Posted by Zach Hoffman on August 10, 2012
Add up your Twitter followers, your Facebook Friends and Likes, your Google+ +1s and your LinkedIn connections, and what do you get? When you add in a few more metrics, you end up with a Klout score, a metric that purports to measure your influence in the online world. If you haven’t heard of Klout before now, chances are that you will soon. The 3-year-old start-up from San Francisco is becoming more and more influential with each passing day. So exactly what is a Klout score and what does it matter?
Klout takes a concept that’s been floating around for a while and pumps it up to the nth degree. In a nutshell, it uses a series of algorithms and social network metrics to figure out how much influence an individual or brand has across the entire range of social networks in which he (or it) participates. The score ranges from 0 to 100, and increases or decreases in proportion with your interactions on various social networks. If monitoring your Klout online seems like a bit more navel-polishing for self-absorbed Tweeters and FB Fan-atics, a few points noted in an April Wired.com article might change your mind. These are just a few of the anecdotes recounted in that article:
• A marketing executive with 15 years of experience in the business lost out on a job because his Klout score was too low. His was 34. The job went to a candidate with a Klout score of 67.
• At a Las Vegas resort, hotel clerks checked the Klout scores of guests at check-in. Those with high Klout scores got their rooms upgraded. The special treatment paid off when the hotel jumped from 17th to 3rd place in number of Facebook Friends and has one of the highest Klout scores of any Las Vegas hotel.
• A software company checks the Klout scores of those who post complaints on Twitter or Facebook. Those with higher scores, one would imagine, get quicker treatment and responses.
• An online gift shopping site offers discounts scaled to shoppers’ Klout scores.
If all that sounds a little scary, maybe it should. The fact is that businesses have always catered to people with a lot of influence, but before Klout, measuring that influence was much more a matter of human intelligence. Klout turns it into mathematics, using an algorithm to determine your worth to a company. The more Klout you have, the more likely it is that you’ll get special treatment. Imagine a world in which your neighbor, who spends all day tweeting and posting things on Facebook gets ushered to the front of the boarding line at the airport while you languish in the waiting area waiting for the call to queue up to get on the plane. That’s the future of a marketing world where Klout is garnering more and more attention.
And it is definitely garnering attention. Rumor is that the startup company has received up to $30 million in venture funding from some of the best known venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. There are at least two imitators chasing Klout’s dust – PeerIndex and Kred. It’s also raised more than a few hackles, particularly on those who lose Klout or can’t seem to gain it. Klout scores have been knocked as being egotistical, self-aggrandizing and ridiculously lame, among other things. When Klout changed its algorithm last October, plunging many Klout scores, the reaction around the Web was swift and harsh, and even minor fluctuations can send people into a tizzy of tweets about the stupidity of the exercise in public navel gazing. Imagine the reaction of webmasters after a Google algo adjustment shaves their page ranks, and then make it personal, and you can imagine the flavor of those tweets and FB posts.
Whether you like the idea or not, chances are that services like Klout are here to stay. They’re far too valuable to marketers, who use them to find influencers who can tout their products and who, until Klout, were paying for access to this kind of data and analysis. The only way to opt out of Klout entirely is to avoid all social media – especially Twitter, which is easier to access and aggregate than other, more private social media.
If you’re curious about your own Klout score and what it means, here are a few benchmarks for you. A person with no Twitter account and no social media presence at all has a 0. The average social media user has a Klout score of 17. Klout perks start to kick in at about Klout 50. Sarah Palin has a Klout score of 72. President Obama has a Klout score of 91. And the only person in the world with a perfect Klout score of 100 is . . . Justin Bieber. That should tell you all you need to know.
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