Florida State University class using Klout to determine student grades


how to raise your klout score

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

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  • Todd, as much as I have mixed opinions about Klout, I’m really fascinated by your exercise and whether engaging with Klout score throughout the semester was a valuable form of education. What, in your mind, are the “relevant skills” you mentioned that this exercise built?

  • Employers never cease to amaze me, and in this case, not in a good way. Klout scores are based largely on Twitter. What, exactly, is a college student using Twitter for? If I could hazard a guess, it’s most likely recreational use. The vast sea between recreational use of Twitter and business use of Twitter is just one data point not in the employer’s favor here.

    Yes, the student will know how to use Twitter if he or she has a Klout score above 35 for hiring as an intern. But one would hope that if this flippin’ Klout score is so important to these employers, they won’t have a problem when their interns are Tweeting away, for personal use, on the employer’s time, right? Because we wouldn’t want their scores to fall, now would we?

    I don’t blame Klout for this. This is just another short-sighted way for employers to attempt to cull people without doing the hard work of reviewing resumes and interviewing. It’s shameful, really.

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  • Hi Jen, I appreciate you commenting on this post. You are right, in that college students are prone to tweeting *interesting* content! I try to educate them to let them know potential employers may be viewing their tweets – so keep it clean and professional.
    Regarding employers using Klout in this manner: I don’t necessarly place a value judgement on what employers are looking for in potential employees. I am only trying to prepare my students for the real world. Like it or not, in this world Klout does matter to some hiring managers. Take care; and I do appreciate your comments!

  • Robert Dempsey

    A few questions for you Todd:

    1. When you spoke with the hiring managers you mention in the first sentence, what value do they place on Klout scores specifically? What does a “minimum score of 35” say to them about the college students?

    2. Do you see a larger trend of college students taking their networking online rather than offline?

    3. If college students are doing more online networking than offline, how do you think this will impact their ability to function inside a workplace where they have to interact with live people?

    Thanks for the additional insight.

  • Hello Scott, you pose a great question. I will try to keep this as brief as possible, because the answer could be a lengthy one! Companies and marketers I have spoken with who have not had success with social media marketing initiatives often have a social media presence, yet have no idea how to use social media to create two-way conversation and dialogue with others (i.e. consumers). This, I believe, is a byproduct of mass media / traditional marketing and advertising methods. Companies I see failing at social media create a Facebook page or Twitter account and use this as an extension of mass media promotional messages. They (incorrectly) send out message after message about sales they are having or how great their products are, without any attempt to create two-way conversations with consumers. This is what I want my students to learn in this project: to leave class with skills and strategies to create two-way dialogue with others via social media.
    I adapt many recommendations offered by successful individuals working within social media. For example, Joel Comm has a book called Twitter Power where he reviews various different tweet styles and methods to engage others. Mark Schaefer’s Return on Influence and The Tao of Twitter also discuss how people can successfully enage others by discussing topics within their area of expertise, assisting others by answering questions, participating in group discussions, asking questions, and engaging in conversation with powerful opinion leaders / experts. All of these methods improve one’s two-way communication with others (comments, mentions, retweets, likes, shares, +1’s) and build a larger following. Many brands would like to use social media for these purposes: engage in conversation with customers and grow their consumer following.
    As it turns out, if one can successfully use these methods to engage with and grow their audience, a Klout score will increase. Klout as it stands, becomes a byproduct of what I want them to learn: social media engagement skills. But, because some hiring mangers and brands are using Klout, I educate students on this newer metric; and tie it into a project that ultimately will reward those students who engage with others via social.
    If you want more information I would be happy to speak with you if you are going to be at any of the upcoming marketing conferences: Academy of Marketing Science – World Congress (next week), Society for Marketing Advances (November), or the American Marketing Association’s Winter Educators conference (February 2013). Thanks for commenting and talk to you later!

  • Hi Robert, thanks for reading this and for commenting on the post. Regarding Q1: it was stated to me by that individual that if students – who are considered digital natives by many older marketers – have a low Klout score, they are not using Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. He said they may be using the tools, but are not interacting with others in a meaningful way. A low Klout served this marketer (and others) as an early warning sign that a particular applicant was not engaging with others via social. I don’t know why that particular person said 35 was the threshold.
    Q2 & Q3: Yes, the trend is upward for online because they are growing up with these technologies. That is not always a good thing if they cannot communicate effectively in-person / offline! Too much of any one thing is not always optimal – hopefully students are gaining communication skills in other areas. In my class I have a team project, plus several individual presentations because I want them to be able to work with others and communicate effectively in-person.
    Thanks for the comments!

