By Todd Bacile, Florida State University
“Thirty-five” was the answer to the following question posed to a marketing agency’s hiring manager: “What is the minimum Klout score a college student can have and still be considered for an internship at your firm?”
I immediately went into a state of shock — Shock that Klout has gone mainstream so quickly, and shock because my digital marketing student’s Klout scores typically range from 15 to 25. As an instructor, I had to ask myself: “Am I doing everything I could to prepare my students for the real world workplace?”
Most people seem to either love or hate Klout, so the notion of assigning a portion of a student’s grade to their respective Klout score may cause some to react … what’s a good word to use here … fretfully. Yet, as an educator teaching electronic marketing at the collegiate level I owe it to my students to introduce them to every and any concept that will help them land an internship or fulltime job.
Klout matters to employers
And here is an inescapable fact. Many firms are sizing up college student’s Klout scores as a quantitative metric to use for job applicant screening. Therefore, I decided to create a class project in which the final grade earned is solely determined by a student’s Klout score.
This class project familiarizes students with Klout by having them engage with others via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and blogs. Students within my e-marketing class were already familiar with the terminology and nuances associated with various social media sites. By creating an experiential Klout project, students would now be able to apply social media engagement concepts and strategies to raise their Klout score, and ultimately, raise their grade. By the way: this may also help them land an internship.
The results have been phenomenal over this past year. The average Klout score of 16.7 at the beginning of my fall class’s project dramatically improved to 39.1 by the end of this project. Similar improvement was seen in my spring class’s project, with the average Klout score beginning at 19.3 and ending at 43.1. In both sections several students achieved scores well into the 50s, with a high score of 58.
A plan to model social media engagement
How did the improvement in scores happen? I had them game the system! Just kidding – I had to say that to upset some of the anti-Klout people who may be reading this post. In all seriousness, I simply reviewed Klout’s explanation of key scoring criteria and applied basic concepts recorded in the book Return On Influence. The idea is not to just accumulate a large following, but also to get other people to share and respond to content created by the students.
I then lectured and illustrated how the students can engage others via social networks — creating content people will want to comment on, asking relevant questions to key opinion leaders, and other methods used to engage in social conversation with others. These engagement skills are what many firms are seeking in social media marketing interns and entry-level positions that my students are hoping to land, making this an ideal project within the classroom.
An experiential project like this proved to be enjoyable for the students and maintained their attention and enthusiasm throughout the semester. Many students would compare scores and discuss different techniques used to engage with powerful opinion leaders within the social world. Which students had higher scores became a friendly competition causing students to work even harder at engaging others. Imagine that: students wanting to work more to develop skills that current marketing employers are searching for!
Benefits of the project
There are three key benefits this project produces.
1) Improvement to Klout scores that will help students during job application screening,
2) Hands-on experience engaging with others via social media by using specific functionality within different social sites.
3) The project overcomes recent criticism that business schools within higher education often fail to develop relevant skills.
Social media jobs are increasing and this project was a fun, entertaining, and interesting way to get my students to learn social media engagement skills. What are your reactions to this project to immerse students in social engagement?
Note: This blog post created quite a dialogue on both blogs and traditional media. Author Todd Bacile responds to the attention in his own blog post.
Todd Bacile is a doctoral candidate in marketing and the instructor of Electronic Marketing in the College of Business at Florida State University. A ten page research paper describing his Klout project will be featured in Marketing Education Review’s spring 2013 issue on teaching innovations. You can follow or contact Todd on Twitter @toddbacile