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A major flaw in Klout’s social media influence service

A major flaw in Klout’s social media influence service


DJ Meph on Klout

Klout, a service that claims to provide metrics for social media influence and amplification, seems to have gained a lot of popularity over the course of this year. It started back in the winter when someone figured out the secret algorithm that Klout used to determine your score, and developed a strategy for automatically increasing your numbers, proving that the original algorithm wasn’t very effective. They have since changed their algorithm, and have increased their network to provide metrics for more services like Facebook, Foursquare and Youtube, but for some reason—despite the negativity that has been associated with the service—it is still used by many to recruit digital media professionals and determine their paygrade.

To me, Klout has always been something of a joke. I have seen people get tagged for influence on anything from squirrels to magic. Just like everything else on the internet, it is imperative to take control of your digital destiny, rather than allow someone on the internet to determine it for you. In that respect, I have maintained my Klout account, while having fun with some of the ridiculous topics that I have been given influential credit for.

Something happened, recently, that caused a very negative experience for both me and a local community manager. I was added to a list without permission, and associated with a company that I want absolutely nothing to do with. In fact, this company’s name has become poison to everything its attached to—to the point that having the company’s name pop up whenever someone views my public profile, which is something that has a much bigger effect on my reputation than any score or metric that Klout provides. I did not want to have my name associated with this company.

Once logged in to Klout, I could not remove myself from the list, so I did a Google search to see if I could find a solution. I discovered that there were a lot of people who had the same concern as I did, but the only solution was to try to contact the list owner and ask them to remove yourself.

Twitter has a similar issue, but unlike Klout, they have provided a solution to those who are on lists that they don’t want to be on. With Twitter, you can block a user, which will remove you from any list they’ve put you on, as well as preventing them from adding you to lists in the future.

After discovering that there was no way to resolve the issue on my own, I took to Twitter to kindly ask the company to remove me from their list. It started out nicely enough. I first sent out a couple of polite tweets, kindly asking to be removed from the list, but got no response. I found the Twitter accounts of other employees at the company, to make sure that the community manager was getting the message, but I still wasn’t able to get through. Finally, after some very stern, possibly rude and embarrassing tweets, the community manager took notice and I was removed from the list, about a week after my first petition.

This is a clear example of failure in community management, but there are a lot of community managers out there who aren’t good at their jobs, and no one should ever have to be inconvenienced because of that. We should have a recourse to use against bad community managers, otherwise they’ll never learn from their mistakes.

Shortly after this all happened I finally received an email back from Klout, here is what it said:

Hi Norman,

Sorry for the delay but at this time you cannot remove yourself from a Klout list. It’s similar to Twitter lists. Any user can add you if your profile is public. I might suggest contacting the creator of the list directly.


This kind of irked me, because not only are they dodging responsibility for the problem, they are making a false comparison of their feature to Twitter. If Klout lists were like Twitter lists, you could remove yourself from the list by blocking the user, thereby prevent them from adding you to new lists in the future. What’s really wrong with this is that it took them a longer time to respond to me than the incompetent community manager that I had to badger for an entire week—and that person actually solved my problem.

We are entering a very difficult transition into digital marketing strategy, where brand sabotage is becoming more and more commonplace. Had I not received a response from the company that I was wrongfully associated with, what would have stopped me from creating my own list, with a negative connotation, and adding them to it? I could add anyone to a list called “Cannibalistic animal rapists” and there is nothing that person could do to remove themselves from that list. I hope I’m not the only person that sees this as a major flaw in the Klout service.

Sabotage via Klout lists

There is nothing stopping somebody from doing this

As a blogger, it is unfortunate that I have to maintain a presence on the Klout service, and even more unfortunate that it is looked at as an accurate measure of my influence when companies consider me to blog for them. It is absolutely irresponsible for a social media service with that much responsibility and power to leave major security flaws like this in place. Judging by their email response, which came more than a week after my initial inquiry, they are completely aware of this issue, don’t care, and have no plans to even look into the issue, let alone fix it.

While brand sabotage is a growing concern, the internet is also making companies more transparent. The internet has also given people like me a platform to raise concerns with companies like Klout that are doing more to damage the social media frontier than they are doing to help. What do we need to do to get Klout’s attention? At what point will they start to address valid concerns from their users? Will negative blogging be enough to get their attention, or will people have to start massively abusing the service before something is done? At some point, the people at Klout need to realize that if this escalates any further, they could lose credibility altogether, and it will be too late.