  • Brandon

    I’m a bit horrified the fictional Klout algorythm has made it mainstream, but it makes sense as humans prefer to have a tangible number (even if made-up or meaningless) as opposed to ambiguity. From my point of view higher education should be the place for students (and professors) to question the value of such metrics, rather than impose them on their students. I’m glad to see you are taking an innovative approach to your class, but the flawed nature of Klout does not deserve any more credit than it’s already been given. Agencies are just as clueless as the rest of us as they cling to outdated business models and end up parroting shallow advice from the social media echo-chamber. As a marketing manager I want nothing more than students to have an understanding of the entire marketing landscape and treat vanity metrics such as Klout with skepticism so they can focus on strategies or tactics that truly matter.

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  • I am the founder of a company which is focusing on thought leadership and building community through curation. Because of the vast amount of information we are presented with on a daily basis it is essential for us to have a human filter, algorithms alone are currently unable to fully bring the necessary context to our information consumptions needs. Although this is improving and will one day converge, in order for us to establish a more advanced online collective intelligence, we are going to have to rely on our human brains. I think these Klout scores are simply good indicators, but like search they should only be the beginning of establishing excellence and or credibility a person has in a field. I think your project has merit. It is only natural for a service like Klout to try to measure a persons online influence. However one only has to be influential to a small group of people to exert something that can quickly become multiplicative in nature. I do give you credit though for being at the for front of these current important trends, as I think you are providing your student’s with the tools and mind set they will need to succeed. I was happy to curate your article on my companies website because of this and it will be interesting to see what you have to say on the topic of curation.

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  • Hi Todd, although I’m not a fan of services like Klout (primarily because they tend to be used for all the wrong reasons) I really loved your approach “Klout as it stands, becomes a byproduct of what I want them to learn: social media engagement skills.” If the employers are looking for Klout to tell them if a candidate knows how to engage, that is a good thing. Unfortunately, because of all of the hype around this kind of measurement, I’m concerned they (the employers) are expecting a lot more.

  • ajbowles

    One can get a pretty high Klout score based on Facebook participation, which is probably the source of most scores for college students.

  • df


  • Respectfully, I’d like you to re-consider your definition of an “outdated business model” Brandon.

    You cannot have a high Klout score without creating or aggregating content that is then shared and elicits a reaction. Today, that is a legitimate source of power on the web. In fact, it is my source of power on the web and perhaps yours too. To me, the ability to create sharable content and engage with people online sounds like an important skill to have for an entry level marketing position these days, right?

    One of the reasons people hate the idea of social scoring is that it does not jive with a traditional view of influence which only considers the online world. That is the outdated business model. As i describe in Return On Influence, power is acquired differently now. That is the new business model. Klout does not measure all influence, but, like a credit score, it is an indicator of something, and that “something” is indeed important for some jobs.

  • Schachin

    You joke and say you had them “game” the system but no you didn’t but you did.. which is ok .. I mean you did it by understanding the algo, so you did what a whitehat SEO does with Google and you “optimized” their accounts for a better score, but it means that you can do that …so it shows as a prime example that NO hiring manager should be using these as points in hire except for possibly a social media job.

    Klout is a very simple algo to maneuver as well.. what we really should be concentrating on is making sure mainstream use is restricted to things such as hotel room upgrades, not hiring practices..

  • I opted out of Klout last year when I saw my score plummet to 51 from 65 overnight after they implemented a new “more accurate” scoring model. Instead of teaching students how to improve their Klout score for prospective hiring mangers – why not educate them that this practice is legally questionable at best? http://www.forbes.com/sites/lisaquast/2012/05/28/social-media-passwords-and-the-hiring-process-privacy-and-other-legal-rights/ Your exercise only reinforced what the FTC has been trying to resolve with Facebook – you have no privacy online when in fact you really do. Their time would have been better spent learning about FTC privacy rules and regulations, how to Google one self, remove any negative info, SEO intricacies in the list continues.

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  • Tessa

    As a proud student of Todd Bacile, I would like to congratulate him on this accolade of his classroom strategies. I became fascinated with incorporating social media into business strategies about a year prior to taking the Electronic Marketing course. I then heard about this class and decided it was meant for me and had to take it. The Klout challenge was just one of my favorite parts of the class. Todd really encouraged the class to utilize social media mechanisms to increase our knowledge on them and have fun while doing it. I started building my Klout prior to enrolling in the class and with the help of Todd, I was able to push past the plateau that occurs around 55 and 56 and achieved the highest score of the class with a 58.

    While I still haven’t applied and/or had a job that asks my Klout score, it is a hot topic right now that I think people should be aware. Online social influence is important to have if you are in the PR/Advertising/Marketing/etc field. Traditional media is all going digital and being able to shine through the static of so much clutter is a skill everyone needs to learn. I learned a great deal about Klout and social media in general and I now apply most of what I learned in the class to my job on an every day basis. I am even trying to facilitate an internal Klout challenge in my office!

