WHAT THE KLOUT?

The topic I chose for my individual project this semester is the role of social media on the impact of celebrity popularity specifically as it applies to the website Klout.  I chose this topic because I was interested in understanding how celebrities grow popularity online and how they leverage multiple online sites to increase their notoriety.  Upon investigating how specific celebrity’s use social media I decided to also look at Klout as a means of comparing the success of celebrities and their use of social media.  However, my research of Klout and its significance went far beyond its application of ranking celebrity’s presence or popularity online.

Klout is being used by employers in the interviewing process to weed out certain candidates that do not have a large enough social sphere online.  The popular phrase, “It’s not WHAT you know, but WHO you know,” comes to mind so the bigger question is what are the effects of a Klout score on the average person and what tips can the average person take from celebrities to increase their Klout score and use it to their personal and professional advantage.  After conducting research about how the Klout score is formed and how celebrities have been able to generate high Klout scores, I have learned that it is not all about the amount of people you interact with online but the consistency and content of those interactions.  I also learned that Klout is enabling average people to gain the perks, benefits and notoriety of celebrities by being influential in their social circles.

Klout is a website that provides social media analytics to measure a users influence across their online social networks.  Klout gives each user a personalized score from 1 to 100 based on their ability to drive action on their social network.  When you enter the Klout website it asks you to connect with your Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as any other social media websites you are active on.  Then it takes your data from these sites and measures your true reach (how many people you reach), your amplification (how much you influence them), and your network impact (the influence of your network) to the world.

Like Google’s search engine tries to rank the importance or relevance of every web page, Klout is trying to rank the influence or the popularity of every person online.  The scores take into account the number of followers, frequency of updates, the Klout scores of friends and followers, the number of likes or retweets.  And even the highest scoring people can get Klout Perks, like free goodies from companies to share with their networks similar to how celebrities are used as spokespeople for brands.

My Klout score is currently a 38, which is a pretty low score, but it has increased throughout the semester the more friends I have interacted with on Facebook and the more people that have requested to follow me on Twitter.  In a recent article, CNN asked Klout Co-Founder and CEO Joe Fernandez how to most effectively increase one’s Klout score and he said, “It’s all about consistency and finding time to share one important piece of content with your network.” This consistency can benefit one’s influence greatly and according to Fernandez can even influence the job market because people are now including on their resume their Klout scores and getting jobs because of it.  Fernandez also said that they have big plans to grow Klout in late 2012 with a mobile platform and new tools that help people drive up their scores.

One such example of someone NOT getting a job because of his low Klout score is Sam Fiorella.  In a recent article from WIRED Fiorella explains that while being recruited for a VP position at a Toronto based marketing agency he was asked for his Klout score.  Fiorella had never even heard of Klout so the interviewer logged into the website in front of him and filled in his appropriate information that generated a score of 34.  Fiorella said that the interview ended shortly after that and that the company actually hired someone with a 67 score for the position.  In the next 6 months that followed Fiorella did all that he could do to increase his Klout score and he eventually succeeded to reaching a 72 which is higher than most of the most important public figures around the world.  Fiorella said that as his number rose so did his number of job offers and speaking engagements.  He concluded that, “Fifteen years of accomplishments weren’t as important as the score.”

Even people who have no idea what their Klout score is can be affected by their Klout score because anyone who has a public Twitter account has a Klout score unless they specifically opt out on the Klout website.  Klout is starting to infiltrate every aspect of life on a daily basis.  For example, the Palms Casino in Las Vegas would look up guests Klout scores online when they checked in and high scores would immediately receive an upgrade without even being told why.  The Palms Casino claims that this caused a huge online buzz for them and it became the third most popular casino on Facebook with one of the highest Klout scores itself amongst competitors.

Other popular sites like salesforce.com and Gilt Group are using Klout scores to rank their customers and give the most popular customers the best customer service and discounts.  These trends of using Klout scores for jobs, perks and discounts are creating an even more competitive online landscape.  It is no longer just the celebrities that are famous for articles in tabloid magazines that are getting perks due to their popularity but it is also the average person who is an extremely good networker or good in their industry that is receiving credit for the personal and professional successes.

I chose to specifically study three different celebrities in particular to compare and contrast their presence on social media and how their Klout scores compare to each other in order to understand how they have successfully leveraged themselves.  I looked at Kim Kardashian, Lady Gaga and Charlie Sheen as three examples of celebrities that have used social media to their advantage to not only engage with their fans but also to build their brand image as celebrities.  These three celebrities have very different personalities and experiences but they have all been able to use social media to their favor to increase their popularity and celebrity status.  By studying what they have done successfully online I will be able to understand what the average person could or should do to increase their own Klout score and enjoy the benefits and perks of a high Klout score.

