The Digital Skeptic: Klout, Even With Microsoft, Scores Zero in Social Media

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- There's an old saying that numbers tell the story. The thing is, sometimes you're not sure what that story exactly is.

Take Klout.

Hopefully you have better things to do than keep up on the latest in social media, so you may not have heard of San Francisco-based Klout. This online ranking service attempts to be sort of the credit score bureau of the social Web. Klout gathers all a person's social media personas -- you know, Twitter feeds, Facebook ( FB) accounts, LinkedIn ( LNKD) networks and Pinterest pins -- and assesses how socially reputable that persona is. Though Klout is strictly mum about how it does its ranking, it assigns a numeric value, from 1 to 100, to quantify what they call your social influence. I remember Justin Bieber being the only person ever to hit 100; Barack pulls a 99; my editor, who has a simple, private Facebook account, gets a 10.

In this numbers-addled age, one's Klout score has ranked as the real social deal.

A LinkedIn job post for a community manager position at Salesforce ( CRM), the online business applications managing company, said it expects to see a Klout score of at least 35.

Forbes reported that consumers with higher Klout scores get better services and even discounts from certain companies.

Advertisers too have offered promotional perks to the socially influential. Klout says General Motors ( GM), American Express ( AXP) and Walt Disney ( DIS) lined up over the past two years to offer discounts and goodies.

Facebook recently started supporting the tool with an app. And all this hype finally metastasized into an investor story when Klout said software giant Microsoft ( MSFT) made an undisclosed strategic investment in an effort to give its struggling search engine Bing some social-media suction.

And bing, don't the numbers swirling around Klout suddenly start telling a far darker story.

Klout evaporates in an instant
To get a better feel for the business value of Klout, I started tinkering with the service. My first-blush Klout score was in line with most working journalists, about a 60. That was based exclusively on my targeted business Twitter account, @Blumsday, which has 6,500 or so followers, and a LinkedIn network of about 950 people.

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