    The Klout Challenge is a great assignment that is completely un-traditional and one that I really enjoyed doing. I was comfortable with the fact that my grade was not solely based on a multiple choice test average and group projects. It challenged me to think differently about the content I was putting out there and in the end really paid off. I now have a following on Twitter of strategic social media and digital media specialists that can guide me in further learning of social media.

    Well done Todd and keep up the good work!

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  • We have been doing the “Great Klout Challenge” in my social marketing class at Northwestern for the last 3 years. The goal is to have students see how much they can raise their Klout score in 10 weeks. The average “lift” is 42 points! The key is for them to understand how to use social media to re-tweet articles from influencers in their target markets, publish and – more importantly – promote their blog articls, etc. When they learn they can really impact their Klout scores by multiple re-tweets to different markets, promotion across multiple social platforms, and other technique, they can really increase their Klout.
    The problem is it only short term. Klout does not measure expertise just short term activities. It is a gamified system where, once you know the rules, you can game whatever score you want…for a short time period. Klout measures how well you know how to do “Klout things”…nothing more. Use it as a hiring device is a REALLY bad decision. It is a fun game and does teach students how to use social more effectively but that is all. It has not much relevance to expertise and is more correlated with activity.

  • 78 score number 1 in Pinterest Youtube Instagram many more have made thousands due to klout….

  • I agree with Todd. I use Klout as a way to teach my students how to engage in social behavior that targets a specific market they want to develop. It is a series of skills they can develop and use with great success. In my social marketing programs at Northwestern, most raise their Klout scores by 40 points or more in 10 weeks.
    Klout is a measure of social activity over a short period of time…not a measure of expertise or real “Clout” in a given market. I am really concerned with the new “movement” to use it for hiring. Klout is a game…a good one for teaching social…but a game. And, once you know the rules of the game, you can use it to achieve whatever Klout score you want. Klout does not equal expertise but only ones ability to play the Klout game.
    Like the way you teach it but we must teach business is it just a gaming score and not much more.

  • Hello Schachin, thanks for the follow-up comments. I guess you and I understand the phrase “game the system” a bit differently. In the context of Klout, I would view gaming the algorithm as someone who switched their birthday on FB to the present day or announced they were getting married (when they were not actually getting hitched) to increase their engagement with others at a specific time. Each of these things (along with many others) usually generates a ton of wall posts, comments, likes, and shares. And yes, from my experience Klout will increase. I don’t discuss these (and other) methods because I do not want students to game the system. Yes, some can manipulate Klout, but nothing in life is foolproof. Heck, people still try to print counterfeit money – a good example of someone trying to game a system – yet we are not throwing out our entire currency system!

    In the context of my project I am showing students how to use strategies to engage in two-way conversations with others and build a following based on creating interesting content other people want to share and respond to. Klout states that actions such as these will improve one’s Klout score. Thus, Klout strongly correlates with social media engagement. I don’t view that as gaming a system. I view that as understanding the stated requirements or expectations one should follow for success. Similar to an employee performing their expected job duties as described by a superior in a job description. I don’t think a diligent employee following what is expected for them to succeed is gaming a system. But I understand that opinions vary on this.

    But getting back to the core reason I created this project: in my conversations with local firms the hiring managers and decisions makers told me they started to also examine an applicant’s Klout score. I also noticed others mentioning this on blogs, LinkedIn discussions, and articles published online. My job as an educator is to try and prepare students for the real world. Klout has entered that world – at least for some firms. I don’t necessarily place a value judgement on what employers are looking for. I just would like to put my students in a position to land a job or internship.

    Great comments and thanks for posting!

  • Thank you for the kind words, Steve. You hit the nail on the head. I lecture and present slides on how to engage with others via social. But at the end of the day are students merely memorizing these bullet points and facts in an effort to pass a multiple choice test? If so, then I am not doing my best to prepare them for the real world.

    What I noticed going back a couple years ago is that Klout strongly correlated with my own level of engagement via social media. So I experimented with a few other people – and they too also saw a rise in their Klout score when they created content others responded to and shared. When some people in industry stated they were now assessing applicants’ Klout, I thought this project would be an effective way for me to: 1) ask students to apply hands-on the engagement strategies we discuss in class; 2) use Klout as a metric that rewarded students who successfully engaged others via social; and 3) as a “bonus” their Klout score would send one of many quantifiable signals to those hiring managers who focus on the metric. In this manner, they are leaving my class with something tangible they can use – at least for those firms that do focus on it.

    Thanks for the comments!

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  • Good to hear from you Tessa! But keep in mind all the nice comments you provide above STILL will not lead to extra credit points 😉 I appreciate your feedback as a former participant of this project. Have a great day!

  • You summed this up nicely, Randy. This project enables me to put my students in the best possible situation if a hiring manager will assess Klout as a make-it-or-break-it metric. But, I try to remove myself from judging if what employers are looking for is right or wrong. Employers have a job opening and my students want that job. If Klout helps my students to land the job, then by golly I will take the time to expose them to social media engagement activities that drive Klout and prepare them for the work force. Thanks for commenting!

