It’s fashionable to feign indifference to your Klout score, which measures online influence. Some professionals think it’s uncool to seem too interested in their rankings; others believe all you need to worry about is creating good content. Not so fast, says Alex Lightman, author of Brave New Unwired World: The Digital Big Bang and the Infinite Internet. Klout, he argues, is an indispensable way to showcase your expertise in a fast-changing marketplace – and a powerful egalitarian force that privileges know-how over who you know.
Thanks to Klout, says Lightman, “We don’t have to use the logical fallacy of deferring to authority. Just because someone’s from MIT doesn’t mean they know something up-to-date on a particular subject.” Instead, there’s now another option – to reward people based on demonstrated expertise: “Now we have a fair and objective way to see who gets a shot.”
Lightman – who has an impressive Klout score of 81 out of 100 and is considered the #1 authority on topics such as the singularity and the future – has worked hard at building his network and his score. That effort is valuable, he says, because Klout measures and encourages the right things online – whether you’re engaging with your network and producing quality content. “If you just go and add a bunch of people [on Twitter or Facebook] but you’re not conversing or interacting, that will kill your Klout score,” he says.
Lightman’s posts often have a scientific bent, but he focuses on generating high-quality conversations about topics as eclectic as government in ancient Rome and optimal exercise techniques. “I have intelligent people listening and participating in the conversation,” he says. Spending time developing your network, says Lightman, can improve your access to new ideas, capital, potential collaborators, and publicity opportunities. Most importantly, it might change your mind: “One of the things about having a high Klout score is I don’t have to know everything,” he says. “I can now just host conversations, as opposed to having to know it all. I don’t constantly have to be Mr. Science News; I can post a cat picture…People don’t feel a need to argue me to the ground, and I’m not as wedded to an absolute position as I used to be, because there’s always somebody who can come up with new evidence.”
So how can you improve your own Klout score? Lightman has three tips to share.
Don’t be formulaic. It’s not about posting X many times a day, or only on certain topics. “I feel sorry for people who think they have to follow a formula,” he says. “They miss the coolness of it. What you ate for dinner is not novel, not a surprise. You want things to emerge out of your life – so you have to live a life full of surprises. If you’re surprised and delighted with your own life, other people will be excited, too.”
Pictures tell the best stories. Lightman collects interesting photos and then – instead of regular, descriptive captions – will come up with funny alternative scenarios. He’s constantly brainstorming ways to inform and entertain his network: “If they go to my [Facebook] wall, they’re going to see something new.”
Give back. One of Lightman’s most popular innovations is his pledge to spend 40 hours per year helping others by answering questions. His periodic “Ask Me Anything” sessions on Facebook have produced thoughtful dialogues on world population, artificial intelligence, and alternative energy.
Do you think Klout score matters? What are your strategies for engaging with your online network and creating great content?
This post originally appeared on the Forbes website.
Dorie Clark is CEO of Clark Strategic Communications and the author of the forthcoming Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013). She is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the Ford Foundation. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.