A Klout Conundrum?

I’m a fan of Klout, which (if you haven’t heard of it) calls itself “the standard for [online] influence.” I’ve been the recipient of some Klout Perks, and – unrelated to that – have recommended Klout to a client. I display my Klout badge on my blog (over there to the right; it’s not difficult to notice!). And I recognize that Klout is just one factor to consider in assessing someone’s “influence.”

But one aspect of how they measure has me a bit flummoxed.

Namely: your Klout score is determined, in part, by how actively your followers engage with you. That is: how often they reply to you when you post, address questions or comments to you, retweet you, add you to lists, etc. The more actively your followers engage with you, and the more of them who do so, the more influential you’re determined to be.

Makes sense, right?

But what happens when followers abandon or rarely use their accounts? According to ManageFlitter.com, a whopping 510 Twitter accounts that follow me (but that I don’t follow back) haven’t tweeted in at least a month. And if they haven’t posted in a month or more, they’re not interacting with me or with anyone else.

In other words, over a quarter of the accounts following me are highly unlikely to interact with me, regardless of what I tweet. But there’s nothing I can do to stop them from following me, unless I go through and manually block each of them.

So even though I have no control over who follows me, the fact that 27% of my followers aren’t really using Twitter likely counts against me (or you, or anyone else in a similar circumstance) when it comes to measuring online influence. If I could somehow remove the inactive accounts from following me, the percentage of the remaining followers who DO interact with me would be a larger piece of the pie, and (in theory) my Klout score would increase.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not hung up on my Klout score. Mine’s actually pretty good, as far as I’m concerned. I’m raising this as more of a general question about whether there’s a fly in the ointment if Klout (and similar influence measurement services) hold users accountable for the actions of their followers, even though users can’t control who’s following them.

Do Klout and its competitors figure this into their algorithm already? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

 

 

6 Responses to A Klout Conundrum?

  1. Beth Nickolls March 20, 2011 at 4:54 pm #

    As a Newbie, I am always browsing online for articles that can help me. Thank you

  2. Parker Higgins February 27, 2011 at 3:29 pm #

    Isn’t it more important that Klout applies its formula consistently than trying to adjust for factors like this one? It seems to me that this only damages Klout results if some accounts are more likely to generate “dead followers” than others for reasons that Klout isn’t trying to track. I can’t immediately see any situation that would cause that.

    (Also, doesn’t it make sense that a rating of your “influence” would be lowered, at least in part, by the fact that those followers aren’t likely to actually be reading your messages?)

    • Parker Higgins February 27, 2011 at 4:17 pm #

      I’ve thought about this a little longer, and I realized another point: this particular factor does seem to be adjusted for naturally because the 27% attrition rate you experience is probably pretty widespread (it looks like I can’t dig up my own without a Pro membership to ManageFlitter, but I suspect it’s in the same neighborhood.)

      However, if the Klout score incorporates the proportion of your followers that are engaging with your stream (not just the absolute quantity of interactions), and that that number is weighed more heavily than the absolute number of followers, you could give your score a little boost by going through and blocking the inactive followers like you described. That could be automated over the API, and might even be a service offered by ManageFlitter.

      That kind of score goosing is what you’d expect according to Goodhart’s Law, and the most straightforward way to counter it would be for Klout to get increasingly arcane and proprietary with their algorithm. That approach has its own set of problems: a measure of influence arrived at by a top secret algorithm designed to be difficult to crack is liable to seem arbitrary, to say the least.

      Right now Klout scores are something of a novelty, but maybe it will become worthwhile to game the system. If that happens, and Klout is forced to decide between allowing their scores to be manipulated or complicating the formula and running the risk of messing up their own numbers, that would seem to be the real conundrum.

      • Wzzy February 27, 2011 at 5:50 pm #

        Your point is a good one. It seems reasonable that inactivity could be more or less constant across the spectrum. In fact, it might even be higher for the vastly popular accounts, or for those who appear(ed) on the suggested follow lists that Twitter presents to new accounts.

        Thank you as always for reading and responding, Parker. x

    • Parker Higgins February 27, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

      I wrote up some of my thoughts in its very own post over on my site: http://parkerhiggins.net/2011/02/klout-scores-inactive-followers-and-goodharts-law/

      • Wzzy February 27, 2011 at 5:51 pm #

        Couldn’t have asked for a better follow-up!

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