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The Klout Trap

Today, I was reading a post over on HackCollege that basically explained what Klout is. For those of you who are too lazy to click that link, or who feel my site’s design is vastly superior to theirs simply by virtue of the shirtless picture of me in the sidebar (you’d be right), I’ll give you the lowdown:

Klout is a website that measures your influence across all the major social networks and gives you a score.

This score is like your level in Fitocracy, World of Warcraft, or Hello Kitty Island Adventure – you can use it to feel good about yourself and assert a small amount of meta-dominance over people who could still kick your ass in a physical fight. It works like this:

  • You sign up and add your social networks
  • Klout gives you a score based on your post frequency, reach, actual interaction with others, the alignment of the stars, and a few shakes of a magic 8-ball for good measure
  • You spend all of your subsequent time posting six tweets a minute trying to raise said score

Ok, all joking aside, Klout can be a pretty good measurement of your social influence. As I’ve talked about before, using social networks effectively is essential to building a personal brand, and can help you build good relationships.

There have even been instances where Klout has been used by employers to evaluate job candidates, as Andew’s article on HackCollege points out.

However, I feel it should be emphasized that you shouldn’t spend too much time worrying about your Klout score. While it’s a pretty good measure of your online influence, it can easily cheapen the experience of using social media by gamifying it and basically turning it into a big competition.

Social media sites are tools. They can be incredibly useful for speaking your mind, building connections, sharing content, etc. However, using them is a MUCH lower-priority form of work than actually creating content, building something, or simply learning.

The reason I think it’s necessary to say this is because some people can get obsessed with their Klout score. It can incentivize you to start spending way too much time on your social media profiles, painstakingly scheduling tweets, scrolling through profiles over and over, etc.

This is like trying to make money by using Amazon Mechanical Turk – you might make some marginal gains right away, but you’re taking time that could be better invested into learning a skill that would make you a lot more money later.

In the same way, people that get addicted to Klout aren’t using their time to create awesome shit – which, ironically, is how you REALLY raise you Klout score. Seth Godin has a score of 79 – yet he only tweets once a day and has only been on Twitter for a short time. His score is high because he creates amazing work.

So my recommendation (with a score of 64, I feel comfortable giving one) would be to keep tabs on your score and use social media to build your personal brand – but to spend much more time simply working on awesome stuff.

Most of this article came from a comment I left on that HackCollege article I linked to. However, it seems their commenting plugin is having some problems, and I’m really impatient – so I decided to turn it into a blog post instead.

Oh, and I’d also like to point out that I drew that picture above all by myself. Using a touchpad. My skills of an artist are nye-unparalleled.


P.S. – if you want to learn how to use social media the right way – plus a ton of other techniques for impressing the pants off of prospective employers – then sign up for my newsletter using the orange box below. You’ll get immediate access to my toolbox of personal branding resources for students, plus exclusive tips and strategies in the future.