Should you opt-out of Klout?

More than a few people have posted recently about opting out of Klout. Here are a couple of pieces that are worth your time to read:

Given some very well thought out pieces about opting out of Klout, should you consider it?

If you’re like Liz and Klout is operating against your principles or ethics, then it’s an unequivocal yes. One of my favorite tenets is by the musician Jewel, who famously said, “No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from”. Depart Klout and don’t look back.

There’s a flipside to not being a part of Klout: anyone and anything using its algorithm is going to exclude you. Why? Here’s what Klout’s API returns when you pull a Twitter user ID that doesn’t exist:

{“status”:200,”headers”:[],”body”:{“error”:”No users”}}

And here’s what the API returns when you pull a Twitter user ID that opted out:

{“status”:200,”headers”:[],”body”:{“error”:”No users”}}

They are identical. When you opt out of Klout, you effectively declare that you no longer exist.

Publicly, that will mean little things like +K votes (and the associated Tweets that come along with them) and exclusion of pointless ads like Klout Perks for body wash and test drives for cars. That’s no big deal, and if that were the only consideration, there’d be no reason NOT to leave.

Privately, however, the Klout API is being used fairly heavily. I can tell you as a developer that I run into “Service too busy” notices more often than I’d like. Klout’s API gives you at the free level 10 calls per second, 10,000 requests per day, which is a tremendous amount, and people are using it. I know I certainly am. How is it being used?

Here’s an email service provider that pulls Klout score into lists so that you can segment your lists by Klout score. If you’ve opted out of Klout, you obviously will show up in the segmentation of unknown user.

View Member "chelpixie@gmail.com" | MailChimp

Here’s an integration with Zoho, a small business CRM, to pull in Klout scores:

Zoho CRM - Edit Lead

And here’s one that is probably the most eyebrow-raising of all, a plugin to integrate Klout scores into the Salesforce CRM, the gold standard of large enterprise CRMs:

klout-salesforce-mashup - A mashup that integrates Klout data into Salesforce.com CRM. - Google Project Hosting

You may say, rightly so, that you don’t especially care how you show up in someone’s email platform or CRM, or that your other behaviors such as purchase history should matter more. I don’t disagree. I think generally marketers do a lousy job of using the data they already have access to. The caveat with that position is this: right now, marketers and businesses like Klout enough to be using it and integrating it, even if it’s a terrible measure of actual influence.

That means that without a Klout score, you show up to these systems as an unknown user, as a second class citizen (even if you are clearly not, like Liz Strauss).

If a call center has two emails in queue to respond to and an automated customer importance priority system, and one customer has a Klout score of 25 and the other is a zero, your average minimum wage customer service representative isn’t going to care about your ethics or principles. They’re just going to get to you last in the queue because people with scores higher than unknown will be automatically ranked and queued ahead of you.

Here’s the huge problem: neither I nor anyone else except maybe Klout’s IT department have any idea just how many systems are using Klout’s API. Mark W. Schaefer has indicated that in anecdotal data, HR systems are integrating it now.

If Klout doesn’t violate your personal principles, then the safe, conservative choice for now is to leave your account as is. You definitely don’t need to participate with it or give it any mindshare, but removing it outright might have deeper impacts in third party systems than might be overtly apparent at first. Ignoring Klout’s existence it is a safe, no-effort strategy.

For those who did choose to opt-out, there’s this to give you hope: people are using Klout right now because there isn’t a better, more accurate, more insightful measurement. In the absence of good metrics, we often choose to rely on bad ones even knowing they’re bad. There is both incentive and demand for someone to create a better social media influence metric than Klout, so you have that to look forward to.


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  • Anonymous

    Wow, thank you for including the quote from Jewel!  Klout is soooo off the radar compared to her lyrics that hit me between the eyes.  

    I often find some of the deepest meanings of life just by connecting the dots and following the little things big thinkers think.

    Your clout with me is red-lined!

  • http://www.take5interactive.com RohnJay

    Christopher:  The value of 1000s of social media professionals joining together to delete our Klout accounts is that this very publicly challenges Klout’s legitimacy so that HR departments and Salesforce clients will question it.  I’ll take the chance that “no Klout score” will influence someone thinking that I don’t exist ;-) 

    But please consider this further point about your advice in this post.  If you do advocate people stay in Klout for the time being, doesn’t that also mean they *must* pay attention to their Klout scores?  

