How I bought a better Klout score – and why

By Greg Stevens on September 25th, 2013

I bought a Klout score of 71 about three months ago. I paid an initial fee of $70, and from that point on it has cost me an average of $5 per day, or approximately $150 per month, to maintain.

What have I received in return for this investment? Well, approximately $100 in useless trinkets, or “Klout Perks”, since attaining my 70-plus level status.

I may also have received better customer service, and I may have gained true engagement from people who began reading my online content only because they saw that I had a 70-plus Klout score. It is impossible to know for sure. In any case, it’s impossible to attach a dollar value to these things.

Of course, there is the fact that now I get to feel “totally cool and stuff” for having a Klout score in the 70s. The dollar value of this is also unknown.

It’s doubtful that the return on investment of purchasing a high Klout score is positive in a narrow financial sense. Nonetheless, there are plenty of people out there who may be interested in trying it. So let me tell you how I did it.

Where to begin

Prior to my experiment, my personal Klout score had been steady at 64 for a very long time. I was active on Facebook and Twitter, but not really on any other social media.

I manage and write for several websites professionally, but I’ve never felt comfortable with the idea of trying to manipulate the scores for the brands that I am involved with, because that type of manipulation can cause embarrassment if discovered, and potentially can cause real harm to the brand.

On the other hand, I figured a little jiggery-pokery with my personal Klout score was fair game. I’m not a celebrity or a politician, and I’m doing it for the sake of journalism. This article is my insurance against accusations of cheating, you might say. Because I’m not a public figure, the biggest risk of discovery is a little teasing from my friends.

So you should treat this “guide” as something akin to OJ Simpson’s If I Did It, with the exception that I’m telling you upfront: I did.

Anyway, here goes.

You cannot purchase a high Klout score directly. You have to work within the system. So my first step was to try to find out what social media networks I should focus on “amplifying” in order to get the best result for my money.

Although Klout allows you to link a wide variety of social media identities to your account, it only incorporates activity on six social media networks into its score: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Foursquare, and LinkedIn.

There are very few services that offer to artificially boost likes, connections, or engagement on LinkedIn, which is probably a good thing. Because LinkedIn is by far the most professionally-oriented of the social networks, automated endorsements or follows from people outside your actual professional industry would be immediately obvious as insincere, more so than simply getting retweets from strangers on Twitter.

Most services related to Facebook have to do with purchasing Facebook “fans” for pages, and I had no desire to create a “fan page” for myself. I didn’t think that Foursquare would do me much good, because the only places I ever go are the grocery store and the gym. After researching and analyzing my friends with Klout scores over 70, also I found that not one of them had a major contribution to their scores from Google+.

That left Instagram and Twitter. Instagram was apparently the niche that I was missing out on, and could easily join and “boost” in order to improve my Klout score. I found that I knew several people personally who had mediocre engagement on Twitter and Facebook, but whose scores were in the 70s purely because they were frequent and popular Instagram users.

My decision was made: I would pay money to enhance my Twitter and Instagram presence.

What doesn’t work

Your number of followers on any network has very little impact on your Klout score. As a rule, if your goal is simply to increase your Klout score, purchasing followers is not an efficient use of your money.

However, when I first joined Instagram, I did invest $70 in purchasing 2,000 followers right off the bat. I knew that this, alone, would have little direct impact on my score; however, I was counting on there being a psychological impact. When you follow someone on Instagram, or like or comment on one of their photos, the first thing they do is look at your profile.

Some people will only follow you if they think your pictures are humorous or interesting. Some people will only follow you if they think you are hot. But there is a segment of the population who will look at the number of followers that you have, and if it is more than, say, 1,000, they will be more likely to simply assume that you are worth following. That is the segment of the population that I wanted to capture with my $70 investment.

