Final Analysis: Under the Influence

Someday, your Klout score will be more important than your credit score. Sigh.

By John Levesque June 5, 2012


Do you know your Klout score?

I used to be an 11. In the world of social media, it was appalling. On a Darwinian level, it put me somewhere between fungi and green algae.

Should anyone really care? Joe Fernandez, who founded Klout in 2008, thinks so. Last year, he told students in an MBA class at New York University: We really believe every person that creates content online has influence. We want to understand who they influence and what theyre influential about, and reward them for that.

The rewards Fernandez refers toKlout calls them perksare goodies that Klout showers upon its members to induce them to be more active in social media, so they can get even more stuff. In May, Cathay Pacific Airways opened its First and Business Class Lounge at San Francisco International Airport to Klout members with scores of 40 or higher. Nothing says influence like being able to go where the rest of the great unwashed cannot.

So heres the drill: If you spend a lot of time telling us on Twitter what you had for lunch, or sharing on Facebook what youre having for dinner, you can win swag from And your score goes up. Does this really mean anything in the grand scheme? Im doubtful. But Im also curious. So I joined Klout.

As noted earlier, I was an 11 at first. In Klouts parlance, I was an observer, happy to hang out on the fringes of social media, keeping abreast of whats going on but not inclined to cannonball into the deep end. Then I woke up one day and my score was a 43. (Hello, Cathay Pacific!)

I have no idea what I did to merit such a bump. I had done no cannonballing in my sleep. Hadnt tweeted any more than usual. Didnt post a thing on Facebook. I suspect it was simply a matter of Klout catching up with my vast network of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn friends and deciding I was worthy of sitting in a fancy airport lounge in a city where I dont live.

As I write this, Im still a 43. No other perks have come my way, but Im sure its only a matter of time before theres an Audi parked in my driveway. (Klout recently gave key influencers the opportunity to test drive the new Audi A8.) Turns out Ive gone from observer to networker, which means I know how to connect to the right people and share whats important to my audience. I have a high level of engagement and an influential audience.

I have a feeling this is a load of crepes. (Klout served them at its Bay Area headquarters last year.) Were doing something thats a lightning rod for controversy, Fernandez told his NYU audience. Were putting scores next to people. I totally get why that rubs people the wrong way.

Fernandez also gets that Americans love competition. We love to see how we rank against our friends, our foes, our families. Companies are even using Klout scores as a metric in hiring. Wired magazine reports that a guy named Sam Fiorella lost a marketing agency job to someone with a Klout score of 67 (out of 100). Fiorellas was 34well above the national average of 20 but obviously not good enough. So he worked to get his score up to 72 and now reports the job offers are pouring in and hes getting lots more speaking invitations.

Fifteen years of accomplishments, he told Wired, werent as important as that score.

Cant wait until were all caught up in this insidious web. Forty-three out.

JOHN LEVESQUE is the managing editor of Seattle Business magazine.

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