The pitfalls of chasing Klout in higher education

Why would you voluntarily sign up for another? I have a deep philosophical problem with rankings assigned without any published metric. As I noted above, there are things you can do to increase your Klout score, but they’re almost all things you shouldn’t be doing.

So if it’s opaque, encourages annoying behavior and doesn’t really offer any advantages, why do people use it?

For one thing, it offers bragging rights.

Who doesn’t love to be told that they’re better at something than someone else? As I’ve said elsewhere, though, you can’t win at social media. It’s not a competition, it’s a tool. That’s especially true when it comes to colleges. How can you compare a liberal arts college with an enrollment of about 1,200 (like, say, Cornell College, where I work) with an enormous, state-funded research institution with nearly 31,000 undergraduate and graduate students (like, say, our neighbor the University of Iowa)?

We fill different niches, compete for different students, and have different philosophies. Comparing us is like comparing shoes and cars—both can move you toward a destination, but they aren’t in the same category.

The other driver is that bosses like to quantify things, and having one number in place of a whole bunch of numbers seems attractive. It’s especially appealing to people who understand that social media is important without necessarily grasping how or why it’s important and what the best practices are.

Try some education—explain why Klout isn’t all it seems, and offer up some other metrics that can be used to track your progress.

There is real beauty to the way that social media sites let us connect with others, and too often, the loud and the obnoxious can obscure that. If you want to really increase your influence on others, try this simple, guaranteed strategy (which is in no way guaranteed): Post compelling content, tweet about it regularly, but no more than once an hour and four to six times a day.

Track hashtags and keywords that are important and see if you can move the conversation forward. Post photo, videos and links to Facebook three to five times a week. Respond to questions and try to be helpful. Forget about your Klout score and even forget that Klout exists at all. Sit back and reap the rewards.

Jamie Kelly is a media relations director at Cornell College.

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