Op-Ed: ‘Klout Bomb’ Defined

By Kiran Aditham 

Do you care about your Klout score? Well, if you’re all hung on “your ability to drive action”, here’s a little ditty from Megan Wintersteen, strategic planner at Blacksburg, VA-based digital shop Modea, who discusses the art of “Klout bombing.”

The credibility of a Klout score has been a controversial topic for some time now. Regardless of whether or not you believe in it, one thing is for sure – Klout has spawned one of the most spectacular Internet pranks to date: Klout Bombing.

Klout is a tool that measures the influence of a social media user across a variety of topics. Beyond Klout-assigned topics of influence, users may also award +K’s to each other as a demonstration of expertise.  A Klout Bomb occurs when the awarded topic is something sarcastic, ironic or derogatory towards that person. In other words, something he or she typically would not want to be affiliated with.


I would know because I’ve been Klout Bombed.

One of my wise-guy coworkers decided it would be funny to +K me in “Prison” on Klout (for the record, I’ve never been anywhere near a prison). After expressing my dissatisfaction, other coworkers and friends found entertainment in increasing my influence in “Prison,” and it ultimately became a running joke around the office.

The good news is that I have the ability to delete this topic at any time if it becomes legitimately detrimental to my reputation. However, if you’re not an active Klout user, or don’t know anything about it, it’s likely that you’re unaware of your topics of influence on Klout.

A recent Mashable article highlighted one of the latest Klout Bomb victims: Rick Santorum. Klout users who have disagreed with Santorum’s views have awarded him with topics of influence in: “Diaper,” “Homophobia,” “Homosexuality” and “Racism.” The article goes on to explain that Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama were also bombed with embarrassing topics.

It’s no surprise that a controversial topic such as politics would be the place for Klout Bombs to drop, but Modea wanted to see what else it could find. Inspired, my colleagues and I took to the interwebs to see if we could uncover a few more bombs that may have gone unnoticed. Here’s what we discovered:

5. After numerous bouts of rehab in 2010, the New Year shed new light on one of Lindsay Lohan’s many, barely average talents: shoplifting. Lohan was charged with stealing a $2,500 necklace from a Venice jeweler after being caught on camera. Lohan, who clearly doesn’t have a care in the world for her reputation, has been bombed with “Security” and “Hangover.”

4. Facebook is listed as influential in “Breastfeeding.” Hey, haters gon’ hate, right?

3. One can only assume that the large amount of people repaying student loans earned Sallie Mae influence in “Slavery.” So much so that it is actually ranked #6 on the Top +K Recipients in “Slavery” list on Klout.

2. Texas’ 47th Governor Rick Perry was bombed with “Homophobia” after releasing his “Strong” campaign spot containing controversial remarks about gays openly serving in the military and religion in schools. His comments spurred immense backlash from the online community via Klout and also in the form of spoofs like this one from Comedy Couple. Want to see more people make fun of Perry? Click here.

Drum roll please…

1. And our top Klout Bomb victim goes to the one and only Chris Brown. In this case, it would be inappropriate to say that users have awarded him with topics, so instead, let’s just say that he has been labeled with influence in “Domestic Violence,” “Diaper,” “Sucker Punch,” “Boxing” and “Cloth Diapers.” These topics followed his arrest in 2009 for allegedly assaulting fellow singer/songwriter, and girlfriend, Rihanna.

But wait! There must be a way to harness this power for good, right? That’s the beauty of it: Klout Bombs don’t have to be bad. Brands can award key followers and advocates with Klout Bombs as a way to show their appreciation, therefore increasing that user’s Klout score while also awarding him/her with genuine influence. What Apple Fan Boy wouldn’t want to be tagged as influential in Apple?

Brands can also use Klout Bombs as a means of participatory branding to support a cause. For example, Brand X would ask followers to Klout Bomb them in a particular topic and if it reached strong influence in a designated amount of time, the brand would support a charity. Essentially, the brand would be asking users to donate their +K’s (Users receive a standard 10 +K’s per day) for a cause. It’s an easy way to allow its audience to have an impact on the broader narrative of the brand.

Here at Modea, we’re looking forward to seeing how Klout Bombing evolves — and if brands can discover innovative ways to use it to their advantage. In the meantime, I’ll be maintaining my Klout expertise in “Prison,” and hoping I don’t end up as the victim of yet another Bomb.