Klout is Broken. Here’s Why.

Last week, Klout began creating new user profiles and scores based on data pulled from Facebook.  This means that, if you have your Facebook account linked to your Klout profile, you will start seeing your Facebook friends and family (including kids as young as 13) appear in your Klout influence network, with Klout scores assigned to them–something which has raised major privacy concerns.

But there’s another issue, and one that is very serious for any company that is using Klout scores to inform business decisions (like hotel perks, customer service triage, blogger outreach, hiring or grading decisions decisions (video at 3:17)):  the new system is creating duplicate accounts for the same individual — with different Klout scores.

For example, here’s the Klout profile for Liz Gumbinner, who runs the popular Mom-101 blog and has been “cited as a digital influencer and thought leader by Nielsen, Forbes and CNN.”  Liz has activated her account and chosen to link her LinkedIn profile, but note that she has not linked her Facebook profile.  She has 19,811 followers on Twitter, and a Klout score of 54.

Klout is broken -- creating duplicate profiles and scores for some users.

But, wait — here’s another Liz Gumbinner!  This one has a profile and score created only based on her Facebook data; she has not activated her Klout profile or linked other accounts.  She shows up as being in Shelly Kramer’s influence network, and has been assigned a Klout score of 60.

Klout is creating duplicate accounts from data scraped from Facebook.

I have found two other examples of users–people I know personally so I know for a fact that they are the same person–with duplicate Klout profiles.  In each case I found, the score created from the Facebook profile was higher than the score created by the Twitter-based profile, with a delta as high as 10 points between the two scores.

I am not going to try and analyze why a personal Facebook page would yield a higher Klout score than a public and influential Twitter + LinkedIn profile.  But if you’re using Klout scores for “fast sorting of a bulk of people online in lightweight circomstances,” how will you know which Liz is the one to pay attention to if all you’re seeing is the score displayed in some plug-in or app?  For a company that takes its role “as the standard of influence incredibly seriously,” this does not inspire confidence and trust.

For the record, I believe that influence metrics are here to stay, and, used appropriately, can play a valuable role in managing online conversations.  But that will not happen if privacy concerns begin to stifle those conversations.  And the companies who are at the forefront of this still-developing science, especially if they are well-funded, will not help develop trust–or influence–unless the content they deliver passes a basic common-sense test.

In the meantime, I would recommend that any companies who use Klout scores as a data point to help make business decisions proceed with extreme caution until these issues are addressed.

  • DrPostALot

    @tonia_ries an interview I did is up on @VideoCityTVshow is up… just a fyi ;) good morning!

  • amvandenhurk

    I agree with you that influence metrics are here to stay for better or worse. Betting the house on Klout isn’t a smart yet for an individual or business. The metrics aren’t stable and refined enough currently. It hasn’t matured enough to really provide real honest value.

    • @amvandenhurk well put! I also think that more transparency will help the industry mature to where it *can* provide real value more quickly.

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  • PhilBaumann

    @tonia_ries So here’s the question: How are brands going to use K (even if it’s not broken), bearing it mind at best it measures… 1 of 2

  • PhilBaumann

    @tonia_ries 2/2 fame and sharability of users (versus influence… That’s not what K measures). I have ideas…curious on yours.

    • tonia_ries

      @PhilBaumann if stable, it’s valid to use K as “quick triage” and better yet understand style and identify people w topic expertise. 1/2

    • tonia_ries

      @PhilBaumann that said, the more nuance & transparency behind the numbers the better. love the idea of Google Ripple, eg. you? 2/2

      • PhilBaumann

        @tonia_ries Triage, yes just needs right contexts. … Ripples is cool. I’d there was a K overlay, could be an interesting tool.

        • tonia_ries

          @PhilBaumann yes. needs context, balance and nuance – too often they get lost cause it’s so easy to rank by score.

      • PhilBaumann

        @tonia_ries That us, bring able to visualize a user’s share geography in time might offer more value than just a number.

      • PhilBaumann

        @tonia_ries So, eg, if I could see content of user, how it’s spread and where, I not only know user, I can enhance my view of the ecosystem.

