Home > Social Media, SocialCRM Data, Twitter > Klout, The Tinkerbell Effect Remix

Klout, The Tinkerbell Effect Remix

The Tinkerbell effect describes those things that exist only because people believe in them (source wikipedia).  I wrote a post last spring while blogging for my friends at SugarCRM where I talked about Social CRM succumbing to this phenomenon.  I suppose I could make this really controversial and slam Klout. But, Klout is simply supplying the ‘fix’ of choice; popularity, to the Social elite. While at the same time emphasizing some really bad life lessons (ego and elitism, to name just a couple).  It goes without saying that Twitter likes it. To “get more” Klout, just use Twitter more; that according to Klout Chief Executive Joe Fernandez, as seen in the Wall Street Journal:

Last year, Britney Spears’ managers, Adam Leber and Larry Rudolph, requested a meeting with Klout Chief Executive Joe Fernandez in San Francisco. Over a lunch of Chinese food, they grilled Mr. Fernandez on why Ms. Spears’ Klout score, then around 64, was lower than Lady Gaga’s 78 and Ashton Kutcher’s 77.

“What are these people doing better than us?” Mr. Fernandez says they asked.

Mr. Fernandez says he advised them to tell Ms. Spears to tweet more frequently and to send more tweets herself instead of having others tweet on her behalf.

Let’s Fast Forward a Bit

I really wanted to try and avoid writing a post on Klout, but temptation simply got the best of me. I saw – on Twitter of all places, go figure – a link to a post on Klout, where Trey Pennington shared the following:

Klout’s founder, Joe Fernadez, is both a genius and a gentleman. He recognized a need in the marketplace and has been working aggressively to satisfy that need. The business press is taking note and is given him and his company earned recognition (and venture capitalists are giving him/them the big bucks to back it up).

In reviewing some of Trey’s recent posts, I realized I had jumped in, in the middle and missed the context of the series, where Trey first talks about how people can game the system, and ends (well, at least as of this writing it seemed done) with some real words of wisdom.

Many people recognized the humor and absurdity of my four keys. I’m glad. If you’ve heard me speak, read my blog, or engaged with me online, you know I cherish Zig Ziglar’s oft-quoted axiom, “You can have everything in life you want if you’ll just help enough other people get what they want.” You’ve probably also heard me state and defend against all challenges the admonition, “Follow back every person who follows you on Twitter.” Even though that suggestion STILL ruffles some people’s feathers, I still advocate accepting another human being’s out-stretched hand.

Which brings us back to the real issue of increasing one’s influence. Is that a worthwhile goal? I wonder if influence, like corporate profits, is a by-product of rendering valuable service to others. Render enough valuable service to others, and you’ll have all the influence you need.

In my exploration, using Social means, I have found that the people who have the most influence are the ones who are truly humble, the ones who would prefer not to have influence. If you really want to dive in deep on the science of influence, spend some time reading Michael Wu’s posts, starting with this one. Michael started the series last April, and readily admits that it is in its infancy:

Influence marketing today is in a state of experimentation that scientists call the pre-paradigm phase or exploratory phase. During this phase, everyone is trying different approaches based on experience. There are incomplete theories about why some approaches work and others fail, but there is no underlying fundamental principle that explains everything.

The idea of Klout is not bad, but in its current form, it actually is bad. There is no context to the influence. There is no shortcut to getting to the right people. People who I know are, or should be, more influential on a particular topic have better things to do than to hang out on Twitter, so guess what, their score suffers. I also know that many others will do a better job at analyzing this topic.

The Conclusion? Klout is not here because people are confused nor because people really need it, in its current form. Klout is here because they have marketed it well.

  1. February 22, 2011 at 3:07 am

    One thing I find is absent from the conversation (hype?) around Klout is that it lacks context in which the ‘influence’ is acquired. I can give you my point of view about social business, enterprise 2.0 and social business, but don’t ask me anything about classical music, nuclear physics, make-up or what-not.

    As you mention, without nuancing what topics a person has some insight in and the audience the influencer is likely to touch with those insights, an all-encompassing score such as Klout is even more meaningless than it already is for purposes of targeting in marketing activities.

    • Mitch Lieberman
      February 22, 2011 at 8:07 am


      Great point, I absolutely agree. It is pure numbers game, and game is the exact right word. Many people are gaming the system. This will go back and forth with the developers of Klout until there is an actual standard.

      Appreciate the thoughts!


  2. February 22, 2011 at 4:37 am

    Klout score could be one dimension of Social Media ‘Top Trumps’. Who has most followers, highest Klout, most influence etc. What I find useful is the visibility of the components of Klout, and the underlying message of the importance of creating material that your followers feel is worthy of ReTweeting to others, or Liking and Commenting in Facebook, and equivalent in the LinkedIn Beta. Then for Business it’s a case of setting SMART objectives and Klout is useful ie. Achieve Klout of 50.

    • Mitch Lieberman
      February 22, 2011 at 8:11 am


      I appreciate your comments. Like NPS and other one hit wonders, I agree that Klout could be useful when placed with other measures. I have found, through very unscientific testing that Klout is heavily skewed towards Twitter and Twitter usage. My question back would be the following. If I take a one week (or one month) break from Twitter, should my Klout score change? One camp would suggest that I could become less relevant, another suggests that I am still on the same lists and I still have the same friends?

      What are your thoughts?


  3. andrewboyceschultz
    March 1, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Hi Mitch,

    Sorry to be late to the conversation – I found this blog in the socialcrm LinkedIn group just today.

    I wrote a post on Klout last week (http://andrewbschultz.com/social-shopping-follow-up-klout-and-influence) after reading Jeremiah Owyang and Denis Pombriant’s recent articles. I like your take – I think that online influence suffers from the same paradox as the electron in quantum physics – which is that the act of observing (or measuring, in this case) can change the nature of what’s being observed. If someone knows their influence is being measured and quantified, and motivation exists to be classified as “influential,” then their behavior changes in ways that make the measurement meaningless.

    I only see the value of measuring influence from a vendor perspective – as I noted in my post, a company in today’s connected world can clearly benefit from knowing the people who have the most influence on their peers, but not when every customer is clambering to be categorized as “influential.” I think any inequality that a company creates in its customer-base using influence measurements will be a negative thing, especially if that inequality is transparent to the customers, both because it encourages behaviors designed to increase personal influence measures and because it creates negative feelings. But knowing who to engage with, how to engage them, and how to tap into their influence seems like a strategy that could have a lot of merit.

    • Mitch Lieberman
      March 6, 2011 at 8:26 pm


      Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate your thoughts. Interestingly, I write this as a friend forwarded that Charlie Sheen has a Klout score of 91 – that pretty much sums it up, right there. While he might have reach, and people have an interest in what he says,it is only to see what damage he will inflict upon himself. He does not have anything close to influence.


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