5 Things Small Businesses Should Know about Klout

by James A. Martin

These five tips can increase your Klout score and help you use social scoring to target influencers.

Don't know what Klout is or why you should care?

If you have Klout, you may be automatically upgraded to a better room at a Las Vegas hotel. Your Klout score may get you preferential treatment the next time you call into a customer service center. People with Klout have been eligible for a free Spotify invitation, a free Virgin America flight and free Starbucks coffee. Some job candidates are even putting their Klout scores on their resumes.

Here are five things every small business person should know about Klout, the hot social media influence service.

1. Klout is a social metrics service that's getting a lot of attention

Based in San Francisco, Klout is a social media analytics company founded in 2007. Klout is currently in beta and free to use. To start using the service, just go to Klout's home page and sign up using either your Twitter or Facebook account.

Klout uses multiple variables gathered from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and, most recently, Foursquare to assess the influence of an individual or brand across those networks. The end result: Klout assigns you a score -- or what it calls its 'influence metric' -- from 1 to 100. Klout has announced it will soon be adding metrics from YouTube, Google+ and Facebook Pages to its scoring system.

How hard is it to get a 100 Klout score? Let's put it this way: It doesn't hurt to be Justin Bieber.

In recent months, Klout has received a lot of mainstream press from the likes of The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and Forbes. The privately held company's social scoring system makes for lively copy.

"If you have a Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn account, you are already being judged -- or will be soon," wrote The New York Times.

"So much for wealth, looks or talent," wrote The Wall Street Journal. "Today, a new generation of VIPs is cultivating coolness through the world of social media. Here, ordinary folks can become 'influential' overnight depending on the number and kinds of people who follow them on Twitter or comment on their Facebook pages."

2. Klout isn't about having lots of Twitter followers or Facebook friends

Klout measures True Reach, Amplification Probability and Network Score. True Reach has to do with how many followers you have who "actively listen and react to your messages," according to Klout's own scoring definition. Amplification Probability has to do with how likely your messages will generate retweets, @messages, Facebook Likes and comments. The Network Score is an indication of how influential your followers are. In short, your Klout score is "highly correlated to clicks, comments and retweets."

As described by Klout CEO Joe Fernandez to Forbes writer Tracey John, a Klout score boils down to this: How likely is it the content you create on social networks will cause others to take action, whether it's clicking a link you posted or retweeting your tweets? And how influential are the people whom you incite into action? "The thing with Klout is you only get a good score if other influential people are reacting to your content. It makes it really, really hard to game the system," Fernandez said.

Fernandez added that "we actually don't care how many Twitter followers or Facebook friends you have. What we care about is who interacts with you. You might have 10,000 friends, but if no one responds or interacts with you, it doesn't matter."

To put a finer point on it, Fernandez said someone with thousands of social media connections might still be outscored by someone with just two connections -- if those two connections happened to be Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.

3. Klout isn't the only social scoring system

For now, Klout is receiving the most attention among social scoring services. But here are some others to check out:

  • Tweetlevel and Bloglevel, both from the Edelman PR firm, measure your influence in Twitter and the blogosphere, respectively.
  • PeerIndex scores you based on your influence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Quora, as well as blogs and other URLs you add.
  • Tweet Grader from HubSpot ranks you according to how influential you are on Twitter.
  • Twitter Counter includes both free and a variety of paid Twitter statistics services, ranging from $15 to $150 a month.

4. Using Klout, SMBs can target influencers with news and promotions

For the moment, primarily large, national and international brands such as Subway, Visa, Nike, Starbucks and Virgin America are partnering with Klout to offer freebies to people with attractive Klout scores. The idea is that by offering perks to social media influencers, those influencers will in turn be likely to spread positive word-of-mouth across their networks about a brand's product or service.

Small businesses hoping to obtain positive word-of-mouth on a budget can check out the Klout scores of their Twitter and Facebook followers. For instance, once you connect your Twitter account to Klout, you can see in your Twitter stream the Klout scores of people you follow and who follow you. Armed with that information, you can reach out directly to those with high Klout scores who are influential in your area and offer them promotions, information about new products or services, and so on. Klout.com also lets you create lists of people and brands that you can use for targeting purposes.

Keep in mind that Klout scores are just one way of measuring influence, notes Jeremiah Owyang, Web strategist for research firm Altimeter Group. "While influence helps to prioritize how quickly a company can respond to an influencer, remember that even non-influential customers can have a significant impact on a company," Owyang says. For example, Owyang points out the person who uploaded the 'Sleeping Comcast technician' YouTube video, which went viral and created a PR stink for the cable company, had previously only posted a few videos.

Owyang also warns companies not to alienate mainstream customers by overtly catering to influencers. While Klout high-scorers appreciate the perks, those with lower scores might feel left out and go where they'll feel appreciated -- perhaps to your competitor.

5. To increase your Klout score, be authentically helpful

Just as with Google search results, there are countless people already trying to 'game' their Klout scores. Ultimately, here are the best strategies for improving your score:

Don't simply increase the volume of your tweets. Some Twitter users, hoping to boost their Klout scores, start sending out 200 tweets a day, if not more -- which is bound to irritate their followers. A better strategy is to send out quality updates.

Quality updates are when you're actively engaging with friends and followers "by sharing links, comments and original content about things you're passionate about," notes Mark Schaefer, a marketing consultant and college educator who blogs at Grow. "Be authentically helpful. Look for ways to interact, not just broadcast links."

Going to a conference or trade show? Post newsy, interesting information you learn during sessions on Twitter or Facebook. Those updates are more likely to get shared than, say, something you've simply read online -- which has probably been shared hundreds of times already by others.

Try to get people with high Klout scores to follow you and, even better, retweet or share your updates. Sometimes, people will follow you back if you follow them on Twitter. You might also get their attention by retweeting them with an @reply mention of their Twitter handle.

As Klout's CEO Joe Fernandez told Forbes: "If you're really passionate or you're excellent in something, and you want the world to know, the Web and social media is there for you to share that stuff. If you consistently share your passion with the world, then everything can take care of itself from there."

For more tips, see 10 Tips to Grow Your Twitter Following.

James A. Martin writes often about social media and SEO. You can follow him on Twitter.

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This article was originally published on Tuesday Aug 2nd 2011
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