Measuring Social Media Influence: Klout

Measuring Social Media Influence: Klout

As we’ve pointed out before, understanding whether your social media activity is really working for you is pretty important to ensure you’re not wasting your time. Not so surprisingly, a whole cottage industry of services has erupted to help you measure your social media efficacy. These services are a pretty good indication of the strength of the medium and ecosystem.

Twitter is everywhere. Celebrities and athletes use it. It’s quoted in the news. And although I have my own reservations about how influential it is for average users and businesses, there’s no doubt that it has captured the hearts and minds of millions of users. Although Twitter recently announced their upcoming analytics product, the only way to currently measure your “success” is really by the number of followers you have.

In truth, success is better measured by the number of people who act upon your tweets, either by clicking on the link or probably more importantly, by retweeting what you’re saying.

The third party service, Klout, has come up with ways to measure your Twitter success, and all you have to do is login with Twitter, which grants them access to your account. Many more services are using these “federated logins” whereby your Facebook, Twitter or Google account can be used in lieu of a separate login/password. Just remember that by doing so, you are necessarily sharing some private information with the service. In the case of Klout, it can’t be helped because you are asking for your Twitter ranking. But in cases where I have the option to create a separate login, I personally always do.

After some churning, you’ll get a score from 1-100 and a bunch of other statistics like “True Reach” which will help you understand whether your tweets are influential or not. Like any service, they try to get you addicted to logging in to view your statistics, so there’s a whole bunch of charts, and they even have their version of the Like/+1 button, which they call +K. That is not a potassium ion, it is someone giving you some Klout. I kid you not.

By contrast, this is what Ashton Kutcher looks like (well, at least his Twitter profile viewed via Klout):

And for those “beliebers”

Ok, we get it. Bieber is influential with a lot of teenaged girls. But I digress.

Probably more useful is your “profile:”

The “Influential Topics” is autogenerated based on users’ engagement with your content, and it’s a good way to help understand your score relative to other people in your industry. That said, your Klout score is useless unless you want to get into a pissing match with Justin. Otherwise, it’s simply a baseline from which you will try to improve. More salient is the “True Reach” statistics which is defined as “True Reach is the number of people you influence, both within your immediate network and across their extended networks. Influencers like Justin Bieber have high True Reach because their content spreads to a large audience.”

In PhotoShelter’s case, we have nearly 19,000 followers, but our “True Reach” is 6,000. So when we tweet, we shouldn’t realistically consider that we’re touching all 19,000 people. Now, what is Klout’s exact algorithm for determining True Reach? Who knows. I’m sure it’s a combination of click and retweet information. Point being that the statistic gives you a sense of how active your following is vis a vis your tweets.

What Klout can’t tell you is whether Twitter is driving people to your website –– and while we can discuss the merits of sending people to your website vs. your Facebook page, I think the fact remains that most people intend for conversion activity (e.g. selling a photo, getting a newsletter sign up) to occur on their website.

For this reason, Google Analytics is still the more useful tool. Under Google Analytics -> Traffic Sources -> Referrals, you can see the Twitter-specific traffic under their URL shortening service


In our case, Twitter really doesn’t drive much traffic at all to our website. Granted we don’t really use Twitter in that way, but I will say that the site usage statistics are pretty decent. For example, Twitter traffic has a 3 min 38 second time on site — that’s really great, but the bounce rate is on the high side too.

So what have we learned?

Services like Klout help contextualize data for us. Their True Reach, for example, gives us a sense of how active our community is. This combined with Google Analytics can help us determine whether our time on Twitter is actually generating a desired outcome of getting qualified people to our website.

I personally don’t love Klout, and I find myself logging in just once a month. But I think it’s a good tool from a trending perspective to understand whether our presence on Twitter (as defined by True Reach and other Klout-specific measurements) are increasing over time.


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Allen Murabayashi is the Chairman and co-founder of PhotoShelter. He co-hosts the "I Love Photography" podcast on iTunes.

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