Why I Quit Klout, Why You Should, Too, And How To Opt Out

Why I Quit Klout

When I opted out of Klout this evening, it was only after I did a lot of reading. I had the healthy Klout score of 53, which put me in the top 5-10% of Klout users, and I didn't want to make any premature decisions if it turned out that Klout, indeed, had desirable clout.

When I originally thought I might opt out of Klout, it was for a number of reasons, including but not limited to:
  1. Klout lacks transparency about the fact that they only measure influence based on 4 of the 13 networks presently on offer for connection.
  2. Privacy issues raise red flags about any organization.
  3. Readily apparent issues with their algorithm to accurately measure influence remain despite user outcry.
  4. Their unspoken encouragement to interact with others based on their Klout scores rather than on an honest desire to engage breeds a negative social media culture.
  5. Despite my misgivings, I found myself becoming increasingly concerned about a fairly arbitrary number.
In the end, after reading tens of articles about Klout and its influence, I realized that not only were my misgivings entirely valid, but also that there were a number of other important reasons to choose to leave Klout and influence others to follow my lead.


Why You Should Quit Klout

When you share your information, you are inadvertently handing your friends' information over, too:
Klout operates under American privacy law, or rather, the lack of it. If you created a Klout account in the past, you were unable to delete it short of sending legal letters (until November 1st, when they kindly added an "opt out" mechanism). More to the point, Klout analyse your social graph and create accounts for all your contacts without asking them for prior consent. It also appears to use an unwitting user's Twitter or FB credentials to post updates on their Klout scores, prompting the curious-but-ignorant to click on a link to Klout, whereupon they will be offered a chance to log in with their Facebook or Twitter credentials. So it spreads like herpes and it's just as hard to get rid of. Is that all?  (Charlie Stross at Charlie's Diary)
Klout created public profiles for private Facebook users who did not opt in to the service:
In the days just before Halloween, Ms. McGary got the fright of her life when she checked her Klout profile. Hovering above her score were the faces and names of those over whom she had influence, as calculated by Klout. They included her 13-year-old son, Matthew.  (Somini Sengupta at The New York Times)
It is important to note that Klout's CEO has issued an apology about their privacy violations:
We will always be vigilant in working with the platforms (Twitter/Facebook/etc), our legal counsel, and the community to do what's right here. We messed up on this one and are deeply sorry.  (Joe Fernandez at The Official Klout Blog)
The only entity that crowned Klout the standard for influence is Klout:
Who made Klout the arbiter of online influence, aside from Klout itself? I could rank your influence online.  (John Scalzi at CNN Money)
Klout affects the livelihood of some individuals based on a faulty algorithm:
Marketers, of course, have a huge stake in this rating process. Influence is one of the metrics our clients look for, and our performance and reputation is also scrutinized by potential clients. So yes, Klout, you probably cost me some money this week.  (John McTigue at Kuno Creative)
Klout's algorithm is not built with the average user in mind:
Based on my experiment, it appears that Klout’s algorithm changes are not focused on improving their social measurement system, but a clueless attempt to prop up larger brands and celebrities anti-social behavior and stifle effective relationship building that leads to ROI for those that do it right. -OR- even worse, tech geeks and scientific formulas that have no real understanding of social media and it’s proper use in business.  (Robert M. Caruso at Bundle Post)
A very real problem is that there may not be much impetus for Klout to work to create an algorithm that accurately assesses each user:
So, as an advertiser, do I care whether your Klout score is one or two points higher than it should be? Do I care if, out of the 1,000 influencers I want to reach, 100 of them are slightly mismatched? Do I care that I’m considered influential about 50 Cent? Do I care that Klout can be gamed?

