Editor’s note: Some professors are using Klout scores in grades and some job posts list Klout scores as a qualification. Should students be paying attention? In this two-part series, professors and industry experts weigh in.
By: Geoff Campbell
Unless you don’t use Facebook or Twitter, you’ve probably heard of Klout. The analysis company measures social media influence, claiming its algorithm is “as good [a metric in hiring] as a lot of other things.”
Klout’s acting head of communications, Lynn Fox, told Forbes, “We look at this as similar to an SAT…It is one of many factors that is considered when a person applies to a university. Likewise, the Klout Score can be used as one of many indicators of someone’s skill set.”
However, there are those who don’t believe Klout is reliable enough for managers to use as a hiring metric. An article written by Claire BeDell for Sprout Social’s Insights blog called it “useless” for hiring managers because it can lead to qualified applicants being overlooked. BeDell believes that Klout reflects “irrelevant” influence. She concluded that, “Klout is imperfect and shouldn’t be used to inform such an important decision as hiring a job applicant.”
Testing Klout’s Real Use
Many have written about the ability to game Klout. Chris Brogan aptly summarized a common argument against its use, stating “Klout is an imperfect system that ranks noise and crowd dynamics over actionable outcomes.” Tom Foremski of ZDnet agrees that Klout isn’t accurate, saying that “Klout is a poor metric primarily because it changes its algorithm constantly, resulting in wild swings in people’s scores based on nothing but changes in how it conducts its secret assessments.”
Foremski, who is critical of the service, said that whether we like it or not, “Klout is part of today’s metrics” and “[n]umbers always win, there’s always a metric and even if it isn’t the perfect metric, there is always a metric of one kind or another being used to judge people’s performance.”
John Koetsier at VentureBeat, however, argued that even with Klout’s problems, it remains a useful tool. He writes that “ignoring online influence, for which Klout score is a convenient if imperfect proxy, is…downright stupid.” He stated that hiring managers should of course search beyond a single number, and that “in combination with other factors, [a person’s] Klout score remains a valuable metric.”
Piers Fawkes echoed Koetsier’s thoughts, saying that despite its flaws, “Klout seems to be a very robust way available to judge the cultural capacity of a prospective or existing employee.”
Should Klout Be Taken Seriously?
Miriam Salpeter, author of Social Networking for Career Success, believes that it’s smart of community managers to consider using Klout to measure candidates. She noted that while it’s controversial for hiring managers to use third parties to help assign influence, it is important for people going into fields that rely on social media learn about services like Klout.
She explained that as positions using social media become more competitive, “employers will look for other ways to thin the pile or to evaluate people.” Salpeter added that people should not be concerned that there’s going to be a hard and fast rule where applicants are told not to apply if your score is under a certain number.
Regarding a score’s legitimacy, Salpeter noted, “If it weren’t at least somewhat accurate no one would care about it.” In the end though, it’s not about pinpoint accuracy, but common usage.
She noted, “I think that in general that you have to acknowledge that those kinds of measures are just a part of an evaluation process and we should embrace it instead of worrying about if they’re fair or not.” She added, “You know, life isn’t fair.”
Lindsey Pollak, career and workplace consultant and LinkedIn representative, noted that in speaking with recruiters so far, “they seem to only be interested in a Klout score if they are considering someone specifically for a social media-related role (e.g., social media manager), where Klout score would have particular relevance.”
“A Sliver of our Online Presence”
Mark Schaefer, consultant and professor of marketing at Rutgers University and author of Return On Influence, argued that what Klout and similar companies are doing is measuring “one small sliver of our online presence,” whether we create content that is shared and reacted to and “[t]hat skill is becoming increasingly important for many job categories — sales, marketing, PR, service, even HR.”
He doubted that he would ever hire based on a Klout score as there are too many other factors to consider, but cautioned that being graded on Klout score “is going to be a reality some students will face as they look for entry level jobs, and in some cases, even more advanced marketing jobs.”
Schaefer noted that there are a lot of strategies that can be used to improve an individual’s Klout score, adding that “any student in advertising/PR should immerse themselves in the social web … [which means] learning how to create content through blogging and video, learning how Twitter really works, and having a solid presence on LinkedIn. If you do those things,” Schaefer said, “the Klout score will follow.”
What are your thoughts on hiring managers using Klout in the recruiting process? Sound off in the comments section below, and stay tuned for the the second post in this two-part series, which will explore Klout’s use as a grading tool in the classroom.