Did it work? It is difficult to tell. When I began my experiment, I bought 2,000 followers, and gained 400 followers within the first few days as a result of real people who follow my Facebook and Twitter accounts coming over and choosing to follow me on Instagram. Right now, I have over 3,000 followers. That means that I have gained at least 600 followers in 3 months. This number could actually be higher, because I do not know how many of my purchased followers gradually disappeared through attrition.

There is no way of knowing how many of those new 600 followers added me because they thought: “Wow, he has over 2,000 followers! I need to follow him!” Maybe they just liked my pictures. As a result, that $70 may or may not have been a worthwhile expense.

Another thing that does not work well is purchasing one-time boosts in likes, favourites, or retweets for a single post on any social network. Even if it creates a small and temporary spike in your Klout score, this will go back down again almost immediately. Klout measures ongoing popularity, and has adjusted its algorithms to weed out the impact of one-time “spikes” for individual tweets, pictures, or Facebook posts.

Some people who are in the business of selling one-time, large-scale boosts of favourites or retweets will argue that it can cause a tweet or an Instagram image to “go viral”. Their argument goes like this: by purchasing, for example, 10,000 “favourites” on one of your Instagram pictures, the Instagram algorithm is more likely to automatically place that picture on the default page of their search screen. As a result, it will be seen by millions more real users, who then potentially may like the photo and follow your account.

This may be true, but I have never seen data showing that a picture that appears on Instagram’s main search page results in followers. More likely, it simply results in a boost for likes for that individual picture. And as I said before, Klout scores are relatively indifferent to the fact that you may have one or two items that are immensely popular, if the rest of your content is not.

Finally, there is another problem that comes along with the strategy of doing a one-time mass-purchase of followers, favourites, or retweets: it looks fake. Remember that the numerical ROI on inflating your Klout score is unlikely to ever be positive, which means that if you are doing this then you are doing this in part because you think it makes you seem popular.

If you normally get 3-5 retweets to every tweet, and then suddenly one of your tweets had 500, it does not make you “seem popular”. If one day your have 1000 followers, and the next day you have 11000, it does not make you “seem popular”. It looks either artificial, or like a random fluke.

So even if you’re biggest goal is some kind of ego-boosting self-aggrandisement thing – and let’s face it, there are plenty of people out there for whom this is the case – doing a one-time bulk purchase of followers, favourites or likes is not the way to go.

What works

The key to having a better Klout score is having consistent engagement with an audience over the long term. What you do not want is one-time spikes in popularity; what you do want is a slow and consistent trickle in likes, favourites, and retweets. This kind of behaviour is more realistic, and it is the behaviour that Klout’s algorithms consider to be an indication of true, ongoing popularity.

The service that I used for this is FastFollowerz. FastFollowerz is a Las Vegas based company that offers a wide variety of services related to Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and Facebook. The two services that I used were their Twitter Engagement and Instagram Engagement packages.

These packages will guarantee a certain number of automated likes (for Instagram photos) or favorites and retweets (for tweets) on every single item you post, limited to a maximum number per day. The actual number, of course, depends on how much you pay for the “package” that you buy.

All of the accounts that perform the liking and favouriting for this service are active accounts: the Instagram accounts all have pictures posted to them, and the Twitter accounts all actively tweet from time to time. FastFollwerz proudly advertises that there is nothing that can distinguish the retweets or likes that you get through their service from retweets or likes from any other user on the web.

But equally important is that the end result is a boost in the continual stream of engagement on every single one of my posts. Currently, on Instagram, my average picture has around 300 likes. On average, 100 to 200 of those are paid for, and the rest are real people who decided to like the picture just because they liked it.

FastFollowerz may not be the only company to provide a service like this, but it is the one that I used. For my goal of artificially inflating my Klout score in a way that looked natural and undetectable, it was completely successful.

The final analysis

It took six days from the day that I began my paid “Klout inflation” campaign to the day my score hit 70, and a couple more weeks before it hit 71. If I paid for a larger package I could probably push my Klout score higher.