  • Todd – do you also, however, educate your students about the downfalls of overly relying on a tool like Klout to measure something as abstract and poorly-defined as “influence”? And that any system where it is this easy to change the outcome is a system that tells you less about how “influential” that person is, and more about how good they are at operating within the parameters of that system?

    You have to hope that one day your students will themselves become employers — and they will need to be smart about what value they do or do not assign to a prospective employee’s Klout (or whatever) score.

  • Hi Karen, thanks for the comments! You bring up terrific points regarding the importance of privacy. We do discuss your points during the semester and I provide some illustrative examples. Privacy and legal issues must be known in this age of what I refer to as ‘personal media’.

    As far as students feeling a lack of privacy if they participate in this project: any student has the option to opt-out of the project if they feel their privacy may be violated. Not many opt-out, because this is an Electronic Marketing class, with many of the students wishing to pursue careers related to newer technologies used for marketing application. Thanks for commenting!

  • “If Klout helps my students to land the job, then by golly I will take
    the time to expose them to social media engagement activities that drive
    Klout and prepare them for the work force. ”

    Again – you’re reinforcing legally questionable hiring practices.

    “Not many opt-out, because this is an Electronic Marketing class, with
    many of the students wishing to pursue careers related to newer
    technologies used for marketing application.”

    So by your account opting in and relinquishing privacy – you’ll land a job and if you don’t – you won’t land a job.

    Agree to disagree.

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  • Todd pretty astonished you removed my comment because I prove you can be wildly successful with KLOUT in business AMAZING….

  • Thanks for commenting! You bring up a valid point: Klout is one of many signals a firm can use to assess talent, but in the end the successful candidate needs to show more to a hiring manager than a number produced by an algorithm. Yet, like I stated in my prior comments, if firms are using Klout as a screening tool I feel the need to discuss this with my students; and put them in a position to succeed. That doesn’t mean I want to them to game a Klout score. It means I want them to apply lessons to engage with others in social media by creating content that is interesting and sharable.

    Regarding your business: in my opinion we need content curation to help us cut through excessive amounts of clutter now available through multiple media. It has a bright future!

  • Brandon

    Just to clarify, agencies who charge outrageous hourly rates and deliver little to no tangible value is the outdated model.

    You can have a high Klout score by tweeting nonsense or naked photos. I’ve yet to see any proof that someone’s Klout score, correlates with people actually taking an action, say buying a product, vs. someone who has a low klout score. I know plenty of people with very little social media activity who influence the world in a lot more powerful ways than myself or any of my social media friends.

    For example in the company I work for our CEO and VP of sales do not often engage on Twitter, but their ability to connect and influence decision makers (via traditional channels) has produced more value than any Klout (both literal and figurative) I’ve developed in our industry. Even when my tweets or posts “go viral” the traffic and leads are much less valuable than a email, phone call or in person meeting with a decision maker.

    I would love to continue the discussion, but this medium may not be the best to lay out the intricacies.

  • Great points Tonia. I believe the field of social influence is in its infancy. There are many, many variables that still need to be accounted for. But Klout, PeerIndex, and Kred are getting better at assessing a person’s capacity to influence. Is it true influence? Opinions vary on that point.

    I do discuss with the students the negative perspectives that some people associate with Klout and other influence metrics. However, I would not downplay these metrics because they can change often. Google search results can change daily, but that does not mean Google is not effective at what it does!

    Thanks for the comments and I hope you have a terrific day!

  • Hello Justin, I did not remove your comment. In fact I don’t know if I ever saw it. I do not own this blog – I only wrote a guest post. Due to that I have no power over removals. What did you want to say?

  • I respect your opinion on this. Klout and social media associated with privacy, legal issues, and hiring practices is a touchy subject. Yes we will agree to disagree, but I do appreciate your comments. Have a great day!

  • @jmhhacker:disqus The Disqus comment system removes comments with a lot of links, assuming they are spam. That is what happened in your case. Neither Todd nor I made a judgment call on your comments. If you fill your comments with backlinks you will probably be knocked out of most commenting systems but the new Disqus is very sensitive to this. Sorry for the inconvenience. I would encourage you to make your point without a lot of backlinks.Thanks and I’m sorry if you were inconvenienced.

  • Again, you’re trying to force Klout into measuring offline influence. It doesn’t and it won’t. The old view of “influence” does not hold up on the web. There are no bosses. There is no hierarchy. People don;t give a damn about where you went to school or how much money you have or what yor golf handicap is. And yet, people do become influential on the web, don;t they?

    How? By creating content that gets shared and reacted to. If you consider “influence” in THIS context — the online context, it forces you to think much differently about power. Please read “Return On Influence” if you are authentically interested in this subject. I think you would enjoy it.

