You’re no doubt familiar with Klout, the San Francisco-based company that scores social media influence. And you’re likely aware that there's no shortage of skeptics that sites like Klout can distinguish true influencers in an ever-larger ocean of social data.
But Klout has gained so much traction that some companies are looking at prospects’ Klout scores as part of the hiring process – a controversy that got Klout's CEO involved in responding to criticism.
So, does Klout really matter? This post will examine Klout and its influence in personal branding.
What’s the secret sauce?
Klout has been around since 2008, and has grown alongside other tech notables. It uses an algorithm that pulls in data from social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, foursquare and Wikipedia. You can grant permission for Klout to access these and other networks under your profile’s Connected Networks tab.
Your ability to drive engagement through actions like comments, retweets, connections and wall posts helps boost your score. You can also give and receive +K as a sort of digital currency; the amount of +K you accumulate also factors into your Klout score. Of course, other elements of Klout’s “secret sauce” are as guarded as the Coca-Cola formula.
While you might not know exactly why your Klout score rises or falls from one day to the next, you can see how successful you are at engaging with others on the “Moments” part of your profile, which shows your most influential moments of the past few months.
Last September, Klout announced a partnership with Bing that involves Klout data being incorporated into the Bing search engine and Klout taking Bing search queries and results into account. When you search on Bing, you’ll see Klout scores and related topics for experts listed in the “People You Know” part of Bing’s Social Sidebar; this data is meant to reinforce the trustworthiness of these experts.
Within Klout itself, when you view someone’s profile you can see their list of influencers listed down the left side of the page. Just below that, you’ll see that person’s list of topics (such as Internet Marketing or SEO) where you can grant them +K to affirm their expertise. On the right side of the page, you’ll see their list of most influential Moments in social interactions.
Find influencers whom you know and see who influences them, and then find opportunities to engage these other influencers, as appropriate. You can do this by following them and learning from their interactions on other networks like Twitter.
Is Frostbox the Future?
Beyond the hiring hubbub, Klout is exerting its influence in other interesting ways. Startups like Frostbox are experimenting with the idea of giving company equity (points instead of direct equity) to influencers with high Klout scores. This is just the latest twist in the trend of giving perks, gifts and swag to those who wield a high level of social influence.
As with the hiring, some aren’t impressed with the current state of Klout perks. Yet Klout has come a long way in refining its algorithm and attempting to accurately measure our interactions, regardless of how annoyed we can become with the ups and downs of our scores or perks we might not want.
When all is said and done, remember that we're much more than just a number. Engage your audience with top-notch content, use your talents to the best of your ability and occasionally monitor your Klout score. It’s worth keeping an eye on it, but don’t be consumed by it; if you’re sending the right message to the right audience at the right time, everything else will fall into place in the long run.
For more information about how to use social media in your marketing efforts, download our Increasing Conversions with Social Media guide.