Some business owners use tools like Klout and Kred to measure a person's online influence before hiring him or her. Some people argue these tools can help gauge a candidate's abilities and social media influence. Others, meanwhile, doubt the ability of an algorithm to comb through social-media data and assign people scores that accurately reflect their abilities.
Take, for instance, what happened to Sam Fiorella. A story in Wired magazine detailed how Fiorella interviewed for a vice president position at a marketing agency but was passed over -- despite his 15 years of professional experience -- for someone who had a higher score on Klout. He spent the next six months improving his score and the number of job offers started rolling in. But realizing that he was being judged solely on an arbitrary number, he opted out of Klout altogether.
"The idea of measuring social influence and reputation through a single recognizable data point is extremely alluring to brands who want to source online influence," says Leslie Gaines-Ross, chief reputation strategist for public relations firm Weber Shandwick. "To truly understand reputation, however, you need to look at the composite of online and offline influence, perceptions and cues. Klout and Kred scores are one step in understanding social and reputational influence but we have not yet arrived at the perfect solution just yet."
Here's a closer look at Klout and Kred and the pros and cons of using them for hiring:
How it works: Your Klout score is a number between 1 and 100 that quantifies your sphere of influence in the social media world. Klout says its algorithm arrives at the number by examining more than 400 data points on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, including the quality of your followers and how they share your information with their network. Klout is free and you can sign up as an individual or a brand.
Pros: Klout can be a fine tool to start with if you're looking to hire an expert or an influencer to promote your business online. The site has more than 100 million profile pages and the score is used by other online tools such as Hootsuite and Bing to show most influential followers and relevant search results. Profiles are clear and easy to read, and you can see who is on top of any topic by clicking the topic link on your profile page.
In addition, Klout has created a new tool called Klout for Business, which includes a set of analytics designed to help owners quickly gauge their social media effectiveness. Expected to launch in the next few weeks, the tool enables users to see at a glance which of their social networks is getting the most buzz, who the influencers are on each network and the topics that are important to followers.
Cons: A keyword search returns a list of accounts with that word in the name or description, not the most influential people in that category.
The site's algorithm places too much emphasis on having powerful connections -- no matter how the connection was made or how engaged the person is with the individual. Therefore, what does a Klout score really mean?
How it works: Kred differentiates itself by offering what Klout lacks -- a clearer explanation of the influence score. Kred awards points when another person interacts with your content. The more influential the connection, the higher the points.
Pros: In addition to the influence score, Kred also displays an outreach score. A high number here means the person frequently engages with the work of others by sharing, replying or following new accounts. If you're looking for someone who knows how to engage over social media, these are the people most likely to help.
Looking at your own influence, you should find many more data points on the Kred dashboard, including a count of social media mentions, a 30-day follower graph and a list of the communities you influence.
Cons: Kred offers so many data points the dashboard can be overwhelming. It offers a solid overview of a person's social media influence, but might not be as helpful if you're looking to network with a leader in your field as the Top Influencer reports aren't always completely accurate. For example, a test search for the top influencers in the field of "Publishing" returned Snooki from MTV's Jersey Shore and Zak Bagans from the TV show Ghost Adventures.