Recently the discussions around tools that measure your influence got hotter and hotter. Even the New York Times found the topic worthy enough to write about it. In the Social Media space I see very mixed responses to the discussion.

Some praise the top tools in the space, Klout and PeerIndex as one of the best things that came along to organize and understand Social Media patterns more easily.

Others believe it is a useless measurement. The argument is that there is absolutely no proof that the parameter used are helpful in anyway. Many also claim that it is far too easy to game the algorithm and make the whole score useless.

Here are 3 Pros and Cons for using an influencer score:


3 Situations When A Score Is Useful

Helping You Make Decisions

One case that might be very useful is to use a Klout score as a benchmarking measurement. Imagine you have received a lot of requests, feedback and suggestions from people on Twitter or Facebook, but only a very limited time to speak to them.

Ordering them by Klout score can be a very fast way to get to the top responses from influencers first. Of course, they don’t necessarily always but the highest quality. On average though, I believe you will end up with more valuable responses and conversations.


Using It For Benchmarking Of Other Metrics

One fantastic way to use Klout and PeerIndex is to take it as measurement together with other metrics. With Buffer, we recently did an analysis and did exactly that. We measured how the number of clicks, retweets and followers has increased of Buffer users.


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By Buffering Tweets, they are posted at optimal times giving you 2x more exposure.

Then we used Klout to see whether all these previous metrics are actually relevant. In a way, the first 3 figures would protect us from mistakes if we were to only look at a Klout score and the other way round. This was very powerful.

Gaming all four metrics would have been something that is very hard to do.


Becoming A Search Engine For People – A Great End Product

Personally, I get super excited about one vision that both have already touched on. Imagine if Klout or PeerIndex have a good enough data set of people across the web to turn themselves into a search engine for people.

You want to know who the top 10 people in garden design, heavy metal music or architacture are? With just one click you will get some pretty amazing results, saving you time and effort. And making you a lot smarter.


3 Situations When It Might Be Harmful

Your Score Becomes Your Goal

The most hotly discussed point here is a very obvious one. People are getting obsessed about their score and try to game it to keep it up. The result is that people focus on a measurement score, instead of actual results.

If Klout becomes a meta system, detached from what you are actually achieving in your field of expertise it can be very troublesome. Doing things for maintaining a high Klout score instead of trying to be the best designer, marketer or artist can be very harmful.


The Power Of Klout/PeerIndex Have Over You

Of course, the flipside of Klout becoming more and more relevant is that it becomes very powerful in determining who has influence and who hasn’t. Keeping this transparent will be difficult if competitors are about to enter the market.

Who decides what goes into the algorithm to keep it relevant? Who is able to know what determines it?


Get 200% more clicks on Tweets

By Buffering Tweets, they are posted at optimal times giving you 2x more exposure.

This closed system might potentially proof difficult to see through. Yet, I am convinced both Klout and PeerIndex will have a healthy interest in going out of their way in keeping the score as transparent as possible.

Is Having Clout An Absolute Term?

A while ago, there was a great post from my fellow blogger and entrepreneur Dino Dogan on the topic. He made a fantastic point: If someone is an expert in my opinion, but not necessarily one in the head of many others, how can an absolute term make sense?

The idea here is that being influential is a very subjective and relative term. Coming up with one single score might do the concept harm.


Your verdict?

Personally, I believe either Klout or PeerIndex will play a big role in the future. What do you think? Do you care about your score? Should anyone do?


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Written by Leo Widrich

Co-founder and COO at Buffer. I enjoy working on company culture, customer development and marketing. For more personal posts, check out leostartsup.

  • First those score system are a way to increment the traffic and money of their founder; they need so many time to grow them that are serious risk for becoming addicts; the criteria are always: tweet a lot and if you get a lot of other users responses you’ll succeed (to the founders succss).

    • Yes, that is a great point, if they succeed, they will have a wonderful life. Also, I like your hint on the fact that the criteria need to change and improve, however I am sure they will! 🙂 

  • Both Klout and PI are excellent Social media metrics tools. Can’t deny this fact! But still they are mere tools, of course, engines working on various factors day in and day out. For an outsider or someone new to the social networks, it may be useful in giving them a weight to the person they are looking for. But for the rest of us, it’s still the human factor – the way of engaging is all that counts. I’m not sure about the role they are going to play in the future. As long as we’re normal human beings, not robots, we can keep these tools as a reference, but not as an authority. I know lots of great people/friends with low Klout scores and I won’t change my following/interacting style with them because of that. Just my two cents! As usual, another great article, Leo.    

