The whole idea of assessing social influence is fascinating to me. Klout and other companies are popping up to reduce people to a single number … which evokes delight in marketers and loathing in those being rated! An evil genius could have a lot of fun with that scenario : )

This trend also taps into people’s sense of competition and it’s easy to be knocked off center when a cat or an inanimate object has a higher Klout score than you. Hey, I admit it – when Klout first came out, yes … I compared my score to other bloggers to see where I stood. I’m competitive, too! I think you have to enjoy competition to be good at business. We just have to keep it in perspective. Today, my score kind of stays the same under most circumstances so it’s not at the top of my hit parade!

But when people start getting obsessed with personal scores and measuring against “the competition,” it may drive the wrong behaviors. In the past month I’ve seen no fewer than six posts with Klout-enhancing strategies to game the system. I could really care less about how other people spend their time, except when it starts to affect me. You see, all these posts include something along the lines of finding ways to troll for people with high Klout scores and trick them into engaging with you. They suggest something like this:

  1. Research and follow people with high Klout scores.
  2. Retweet and reply to Tweets from these “influencers,” in an attempt to elicit a response.
  3. Find ways to support and promote influencers, hoping they will support and promote you.

So I am the perfect target. I have a relatively high Klout score and I engage a lot. But this seems a little creepy to me. Plotting artificial engagement to hike an artificial score? It just seems well, artificial!

I sense that there are people enacting this strategy on me now. I just had somebody follow me called @kloutbait. Hmm … subtle! Of course I can never really know a person’s intent, but I also don’t want to spend my time being part of a plot to game the system.

I believe that increasing your influence in any social environment — offline or online — can be supported in the long-term by following the simple formula that is also at the heart of my book, The Tao of Twitter:

  • Surround yourself with meaningful people who have a probability of caring about you and what you do (regardless of their Klout score)
  • Provide meaningful content that will naturally create value and act as a catalyst for connection
  • Nurture and sustain relationships by being sincerely, authentically helpful to people.

These online scoring systems will come and go. Their algorithms will change constantly. Instead of trying to figure out the system, I think that by consistently following this path, your social score will take care of itself. And more important, personal and business benefits will accrue no matter what your score may be.

Does this make sense? What does this trend toward measuring social influence mean to you?