  • John Hender

    I still think people confuse reach with influence. The people pushing Klout are those who work in the digital space. Outside of our little bubble, very few people care about online influence. Take Chris Brogan for example: he has a high Klout score. Is it because he’s truly influential or because he has a large reach where people often share his content? Again, just because one’s content gets shared, that does not mean they are influential.

    Like Brandon mentioned, I have found very few people outside of the tech space to truly be “influenced” — activated purchasing habits. Again, we need to think outside our “social bubble” we live in and realize that the mass public doesn’t care about online influence. Just because we, as people who live and work online, do, doesn’t mean others do. And we’re a small, small percentage of the population.

  • Honestly I think it is irrelevant what we think about social influence. The free market will sort it out. If this will help brands connect with people and turn them into brand advocates, it will work, if it doesn’t, it won’t. And I disagree completely that this only affects people in the tech bubble. There are cases in my book involving stay at home moms, sci-fi lovers, crafters and designers. The “social bubble” — whatever that is — is getting pretty big. And if you look at the research, people from all walks of life are MUCH more influenced to purchase via a recommendation from friend than an advertisement. I think the trend is very real and very important. Influence has been democratized.

  • Really? Is no one going to call b***sh** on this? A whole generation that believes “gaming” is a profession? Don’t be duped, it isn’t.

  • Thanks for the dissenting view. While gaming is an element, and a danger, of any process based on an algorithm, I sincerely believe there is much more to the trend than that. In fact, I wrote a book about it (including the gaming risks). A short version of the philosophy, importance, and business benefits of social scoring can be found here:

    Thanks for caring enough to comment Rick.

  • That’s a firm you should avoid like the plague. They are more interested in who can game a system than finding people that can actually get the job done. RUN, dont walk out the door.

  • Mark… some folks, unable to generate original content, pass links like batons in a relay and call themselves curators and aggregators. Other folks, able to produce a little content, call themselves authors and visionaries. Seems you may fit better into the latter category.

    Checked out the book you recommended. The product of six months of hard work seems to garner as many critics as supporters.

    To ensure that you don’t think I’m putting emotion ahead of fact, here’s a fact: I have “earned” maybe a half dozen perks, for an abysmally low score I might add, and I redeemed them all. Never tweeted, posted, commented, whispered or put a snapshot on Instagram or Pinterest.

    Not a fact: “According to Klout, each influencer in one of their Perk programs generates an average of 30 pieces of content and millions of possible impressions.”

    As you said, “Before the Internet, you had to actually accomplish something… ” and now all one has to do is game the system.

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  • Thanks for the comment, which is an interesting point! I know I would feel like sprinting out the door if a company only assigned a number to my abilities. But, the flipside of this is students trying to land their first job or internship in this economy do not always have the luxury to pick and choose from multiple job opportunities. This issue is especially relevant in a smaller city such as Tallahassee.
    Another point to your comment: I don’t know of any firm that will solely hire an applicant ONLY due to Klout. To my knowledge Klout is one of many signals some (not all) hiring managers use to assess a candidate, along with GPA, references, experience, etc. Quantitative metrics such as Klout are attractive to some because a numbered scale provides a perspective to a certain degree. In the context of companies I spoke with, a high enough Klout was one of many signals that moved an applicant from the entire application “pool” to the “maybe” pile. But, you are correct: I certainly hope that Klout was not the sole determining factor, because people are more complex than any single number. Yet, I believe Klout is useful as an additional quantifiable signal.
    I recall a situation a few years back when my firm received over 500 applications for a job opening we posted on Monster. One HR employee and myself were granted a two hour window by our superiors to “sort the pile” of resumes from 500 to 10. Think about that: 120 minutes to review 500 resumes: that is about 15 seconds per applicant! In situations like this when firms want to sort the applicants, a metric is quicker to read and rank than reading 10 bullet points of objectives or achievements on an application. Yet, the metric is not expected to explain the applicant in full.
    I appreciate your comments and thank you for reading this!

  • It seems a little risky to judge a business trend or the accuracy of a fact based on a data point of one (you) but you are entitled to your opinion and I’m glad you took the time to share it here. Thanks Rick.

  • The saddest thing about this whole story is not that we are teaching students how to get higher Klout scores, but that companies are actually using Klout as a measure of online effectiveness in the wake of nothing else better to construct a “social resume.” I am hoping for a time when companies become more savvy about tools and don’t succumb to using something as primitive as Klout to measure potential employees–even as a starting point.

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  • Liz Harter

    I applaud you for exposing the students to new concepts like Klout. Your suggestion that it became a “Friendly competition” is exactly what Klout is all about – the gameification of social interactions. You do more, you score more points. I’ll admit, even I have fallen into the trap of checking my Klout score and getting excited if its gone up.