KIM KARDASHIAN

Kim Kardashian has successfully created a multi-million dollar business with her television shows, clothing lines and her twitter account.  She has over 13 million followers on twitter and is paid a reported $10,000 per endorsement tweet for products like Reebok Shape-Ups and the dietary supplement Quick Trim.  She has taken celebrity endorsements to an entirely new level because traditionally celebrities were in print or television ads for brands but today companies can get much more bang for the buck from celebrities by having them not only be in paid advertisements but also by having them tweet or blog about the products.  Celebrities like Kim Kardashian have also been known to tweet out pictures of products they endorse and run their own contests on their social media sites as promotions for the company.  Celebrities on social media give brands and companies more avenues to reach their target customers in a more cost effective manner than running $1 million television, print and radio campaigns.

Kim Kardashian’s Klout score is also a 91 making her tied with President Obama in terms of her influence on social media.  The fact, that Kim Kardashian has as much online popularity and influence as the President of the United States, is both interesting and unsettling but it shows that Klout scores take into account more than just the traditional opinion of power but a new social aspect of influence.  Her Facebook page and official blog are other social sites in addition to her Twitter page that allow her to interact with her fans and impact her Klout score.  The combination of all these different sites linked to her Klout account helps to increase her Klout score because it multiples the number of avenues people can socialize or interact with her.  But the consistency and content of these interactions is more important to a Klout score than just the number.

She is known for not holding anything back on her reality shows but she also does not hold anything back on her social media pages which makes people traffic them often.  She updates them continuously with pictures and posts about everything from her family to her clothes to her photo shoots.  She has successfully got people interested in her life driving them to her sites and increasing her Klout score.  Her presence on social media sites has definitely contributed to her popularity and has fueled the exposure of her business ventures including clothing lines and fragrances.  After Kim and Kris Humphries got divorced after only 72 days of marriage twitter hashtags of #thingslongerthankimsmarriage and #kimkmarriagewasshorter were trending around the world and her and her sisters tweeted all the time about the divorce.  Kim has been one known for fighting via twitter but her divorce was splashed all over Twitter which has been one of the things she has not handled as well on social media.  She has used social media as a business tool to grow her brand and she has done it very successfully and her Klout score can attest to that but she also must still monitor how very personal matters are exposed on social media because they will never go away once they are posted.

LADY GAGA

One of Lady Gaga’s management team’s goals for her early on in her career was for her to establish a loyal underground fan base and one of the ways she did this was through her huge presence online with social media.  The Harvard Business School case study on Lady Gaga focused on understanding how she rose to stardom and how she built her popular brand image.  The case explains that it was important to her early success to use social media outlets, like Twitter and Facebook, to communicate with her little “monsters.”  It was crucial to her further success to have loyal fans that understood her and her music and social media sites were the best ways to reach a lot of different types of people.

There are many different types of Lady Gaga fans but they all love her music and her personality.  The case also explains that Lady Gaga’s sites were important when she was losing money during her first “Monster Ball Tour.”  Lady Gaga’s first tour was very expensive to produce so she needed to sell out every concert to make a profit to make new music and her fan websites helped to not only grow popularity but to promote buying concert tickets, CDs and other products.  Today Lady Gaga has the most loyal fans and the largest following of any celebrity online.

Lady Gaga has over 19 million followers on twitter and a current Klout score of 92.  She has over 48 million likes on her Facebook page with a direct link to her VEVO music video site that has nearly 2 billion video views.  She is the first and only musician to have that many video views online.  She has in the past released her new music videos online first to followers and offered special prizes and incentives to fans that follow her online.  For the launch of her most recent album, Born this Way, she had a promotional campaign that included Gagaville on Zynga’s Farmville, a Starbucks scavenger hunt, an HBO concert special and Gilt Group deals.  Lady Gaga has teamed up with many companies that we have talked about throughout this semester that also use social media well for promotion.  She leverages her image and her popularity well online with different brands and companies that are very complementary to her.

Lady Gaga is very passionate about her loyal fans and she has even created a website especially for her little “monsters” to interact with each other and her.  Her own social media site is called http://littlemonsters.com/ and it resembles Pinterest in that it gives fans the opportunity to create or share Lady Gaga related content in the form of videos and pictures for other fans to comment on and view.   The site was created by startup Backplane, which is partially funded by Lady Gaga herself, and their goals are to create communities where people can be united through common interests and movements.  She has also participated in crowd sourced fundraising contests through her Facebook page where she donated $1million to the Robin Hood charity that benefits the poor and homeless in New York City.  Lady Gaga has been able to use a wide range of social media sites to her advantage and she has always been a trend setter when it comes to social media presence and promotion.

CHARLIE SHEEN

The old publicity saying that “Any publicity is good publicity” must have been talking about Charlie Sheen because his popularity has skyrocketed recently after being fired from his television show and giving some memorable interviews.  Most people have seen the video’s of Charlie Sheen being interviewed by ABC or are at least familiar with his crazy #tigerblood or #winning tweets that rejuvenated his popularity.  All of these actions would be considered by most public relations experts as detrimental to his image but they went viral online and got the entire entertainment industry talking about him again.

