Klout scores social media users based on their amount of online influence through Facebook, Twitter, Google+, among others.
Penn State advertising major Kristina Lintz admits that although she checks her Klout score regularly, she isn’t sure how much “clout” the analytical tool really has.
Lintz had a score of 48 out of 100 as of Tuesday, an above-average score, according to Klout’s website. Anyone with a score above 63 lands in the top 5% of all users.
“It’s been higher in the past, I’m kind of surprised it was that low,” Lintz says, reflecting on whether or not her Facebook account was properly connected to the analytical tool.
Klout can not only connect to the popular Facebook and Twitter platforms, but Instagram, WordPress, Google+ and several other account types. Though Lintz checks on her score occasionally, she doesn’t use it as anything more than a tool to help gauge her social media.
Lintz says she knows employers examine social media presence among potential job candidates, but she doesn’t think they’re checking the “social influence” scores on sites such as Klout … yet.
“I don’t think they should, there isn’t a strong definition for what Klout stands for,” Lintz says. “It just seems to count interactions, it doesn’t see quality in posts. That’s probably its major downfall.”
Jonathan Groves, assistant professor of communication at Drury University, agrees with Lintz in the problem of only evaluating interactions.
In classes for Drury’s graduate social media program, Groves and other communication professors teach the importance — and the drawbacks — of Klout.
He said the focus for students should be on the actual content of their posts and attracting the audiences that best represent their professional interests.
“I see problems with things like Klout, as someone who studies social media,” Groves says. “It seems interested in what I consider short-term gains. Social media is like a good relationship; to build a good following and connections takes time, like a good friendship.”
He says wise companies will realize this and look at it (Klout) as one of many ways to scope out a potential employee’s social media presence.
Digital marketing strategist Glen Gilmore says that unfortunately, some companies might single out people with higher scores on sites such as Klout, PeerIndex or Kred.
Gilmore, who recently spoke at Rutgers University on social media presence, says he thinks LinkedIn profiles still trump Klout or any other analytical platform when people make professional judgments.
Although Klout is important, Gilmore says, he doesn’t think it’s the definition of having social media “clout.”
“It becomes a distraction – it becomes a detour from real leadership,” Gilmore says. “It’s different for students who are really passionate about a field. Write a strong blog, it may not get you an increased Klout score, but it’s the start of real thought leadership.”
Another downfall of sites such as Kred and Klout, according to Gilmore and Groves, is the possibility that they can be “gamed.” Users can figure out the site’s algorithm and take advantage of it by increasing a score to seem influential.
An article written by Devin Gaffney at the University of Oxford and Cornelius Puschmann at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin looked at the gaming of Klout.
The authors say Klout “gamifies” influence and creates a competitive environment that hurts other users.
Gaffney and Puschmann argue that Klout should consider issues such as context and theoretical soundness before attempting to measure social media influence.
“You can come across someone with an astronomical Klout score, but they aren’t actually engaging in a fair way,” Gilmore says. “Students need to know that gaming a system like this won’t help them in the long run.”
Gilmore and Groves agree that building a strong personal online presence is an appropriate alternative to trying to increase a Klout score for employers.
“Facebook and Twitter accounts are a part of your resume,” Gilmore says. “Those will be looked at before Klout.”
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