    It truly scares me, though, that employers are using something as subjective as a Klout score to discount people seeking employment. It’s probably a lot easier for them to say, “oh, you don’t have a 35. Sorry,” than vet a candidate themselves, but that also turns the work force into a game – if you can connect more channels or pester enough people to respond to you (though, great content or insightful questions are hardly pestering, it does happen quite often) the easier it’ll be for you to get a job. What happens if someone likes Kred, better? Is that taken into consideration? How can we rely on these superficial scores when it is so easy to navigate to a candidate’s page and look at the kind of content they are posting?

  • useradvocate

    Todd, thanks for your post. It raises some very important ideas and amplifies certain concerns I have about our attitudes towards technology.

    As someone who has worked in the digital technology industry
    for over 25 years, I’ve seen countless examples where we have been sold a bill
    of goods around various technological systems. I’m not saying that technology
    has no value – of course it does – but we do need to keep a realistic view of
    it. I think it is a good idea to question what a technology is and what people
    say about it. I realize in the social media world this is tricky because what people say
    about things is a form of currency. That is an ideal environment to both discover
    truths and perpetuate myths.

    Laurie Anderson, the brilliant multi-media artist, said ‘language
    is a virus from outer space’. The virus strain that has formed around the term ‘Klout’ has the
    negative side effect of turning people into ‘Klots’ (a term I just thought of to describe people who
    care far too much about their Klout score.)

    Many people here have made comments expressing concern about
    the use of Klout scores as a determinant for hiring. I share that concern. It comforts
    me somewhat to keep in mind that this is
    a social media marketing discussion and the students and their potential employers
    are in the business of social media marketing. But the fetishization (and I
    mean precisely that) of this kind of technology could easily spread beyond the
    marketing world.

    So far it seems that this virus has been mostly contained to
    the social media marketing sphere. The barrier that keeps it contained is a
    realistic sense of context. However, casual use of the term ‘Klout score’ will
    no doubt lead to easily influenced individuals starting to believe, or assume,
    that the magical, mythical Klout score has some sort of meaning in their overall
    life. I think that would be a dangerous belief.

    By the way, I think ‘gaming’ the system might be more
    educational than using it at face value because it might increase the contextual
    awareness of what the technological construct is, and isn’t.

  • Wasn’t judging a trend, just sharing a fact. I am impressed with your use of the term data point, even though irrelevant. “According to Klout” does not automatically validate the statement to follow. You needn’t thank me a third time.

  • I am pretty sure the foundational data for Klout scores is Twitter. It’s possible that they’ve rolled in public Facebook pages. Twitter is easy for them because it’s open, thus easy to automatically generate a Klout score off of–this is how and why people who don’t even know they have a Klout score received one. But if a college student doesn’t use Twitter, and has their Facebook set to private (a smart thing, which should be rewarded not penalized) then they have no Klout score. The message that is being sent here is that their choice of SOCIAL networks will have a lasting impact on their career. I stand by my assessment that this is insane, and cannot die quickly enough.

  • If it matters to hiring managers, they need to rethink things. I think Klout is mildly useful, but it is not the be-all, end-all measurement for influence, or even knowledge of social. I’m glad that you are preparing your students for the real world–but this is tremendously short-sighted on the part of employers. I suppose we have to wait for the inevitable lawsuits for them to realize that though.

  • This is a great post @twitter-43443044:disqus and a great project. The debate of Klout is endlessly fascinating to me. I feel that this debate has taken on emotional properties where people take this issue personally. Very fascinated indeed.

    I think the project you had your students do is valuable to their futures. It’s important to look the facts of the matter. Klout (or at least “influence” scoring) is here to stay. I do not believe that in 5 years, Klout, Kred, PeerIndex, EmpireAve etc will simply go away and I doubt few would disagree with me. So we establish that this trend of scoring system proliferation will not go away.

    The only question that’s left is whether that trend will remain stagnant or will it grow? Clearly the businesses that have the most stake in this – namely Klout, Kred, etc – are doing everything possible to grow this trend. They’re making their “product” better, i.e. making it more accurate and precise. The updates that these sites are doing shows people that they’re committed to improving which gives it credibility. As more people begin to trust the product, they begin to trust the score more (and I do believe the psychological aspect of redefining influence will occur too).

    As more people trust these score, more business will sprout aiming to improve scores, make better scores, find “influencers”, etc. More money will be focused on these scores, including the money as a salary of paying an employee who is deemed influential and who is not. This possible situation (which I deem is likely) means the the trend will not be stagnant, and this leaves the only possible option that the trend of social scoring will increase. Thus, it’s foolhardy for a professor to ignore teaching students about it and its implications.

    Another, much simpler, way of looking at it is to look at human nature. Psychologically, we crave shortcuts. For centuries, if we met someone for the first time, we’d never know how “influential” they are. We couldn’t even guess it on a scale of 1-5. Now we can gauge someone’s influence – albeit mostly digital influence but it’s still an important indicator and field of influence – on a 100-point scale that’s fairly accurate.