Charlie Sheen has always been a popular celebrity because of his interesting personal life but he became really famous recently because of his online actions.  The number of his followers on Twitter skyrocketed after the ABC interview because everyone was interested to see what he would tweet next or who he would offend next.  His Klout score is a 79 which is lower than both Kim Kardashian’s and Lady Gaga’s but he is an example of how otherwise poor public relations can be important to increasing popularity.  Though most people do not like Charlie Sheen at least most people know who he is.  In class we studied a lot of different people or video’s that went viral quickly and would never had become famous without the internet so that is why I found it important to include a celebrity like Charlie Sheen when doing my research.  The quick speed of the internet and the number of people it reaches around the world make it so great for increasing popularity and foster celebrity status.

Charlie Sheen has over 2 million likes on his Facebook page and over 13 million views on his ABC news interview.  Charlie Sheen actually won the Guinness World Record for the “Fastest Time to Reach 1 million Followers” on Twitter.  Though he was replaced by Ashton Kutcher on his popular sitcom 2 and a half men this past year Charlie Sheen has been featured in a number of commercial and has received many benefits from his social media presence because so many people follow him or are interested in working for him.  There has been a lot of publicity and interest in his search for a social media intern to work for him and monitor his accounts.  However, some public relations experts are warning against leaving one’s social media to an intern because it is so important.  The fact that he is hiring someone specifically to deal with his social media presence is interesting because he realizes how important it is and that if leveraged correctly he can use it to his advantage for many years to come.  I don’t think it would be a good idea to work for Charlie Sheen but one would undeniably learn a lot about public image as well as the management of a celebrity’s online image.  Charlie Sheen has always used social media as a platform to speak out about his personal life and career and though it has not all shown him in a positive light it has undoubtedly increased his popularity and his influence.  The following link is to the ABC News interview with Charlie Sheen for anyone who has not seen the video yet.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTMRYbhPbZE

In conclusion, three of the main points to take away from studying Klout and celebrity popularity on social media sites are: Klout is not always an accurate determination of influence but provides a good basis to analyze one’s online influence and network value.  Social Media can provide celebrities with both positive and negative publicity.  And it’s important that every celebrity like every brand use the appropriate mix of social media tools to their advantage to be successful.

There are many different angles to take when analyzing how popularity and influence affect celebrity’s online but it is important to conclude that social media is very important to celebrity image today.  A celebrity can’t expect to be successful without having some sort of social media presence because fans today are looking for ways to not only see celebrities but interact with them.  With that being said it’s also important to point out that there will be a rise in social media or internet celebrities like Rachel Black who become famous only because of the internet and their ability to share content with millions of people easily.  Social Media is testing the traditional image management of celebrities and is impacting the popularity and influence of all people that have access to the internet.

References

http://www.aolnews.com/2011/03/08/charlie-sheen-wants-an-intern-but-social-media-pros-warn-don/

http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/6812.html

http://mashable.com/2012/02/07/lady-gaga-social-network-little-monsters-launch/

http://mashable.com/2011/03/03/charlie-sheen-sets-new-guinness-twitter-record/

http://mashable.com/2010/10/01/twitter-kim-kardashian/

http://mashable.com/2011/11/01/kim-kardashian-divorce-tweets-kris-humphries/

http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2012/04/ff_klout/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/tykiisel/2012/05/02/have-you-got-klout/

http://www.itworld.com/internet/273840/how-increase-your-klout-score

http://tech2.in.com/news/web-services/klout-ranks-times-influential-people-of-the-year/300632

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2 responses »

  1. Stephanie says:

    Your project topic definitely interested me and I think you did a great job on your presentation as well as final paper. Before your project I was unaware of the company Klout but after reading more about the site in your paper I did some of my own research on the business. I have found that many people have strong feelings against Klout, disagreeing with their business model and their operating principles. What I gathered was that the company provides social media analytics to measure a user’s influence across her or his social network by taking data from sites such as Twitter and Facebook to measure the size of a person’s network, the content created, and how other people interact with that content. I definitely disagree with this business model and don’t like that idea that employers are using this information in the interviewing process to week out certain candidates. Overall I enjoyed reading your blog and gaining new knowledge of businesses that are out their such as Klout.

  2. cmiecuna says:

    I really enjoyed this topic, Taylor. I think it’s interesting to see how much of an impact social media has on the popularity of celebrities. Before hearing your presentation, I really didn’t know anything about Klout. Though it’s a cool tool to see how much reach you have in social media, I find it to be a little strange how someone was denied a job because of a low score. I guess the fact that the position he was looking at was in the marketing department makes it seem a little better, but still. It’s funny to see how people are freaking out over having their Facebook checked during job interviews and how they are also being denied jobs for not being “popular” enough on social media. Weird thing to think about. Celebrities do a great job interacting with fans on social media. I follow Lady Gaga and she does everything she can to post pictures of behind the scenes events and make sure her fans know what she’s up to. It’s a great way to maintain a solid and faithful fan base and some celebs do a great job at it. I liked your three examples and this was a great paper to read. Great job!

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