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What is your social media influence score? (And does it matter?)

You’re working on building your author platform. You’re blogging, you’re tweeting, you’re Linked In, and you’re posting to your Facebook author page. But how can you tell if all those hours spent on the social media treadmill are having an impact?

On your blog, you can monitor how many unique visitors and page views you’re getting by installing StatCounter, SiteMeter, Google Analytics, or another service. (I use both StatCounter and Google Analytics—one to get the quick overview and the other to get in-depth feedback about which posts are most popular, where my visitors are coming from, etc.)

On Twitter and Facebook, there are several tools out there that measure “social media influence,” the most popular of which is Klout. Initially, Klout only measured your influence on Twitter, but as of late last year, Klout began including Facebook in its metric, and LinkedIn integration is on its way. Although some people argue that Klout doesn’t count, companies like Virgin America and the Las Vegas Palms Hotel have begun giving VIP benefits to people with high Klout scores. Why? Because they figure those people will mention their products to their large number of Facebook and Twitter followers, which will boost sales. Smart advertising.

But Klout is about more than how many followers you have. It’s about how frequently your tweets are retweeted, how many followers your followers have, how many followers the people who retweet you have, etc. There are many factors involved in calculating your Klout score, including your True Reach, Amplification Probability, and Network Influence.

To give you a rough idea of what people’s Klout scores are, mine is currently 48, Nathan Bransford’s is 69, author and social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk’s is 77, Barack Obama’s is 88, Lady Gaga’s is 92, and Justin Bieber’s is 100. In other words, if you have a score in the 60s or above, you’re doing pretty damn well.

Brian Meeks, a novelist and woodworker who blogs at ExtremelyAverage, has a Klout score of 66. What is his secret?:

“I focus on keeping a clean list of followers. I am not sure exactly how they calculate the scores, but I do keep my eyes on the number of RTs and Mentions. These are two of my favorite metrics, because one simply needs to be social to increase the mentions. When we have discussions with one another, we generate @ mentions. It is the point of social media. This is a component of the Amplification metric and probably where I focus the most. I also try to slowly build a few new good followers per day. I look for people who get it, have similar interests, and tweet more than just links. I have found people with 50K followers who only have 50 Klout scores. These people don’t get it. They are generally spammers or only tweet links promoting themselves.”

Brian has great advice, especially about @ mentions, because you can increase your score simply by talking to people. Give this a try, and you find it’s a lot of fun to get to know people more than simply as followers. However, before you spend too much time trying to increase your Klout score, do agents and editors even LOOK at social media influence scores? As a writer, I’m guessing your goal isn’t to get upgrades at the Palms Hotel in Las Vegas, so let’s take a look at what a few industry insiders have to say:

Danielle Svetcov, literary agent with Levine Greenberg Literary Agency
“I’d never heard of Klout til you mentioned it. Now I will use it. This is how it always seems to work: Every time the Web gives us a new way to measure influence and sway in the marketplace, we have a new variable to factor into our picking and choosing. This can work in a writer’s favor if he/she is gifted in the influence and sway depts., and if the subject of the book (almost always non-fiction) is the area in which the writer has power and sway. If, however, the writer is simply gifted as a writer, and has terrible Klout, Twitter, Facebook scores, then those measurements may actually misdirect the gatekeepers (me, editors, etc). In short, Klout, Twitter, and Facebook can sometimes be very helpful for determining the potential audience of a book (and therefore an appropriate advance), but I’d be scared if they became the sole determiners of the future’s literary voices.

(Social media influence is coming into play in every genre. It’s become quite essential for selling non-fiction; it’s not so essential for fiction, but I’m sure if a fiction author had 20,000 Twitter followers, the writer’s agent wouldn’t fail to mention it in her submission letter to editors. Depends what kind of book it is. I wouldn’t usually do this for fiction, but for nonfiction where platform matters more, I would.)”

