Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Jobs With Klout

With the deposit deadline quickly approaching, I’ve spent a lot of time these past few weeks with prospective journalism students and their parents as they weigh their options for college.

I get it. With the formidable cost of tuition these days (and, yes, the value of a journalism degree still under debate, as this Mediabistro column describes), it’s not enough to simply wow families with curriculum bling and student shout-outs.

Parents want to know the ROI: employable skills, nimble minds and the jobs grads land at the end of the ride. Now, is it possible there is another way to measure value – their Klout score?!
We’ve all heard of people who weren’t hired because of Facebook pages filled with raunchy language and raucous parties. In fact, a recent study by Eurocom Worldwide, the Global PR Network (mentioned in an articlerecently by Forbes contributor Lisa Quast ), says almost 20 percent of technology industry executives report that a job candidate’s social media profile has nixed a hire.

Enter, Klout. According to writer Seth Stevenson in this month’s Wired magazine, individuals may increasingly be hired (or not) based on an algorithm created by a Web startup called that attempts to quantify users’ online influence on a scale from 1 to 100 by tracking variables like frequency of tweets and retweets, number of followers and the cyber mileage of your content.

The Wired article leads with poor Sam Fiorella, who was interviewing for a VP position at a Toronto marketing agency when, about halfway through, the interviewer asks him for his Klout score. He sheepishly admits he’s never heard of Klout, and after the recruiter clicks on Fiorella’s meager score of 34, the interview fizzles out and the firm later hires someone with a score of 67.

I’d venture to say the system has some serious flaws as a recruiting technique. Since when, for instance, does a collection of 140-character tidbits trump a thoughtful assessment of someone’s work ethic, skill, creativity, leadership and intelligence?

Nonetheless, as journalism educators preparing students for the digital media environment, we should learn how works and how to boost our own social media influence.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Share useful content. The key to driving conversation and shaping opinions is saying something relevant and useful to others. But don’t stress – it doesn’t have to be earth-shattering. It just needs to be something other people can benefit from reading, says Integrated Marketing Communications lecturer Randy Hlavac.
  • Develop an engaged community. Find sources in the circle you hope to influence, particularly those who already have a large number of followers, then send your own tweets, retweets and mentions. Use hash tags to broaden your reach. Gradually, you’ll build a following – and boost your score.
  • Keep at it. Give Klout permission to connect to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare and Google+ to track your interactions. Then make time every day to engage in some cyber chatter.

So that explains it. A year ago, I called out my cable company on Twitter, hoping the executives would snap to and solve my service issues. No response. Got it – my Klout score wasn’t high enough.

Michele Bitoun is Senior Director of Undergraduate Education and Teaching Excellence at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications and a graduate student in the Media Strategy and Leadership program. She can be reached on twitter using the handle @michelebitoun.

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