        • tonia_ries

          @PhilBaumann love that idea. related pt: current K is completely retroactive yet people attempt to use it predictively.

        • PhilBaumann

          @tonia_ries I just had a flood of ideas for software. Now I shall shut the mouth, for I need to recruit talent for a stealth start up ;)

        • tonia_ries

          @PhilBaumann why I like that: content connections (shared interests) are more important & more powerful than social graph

  • LizGumbinner

    Wow, I’m an interesting example!

    So here’s one to make it even more interesting: before Klout was “broken”–you know, back in the days when they said I was influential on Golf and Amy Winehouse–my score alternated between a 68 and a 71.

    So am I 20% less influential now than I was last month? 20% less worthy of engagement? 20% less worthy of free deodorant? Or just 20% less interested Klout’s rankings?

    And, is it all just a ploy to get me to connect my Facebook account and share information about family members?

    (Maybe if I do, they’ll give me a +K in playing with my nieces at Thanksgiving!)

  • moon

    @jenajean @rtrviews I told @Klout explicitly that I did not want my Facebook page linked to Twitter, they said fine, but now they have

    • jenajean

      @moon Sorry to hear that – imagine there’s no easy “undo” for that!

      • moon

        @jenajean A class-action lawsuit might get @Klouts attention #DontLinkFacebook

  • jenajean

    @ClaudiaC Thanks for RT, Claudia! They’ve certainly lost a lot of credibility in the past few days.

    • ClaudiaC

      @jenajean It’s actually an oddity to me. I know people use it a lot to judge others, but… that seems a little… simple. And, why change?

  • cdcarson

    At this point Klout is a game for social media types, not a serious representation of anything at all. Any marketer that is relying on Klout to make decisions is probably doing so because the “score” is a number between 10 and 100 — they can count up to it easily without getting a math headache.

    • @cdcarson Chris – marketers are trying to figure out the best way to connect with customers in this brand new and rapidly evolving social digital space. Klout and other influence measurement platforms offer one set of tools that — if they become more sophisticated — might be very useful in targeting the right offer or content to the right customer. That said, this stuff is very complicated & things get tricky when you try to dumb it down to a single number.

      As far as math and counting and stuff like that, I usually fall asleep before I get to 22, so if most marketers get up to 100 they’re smarter than me! :-)

  • AMauiBlog

    @jeffreypjacobs Interesting read on Klout. Thanks for the link. @tonia_ries

  • ikepigott

    @ShellyKramer @tonia_ries …not to mention this: http://t.co/LI1jcZZ1

    • tonia_ries

      @ikepigott thanks for sharing that! @ShellyKramer

  • naveed

    @sydcon_mktg @shellykramer @tonia_ries Yeah, the idea of #klout just seemed silly to me. I mean seriously, a way to score people?

    • tonia_ries

      @naveed @sydcon_mktg @shellykramer I tend to not to sit still long enough for a one-dimensional score to apply for very long. :-)

  • tonia_ries

    @Yuricon they definitely have a lot of issues to address! really hope to hear from them on this soon … @ShellyKramer

    • Yuricon

      @tonia_ries Great article – I hadn’t heard about these duplicate accounts previously. Thanks for pointing this out. @ShellyKramer

  • tonia_ries

    @blogbrevity great to catch up with you, too — I always end up with new ideas when I talk to you! #RLTM

  • SaraCsIt

    @Yuricon @ShellyKramer @tonia_ries I cancelled my account – I’ve had it with the popularity contest.

    • Yuricon

      @SaraCsIt Good luck getting that profile to actually go away, though. @klout = Hotel California @ShellyKramer @tonia_ries

  • nutcase101

    @schmutzie now you’re going to have Klout in Bullshit!! :D

  • @tonia_ries @LizGumbinner Great post Tonia. Liz you are a stellar case study in my opinion. The “Gumbinner Ratings” sounds way better for this era than the Neilsen Ratings. Thanks for posting the link to your article as well. It has been interesting reading different perspectives. Here is my post on the Klout “Nerf” as I call it. Interested to know what you both think. Cheers!http://brandflair.com/whats-in-a-number-anyway-be-your-brand-not-your-klout/

    • @BrandFlair John – great post. I commented in more detail over on your site!