As long as I get scale and reach within my geography, I don’t think I do and I don’t think clients do either. As long as, in aggregate, the 100mm people that Klout indexes are, plus or minus 5%, the right place on the bell curve, I think it’s a worthwhile system to use.  (Ed Lee)
Klout is affecting our social interactions online in ways that may not actually be beneficial to our personal and professional goals outside Klout's particular standards of influence:
We are highly conditionable beings. Klout is conditioning us to care about Klout, and to value ourselves — in the identity economy of social media — in terms of it.  (Bonnie Stewart at Salon.com)
Klout's standards for calculating influence demand less meaningful kinds of interaction in the interest of better scores:
First, if you actually communicate with people one-on-one rather than just doing mass broadcasts, it can negatively impact your score.

Second, if you engage with people with lower Klout scores, it can also negatively impact your own score.  (Sharon Hayes)
Klout's lack of transparency makes users believe that they are being assessed across networks that have no bearing upon their score:
They tricked me into connecting networks that aren’t included in scoring algorithm.  (Pam Moore at Business 2 Community)
Klout is unable to assign appropriate, related topics to users that even make contextual sense a good portion of the time:
I can understand that Klout might be right about a few things; I do talk about community management, writing, blogging, parenting, and being a mom a lot – but Barbies? I wrote one post on the symbolism of Barbie and growing up and now I’m influential about it. Try again Klout. I’m no more influential about Barbies than I am about NASA.  (Nichole L. Smith)
Klout's mysteriously derived metrics aren't really the standard for proving influence that they say they are:
If you need to look at my Klout score to determine if I have influence, I don't.  (Jeff Turner)
Klout's continuing lack of transparency doesn't breed a sense of trust in their system:
This issue I have with this is the complete lack of honesty and transparency coming from Klout. At almost every juncture, Klout chooses obfuscation and dishonesty, rather than transparency and good citizenship. A constant stream of PR-speak, half-truths and misdirection.  (Hollis Tibbetts at Social Media Today)
And then, there's nothing like honest engagement:
Conversations are better when no one is keeping score.  (Chris Sacca on Twitter)
Klout claims to be making improvements, but, due to a lack of the transparency and accuracy they claimed to have but completely failed to exhibit while calling themselves the standard for influence, I don't feel inspired to put either my faith or my and my friends' information behind Klout's metric. Klout's apparently growing power to influence how we interact with each other and how marketers and organizations define social influence makes their privacy issues, status as a network that opts you in without consent, lack of accuracy, failure at transparency, inaccuracy both with scores and topics, unfounded claim of legitimacy, and inability to value deeper versus broad engagement a real and growing concern.

I realized that not opting out of Klout's network meant tacit support of Klout's methods of measurement and the very real effects that those flawed metrics have on individuals both personally and professionally. Unless I opted out, I was lending active support to their system of measurement as it now stands, and it is simply not one I want to back.


How to Opt Out of Klout

Whether you signed up for Klout or not, Klout has likely created a public profile for you already. It is a system that opts you in without your permission simply because you have social media accounts elsewhere. To find out if you need to opt your information out of their system, simply go to http://klout.com/YourTwitterUsername to see if they have opted you in.
  1. Log in to Klout.

  2. Go to Klout's Privacy Policy.

  3. Under the Use of Data heading near the bottom of the Privacy Policy page, click on "click here".

  4. Click on "Continue opting-out" near the bottom of the following page.

  5. Fill out the form with your reason for opting out and your name and click "Submit".

  6. The following message will pop up:
    Thanks, you have successfully opted out of Klout. You will be removed from Klout.com within 24-48 hours. You will be removed from our API within 7 days. If you decide to opt back into Klout you will have to sign up again and it will take at least 90 days for us to accurately measure your influence. For the quickest removal from our systems you can choose to deauthorize the Klout app from your social accounts by going into the relevant network’s settings page.
    Unfortunately, you are potentially still in their system for a time after you opt out, but at least your profile will be taken out of circulation and you will be on your way to withdrawing your support of their system.
UPDATE: It turns out that Klout will still be pulling your information from all of the sites you once gave it access to even if you opt out on the Klout site. In order to truly opt out of Klout, you also have to change your access settings on each of the sites you handed over. (Thanks for the heads up, MommyKatandKids!)

Click here to get simple directions to opt your other social media sites out of Klout.

So, after all is said and done, are you staying with Klout or opting out of the network? Why?