    People are quick to point out well known discrepancies – Oh how could so and so be more influential than so and so etc. The problem is that you can only find the discrepancies within the circle that you know or heard of- max 2000 people maybe. The millions of other people on Klout, you wouldn’t know how truly influential they are without using Klout. So for all the bad talk it’s getting, it’s attempting to fulfill a purpose. Is it useful? Now that’s up for debate.

    Overall, great idea and great project. I find it to be a very interesting cultural and societal topic, so it’s great to expose students early on.

  • ajbowles

    Sorry, but you are wrong about how Klout interprets facebook activity which leads to an incorrect conclusion about college student scores. Just as Klout looks at types of interactions on twitter (things like the number of RTs, mentions, and who is RTing one’s tweets), if a Klout user allows access to their facebook account, Klout can do a similar analysis on interactions on private posts, such as counting the number of comments, likes and wall posts received. It also looks at comments and reshares on Google+. I’m not suggesting that the results are valid, but it does measure interaction with “friends” which is used as a proxy for influence. It doesn’t have to be public.

  • Todd Bacile

    Thanks for the insightful comments. I believe that social media influence scoring from services like Klout, PeerIndex, Kred, and others are here to stay. These metrics are in their infancy and will continue to evolve and improve. A parallel comparison is the evolution of search engines. Google in 1998 was a lot different from the Google of today. The search algorithm today produces search engine results for sites of high quality (usually). Google circa 1998 was also an effective search engine, but over time it has become stronger at presenting sites of higher quality to people in search of particular topics.

    One thing that has been overlooked my many people is how brands are using Klout for marketing purposes. This blog post and the thousands of related comments and tweets discuss Klout used in the hiring process; however, according to “Return on Influence” and other sources there are currently thousands of brands using Klout to quantitatively identify influential consumers within social media circles. A long standing belief in marketing is that word-of-mouth referrals are the most powerful form of endorsement for a brand. Klout is attempting to locate powerful influencers for brands. The idea being that a brand can then approach these social influencers with value propositions, in the hopes that a strong capacity to influence will filter down through a large and attentive organic following. This aspect of the marketing through social influence metrics is another reason marketing students need to be aware of services such as Klout. Thanks for your comments!

  • Todd Bacile

    I appreciate your point of view. In the context of hiring managers using Klout as a job applicant screening tool, I believe they are doing so due to an enormous amount of applicant information to review. One could review each marketing job applicant’s different social media accounts, count up followers, comments, likes, posts, retweets, etc. Can you imagine the amount of time that would take if a personnel manager were to review 100 job applicants? In addition, are people who follow or comment on an applicant’s content powerful opinion leaders? It becomes a tedious and subjective assessment. Klout is also subjective and imperfect, but it reduces the time it would take to research this aspect of job candidates and enables one to compare different applicants. I’m not saying this is a 100% accurate method or ideal job assessment metric. But it can reduce the amount of time to assess candidates in this aspect of skill assessment (social media engagement). Again, I try not to place a value judgment on what employers are looking for. I only want to prepare students for the real world; and Klout has entered that world to some degree. Thanks for commenting!

  • All valid points, Liz! I certainly hope a hiring manager would not solely rely on Klout as **the** determining factor. A Klout score is one of many signals an applicant sends to an employer, along with other more traditional signals such as GPA, experience, references, etc. In my experience it sounded as if employers wanted to sort the pile of resumes quickly from several applicants to a few. These jobs were related to social media marketing, so the employers chose Klout as this sorting criteria. After which I believe (hope) employers would look more closely at the complete job candidate. Thanks for your comments!

  • Thanks for commenting on this post, Chris. You are correct: social media is so new that firms are struggling to assess various aspects of it. We often see news posts and blogs debating the true ROI or value of followers, yet a discussion regarding how employers assess applicants is less talked about.
    I prefer to view my project not as a learning exercise to teach students how to get higher Klout scores; but, to teach students how to engage in two-way conversations by creating content via social that other people want to share and comment on. If I teach them how to do this and they implement strategies via their own social networks, their Klout scores will increase. Klout is actually a byproduct of the lessons they learn about and apply hands-on. Yet, Klout has become the primary focus and discussion piece due to some employers giving it a certain degree of importance. Thanks for commenting!

  • Randy: by the way I like your project’s title. It is very close to my project, which I refer to as “The Klout Challenge”. Great minds think alike!

  • interested

    I have read the comments here and the common thread throughout most of them is a visceral hostility to the notion that digitally measured social influence should be at all important to kids. I share that view, but that doesn’t mean that measures of social influence such as Klout are invalid. Malcolm Gladwell identified people who are connectors as keys to influencing major trends. Marketing companies would be foolish not to embrace it and thus young people who are pursuing careers in marketing should pay attention.

