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Joe Fernandez, co-founder and chief executive officer of Klout. (Ramin Talaie/RAMIN TALAIE/BLOOMBERG)
Joe Fernandez, co-founder and chief executive officer of Klout. (Ramin Talaie/RAMIN TALAIE/BLOOMBERG)

Lucy Kellaway

Bieber and Obama have Klout, but I don't. And I don’t care Add to ...

I am the least influential person I know. Less so than all of my colleagues, friends and acquaintances. Less so even than my children.

This is on the strength of Klout scores, which rate our importance on social networks on a scale of one to 100. My Klout turns out to be a mere 10 – which compares with an infuriating 68 for my lifelong rival, and to scores of between 40 and 80 for most of my colleagues. Even my youngest son, who knows precious little about the world and has not lived in it for very long, turns out to be more influential than I am.

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Until last week I had lived in happy ignorance that such a thing as Klout existed. But then I read something on the Harvard Business Review website that introduced me to the “influence quotient” and argued that Klout scores and similar measures are important and are going to become increasingly used in hiring and promotions. It seems some companies are already specifying that they will hire only people with Klouts of over 40 or so. It’s all rather scary.

So I signed up myself. I provided details of my (moribund) Facebook and LinkedIn accounts as well as my Twitter name and then, after an indecently short time, the computer coughed up my dismal score. The number is apparently based on a complicated algorithm that takes into account 400 different factors, including not only how many people retweet and “like” you but how important each of them is.

My initial response to my score was disbelief. I snatched up the phone and called Klout’s chief executive, Joe Fernandez, who answered on the first ring. I found myself feebly protesting that as I have 20,000 followers on Twitter, Klout must have kocked up the kalculation, but Mr. Fernandez was not impressed.

The number of followers means nothing, he said, as people can buy them. Although I didn’t like the insinuation, I fear Klout may have rumbled me. In truth, all my tweets are put out by the FT’s PR team, as I can’t be bothered to do it myself. I never retweet; don’t follow anyone; there is absolutely no connecting going on at all. So I guess 10 is what I deserve.

In any case, a part of me is proud of the low score. There is something distinguished about being such a spectacular dud on social networks. It is evidence of having a proper life in which clout is not only measured correctly, it is spelled correctly too.

The whole idea of Klout gives me the creeps with its horrible talk of “unlocking” and “leveraging” influence.

It is also hard to respect a system in which Justin Bieber (whose moronic Twitter page says: “you are always there for me and I will always be there for you. MUCH LOVE”) is the only human to have briefly reached a perfect score of 100. It is only a minor consolation that, following some recent tweaking of the algorithm, he has dropped a few points in order to allow Barack Obama to squeeze in ahead of him.

But the main problem with Klout is that it is a nonsense to try to boil down something as qualitative as influence into a single number. It fails to distinguish between someone who is influential in the world of dog biscuits and someone who is influential in defence policy: both are ranked the same.

Even more objectionable is what obsessing over Klout scores does to people: it makes them twitchy and stupid. On Twitter, every few seconds someone tweets: “My Klout score has just gone up two points!!!!” And then sycophants retweet these dreary messages and the scores rise even further.

Yet, despite all this, I can’t shrug off my own failure entirely. Never since my fourth-year Latin exam at school have I done quite so badly at anything. But back then I was all defiance; now I find it much harder to laugh off my lack of Klout than I did my stupidity faced with one of the world’s most beautiful and rigorous languages.

The difference is that Klout, unlike Latin, is not a language of the past. It is a measure of proficiency (even if a crude and flawed one) at a language that almost everyone seems to have learned how to speak – apart, it seems, from me.

I fear I am going to have to try a bit harder. I am going to wrest back my Twitter account and do it myself. I will try a bit on LinkedIn.

If all fails, there is a fallback. A young colleague to whom I confided my score last week said that he was sure he could boost it massively in a mere half an hour if I handed control of my accounts to him.

Kloutsourcing is what he called it. I rather like it.

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