Of course, it should be pointed out that none of this is automatic and effortless, even when you do pay money. I recently went on a vacation for 2 weeks without any social media contact. Without me posting pictures on Instagram, I did not get any automated likes. Without me posting tweets on Twitter, I did not get any automated retweets or favorites.

At the end of 2 weeks, my Klout score had dropped to 68. A week after my return, it is now almost fully recovered and is back between 70 and 71.

I also put a great deal of manual effort into managing my social accounts, in addition to the “extra boost” of the paid services. I go through my Instagram feed regularly and “like” all of the photos of people whom I follow, leaving comments now and again. Many people on Instagram use a tit-for-tat strategy, and will only come to my profile to like my things after they’ve seen that I’ve liked their most recent postings.

So liking and commenting on people’s photos becomes a manual, albeit mindless, part of my personal social media strategy as well.

This manual effort is in addition to the $150 per month to “boost” the social performance of the content that I created. What does all of this effort and money get me?

Well, there are the Klout perks. Like I said, since purchasing my Klout score of 71, I’ve only received about $100 worth of perks. I reached out to my friends who have Klout scores over 70, to see whether their experiences were comparable. On some level I thought maybe I wasn’t getting much in the way of “perks” because perhaps Klout could detect my manipulations.

But the stories that I heard from those who had come by their 70-plus scores more “honestly” were pretty much the same as mine. Over a period of time comparable to my experiment – three months – one had received a Sony Walkman ($99) and a Chili’s gift certificate ($15); another had received a shampoo and detergent package ($45) and a salt and pepper set ($15); a third received three McDonald’s gift cards ($5 each), a cookbook ($20), and an iPhone skin ($10).

Certainly, nothing valued at more than $150 per month.

Many social media promoters would like you to think that having a higher Klout score will give you a large number of indirect benefits, such as being “treated well” by companies. David Gerzof Richard, a social media and marketing professor at Emerson College, has argued that companies could use high Klout scores as an indicator of whose feedback they should take more seriously in their marketing efforts.

Certainly they could; but do they? It’s difficult to tell. I do have one friend with a Klout score over 70 who used Twitter to complain about a long-standing issue that he was having with his telephone bill. He reported that they contacted him the very next day and had it resolved.

Anecdotal stories like this abound, but once again it is difficult to establish how different the result would have been if he had a Klout score of 65, or even 45.

Personally, I have not had any difficulties with companies since purchasing my Klout score of 71, so I have not had the opportunity to test out how effective it would be for me to complain on Twitter. I have complimented some companies on Twitter since attaining my 70s-level score, and they have all tweeted back very sincere thanks.

Would they have bothered tweeting “thank you” if I had a lower Klout score? Maybe not. However, I’m not sure I can attach a dollar value to getting a “thank you” tweet from a company.

There is also a lot of ambiguous reporting about Klout scores that can give the misleading impression that having a higher Klout score will lead to your content being more popular. The internet abounds with articles entitled “Higher Klout Scores Mean More Successful Websites” and “A Klout Score Of 75 Or More Will Give You A Tweet Half-Life 70 Times Longer Than Others”.

The first title is ambiguous, and the second one is simply wrong. High Klout scores reflect a brand that is more popular, and that will therefore have a more popular website; that isn’t to say that having a high Klout score leads to the website becoming more popular.

Similarly, a Klout score of 75 or more will not “give you” anything at all when it comes to the lifespan of your tweets. The causality is in the other direction: people who are popular enough on Twitter to have tweets with a longer lifespan end up having that popularity reflected in their Klout scores.

From a numerical standpoint, and from a commercial standpoint, artificially boosting your Klout score to above 70 has very little intrinsic value. So in the end, you simply have to ask yourself: is boosting my own ego by presenting the image that I am more important or popular than I really am worth $150 per month?

Maybe it is. After all, it’s less than a monthly BMW payment.