    Having said that, something just doesn’t sit well in all of this. Social media is quickly turning people into their own brands. People are now expected to constantly market their personalities through gaining popularity in social media. A fully acceptable career path now is the attempt to prosper off the popularity one can generate digitally. It exists and we can’t ignore it, but it feels wrong. Its empty and its cynical. The risk is that young people will become increasingly self obsessed as each and every person sees themselves as a brand and attempts to prosper from getting people to like them.

  • Kevin T. Keith

    Did you ever stop to talk to them about the difference between education and mindless indulgent narcissism? I suppose people who work on their Klout scores to obtain jobs at companies that care about Klout scores deserve what they get, but do you have any pride as an academic?

  • Thanks for commenting, Kevin. Yes, we discuss the misuse of social media and influence metrics such as Klout. A good comparison is how people use to be able to manipulate search engine results in the early days of Google. The search giant evolved, and while it is possible to still manipulate search results it is very difficult today. The interesting thing with social influence metrics – as you pointed out – is these are representing individual people.
    I do take great pride as an academic, because if I work hard enough at preparing class concepts that matter to hiring firms, I believe I am giving my students a better chance to land a job. When companies tell me they are using something to assess my students, I feel the need to tell students about it and educate them about it. If I ignore the information provided to me by hiring firms and educate my students on concepts not in-demand within the work force, then I would not have pride in my job.
    Do I like that Klout is used by some companies to assess job applicants? I see negative and positive aspects. I try not to place a value judgment on what employers are looking for – after all it is their company and their business. All I can do is inform students about emerging concepts in preparation for the real world. Have a great day and thanks for commenting!

  • Todd Bacile

    Thanks for your comments, you make some excellent points. This blog post looks at one aspect of Klout: as a job application screening tool some firms choose to use. You bring up a valid point of identifying “connectors”, which is an additional aspect of Klout discussed in my class, yet not discussed in this blog post: as a quantifiable method to identify influential consumers (i.e. connectors). I believe the last stat I read on the number of firms using Klout to identify influential consumers was about 5,000. Some of these are big-time brands, too, such as Audi, Disney, and Red Bull. As students begin to understand how social media engagement relates to influence metrics, students also begin to recognize the marketing aspect of engaging with key connectors.
    I really appreciate your comments. Have a wonderful day!

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  • I find this article very interesting.
    It certainly has generated a lot of response. As an Employer, I applaud
    students for taking control of their brand. Marketing has changed and there is
    a new modality – Pull Marketing. What a person provides as part of their brand needs
    to be relevant. I find any employer’s use of Klout as a measure of a student’s
    worthiness for a job as dubious. That being said, in today’s market employers
    are looking for ways to differentiate candidates and separate the chafe from
    the real deal. If a prospect has personal brand investment and cares about how
    they present themselves professionally it certainly gives them a leg up in my
    eye. Of more importance to me as an employer is if they will fit into our
    corporate culture. Second are they a go-getter as opposed to a spectator. Third,
    are they confident but not arrogant. It is hard to judge work ethic, but if
    they have a well written resume, have an online portfolio if applicable, dress
    for the job, return calls and emails promptly, and have a professional social
    brand; these are good indicators. I say professional brand, because what they
    did at the frat house or sorority house on Saturday night is of no interest to
    me as an employer. However, beware it can be a detractor. My company, as a
    professional services organization, has a brand image as well. Candidates with
    public pictures or posts in poor taste could cost them the job. Because of
    Social, personal and professional are blurred. So I would suggest students be
    careful what they share socially. There are consequences for actions and it’s
    not all about you!

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  • thanks

  • Todd Bacile

    Thank you for the comments, Vincent. Excellent point regarding “what” a student communicates. A very large social media marketing company’s CEO told me his hiring managers attempt to “friend” applicants via Facebook. Once the managers are “friends” on FB they go back as much as two or three years sifting through content to see what students discuss and if it is in poor taste or offensive. Several applicants lose the job opportunity because of what they post via social networks. For the record, I was somewhat shocked at this infiltration technique; and I do not find it to be an ethical hiring practice.

    By the way Vincent: lots of great points and concerns have been raised since this post was published. I created a follow-up post to answer some of the criticism and areas of concern regarding Klout. You may enjoy reading this: http://toddbacile.wordpress.com/2012/09/04/buzz-debates-insults-the-klout-in-the-classroom-controversy/

    Thanks and have a great day!

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  • You got me thinking… I’ve been receiving proposal bids from so-called SM and Marketing experts for my StreetJelly project. So I look up the Klout score for these firms and their personal accts… holy moly… either they have no twitter accout at all or a ridiculously low Klout score. Fascinating. Or in my case, back to the drawing board!

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  • sanchezjb

    Did you consider and if so, how did you address and mitigate the possibility that your students “gamed” their Klout scores? Additionally, did you look at your students’ Klout scores to see if they increased, stayed the same, &/or decreased after leaving your class?

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