One of the real challenges (and opportunities) resulting from the social media explosion of recent years has been finding a way to quantify arbitrary things like influence in this ever-evolving digital age. 

In many cases, a person’s supposed influence has been a popularity contest that has been erroneously tied to the number of Facebook friends, Twitter followers and/or blog subscribers they were able to collect.

More fans or followers = more social media street cred and influence.

Enter Klout – a controversial Website that measures a person’s individual social media influence on a scale of 1 to 100 based on data the site pulls from various social networks.  [There’s also a tool called PeerIndex that similarly gauges someone’s online activities to identify their social and reputational capital.]

While the science behind how Klout produces these scores seems far from exact, what is noteworthy is the fact that some well-respected brands are already using it as a gauge of influence in their campaigns and audience outreach efforts, as well as marketing efforts through Klout Perks.

From my point of view, if you want to understand what your Klout score truly means as a measure of social influence today, I highly recommend that you visit this site. Don’t get me wrong … popularity and reach are important measures. If you have 10,000 Twitter followers or 3,000+ Facebook friends … then congratulations, you must be doing something right.

However, if you have tens of thousands of followers, with how many of these do you actually have a meaningful relationship on a daily basis?  I’m guessing the answer is not many. Popularity doesn’t equal engagement … and without engagement, there is no influence.  Quality should matter more than quantity. If someone has 500 followers but those followers are all talking about a brand’s widget, that context is much more valuable to a company, especially B2B, than 10,000 general followers.

True engagement is something Klout doesn’t measure accurately. If brands or people just focused on having engaging conversations and putting useful content out there, the results will follow!

– Janet Tyler is the president at Airfoil Public Relations, a high tech PR agencywith offices in Silicon Valley and Detroit.