    If you stay in and don’t pay attention to your score it will tend to go down as you do less and less of the specific behaviors a Klout score is comprised of.   What’s the value of having a Klout score if it’s bad? To prove you exist, but you’re lousy at social media? 

    And if Salesforce, the #1 CRM company in the world, and untold HR departments are putting Klout scores into profiles doesn’t that make it *critical* that you pay attention to your Klout score?  

    Especially because if Klout does become the working “standard for influence,” thousands and thousands of people will be aggressively gaming their scores, further devaluing your Klout score.  You’ll be obligated to buy a $100 software bot to game your score up.  

    Respectfully, I think its important that enough noise and profile deletions are generated that Klout loses its shine—if not its actual clout.

    • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

      In theory, if you’re already creating valuable content and growing your network, your score should go up with or without focusing on their specific algorithm.

      • http://therealtimereport.com/ Tonia Ries

        Chris – there’s one of the key issues right there:  too many examples of scores that just don’t pass the common sense test.  Klout, in particular, doesn’t provide nearly the level of transparency about their algorithm and the distribution of scores to give marketers the insight they should have as to what the scores really mean or don’t mean.

    • http://occamsrazr.com Ike Pigott

      I get what you’re saying, but there are 1,000s more Social Media Weasels out there (and even more Wannabes.)

      Even in those numbers, we won’t be missed.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1696722943 Alan Jobe

      May I ask, RohnJay,  would you agree with my statement that a Klout score can be fairly easily manipulated by a reasonably knowledgeable person?

  • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

    It does. I think all socnets to some degree try to represent you; after all, Facebook PPC ads that are targeted at groups and pages certainly do that in aggregate. Klout just does it at an individual level along with PeerIndex and a few others.

    For people like you and others who work hard at an online presence, clearly Klout’s representation of you is less than adequate. But you’re in the 1%, so to speak, of digital influence. The question central to a lot of folks then becomes: would I rather have Klout represent me poorly than have no representation at all?

    • Liz Strauss

      Another way to say that might be “Would I rather go to the big event with someone who sees me as a commodity than not go at all?”

      Do we need to discount ourselves that way to be visible?

      • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

        We as humans don’t, but as someone who works extensively with databases and large data sets… that’s all any of us really are. In some ways, it’s incredibly dehumanizing, but in other ways it’s wonderfully equalizing. The SQL database that powers this website doesn’t care what race, gender, or religion you are. You’re a row in the table just like everyone else.

        In the end, it depends on how much value you extract out of the big event. If you’re giving more than you’re getting from the tools and network systems (not the people), then it’s not worth being in the game. If you’re getting more than you’re giving from the machines, then to me it’s worth being in the game. I’m a data junkie and get far more value from the machines than I give to them, so it’s a fair trade.

  • http://michaelsanford.com Michael Sanford

    I wonder if your assertion that “[i]gnoring Klout’s existence it is a safe, no-effort strategy” doesn’t ignore the problem that failing to manage it may lead to sub-optimal outcomes, similar to those associated with not claiming and managing a LinkedIn stub profile. By failing to manage your Klout profile, you are losing control over the data out there about you.

    I opted to remove my Klout profile not because I feel a moral imperitave to do so, but because I would rather appear to have a score of 0 than a score that I don’t feel accurately reflects my social engagement.

  • http://twitter.com/daddymention Matthew Thomson

    Hey Chris

    As the person responsible for driving the platform biz dev over the last 1.25 years here at Klout, I want to let you know that this is a pretty reasonably reasoned article.  Thanks.

    The one thing I will mention is that we do have a reasonable understanding of who is using our API. We are also building new items to understand better how they are using our API to verify that our TOS that prohibits spamming, ad targeting, etc aren’t  violated.

    Matt

    • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

      Thanks, Matt – good to know. So just how large is third party usage of the Klout API?

  • http://www.redty.pe Andrew | Redtype

    Chris, as mentioned in my reply to you on Twitter, for whatever weird reason since I’ve opted out, I’ve been receiving +K’s & other Klout email notifications. Hmm…

  • http://ariherzog.com Ari Herzog

    People are also deleting their Facebook accounts.

