published Sunday, June 19th, 2011

Kennedy: Do you have Klout?

I read an article in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine the other day called “How To Complain and Get Results.”

It said that when you’ve got a beef with a company nowadays, using social media to communicate your complaint is the way to go. Phone complaints using 1-800 numbers are old-school.

Actually, it makes perfect sense. A phone call is private. You can stay on hold all day, and nobody outside your household will probably know or care.

If, on the other hand, you’ve got a few hundred — or better, a few thousand — followers on Facebook or Twitter, your well-worded complaint to a company can have the same power as if you were marching up and down Amnicola Highway hoisting a neon sign. Companies have a vested interest in getting your problem fixed quickly so you’ll cool it with the Twitter pickets.

But before you get too cocky, please know that corporate America has already thought this through some, and they aren’t going to bow down to mere peons.

If you participate in social media at all, you have something called a Klout score. You can go to Klout.com and sign in through Twitter or Facebook to find out your score, which will range between 1 and 100.

According to the website, your Klout score is a measurement of your “overall online influence” using algorithms that measure how many people follow you, how influential they are and how likely they are to share your posts.

For example, Justin Bieber’s Klout score is 100, while Barack Obama’s score is 88. Ouch. The average score is about 11, according to some online sources. As I write, my Klout score is 42. Not bad, but not great either.

What does all this mean?

Well, it means that social-media networking has become its own currency. Some job candidates are said to flaunt their lofty Klout scores as if they were college GPAs.

Your Klout score can follow you around the Web. It might even help with that 1-800 call. Kiplinger’s reports: “Some call centers also use the [Klout] scoring system to route calls so that people with the most online influence get priority service.”

Great.

But what about people who opt out of social media entirely? Well, there is a price to pay in the digital world.

Truthfully, people have always tried to cash in on clout. I still have people who telephone me at work and introduce themselves as “Mrs. Dr. So-and-so from (fill in the blank) Mountain.” I long ago decided to be wary of anyone who thinks a professional title or address is part of their name.

Once you know about your Klout score, checking it daily can be addictive. One of my co-workers and I have a friendly competition to get the highest score. At the moment, he’s wining.

There are some clear flaws in Klout scores. The system claims to be so refined that it can name the topics on which you are most influential. For example, Klout.com says I am influential about “American Idol,” tornadoes and sandwiches. (Sandwiches? Seriously?)

Klout also thinks, for some completely inexplicable reason, that I’m an expert on (quote) #1 (endquote).

Bunk.

As anyone who knows me will attest, I am much more well-versed in #2.

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is a Times Free Press columnist and editor. He writes the "LIfe Stories" human interest column for the City section and the "Family Life" column for the Life section. He also writes an automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for ...

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