Innovation

How Seriously Should You Take a Klout Score?

Klout offers a useful gauge of social-media activity. But you should never uses its scores to rate a person or company's overall influence

Written by Cybele Negris

In a world in which everything is graded and measured, it’s not surprising that there’s now a company that measures influence in social media. But there’s a huge debate over whether Klout is what it purports to be—”the standard of influence,” according to the company’s tagline—or whether it’s a waste of time.

Launched in 2008, Klout has come up with a set of algorithms to measure the social-media activity of individuals and businesses. The company gives each person or business a score ranging from one to 100. For example, U.S. President Barack Obama has a score of 99, and until recent upgrades to the algorithm, Justin Bieber had the highest score of 100. (He’s currently at 92.)

Celebrities have high scores because they’re being talked about and mentioned a lot in social media. Heavy users of social media who constantly post content will also have high scores. Activity on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Klout, Foursquare and Wikipedia have the most effect on scores.

Responding to complaints about the inaccuracy of its measurements, Klout recently upgraded its algorithms to include factors like job titles taken from LinkedIn profiles in an effort to better reflect real world influence. It has also improved its algorithms to take into account the number of different people sharing social-media posts, rather than the same few people sharing posts.

So what’s all the fuss about Klout?

There are a growing number of stories in the media about companies checking a job candidate’s Klout score and hiring those with higher scores. Other stories include hotels or airlines checking guests’ scores and giving free upgrades to those with higher scores. So, for those who have tried to ignore it, some parts of our world have reduced people to a single number based on their popularity in social media, which entitles them to better service, jobs or other benefits.

Some people have denounced Klout for these reasons and opted to avoid it completely. Others say that the people who object are the ones with low Klout scores. With all this debate, should small and mid-sized businesses really care?

Klout is not perfect. It should never be taken as a sole measurement to determine whether someone is important or a better candidate for an job opening. You might have heard about people buying Facebook fans or Twitter followers to bump up those numbers.

There are ways to increase a Klout score, so it’s best not to take someone’s high score at face value. From my observation, it seems that people who post a lot on Facebook have very high Klout scores, more so than those who are very active on Twitter. The type of content being posted doesn’t seem to matter, because Klout measures the amount of activity generated as a result of your posts. So if you post a lot of pictures (particularly shocking ones) or funny jokes on Facebook, you’ll get more people sharing these and have a higher Klout score than if you share educational content.

If you’re engaged in social media, you should connect your various accounts to Klout to get a better understanding of which posts on which social-media platform have the most impact for your audience.

Read: Stop Being Freaked Out by Social Media

But remember what Klout is. It simply measures the amount of social-media activity someone generates. So, if you equate that directly with someone’s true influence across other avenues in life, then you’re making a huge mistake. Participate in social media to build your brand, connect with and have conversations with your customers and listen to their feedback. But don’t interact on social media just to build your Klout score; instead, do it to build lasting relationships.

This column is reposted with the permission of Business in Vancouver, which posted it originally on www.biv.com.

Cybele Negris is president and co-founder of Vancouver-based Webnames.ca Inc., Canada’s original .ca registrar and one of the country’s leading providers of web hosting and other internet solutions. She has been on the PROFIT/Chatelaine W100 ranking of Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs for the past nine years.

More columns by Cybele Negris

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com