  • fundraisinisfun

    @IanMAdair noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo…how will I acknowledge the good work ur doin?????? LOL

    • IanMAdair

      @fundraisinisfun through pithy comments and soul searching (yet brutal) honesty of my selfless awesomeness! LOL

      • fundraisinisfun

        @IanMAdair that could be a loooooooong voyage sir!!! ok- then I’ll continue w/ regular tweets of adoration & #FFY’s. luv, ur biggest fan

        • IanMAdair

          @fundraisinisfun Well then a tip of hat to you sir and a +TY to you as well!

        • fundraisinisfun

          @IanMAdair yo man- what’s up in OK?

        • IanMAdair

          @fundraisinisfun pretty fun night passing out candy with my son. Teacher Conf. today and the big NPO Conf. (we talked about) is next week.

        • fundraisinisfun

          @IanMAdair sounds like ur busy- which is a good thing! how goes the writing side of things?

        • IanMAdair

          @fundraisinisfun still busy there as well, I have a rewrite addiction- its a wonder I can ever publish a blog post. Constantly update & edit

        • fundraisinisfun

          @IanMAdair so a book is a lifetime endeavor :) (if u need an editor- lemme know :) )

        • IanMAdair

          @fundraisinisfun Might need an intervention first- LOL. So much going on right now and more to come soon. Thanks for offer!

        • fundraisinisfun

          @IanMAdair I also crazy self-edit- but I do it fast. once research is done, posts come quickly. prob explains why I get less hits than u :)

        • fundraisinisfun

          @IanMAdair btw- do u get a lot of s@$m comments on ur blog? been getting a ton last couple of wks…

        • IanMAdair

          @fundraisinisfun I think you do pretty well my friend- keep it coming!

        • fundraisinisfun

          @IanMAdair I have an Excl list of EIGHTY posts I wanna write and put up. to sort of quote the Tin Man: If I only had the time……

  • seattledrury

    @IanMAdair Wow! (I paid attention to Klout b/c of you and a couple of our fave peers – but I really appreciate this heads up!)

    • IanMAdair

      @seattledrury being seeing some crazy things there lately & was forwarded some privacy issues by some folks that led me to decision.

  • KMBTweets

    @IanMAdair Klout is totally shady. Good call.

    • fundraisinisfun

      @KMBTweets whoa whoa whoa- what’s with the bright, colorful new avatar?????

      • KMBTweets

        @fundraisinisfun Ha! You noticed! :D

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  • FelixPOV

    @joeldon Thanks for the mention Joel. :)

  • FelixPOV

    @tonia_ries Great read Tonia. Thanks! :)

  • jenzings

    This sounds like an odd question, but how can I find out if I have a duplicate profile? I’d be surprised if I don’t–I have used my (locked-down, private) Facebook account to comment on public wall posts (I did this knowing the info could be public). However, when I go to Klout the only search box I find asks for a person’s Twitter ID.

    Where should I look for this possible duplicate score?

    • @jenzings Jen – you may want to try and check around on some pages of friends with whom you have a lot of interaction on Facebook to see if you show up in their influencer network. According to Klout marketing manager @meganberry , however, Klout no longer has “Facebook profiles for unregistered Facebook users.” http://fyre.it/zug — confusingly VentureBeat reports that Klout *is* creating something called “observer profiles” (see here http://venturebeat.com/2011/11/02/klout-profiles-privacy/). If you figure it out, let us know!

  • maggietranquila

    @MrShri I agree with you. @KLOUT is
    Broken. My score was high and then because I don’t do Facebook they
    Downgraded my score? Mistake.

    • MrShri

      @maggietranquila hmm I can’t understand what @KLOUT is up to but anyways have delinked all my SM profiles except Twitter.

  • MrShri

    I just unliked all my social network accounts except twitter, checking what effect does it have on the score which has already gone in for a crash landing.

    • @MrShri don’t forget – you also have to revoke Klout access on the Facebook side — go to your apps and odds are that it’ll still be there.

      • MrShri

        @tonia_ries oops.. thanks :-) Will do that.

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  • MLInnovations

    @IanMAdair Thanks!

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