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A screengrab of Amber Mac's Klout profile. (Klout)
A screengrab of Amber Mac's Klout profile. (Klout)

Amber Mac

Klout is gaining clout with perks and PR Add to ...

Love it or hate it, everyone in the social media world seems to have an opinion about Klout. For months I've avoided getting sucked into the Web tool that measures online influence. However, yesterday a tweet came across my stream that prompted me to give Klout a closer look.

A friend of mine, a well-known talent agent in Los Angeles named George Ruiz (@georgeruiz), tweeted this: "Started to have conversations with brands and buyers about clients' Klout scores. It begins."

Don't get me wrong, Klout has been on my radar since it launched a couple of years ago. However, I've always rejected the service's attempt to try to automatically determine online influence by using an algorithm to assign scores ranging from 1 to 100 (incidentally, Canada's sweetheart @justinbieber has a perfect score of 100, I'm hovering at a respectable 63 points).

The company explains on its website that they use more than 35 variables to measure true reach and amplification (in non-Internet terms, this essentially means popularity). Most importantly, they rely on a user's social networking presence across multiple sites to nail down a Klout personality and score. For example, literary icon Margaret Atwood has been labelled a "Thought Leader" with a score of 73 and Toronto's Mayor Rob Ford (@TOMayorFord) has been given the "Pundit" title with a good showing at 66 points.

In an informal survey on Twitter, my community leans toward the "not caring" side of Klout critics. However, there are a few social media lovers who appreciate the free stuff that comes their way, thanks to Klout Perks. When European music service Spotify launched in the U.S. last month, tens of thousands of top social media influencers were given invites based on their interests and Klout scores. Spotify is just one of many companies offering this type of incentive. As tweeter @sarahcollaton explains, the perks go beyond virtual goods: "I got free @popchips out of it so now I'm a fan ;)."

In other words, if you like get free stuff, it makes sense to care about your Klout score. If you're a brand trying to navigate the Web's most influential users, Klout can be helpful. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when relying on a person's overall score and influence. As @cbern points out, "@Klout is an interesting tool but sometimes influential topics seem random." Sara Lomas from Montreal (@DrawnIn) explains that Klout thinks she's "influential about the sweater." Clearly, the technology has its limits. If you properly manage your Klout account your score can change. Sync up to LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, and other online networks and you're bound to influence your own, err, influence.

I think I sit closely to Chris Christensen's (@chris2x) opinion on this tool. He compares Klout to Nielsen's television ratings, remarking that both are flawed but provide an interesting starting point. The one difference being that a Klout user has a little more control over quickly improving his score based on participating in more conversations, providing "better" content, and getting the attention of other influencers. Will I be spending more time hustling online to up my Klout? Tough to say, but let me tweet this article and see what happens to my score.

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Follow on Twitter: @ambermac

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