Winners-podium

In a world in which everything is graded and measured, it’s not surprising that there’s now a company that measures influence in social media. But there’s a huge debate over whether Klout is what it purports to be—“the standard of influence,” according to the company’s tagline—or whether it’s a waste of time.

Launched in 2008, Klout has come up with a set of algorithms to measure the social-media activity of individuals and businesses. The company gives each person or business a score ranging from one to 100. For example, U.S. President Barack Obama has a score of 99, and until recent upgrades to the algorithm, Justin Bieber had the highest score of 100. (He’s currently at 92.)

Celebrities have high scores because they’re being talked about and mentioned a lot in social media. Heavy users of social media who constantly post content will also have high scores. Activity on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Klout, Foursquare and Wikipedia have the most effect on scores.

Responding to complaints about the inaccuracy of its measurements, Klout recently upgraded its algorithms to include factors like job titles taken from LinkedIn profiles in an effort to better reflect real world influence. It has also improved its algorithms to take into account the number of different people sharing social-media posts, rather than the same few people sharing posts.

So what’s all the fuss about Klout?

There are a growing number of stories in the media about companies checking a job candidate’s Klout score and hiring those with higher scores. Other stories include hotels or airlines checking guests’ scores and giving free upgrades to those with higher scores. So, for those who have tried to ignore it, some parts of our world have reduced people to a single number based on their popularity in social media, which entitles them to better service, jobs or other benefits.

Some people have denounced Klout for these reasons and opted to avoid it completely. Others say that the people who object are the ones with low Klout scores. With all this debate, should small and mid-sized businesses really care?

Klout is not perfect. It should never be taken as a sole measurement to determine whether someone is important or a better candidate for an job opening. You might have heard about people buying Facebook fans or Twitter followers to bump up those numbers.

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