  1. Jennifer Devitt This is indeed a major flaw. On some other blogs about Klout, I have in the past expressed my objection to whom Klout determines either A) Influences me or B) I influence. I had a smilar problem. Klout was saying I was influenced by a firm we avoided the like the plague. Someone with bad social media habits, and wannabe experts in our industry. I will say who influences me, thank you very much!
  2. Rick Lombardo If I follow an org that I despise, or counter an org that I despise, I might still be influenced by them, right? If so, a good metric would include these influences?
  3. primesuspect
    If I follow an org that I despise, or counter an org that I despise, I might still be influenced by them, right? If so, a good metric would include these influences?

    If you count "bad influence", sure. But is that what marketers really want? Is that information helpful to Klout's customers?

    "Hey Klout, we want to know about the bad influences too.."

    I don't see it.
  4. Megan Berry Hey DJ Meph,

    I'm the Marketing Manager here at Klout and wanted to reach out to you. We are a growing startup, working hard to add in the features and support desired by our users. We will definitely be adding many more privacy features in the near future. I thank you for bringing up the concern and hope you can be patient as we work hard to add the robust set of tools as larger companies such as Twitter have.

    Megan Berry
    Marketing Manager, Klout
  5. primesuspect
    primesuspect Thanks for reaching out, Megan :) We always appreciate company reps coming on to engage directly with interested readers and community members.
  6. djmeph
    djmeph Thank you Megan, I do understand you're going through the same growing pains as any startup would. Considering it had to come to this public criticism, which I imagine is pretty embarrassing for your company, I hope you will also look into the apathy, deceit and punctuality of your customer service department.
  7. Rick Lombardo @primesuspect so, lets say I represent an anti-broccoli group. And I campaign in social media about how I despise the pro-broccoli movement. I would expect a third party measurement group to say that I am influenced by or influential about broccoli - for or against. Maybe even listed as influencial about the pro-broccoli movement?? Let me know if I am missing the point.
  8. Cliff_Forster
    Cliff_Forster Everyone wants to be a Rockstar.

    The internet has become this magical wonderland where ordinary people come to feel important. It's the real draw of social media for 90+% of the people who participate in it. Everyone want's validation weather it's Dad's approval, or a high score on Klout, it caters to that same human need.
  9. primesuspect
    primesuspect Rick, I don't think you're missing the point, but I think that Klout needs to make a distinction about what influence actually means. For now, I think they do that by being able to sell those influence metrics to potential advertisers.

    To follow your example, why would the PRO-broccoli movement pay Klout to be able to connect with anti-broccoli folks?
  10. Rick Lombardo I think I am belaboring the point. But, in the Broccoli example, (intentionally absurd)I can't imagine a better strategy for the pro-broccoli movement than paying for, engaging and then perhaps influencing the opinion of the enemy?
  11. djmeph
    djmeph you should tell the community manager that shall remain nameless about your strategy, rick. he would probably think it's the most revolutionary idea ever.
  12. Cliff_Forster
    Cliff_Forster <iframe width="420" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/TRW27fyvwCs&quot; frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

    Did someone say broccoli??
  13. Eric Andersen This is an interesting post, I hadn't considered this issue before, but I can see it being a problem. Frankly, the Twitter solution isn't great either, blocking a person because of placement on a list doesn't seem to be an ideal solution. Inherent functionality that must accompany lists in any social network are (a) Ability to easily see which lists I am on, and (b) Ability to remove myself from lists others create. Neither Twitter nor Klout do either of these very well (e.g. Twitter has private lists). Sadly, as blogs such as RWW have noted, Lists have not been a priority for Twitter, and this priority has seemed to flow to other companies.
  14. djmeph
    djmeph Did anyone notice that my Klout score went down like 11 points after I wrote this?
  15. primesuspect
    primesuspect Everybody's did. You happened to publish this on the day Klout re-structured their scoring scheme :D
  16. djmeph
  17. ardichoke
    ardichoke Funny, my Klout score just went up infinity percent.... oh wait, that's because I just now signed up.
  18. djmeph
    djmeph I received an email response today from Klout. One month after I posted this article. Nearly five weeks since my last email response to them.
    Hi Norman,

    I am sincerely sorry for the delay in response.

    You are correct that there should be options for users to prevent getting added to undesirable lists. I am sorry I did not fully understand your perspective before. We appreciate your feedback and we will definitely keep that in mind as we build out new features.

    I'm sorry again for the delay in response -- it is completely unacceptable on my part and I take full responsibility for this. You deserve a much better experience than this. Please let me know if there's anything else I can help you with,


    They have rolled out some changes to the service, but nothing to fix this issue. I'm not sure if anyone has abused the list system yet, but they are apparently working on a solution the the problem.

    Again, I understand that these are the common growing pains of working for a startup. I work for a startup, myself. I applaud them for taking the issue seriously but remain skeptic that this will ever lead to real change.
  19. djmeph
    djmeph Keep in mind that the reason I emailed them in the first place was because they were ignoring my tweets.

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