    In the realm of CRM data etc that you cite above, do you care to compare Klout and Facebook and whether the takeaway is the same that neither account should be deleted?

    • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

      I would say yes. Especially in the case of Facebook, no one is compelling you to post private data to it. I keep my personal life off of there very successfully, so someone scraping my account for data will only find professional information that I’m happy for them to have.

  • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

    Here’s the thing – Klout and other influencer tools all work on the premise of what they see as influential. But true influence is much harder to define than a simple score or metric – my biggest influencers are my wife and son, and Klout knows nothing about them.

    It’s the same as sentiment tracking – you can’t account for how I’ll feel an instant after a “positive tweet”, since I may get a call that throws me for six and stops me from acting on any sentiment I may have had.

    At the end of the day, these platforms are in the space for one reason only – to make money from advertisers who don’t want to do the real work, and see who’s influential based on relevance and context, as opposed to popularity and ego.

  • http://therealtimereport.com/ Tonia Ries

    Christopher:  there are many issues that need to be addressed when it comes to influence measurement.  One of the most important issues raised by your post is this:  marketers who use the tools don’t have a good understanding around what these scores do and don’t represent — nor is there an accepted set of best practices around how to interpret the scores.  The truth is that all of the current influence measurement tools are extremely Twitter-centric, and only measure people who are very active on Twitter with any degree of consistency (comparing Klout, PeerIndex, Kred, TweetLevel and others).  So if your customer service center or HR department is seeing a low Klout score on someone in their CRM, it may mean that they’re less influential, or it may mean that they are simply less active on Twitter.  Fine – but the problem is that the vendors are not being upfront about what their tools do and don’t measure, and what you can really learn from them.

  • Marnie Swedberg

    Great article. I have a question: What is a best practice for identifying “influencers”? Everyday I get notifications that people I know have joined Klout. What is Klout etiquette? What is the most helpful response?

    • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

      Simple but powerful question: who in your network is actually doing what you want them to do? Forget about Klout. If someone has a Klout score of 90 but ignores you, they’re worse than someone with a Klout score of 11 but shares your stuff to their friends.
      Who does what you want them to do? That’s who is truly influential.

      • http://twitter.com/Oz_DragonCookie Oz du Soleil

        HALLELUJAH!

  • http://twitter.com/cwroger Roger William

    Thak you all. I have just decided… opting out… Any point of view about Kred?

  • http://twitter.com/Oz_DragonCookie Oz du Soleil

    When I oped out of Klout, there were a lot of reasons.
    –  First, the perks had absolutely nothing to do with me.
    –  Second, it sickened me after I got sucked into an asinine debate with a friend on his Facebook wall, and he followed up by announcing that I helped him because he got 50 likes, and 50 comments from other people who were attracted to the conversation. And all of that helped his Klout score.

    I was left to conclude that Klout rewards people for not just being influential but also for being inflammatory. I then got suspicious of people who posted things that interested (or irritated) me because I didn’t want to be leveraged to help their Klout score.

    – Finally, and the REAL reason: I was getting narcissistic and my social media activity was being driven by Klout and not my real friends, clients and potential clients. 

    My score hovered around 48 – 52. When I had paying clients to serve, and my Klout score had dipped below 50 … GEEZ! Do I whip up a blogpost? Go and irritate folks on Twitter or Facebook, or serve my paying clients?

    Yes. I know I could prioritize, and deal with Klout after serving my clients but I opted to completely rid my life of that one distraction/temptation. I haven’t had a credit card since 1991. Occasionally inconvenient but life is so much better without credit cards. Similarly, I’m sure my life will be perfectly fine without Klout. So far, so good.

  • http://twitter.com/Oz_DragonCookie Oz du Soleil

    Chris, the more I think about this, the more I wonder if you’re over-stating the usefulness of Klout or “the incentive and demand” for a better social influence metric.

    In your example of the 2 emails that come into a queue, and the one with the lower Klout score is the loser … brother, I’ve got so much other stuff to deal with in my life. 
    When Whole Foods has a checkout line for people with no Klout score
    When my mechanic won’t fix my brakes because of my non-existent Klout score
    When my bathroom will clean itself if I have a high Klout score then, let’s have another conversation. 

    But right now, Klout … BAH!