By Jessica Graham
With her eyes fixed on the computer screen, Angela Doll Carlson, Tweets, posts and shares her way to a higher Klout score. Her goal: to get one person to actually reach out to her and bring her a donut.
Klout measures influence across social networks. The San Francisco-based company created the social media analyzer to see just how influential, or “popular,” you are online based on the likes of Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr. Your influence is based on a scale of one to 100.
Carlson, a Chicago-based writer, personal trainer and musician spent years building up an online identity – a “castle in a cute little social media neighborhood.” According to Klout she is a “specialist,” influential in a specific field. But despite Carlson’s influence online, she still hasn’t gotten that donut.
“So far I influence like 479 people,” blogged Carlson. “No matter how many times I tweet about it though, not one of those 479 people will bring me a donut so I ask: what good is that anyway?“
Initially, Klout was a tool for many social media junkies to see how far their message travels online. As more people use Klout, being unpopular, or having a low Klout score, may have bigger consequences.
Students may leave school, look for a job and realize that a potential employer analyzed their Klout score. With a low score, it’s hard to stay competitive.
One SF State student is preparing for this day. On Twitter, an impressive Klout score of 70 rests next to her profile picture, showing one purple-haired, mascara-clad Francesca Ali.
In the real world, Francesca Ali is Franko Ali, a visual communications design major and marketing minor. His Twitter profile picture is a social media experiment on whether being an attractive girl online has any effect on one’s Twitter followers. With plans to work in marketing, Ali’s future may depend on his ability to maintain a high Klout score.
“The fact that it’s in beta and I have a 70 right now is cool,” said Ali, sitting at the center of a huge wooden table in the Cesar Chavez center. “Once it’s out of beta, I will put my Klout score on my resume.”
Klout measures your social media activity using an algorithm, then gives you a score and a list of topics you are influential about. Your score is heavily based on how many people you influence.
Levine, who writes for several media outlets including Business Insider, New York Magazine, and FoxNews.com, uses Klout to monitor how well she is engaging her audience online. As a writer, Levine wants to ensure what she is influential about matches what she writes about.
“Some topics fit me and some are based on just one story I did months ago, but must have come up because I happened to excessively hashtag it or something,” said Levine.
But some topics come out of left field, leaving several Klout users to wonder about the accuracy and reliability of the budding tech company’s data. According to Carlson and Levine, Klout won’t be a useful tool until its results are more trustworthy.
“For a while Klout said I was influential about teeth, which maybe accurate in some alternative universe, but I have no idea what I’d been tweeting to give that impression,” said Carlson.
According to Joe Fernandez, Klout will be releasing a feature called ‘Score Insights’ in the next few weeks. This will show you exactly why your score went up or down and can help you better understand your topics.
The idea of employers judging your eligibility on a Klout score does not sit well with SF State journalism student KC Crowell. Crowell says that Klout is giving credit where’s credit’s not due. Sitting against the wall in a desk riddled in lewd doodles and gum, Crowell shares her experience with Klout.
The biggest problem with Klout is that someone like Justin Bieber can be more influential about iPhones than Apple, according to Crowell. Facebook and Twitter followers can be purchased through marketing companies–some charge a dollar a follow–increasing the chances that the desired message will be retweeted, shared and plus one’d. If people can buy influence, then the people who are actually influential about a topic have a harder time leveling up. Crowell believes this is wrong.
“Trying to use it to measure any meaningful influence, is like saying your a homeowner because you have Monopoly money,” said Crowell.
Besides purchasing influence, people are learning how to manipulate Klout’s algorithm to get a high score. Klout users are spending more time on Twitter and Facebook because those social media hold more weight with Klout and can boost your score. Joe Fernandez, CEO and co-founder of Klout, acknowledges Klout’s computing flaws, but shares he is still in the process of understanding how Klout interacts with the world.
Fifty tech lovers, writers and social media junkies are all simultaneously staring at their computer screen. On the Spreecast, Fernandez announces that he is logging in live from Klout headquarters and will be answering questions from the virtual crowd.
“At the office, we call this the ‘Warren Buffet problem,’ where somebody hugely influential in the real world, but not active at all on the social web, wouldn’t have a Klout score,” says Fernandez. “The same way Google says their goal is to index all the world’s information, we want to understand the world’s influence and that’s going to take us a long time.”
Fernandez and his team waste no time exploring the concept of Klout and real world interaction. Fernandez admits that his team uses the Klout score during the hiring process. It isn’t the deciding factor, but it helps them identify if someone is actually influential about the things they say they are. For some students, this could mean social media will play a larger role than an entertaining past-time. It could actually play a role in finding a job.
So what does this all mean for students? Will their futures be dependent on virtual, game-based social media analyzers? According to Ali, people like his dad are already monitoring employee’s social media activity. As a lawyer, his father scans the Facebook accounts of potential interns. Employers already have access to the information Klout collects, so the negative effects of being rated on your online influence stems from being active on social media in general.
“I want to be seen online for the kind of person I am, because in this creative industry this creative thinking, different thinking, rather than stark professionalism, is desirable,” says Ali. “The fact that I can be see as an outgoing person that’s insightful, clever, and snaky, the fact that I can be seen that way without even having to have and interview, to me, that’s an opportunity.”