Justin Bieber = Oprah Winfrey

To clarify, Justin Bieber and Oprah Winfrey have the same Klout score.

What’s a Klout score? Let’s step back to the bigger picture of influencer scores. Influence scoring is a rating system used to measure the degree and quantity of reactions that a user generates via their social media platform. Theselarge scores incorporate several key factors and algorithms. Among these rating systems is a company called Klout. Klout is ranked as one of the best and most comprehensive rating systems. Klout kept their process and algorithms quiet for many years. However, after much skepticism from its users, Klout has released a detailed public paper on how they calculate influence scores.

Almost every single social media user has a Klout score. For high profile and verified users, Klout scores are automatically calculated. For other users, social media profiles have to be linked via their website. Scores range from 0-100. Oprah Winfrey and Justin Bieber both score 91. In 2012, Justin Bieber was the ONLY person with a perfect Klout score of 100 (it looks like the “Belieber” days are behind us). It’s important to note that Klout scores can be determined for not only people but for companies, athletic teams, etc. too. These scores are sometimes used by hiring managers to find qualified employees. They can also be used for companies looking for an influential user to promote their brand (a strong marketing tool).

So what factors determine a Klout score?

User Scalability – Looks at the complete network graph by aggregating users in the form of “batch processing”

Network Scalability – Incorporates multiple social media platforms and weights each network differently based on its relevance and importance

Temporal Factors – Influence can be categorized as long-lasting or dynamic and changing. The Klout system is sensitive to the time decay of interactions. Dynamic interactions are measured in a 90-day period while long-lasting influence is captured outside this timeframe

Offline Factors – Social media presence is only a partial representation of one’s overall influence so Klout incorporates world influence via sources such as Wikipedia and news articles

Reach and Strength of Influence – Determine the importance of a user’s reach with respect to the number of reactions. There are two possible scenarios: a user can generate a 100 reactions from 100 people or a 100 reactions from 10 people. Each of these scenarios would be rated differently as one shows a greater reach of influence while the other shows a strong influence on a small set of people.

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Klout scores are computed for more than 700 million users from 9 different networks. These networks include Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Foursquare, Youtube, Lithium Communities (parent company of Klout), and Wikipedia. Reactions on these networks are determined by 5 key questions: who, when, where, what, how. 

“Who: The characteristics of the audience who reacted to the original post from the user.

When: The difference between the current time and the time at which the reaction occurred.

Where: The social network on which the reaction was performed.

What: The unit of original content or action on which the reaction was performed.

How: The type of reaction.

A Klout report looks similar to the image below of the Detroit Red Wings. The image and bio are extracted from twitter and below the name includes links to the Detroit Red Wings’ Twitter and Wikipedia. Below are keywords indicating the accounts’ expertise. An account is considered an expert when they rank within the .1% of people talking about that topic.


There are alternatives to Klout such as Kred and PeerIndex. Kred’s algorithm and measures are a bit different and allows for more user interaction. Kred users can add real world achievements and can provide client’s a list of Twitter users who are leaders in a specific topic or industry. PeerIndex is similar and allows you to compare yourself to others in your community. However, PeerIndex only incorporates Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Quora.

Klout was founded in 2008 but many think it’s losing its relevance. Although Klout scores are a great way to get snapshot of a user’s overall influence, there are definitely some drawbacks. It’s missing key platforms such as Snapchat and Pinterest. For some influencers such as Kylie Jenner and Ariana Grande, Snapchat is one of their main platforms. There have also been issues of hiring managers taking Klout scores too seriously and making crucial decisions based on this one number without truly understanding its meaning. Some believe that you can manipulate your Klout scores by buying followers and traffic on your network. Although some of these policies have changed, there were incidents of privacy violation and people being assigned Klout scores though they didn’t opt-in on the website. Klout score can be a valuable metric but it is important to understand how they are determined and its potential drawbacks.



  1. gkhanlon · ·

    Your title was such a way to catch attention! I loved it! It is surprising how much Klout scores are used by companies, it is a very relevant measure and I agree when you say “managers taking Klout scores too seriously and making crucial decisions based on this one number without truly understanding its meaning.” While tracking the performance of TV ads or certain campaigns or which advertising channels will be successful for your company… tracking the performance of using a social influencer as a marketing strategy is very hard to place a value on. The Klout score because a very relied on tool for many managers in the decision process, but there are so many components a business must think about when to choosing and using a social influencer; the business needs to be careful in regarding more than just the Klout score. Although it is a valuable metric and it is great there is a system out there to quantify social influence with so many combined platforms!!

  2. spulde13 · ·

    I thought that this is an interesting post! Klout is a platform that I have never heard of before. I agree with your notion that this score does not include critical social media platforms such as Snapchat/Instagram, which is particularly important in today’s society- and perhaps more important than the sites listed above. I am interested to hear more about how companies use the Klout score. While I understand this system will be useful to calculate a person/company’s influence in a particular field, do companies utilize this information to help determine marketing campaigns, etc? I am guessing that a person who has a high Klout score will most likely be targeted to start in a campaign or sponsor a product, etc. I also wonder if Klout will adjust its platform soon in order to account for the additional social media platforms… otherwise, it may be likely that this will become an antiquated system. It is also interesting that this score is interactive- it is not that score is calculated once and remains stagnant but rather takes into account the changes in pop culture.

