What Does the New Scoring System in Klout Mean?

Klout Score Changes

The much-maligned yet sickeningly-addictive social media scoring platform Klout has revamped their scoring system and disclosed more information about the algorithms they use to establish the rankings they publish about users.  Overall I like the move, first because the scoring appears to be improving (and I say that as someone whose score took a ten-point hit) and second because the transparency will help silence some of the haters (of which I used to be one).

A bit of Klout History:

Klout launched in 2009 (though their Twitter account has been active since June 2008) with the idea of establishing a rating system for Twitter users beyond simply their tweet/follow/follower counts, which quickly became unreliable after Twitter achieved popularity and hordes of spammers flocked to it.  Their methodology has been controversial since its inception, but they’ve steadily improved it and have been including other social media platforms (Foursquare, Facebook, Linkedin, Flickr, Google+, YouTube, Tumblr, Instagram, Last.fm, Blogger and WordPress) to better round out the score.

Another controversial milestone in Klout’s history was the addition of “Klout Perks,” a system designed to bring in revenue by allowing brands to target influential social media users with regularly-updated free samples, offers and exclusive access in the hopes that these opinion leaders will spread their message via word of mouth.  Some have raised questions about the ethics of Klout Perks because it’s up to individual users to disclose that they’re talking about a particular product because they received compensation.

How Klout Works:

Klout analyzes users based on (1) how many people they influence, (2) how much those people are influenced, and (3) the Klout scores of the people you influence – they call these metrics “True Reach,” “Amplification,” and “Network Impact.”

Apropos of this post (via Mashable):

What I Like About the Update:

  • In the past when they tweaked their algorithms or added new social media platforms one’s score would take a sudden plunge or ascent based on the new methodology.  This time it looks like they retroactively applied the new methodology so your score over time is in the same terms (like adjusting dollar amounts for inflation over time).
  • It was a brave thing for Klout to undertake any sort of change to their metrics that caused user scores to drop – as that would tend to drive people away and/or encourage criticism.
Klout Score Changes Sans Y Axis
Klout Score Changes Sans Y Axis

What I Don’t Like:

They didn’t disclose anything we didn’t already know or couldn’t have guessed at.  None of the movement in the scores was explained.

Even the chart they released in the blog post announcing the change was unnecessarily cryptic: it didn’t provide values for the Y-axis.

I understand the need to protect the finer details of the secret recipe to prevent people from gaming the system, but it would be really nice to know what factors could possibly account for the 30-point gap between the new scores of all users.  That’s a gigantic margin of error.

Questions for Klout:

Given that they can’t disclose everything about their operation, here’s a couple things I’d really like to know from Klout about how their scoring system works:

  • Does not adding one or another of the platforms supported by Klout affect one’s score negatively?
  • Does taking advantage of Klout Perks affect one’s score?

Alternatives to Klout:

One of the many reasons I love Wikipedia is the new information I find when looking something up, which included the following supplements/competitors to Klout (which I’ve beefed up with some others).

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