David Patterson, literary agent with Foundry Literary + Media

“Huge social media numbers can impress a publisher, and therefore also be attractive to and useful for an agent, and so of course if a client or potential client is well-versed and is being followed and read on social media, I’d want to know about that, but I have some clients who are not on Twitter, or Facebook, and are not blogging, and that is A-OK!

I haven’t heard of agents or publishers using Klout or Sprout Social or such services to provide any metrics yet, but suspect that some are, and am sure that more will be soon. It’ll most likely be through venues such as your blog that more publishers will start to hear of them.”

Weronika Janczuk, literary agent with D4EO

I have to be completely honest with you; until you mentioned Klout scores, I’d never heard the term, so I turned to (the ever diligent) Google. I have never, ever looked at any of these numbers, Klout our not, when deciding whether or not to take on a client; content is always more important for me, so if I were ever to see a potential client acting rudely, etc., I would reconsider my interest to offer. You might think that a Klout score would be semi-important in deciding whether or not to take on a non-fiction client, since platform matters therein, but Twitter always ought to exist on the periphery of whatever platform the writer has built (more closely related would be a blog, and numbers would definitely matter then, if the guaranteed audience for a book stemmed from the number of readers of a particular blog). Consistency and content, etc., would be a conversation I would pick up with said writer once they signed with me. 

Though I can’t be certain, I would be willing to bet that this kind of take on numbers is the same amongst most agents; with fiction, what impresses us most are really, really good books (publishing, when it does fall in love with fiction, can still be very kind to a debut), whereas with non-fiction it’s everything that is directly related to the content (and, unless it’s a book on Twitter, like I said, those numbers fall to periphery).

Michelle Brower, literary agent with Folio Literary Management.

“Honestly, this is the first time I’ve heard of a Klout score, so the answer would be, for me, “not at all”! I work with many fiction and narrative writers, where style and story are really my biggest criteria. I’ve found that social media can help spread the word about their books, but in and of itself doesn’t affect my client decisions.”

Brendan Curry, Senior Editor at W. W. Norton & Co.

“I’m pretty well convinced that while you can teach someone social media outreach skills, you can’t teach authorial uniqueness. Which is another way of saying that if I’m not excited by the subject matter or the author’s presentation of it, a high social media influencing score isn’t going to win me over. To me those scores are secondary effects of being a pretty damn interesting person.”

Daniela Rapp, Editor at St. Martin’s Press

“We do take authors’ social media platforms into very serious consideration, but as far as I know we don’t use an overall score to determine their “clout,” but rather look at their number of Twitter followers, Facebook fans, Web site hits or blog popularity. And in the end, no matter how high their score may be, if we don’t love the project, we won’t sign it up just because the author happens to be popular.”

Mollie Glick, literary agent with Foundry Literary + Media
(via smartphone)

“Depends what kind of book it is. I wouldn’t usually [look at Klout scores] for fiction, but for nonfiction where platform matters more, I would.”

* * *

So there you have it. The short answer is that the quality of your writing matters much more than your Klout score, unless you’re writing nonfiction, and unless you have thousands of Twitter followers.

What do you think? Have you used Klout, Sprout Social, or any of the other social media influence-scoring platforms? Will you now that you know agents are going to start looking at them?

17 comments to What is your social media influence score? (And does it matter?)

  • Kristan

    I'm glad to see that Klout — a very interesting metric, thank you for sharing it! — isn't being used by many literary agents (it would seem) as a determination for picking clients. To me that's all about the wrong thing. Do you want savvy authors? Of course. But you *need* authors who can write a good story. We all need that.

    Still, that doesn't mean I won't be checking my Klout score from time to time. 😉

  • Kristan, I was also happy to hear that agents are more interested in great writing than in high Klout scores. Klout can be very addictive, like Twitter and Facebook. I think it's important to know whether your social media efforts are effective, but even more important to turn on Freedom and get some writing done.

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  • I feel like the most important aspect of high Klout, is what it means to a book launch. Klout is a measure of ability to reach people, people who are really listening.

