Updated: Social Influence Tools – Confusing Influence & Awareness

If I have one more person asks me what my Klout score is….I think I’m going to barf.

Social media awareness continues to blossom among consumers and, along with it, the fascination with number of followers, friends, and connections. The sad part is that rather than focusing on sharing valuable information and resources, a lot of newbies like to surrender to the game of getting the most number of followers, so they can puff up their chests amongst their friends and brag about their follower numbers.  Sure, they have followed every auto-follow account on Twitter and have 3,000 followers…but their Twitter feed is now full of garbage and provides no informational use at all. #Winning….Duh!!

To add fuel to the fire of chasing numbers, sites like Klout and Twitanalyzer claim to be able to measure online influence based on their complex algorithms that tracks (among other things) how many times your Twitter username is mentioned in conversations. The problem I have with their claims, however, is that these sites claim to measure influence when all they are really doing is measuring awareness.

According to dictionary.com, the definition of influence is:

the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others: He used family influence to get the contract.

In other words, influence requires that you actually DO something and Klout and Twitanalyzer (amongst a host of other tools) are counting a mention in an online conversation as something that creates influence. Mentions are easy to get. All you have to do is publish valuable content and Twitter makes it really easy to do that, through their retweet process. Basically, by retweeting valuable content that others have created, you can get a high Klout or Twitanalyzer score. Sounds fishy, right?

As a real-world example of how these types of scores fail, take my @socialbizcase Twitter handle. I created this Twitter account because the early versions of Flipboard (the iPad app that turns your social feeds into a magazine) didn’t let you add your own RSS feeds. So, to overcome that, I created an RSS feed of all the blogs that I like and used Feedzilla to autopost them to the @socialbizcase Twitter account. That way, I could hook that Twitter account into Flipboard and read all my favorite blogs in that app. Flipboard has since added the RSS capability, but I never stopped the Twitter account.

The account has continued to grow and people seem to like it, so I left it alone. To date, the account has over 1,000 followers and a Klout score of 40.  Seriously? A Klout score of 40 for an account that does nothing but syndicate my favorite blogs? How on earth is that influential?

the Klout score for the @socialbizcase account is 40

Twitanalyzer isn’t off the hook either. According to this tool, the @socialbizcase Twitter handle is more influential than 79% of the other Twitter handles out there. Either it really is true that there isn’t much meaningful content on Twitter, or the tool is full of…well…stuff.

I would consider myself a pretty hardcore Twitter user. I tweet daily, retweet those that I find valuable, I have multiple Twitter accounts with plenty of followers, and I have formed some pretty darn good relationships with my peers and business colleagues online.  But about the only thing that most tweets have ever really gotten me to DO is to read an article or share a link. Does that really constitute what we want to count as “influence” in social media? If so, I think we’re really losing sight of the power of this set of communication tools.

Rather than rely on follower and retweet numbers, let’s really think about what social media and social networking are meant for. In my opinion, the ability to influence is critical, but way beyond the level of retweeting or reading. We really need to focus on true influence and what we want our friends, followers, and connections to do. For instance, we need to look at things like:

  • How can companies use their social media channels to educate their consumers about their products and services and provide better support?
  • How can political candidates use their social media channels to educate and influence voters about their positions and intent to govern?
  • How can pop-culture icons use their social media channels to entertain consumers or get them involved in their activity?
  • How can non-profits use their social media channels to influence supporters to donate to their cause?
  • How can the masses use social media channels to unify their voices in times of injustice?

These are the types of influence that we want social media to really be able to impact. Not just the number of times we share a message about the injustice, the political cause, the event, or the product. Sharing the message is just about awareness…not influence.

For those of us who aren’t celebrities, companies, politicians, or social organizations, Klout and  Twitanalyzer don’t really matter. It’s just a number that we can all use to compare ourselves to each other in this game we call social media. At least Empire Avenue has understood that their online stock price, which measures your social media activity is just a game and it isn’t about influence…it’s about activity.

About the only demographic that Klout or Twitanalyzer really does serve is bloggers. It tells those of us with blogs how likely people are to share our articles and spread our message. The higher the Klout score, the more likely people will want to invite us to talk at conferences.

In case you’re wondering, my Klout score for my @socmedsean account is 47 and I have no idea what that really means. Nor, do I care. My recommendation is this, if you’re engaging online you should be focusing on the quality of your content. If you publish good, original content followers will come, awareness will come, and influence will occur. Forget about the scores and start researching and writing.


Update To The Original Post


Okay, this post has really been gnawing at my craw ever since I wrote it. Writing the post really got me thinking a lot more about influence and whether Klout even understands what influence is. To prove my point, I tried to think of the most influential person I could think of (who is alive).  To be influential, the person has to really get people to DO something, so the person I came up with is Oprah. Not only does Oprah’s recommendation carry weight and influence people to do something, there is even a theory called the “Oprah Effect” that essential says that if Oprah says to jump off a bridge, millions of people would do it.

Now, in contrast with that, I tried to think of someone who has a high level of “awareness” right now, meaning that everyone knows who he/she is, but they are far from influential. Logical choice, Charlie Sheen. Everyone knows who Charlie Sheen is and is aware of his Twitter antics, but would you really do anything that Charlie Sheen asked you to?

So…to prove my point that tools like Klout don’t measure social media influence, but instead measure social media awareness….

Oprah’s Klout score

Charlie Sheen’s Klout score


 Boom. Klout. Fail.

Comments And Reactions

  1. What do you think about “clout?” 🙂

  2. Really pleased you added your update Sean – there is a difference between influence and awareness. Having said that, don’t you think it’s possible that we’re all getting bogged down in the semantics of the specific words Klout has used to define it’s product?


  1. […] Tami Highbaugh-Abdullah Aries – Graphic Design & Internet Marketing Tami@AriesGDIM.com http://ariesgdim.com Amplify’d from https://www.socmedsean.com […]

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