I've been thinking for some time now about Klout scores and influence in general. And just so we're on the same page, a Klout score is a metric of one's overall online influence. The score can range anywhere between 1-100 and is calculated by using over 35 different variables. According to Klout, this score then represents the degree to which a person engages their audience and also the size of the impact the message has. Pretty nifty gadget for seeing how different people rate as far as online influence goes.
But then, I was wondering. Would Klout scores only be valid for online influence, or would it also give us an accurate picture of how influential they are IRL? In other words, would you be able to roughly assess a persons score in a face to face interaction with them and would that number roughly coincide with their actual Klout score? We understand that celebrities, athletes, and public figures typically have high scores due to their visibility, but does that make you want to do business with them more than someone with a low score? Does that make you trust their opinions or recommendations more? At what point does it begin to become a popularity contest?
To be fair, I'm going further than just talking about Klout scores. I'm more interested in what it represents. I perceive someone influential as having the ability to persuade another towards a certain opinion or behavior. Therefore, should I be interacting with someone truly influential, I should be compelled to take a course of action or espouse an opinion which I wouldn't consider doing otherwise. And to do so willingly after a healthy interaction with the influencer. Think of your best friend inviting you to a movie, even though you really weren't thinking of going in the first place. Is she an expert on movies? Is she coercing you? Does she have a high Klout score? As your best friend, all those things are immaterial. You decide to go, largely because the relationship is there. In this case, she is your influencer.
After all, you wouldn't make a decision to date someone based on their Klout score, would you?
Key to becoming an influencer then, is forging relationships. Often, the focus is on influencing via the various social media tools readily available to anyone with a computer. A more effective approach would be in utilizing these social media tools to create and foster new relationships and connections, letting the influencing be a natural by-product. Social networking opens up opportunities for us to connect with those we otherwise wouldn't be able to connect with. Just like any other relationship, it takes work, especially online. But if done with care, these new connections will begin to look to you as their influencer.
I like what companies like Klout are doing, but I think it is one factor out of many when determining influence. The scores help narrow down the field and provide a starting point. The fact is that social media tools are the way of the future, but they are no substitute for human relationships no matter how sophisticated the metric.
Let me know your thoughts.