    Because Kindle updates their rankings hourly, a tweet which gets retweeted, can cause a spike is sales. If one can climb into a Top 100 list, even for a day, it may mean exposure they would not otherwise get. This gives one the chance to reach readers who, if they purchase the book, and then should leave a comment, may help it maintain the exposure.

    Amanda Hocking had 400 sales on Kindle in May of last year, by July she was at 10,000, and in January, her books sold over 450,000 (admittedly she was adding a new novel every month or so). Her Klout score over the last month has run between 62-65.

    I agree that quality matters most, because without it, one will never gain an audience. However, without the Klout (not necessairly a high score, but what it represents) to draw the first few eyeballs, a brilliant manuscript may languish in obscurity for all of time.


    Brian Meeks

  • Brian, I agree very much with this statement:

    "I agree that quality matters most, because without it, one will never gain an audience. However, without the Klout (not necessairly a high score, but what it represents) to draw the first few eyeballs, a brilliant manuscript may languish in obscurity for all of time."

    I'm wondering how you interpret Amanda Hocking's Klout score. Do you consider 62-65 high for someone selling hundreds of thousands of books? I think the whole Amazon ranking is worth its own post. I'll put that in my queue.

  • For Ms. Hocking, I think it is a matter of having the Klout to get her book high enough to get noticed. After that, her writing did the rest. I have read that she writes 8-10 hours per day, so considering her output, I would say that all things considered, she has done very good to get her Klout into the 60's. I don't imagine she spends very much time on it, but if she pushed I am sure she could rise very quickly.

  • Interesting that the agents you mention were new to Klout–never heard of it before. Whereas, your Twitter followers are familiar with Klout, Grader, and maybe some other metric generators.

    Also notable how the genre could reflect on Klout interest and scores.

    Good job, Meghan.

    • Rob – I was surprised that not one of the agents or editors I spoke to had heard of Klout (I've never heard of Grader, by the way. I know of other metric generators, but not that one.) Because I'm writing a memoir, I asked one person where that fell, and the feeling was that it was closest to nonfiction in that yes, it could benefit from some Klout. However, it isn't as necessary to blog/tweet about the topic of the book as it is with straight nonfiction. (ie if I'm writing a fashion memoir, which I am, it's not necessary that I blog about fashion.)

  • sierragodfrey

    I would have been very surprised if any of the agents you asked about this attributed any sort of worth to a Klout score. Klout isn't well known yet If Klout becomes as frequent a name like Twitter or Facebook, I bet it starts mattering a lot more. And my guess is that in a few years (maybe less) it WILL matter.

    Incidentally, my Klout score is 47, a point below yours, which hugely annoyed me. I shall have to remedy that. 🙂

    • meghancward

      Sierra – I think more agents and editors are going to start looking at Klout scores starting this week! And, by the way, last week your Klout score was 48 (I looked it up) and mine was 41, which hugely annoyed me. I had to remedy that 🙂

  • Suzanne Boles

    Great post. Thanks for sharing it. Other writers and my students ask if Social Media is valuable or a waste of time. For me I'd say it can be both – I have wasted time on it and felt like I'm wasting time, but people are getting to know me and I'm carving out a small niche in a big pond. I have plans for a more focused writing and social media will factor into that.

    On another note, it's almost scary that JB ranks higher than the President of the United States. Just so you know, I say this as a dual US/Canadian Citizen living in Canada, about an hour away from JB's hometown.

  • […] first learned about Klout when I read this article by Meghan Ward, a book editor and author of her memoir, “Paris On Less Than $10,000 a Day” and […]

  • […] in April, when I wrote this blog post about Klout, that was true. When I interviewed agents and editors in the publishing industry, none of them had […]

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  • I'm glad to discover in which Klout — an extremely fascinating metric, thank you for revealing this! — just isn't used simply by several literary brokers (it would likely seem) like a determination for selecting buyers. To me that is about a bad point. Do you need knowledgeable experts? Needless to say. Nevertheless, you *need* experts who is able to write a superb report. We all need in which.

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