For colleges, social media ‘Klout’ isn’t everything

Some colleges are turning away from Klout.

A blitz of retweets and Facebook likes can be a nice boost for a college’s social media presence, but measuring success with the popular Klout score could give schools a false read of their Twitter and Facebook influence.

Research published this week by Inigral, creator of private social networks for colleges and universities, urges campus social media decision makers to look beyond the school’s Klout score, an analytical measurement of a person, company, or campus’s influence across the most popular social sites: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, and Google+.

The Klout scale ranges from 1 to 100, with media superstars like Lady Gaga and Justin Beiber reaching the upper echelons of the Klout rankings.

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Equating a rising Klout score with success in a college’s mission to connect with students, alumni, parents, and campus employees in a meaningful way is a common mistake in higher education, according to the Inigral research.

“While Klout is an easy way to measure influence, unfortunately for higher ed, what it measures is not a good predictor of social media success,” the report said. “Your messaging and activity should have a clear purpose beyond sheer volume of communication and interaction that Klout encourages.”

Pure volume of tweets and Facebook posts—along with online contests that drive followers to a campus’s social media accounts—will raise a school’s Klout score, giving the impression that the institution is a social media leader in education circles.

The weight of Klout scores have been questioned recently in professional circles that rely heavily on social media connections, including higher education.

Jamie Kelly, media relations director at Cornell College, said he opted out of Klout early this year when it became clear that the social media analytic site had devolved into the “Farmville of online metrics,” referring to the popular social media game in which users earn rewards and points, as Klout members can.

“I’m entirely unconcerned with the college’s Klout score,” Kelly said. “When it comes to the social media accounts, my job is to help forge connections, not to act in a way that fulfills someone’s idea of the perfect Twitter or Facebook account. And I’d suggest that if people spent more time trying to forge real connections with others rather than worrying about Klout scores, the internet might be a better place.”

Even so, Kelly said he understands that a single number reflecting social media followers and interactions is appealing among college officials who want to know how their campus stacks up to peer schools.

But Kelly warned that “applying objective, scientific measures to human behavior is always a dicey proposition.”

“For one thing, a job running social media marketing isn’t about the number of followers someone has, it’s about their vision for the brand’s account,” he said.

Matt LaCasse, a blogger for public relations site PRBreakfast Club, wrote in a May 16 post that Klout was a “good starting point” for measuring the effectiveness of a social media strategy, adding that “in the end, it doesn’t mean anything.”

Klout, LaCasse wrote, can’t take into account the connections a person, business, or college makes offline, which could be more important than a spate of random Twitter followers.

“Influence doesn’t mean everyone around me bends to my thoughts, feelings, and beliefs,” he wrote. “It means others around me think I’m valuable in some way. Klout is heading in the right direction. Just don’t think it’s a nonstop flight to measurement paradise.”

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