Is Behind the Spin wrong to use Klout and Peerindex for #socialstudent?

This is an article by David Clare.
You could write for Behind the Spin too. Find out how here.

The #socialstudent list that appears each week on Behind the Spin is a great way to get students more involved online, in a proactive way. We believe it encourages students to take social media more seriously, realise it is an incredibly useful tool that could land you a job, or at the very least a tool that should be managed carefully as it will affect your reputation. There is one problem though. The list is powered by influencer measurement tools ‘Peerindex’ and ‘Klout’ – and these have a habit of being slightly inaccurate.

Klout and Peerindex both work in a similar way. They both analyse a person’s Twitter account, looking at how many people they follow and how many they are followed by, the number of tweets they make, retweets, mentions and favourited tweets they receive and the number of clicks their links receive. They are powered by algorithms and the one thing this lacks is human understanding.

This lack of human interaction results in accounts that spam messages, but receive high volumes of retweets or lots of followers, will receive high scores of influence. The algorithm decides the account is influential as it generates interactions and is well regarded by the high number of followers, but in reality it may just be @big_ben_clock, which tweets only the word ‘bong’, has over 100k followers and a Klout score of 68.

The argument against social media influence scores is a strong one. Attaching a number to a Twitter account offers no context and is completely flawed by not realising the person’s offline influence that can give them online authority, despite being too active on Twitter. But I do have this to say: haters gonna hate.

Sure, using Klout and Peerindex may not be the best tool around, and yes I am very aware of the fury at the services in the blogosphere at the moment (although it does seem somewhat of a bandwagon and a little perspective could help). But let’s look at what the #socialstudent list achieves:

  • Encourages students to take social media more seriously. It is still new to all of us and the best way to learn is to dive right in.
  • Provides a quality list for the PR industry on who is up and coming. Sure, there may be some people not on the list, or some geniuses that just do not like Twitter. But it is quite likely that the people at the top of the list are social media savvy and good at their own PR and therefore at least worth looking into.
  • Gives PR students something to show to prospective employees. We often forget that university is actually hard work and gaining the relevant experience can be difficult. If a student is able to say they were in the top ten of the #socialstudent list it could go a long way.
  • Helps Behind the Spin keep connected with PR students nationwide. As our origins are with Leeds Met it comes as no surprise that many articles are from Leeds Met students. The #socialstudent list helps engage with students all over the country and highlights the opportunity writing for Behind the Spin gives.

I dislike Klout and Peerindex. Both have said I am influential in areas I am not. Both have listed me as influential as MDs of major PR companies when I could only wish I was. But what they do offer is a quick glimpse at who may be influential. To take these measurement services without an entire tablespoon of salt is ridiculous, which makes me wonder why there is such fury about them – were all these angry bloggers unaware the services were flawed until just now? I think not. What I do think is that we need to focus on the positives, not the negatives, and use the services in a smart, productive way.

If you are a decision maker at a PR company and  come across our #socialstudent list, then don’t automatically hire the person in the #1 spot, or dismiss the list altogether for using such measurements – instead look into the top 10, maybe even the top 20. Once you’ve done your homework you’ll soon find that we were right about some of them – they are influential, they are smart and you want them working in your agency.

To answer the question posed in the title of this article. No, Behind the Spin is not wrong to use Klout and Peerindex for the #socialstudent listing. As argued above it achieves a purpose, but we do welcome all suggestion on how it can be improved, so if you have any thoughts, please feel free to comment below.


  1. You are very fair, David, in that you dislike Klout and PeerIndex equally – and can see the upside as well as the downside of our ranking.

    It’s currently fashionable to attack Klout for its metrics and for its business model but its smaller UK rival PeerIndex tends to get left out of these discussions.

    Yet I look at my remarkably steady scores on both and they are very close (Klout: 46; PeerIndex 45).

    What I like about #socialstudent (and you’ve mentioned this) is that it encourages individual and inter-university competition. What I dislike is that an obsession with scores can become unhealthy (too much tweeting is not a good thing).

  2. In general I have to say that #socialstudent is a great idea!

    If Klout and Peerindex are indeed the best (free) tools to measure online influence at the moment, then I think it’s fine to use them.

    What I however don’t understand is, how both scores can be so hugely different from one another. I got a decent 48 at Klout but only 11 at PeerIndex.

    If both analyse the same pages with the same content, how can there be such a big difference?

  3. This is a timely article. Students have come and gone and Klout and Peerindex have inexplicably fluctuated. I can relate to David’s point about being branded influential in topics I am most certainly not.

    According to Klout I am very influential in ‘Heroes (TV Series)’ which I have never watched! This has most likely been generated from the algorithmic calculation based upon my tweets about a veteran raising money for Help For Heroes.

    Nonetheless, the ranking are beginning to stabilise now that the manjority of students have been entered and I agree that it is a good reminder for students to engage with social jungle and as Richard points out it is a great way to encourage some friendly inter-university competition.

  4. To respond to Serge, you’re not alone. There are several students on the list who have very high Klout scores (50+) but are stuck at 11 on PeerIndex. Indeed, there’s a pattern with PeerIndex being harder to please. That’s why I showed my own stats because they’re almost identical.

    My explanation? Most students are actively social, and Klout seems (unduly) impressed by the quantity of tweets, and penalises those who take a few days off.

    PeerIndex takes longer to gauge a person’s influence. I’ve always argued that influence (on social media and in real life) is more of a marathon than a sprint, but I must acknowledge that some first year undergrads have sprinted up the ranking.

    In truth, we’re all learning (and that certainly includes me).

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