    • Hi Karthick, thanks a lot for your thoughtful comment.

      Yes, I think you are right, for the outsider it can be very timesaving, yet for us in the same niche, it is all about continuing to engage and working together.

      This is so powerful: Keep these Tools as a reference, not as an authority.

      As usual, your contribution is amazing and I will Buffer it AND put it into our Tweet suggestions! 🙂 

  • To me it really depends on if you are in the industry or not. If you are a content provider, social media consultant, or a media personality. Those folks do concentrate on the numbers because it becomes part of the resume when presenting to clients. Higher numbers and reach means “This is why I can justify the bankroll of money I charge.” Most non industry folks could really careless. They follow their favorite team, company, best friend, and media personality and their klout score does not mean a thing. Where it will change is when you score will determine what perks or what deals you get just like a credit score. 

  • I think they’re useful as long as you are very clear in your mind what they are measuring. They’re not measuring “influence” or even “online influence” in the usual meaning of those terms.

    For example, I’m in the UK and our Deputy Prime Minister here has a lower Klout score than me. I’m not more influential than him on any normal use of that word!

    Even online, what he does gets far more interest and interaction that what I do – so in that respect he can drive far more online conversation than me.

    But his online influence doesn’t come from what he does online directly. Instead it comes from other people reporting on what he has done, which in turn people react to. He fact does very little online.

    So what Klout is really saying is that he’s punching below his potential weight on Twitter (or I’m punching above mine). That’s useful to know, and helps with some of the ideas mentioned above – such as quick sorting through of lists of names. But it’s very different from “online influence” overall.

  • I see Klout as a game and a social network. Cannot take it too seriously

  • Good post Leo,

    The mind boggles when it comes to social media influence or social capital and Klout, PeerIndex and even Empire Avenue to an extent.  Clearly influence is all about connectivity and consistent use, that’s why I recommend Buffer to people, a day stuck in meetings won’t affect your Klout score if you use Buffer, right?

    The amusing thing to me is that some people still don’t know what Klout is and I find that a little hard to believe from people supposedly involved in social media; we all read, right??  Social Media Examiner, Social Media Today, Mashable, these guys mention Klout etc all the time!

    The fact that (apparently) people are being hired in the USA based on their Klout score means that some people are taking it very seriously; granted, that’s not everyone or everywhere, but it is still significant!  

    If you’re busy on social media and even fairly well connected, you can’t help but have a decent Klout score and yet I see ‘social media experts’ in my Twitter feed with a Klout score of under 20!  Klout at least let’s us know who we’re dealing with and I can see it becoming more and more significant!

    Social media is still in it’s infancy, I can see very exciting times ahead for us all and that includes Klout!!

    All the very best, Peter

  • Jo

    Really interesting post with some great points – ties into various conversations I’ve been having on this topic recently.

    One thing that I can’t get away from is the opportunity these sorts of services have for abuse. You mentioned the need for transparency etc. which is exactly right and one of the biggest problems I think these sort of services face.

    You suggest that one benefit of Klout etc is that it could become a search engine for experts – but the problem we’ve seen with Google is that it is easy to manipulate search algorithms, and they are often weighted towards organisations/people with the money and time to spend on specific activities e.g. using keywords, advertising, building links etc.

    None of this is bad in itself, but at the moment I can’t see how companies could develop a system that measures what is needed (and who knows how you find that out!) without opening it up to manipulation by those that want to be seen as experts and know how to work the system. Especially when you consider the need eventually for them to make a profit out of providing the service.

    I’ll be keeping an eye open for developments!

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

  • Let me fist like your idea of turning the users of Klout and peerindex into a search and deriving benefits out of it is a cool thought. But today a Klout score is your achievement in your life. What i have understood that if i have a community who trust you then even if you are not present for 2/3 days still they will be with you . Klout can go down but if your community is out there then you really don’t to need check ur influential score. by the way the moment people start introducing the term influential i think that moment they have labelled them as social media gurus 😉 amazing leo this is favorite topic of study and discussion 🙂