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Do you have ‘Klout’?

Reputation is important. Especially if you work in professional services, reputation is the difference between a steady stream of contracts and none at all.

There are many tools on the web that claim to measure reputation and influence. Unfortunately, most of them do not disclose how they calculate your final score: they will mention sophisticated algorithms, making it sound very scientific and objective. But as more people use these tools to find out about you, it is important that we understand how their rankings work.

One of the tools that I’ve been looking at is Klout. Klout’s byline is “the standard of influence” and it claims to use 35 variables to determine your online influence, not just the amount of tweets and followers. They measure your score in 3 categories: Network Influence, Amplification and True Reach. Klout also determines your most influential topics. Mine are Recruitment & Staffing and Google. Anyone who follows me knows that I tweet about HR, HR Technology, and the Future of Work, but ever since I tweeted about an NYT article on Google Leadership (March 12, 2011), Klout has put me in this category and I have not found a way out yet.

My Klout score has been around 45 for a long time, and that’s fine with me. But I noticed something strange when 2 of my friends, let’s call them Friend1 and Friend2 went on holiday. Friend1 does not tweet a lot, mostly personal stuff, but went a bit crazy while on holiday. Friend2 tweets for business, but does not tweet during his vacation. Look what happened to their Klout scores:

NGA_Anita Friend1 Friend2 Mashable
Klout score April 6th 46 20 46 87
Klout score May 6th 45 40 34 87
Network influence 54 49 43 91
Unique Mentioners 75 17 50 42.000
Unique retweeters 89 15 47 261.000
Amplification 22 20 17 83
Total retweets 149 25 103 904.976
True Reach 120 19 87 863.000
Total followers 330 51 250 2.293.374

For baseline reference, I also included the numbers of the well-known blogger Mashable. He is clearly out of our league, but it gives you a feeling of the high-end as well as the low-end (where we are).

Isn’t it interesting how the numbers stack up? During this period, nothing much changed in my Klout score. I did not change my tweet frequency, added some followers and received some unique mentions. Business as usual for me. But look at what happened to the scores of my friends: Friend1 went on holiday, started tweeting like mad and his score went up 20 points, while Friend2 lost 12 points by being silent during that same period. Friend1 achieved some mentions and retweets, but certainly not enough to justify the increased score. Friend2’s network is 5 times larger than Friend1’s and he received far more mentions and retweets.

So why did his Klout Score go down so rapidly? The coincidence is too large to ignore and I have the feeling that the number of tweets plays a much larger role in determining your Klout score than Klout wants to admit. And yes, it is obvious that you are not as influential when you don’t tweet, but Friend2 scores higher in all the subcategories. It just does not translate to higher category scores. That’s just plain weird.

To get a better feel for it, I decided to use another tool: Tweetreach. First up, my own results:





Then those of Friend1:




And the results of Friend2:




Now I do not know the underlying algorithms that determine the final scores, but it seems strange that a person with far larger audience like Friend2 receives a lower Klout ranking than Friend1 – and that his Klout ranking drops so much while on vacation. He did not get less influential, he did not lose followers, he just went on a tweet-break. It also is strange that Friend1, who suddenly tweets a lot within a small, personal network is able to get a higher Klout ranking and is perceived as more influential. I believe that the ranking of your followers should play a role in determining your overall influence score. That is not to say that personal is less important, but it should count as less influential in the online world. Truth is, we have no way of knowing what is and is not important when determining  influence until tool providers reveal the way they establish rankings.

Anyway, give it a try and see how you compare to your Twitter pals. Just don’t make any assumptions about how influential you are online – unless you achieve a perfect score like mashable, there is still a long way to go to determine online influence in a transparent way.