  3. emmaharney21 · ·

    This is a great post! Many of us in class are in Business Analytics so this is incredibly relevant. I am interested in what you think will happen with Klout scores, will they disappear? Do you think businesses are doing enough to incorporate this into their marketing strategies. I also am wondering what the average individuals score would be on this platform and if it can be useful for users in anyway. This metrics does a great job of putting numbers to an intangible asset, social media presence.

  4. This is very interesting as I had never heard of Klout scores before! I also really liked your title of your blog post because it goes to show that someone like Oprah, who I view to be a bit more informative and less entertainment based can have the same level of interest to people as Justin Bieber, who appeals to an entirely different demographic of younger people who view him as an entertainer and performer (which Oprah is not). I also thought it was interesting to learn that recruiters use these scores for hiring purposes as well! Thanks for educating me on the topic! Great work.

  5. gabcandelieri · ·

    Very interesting post! I had not previously heard of Klout before your commentary, but I can see how this could be a very strong tool for marketers seeking powerful influencers to bolster their digital strategy initiatives. However, I agree that Klout’s services could be better utilized in partnership with other social media tools/ factors such as number of followers on all the entity’s platforms, number of reactions to posts, likes, etc. Like you mentioned, missing out on an influencer’s Snapchat ratings is a huge drawback considering the growing scope of the platform and the growing trend toward following your favorite celebrities, athletes, and even news outlets through the app. The trick behind this tool’s relevancy seems to be frequently updated metrics, and considering the speed with which social media commentary is disseminated, calculation speed must be on point for this tool to be useful.

  6. Great post. Honestly, I had completely forgotten about Klout. It really was a nice way to assess SM influence, but there were two problems. 1) the algorithm was proprietary, so you didn’t really know what Klout score meant in real life 2) They’ve shifted to a content production model, where they try to get you to post through Klout, which I found unhelpful. Thus, as my platforms got disconnected over time, it became a less reliable measure. I had considered for a while getting students to figure out how to get their Klout score highest on their class-based platforms.

  7. Love this post and it is so interesting to hear about how these influencer scores are calculated. With so many companies and agencies look to influencers with the rising usage of influencer marketing, it is awesome how these ratings, data, and tools like Klout can help advertisers. As you mentioned, I can see the drawbacks, as Klout has to constantly update itself with new platforms like Snapchat and it will be interesting to see how as more platforms rise, will Klout be able to keep up.

  8. Aditya Murali · ·

    Very interesting blog post! I love this idea of calculating influence, and it is so cool to see all the parameters they look at when deciding on a score. As I started to read this, I thought the idea was cool but I didn’t really understand what its practical purpose could be. Then you said they can be used for companies looking for an influential user to promote their brand. This blew my mind because I’ve always wondered how game apps like Game of War chose Kate Upton as their ambassador, or how Mobile Strike chose Arnold Schwarzenegger. I realized that a Klout Score would be a great way to determine who you want, and how much you will pay them to advertise your brand.

  9. What a cool angle! When thinking about how Klout equates Justin Bieber and Oprah Winfrey, I just don’t see it being relevant on a global level. Sure, they could have equal reaches or influence in the social media world. And yes, we’re so frequently glued to our devices and other digital platforms. But does this mean that Bieber and Oprah are equally influential in the “real world”? Think of it like this: Oprah’s been a businesswoman, philanthropist, and entertainer for decades. She has quite literally touched the lives of millions of people through her efforts. Not only is she a business tycoon, but she’s an incredible role model for people (especially women!) of all ages. However you feel about the quality of his music, Justin Bieber is a singer with honestly not a great track record for being an upstanding citizen. In many ways I think he comes off as an entitled jerk with little regard for laws or even the feelings of those people in his inner circle. Sure, he has lots of teenage girls screaming after him and chanting his music. But he hasn’t (yet) entered other spheres or industries. When the screens out of it, I think it’s pretty clear that Oprah has a far more wide-reaching global impact. Plus, a high Klout score could encourage a brand to seek out Bieber, but let’s be honest here: Oprah is the golden standard!

  10. Awesome post! Like a few of the others, I had never heard of Klout before reading this post. This platform is a really cool example of how data analytics can be useful in the social media world. I can’t help but think about how this platform could be utilized for the purpose of digital business in terms of influencer marketing. Last week, I blogged about Grapevine, an influencer marketing firm that connects social media influencers with brands trying to get recognition. The campaigns that Grapevine generate are, as far as I know, based on their own analytics systems and algorithms. I wonder whether or not influencer marketing platforms look at Klout scores and how much validity they give to Klout in pairing influencers with brands and vis versa. Thanks for your post!

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