school teacher.

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  • Anonymous

    This takes superficiality to the max! I can’t stand that we’ve become such narcissistic digital fiends. I can understand active participation within the social networking world as a way to connect and contact, however, implementing a system like this that celebrates one’s digital influence over something as solid as human connection makes me feel uneasy about the future and our ability to  generate healthy, social relationships. I don’t want to be put in a position where my Klout score determines my professionalism or my ability to perform.

    I mean, I like to think I’m a people person, but am I less of one if I don’t measure up in Facebook friends?

    Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear.

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  • Unfortunately, I think it is going to affect everybody eventually!  Don’t you thonk there could be a scoring system for teachers? At the college level, there already is!  

  • I feel your pain.  It is an uncomfortable trend but one we have to deal with rationally. Thanks for your comment!  

  • Jessica Alvarado

     After posting my original message, I began to think about how the scoring system may be applied to teachers as well and now I do agree with your point that it could eventually affect everybody. The other day at work, I was cashing out a customer who happens to be a teacher in Toronto and she said to me that it is very difficult now to attain a permanent teaching position in Toronto and that who you know plays a large role. It seems that now, who you know is almost equally as important as what you know and having a high social score would mean more connections and possibly increase the likelihood of attaining a particular job. in Toronto and that who you know plays a large role. It seems that now, who you know is almost equally as important as what you know and having a high social score would mean more connections and possibly increase the likelihood of attaining a particular job.

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  • As I write, on 23 May 2011, a lot of Klout scores have fallen to 1. Including one score that I checked out which was over 50 yesterday. Presumably it’s a bug.

    I have this vision of a lot of “formerly influential” people getting kicked out of Vegas Hotels.

    Shows how insubstantial this is.

  • Sure there are bugs. Newspapers make mistakes. TV stations make mistakes. Facebook makes mistakes. That doesn’t make them insubstantial. Whether it is Klout or a successor, I think this is an extremely important trend whether we like it or not.

    Thanks so much for the dissenting opinion though. You may be right in the end! : )

  • I saw that this morning and just laughed to myself and out loud too!
    Mark I would love to see the faces of some people when this happened.
    I know that I have said it is going to be important to our customers when making choices about us; but there will be some Klouters having a fit about this.
    I saw that Klout had put up a notice they were having a tech’ issue.
    Anyway how are you and I hope your trip is a good one.

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  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the great comments posted by you,  I agree that the technology is hard to predict, but human behavior is not:)Mass
    Profit Formula Review

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  • james

    There’s a website that scores your attractiveness and popularity. Check out CrushBlvd

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  • Erik

    Klout isn’t the only site doing social scoring, there are others like They give a social score composite of 3 different sites including Klout and they also have a perks-esque site called It’s interesting how many people are jumping on the scoring wagon.

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