Ascent of the social-media climbers

By Beth Teitell
Globe Staff 


After Valentina Monte accepts a date, the Boston University junior quickly goes online to see how many Twitter followers her suitor has. She checks her own follower count three times a day. When she meets someone who admits to following more people than follow him, she judges. “That means you’re a loser.’’



So when her Klout score hit an impressive 59 out of 100 recently, making it almost as high as Jay Leno’s score of 65, she was ecstatic. “I felt worthy.’’

Klout score? Learn it or, as Monte would say, be judged. Klout.com is one of a number of new status-measuring tools aimed at making social networking more like high school than it already is. Sites such as Klout and PeerIndex.net take public information from Twitter, and sometimes Facebook and LinkedIn, to determine a person’s influence on social media. Anyone can check her score or a rival’s by going to one of the sites and putting in her Twitter handle.

The companies use secret algorithms that go beyond simple numbers of followers — which can be bought in bulk — or friends or fans, and count retweets, the number of links clicked, and even how influential one’s followers are, among other indicators.

“A credit score for your reputation,’’ is how Dave Wieneke, director of digital marketing at Sokolove Law, in Boston, describes the Klout score.

Although many don’t know enough to worry about their Klout scores, for those keeping track, it can be one more ego boost or slap. “There’s a lot of emotion around this,’’ said Mark Schaefer, author of the “Tao of Twitter: Changing Your Life and Business 140 Characters at a Time.’’ “Generally it comes from people who have a low Klout score.’’

Garth Holsinger, vice president of global sales and business development at the San Francisco-based Klout, sees the desperation on a daily basis. “People call and say, ‘I work in social media, and I’m going to lose my job if my score doesn’t rise.’ We get celebrity managers asking how they can get their clients’ scores higher. We get people who are literally crying because their Klout score went down.’’

The stakes may only rise, Klout-wise. The company, which was founded in 2008, recently raised $8.5 million in new funding and said it plans to measure influence in more social networks — and beyond, to capture industry leaders who don’t bother tweeting or friending people.

Schaefer, an adjunct professor of marketing at Rutgers University, said the new score-keeping tools create a “disturbing’’ social media caste system that he dislikes. But, he adds, “from a marketer’s standpoint, they’re a dream.’’

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