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Does Klout work? That is, does it accurately measure importance and influence on Twitter and other social media?
Well, it depends on what your definition of work is.
Lots of photographers, professionals and businesses use Twitter and other social media to get their message out. Sooner or later, they were bound to want a measure of how well they're doing at this, and poof, Klout has magically stepped into the breach to fill the need. People will use whatever tools they have at hand, so the question of whether a Klout score means anything is significant whether we like it or not.
Now I'll admit, I'm no statistician or hacker. I'm just a guy with a Twitter account and a small modicum of common sense. But I smell some major bogus.
I'd never heard of Klout until a writer I follow boasted of how high her Klout score was. Not too much time later she tweeted that she had lost interest in Klout because her score was suddenly and significantly lower for no apparent reason.
Okay. That was enough for me to bite. I went and checked my Klout score. It was 39. Not great. Not too shabby either.
Since Klout gave me a pretty upbeat appraisal I figured: Hey, seems pretty accurate to me.
A few months later I had more followers and in an idle moment wondered how my Klout score might have changed as a result. So I checked again.
Now my score was 17.
Hm. Seemed odd. So I poked around.
I saw that besides calculating a score, Klout also determines who influences each user the most and who in turn they influence. It also lets you check the score of others simply by entering their Twitter name. I entered my writer friend's Twitter handle. Klout said she was most influenced by Barack Obama.
Yes, I know he's President and therefore pretty influential, but I read her tweets all the time and she's never mentioned Barack Obama even once. So how could she be influenced by him? And why would Klout think she was?
I then checked AhhPhotography, the Twitter name of a photographer in North Texas. He has about a hundred and fifty thousand followers, and I don't mean that as a euphemism for a lot of followers, I mean he literally has about a hundred and fifty thousand followers. His Klout score was correspondingly high. And according to Klout the most common subject of his tweets was photography.
Makes sense, right? The guy's a photographer after all. Except he never tweets about photography. Never. His tweets are always corny and harmless jokes.
I decided to check my Klout score again. Still 17. And Klout said I was most influenced by SteveMartinToGo, which is Steve Martin's 'Verified' Twitter name. Now I'll tell you, I love Steve Martin. The thing is though that at the time when I checked this I'd been following him for three days and during that period he'd tweeted exactly...twice.
It gets worse. Klout also said I'm a big influence on latimestot, an LA Times political blog. This is another Twitter account with tens of thousands of followers, following tens of thousands in return. Yes, I'm an interesting guy, hell, I'm downright fascinating, but do I believe that I'm a big influence on latimestot? A columnist for a major Big Five newspaper? I don't believe it for a second.
So in the end, I have to ask: If Klout can't determine who is influenced by whom or what people actually tweet about, why place any faith in their 'score?' Maybe their secret formula is an utterly brilliant algorithm that really does tell us something important. Or maybe it's just the internet equivalent of a magic eight ball.
One final note: if I disappear in the next few weeks, please go to the Klout offices and avenge me.