NYU Stern's Digital Influence 'Measures Up' on Klout
Published: Monday, October 24, 2011
Updated: Monday, October 24, 2011 19:10
As a function of our location, the NYU Stern community has unrivaled access to the innovation and thought leadership around the intersection of digital and social. Couple that with an elite faculty leading research and authoring academic theory on the cutting edge of this space. These factors combine to produce a student body, faculty, and staff that is in a unique position to understand the implications of personal brand online, and capture the value created by investing in one's own digital footprint.
Professor Scott Galloway explains his research into the online savvy of prestige brands: "Our thesis is that digital competence is inextricably linked to ROI."
At NYU Stern, we've found that the same is true for our own digital competence. We painstakingly polish our resumes, we network aggressively, and we work tirelessly over the course of our lives to cultivate our personal brand. We understand that when we capture these efforts online, we underscore and enhance everything we do offline. Investing time and energy into aggregating and polishing our own digital properties is arguably one of the most valuable investments we can make in ourselves.
Joe Fernandez, Founder and CEO of Klout, shares this belief. In a speech delivered on October 19th to nearly 200 MBA students, alumni, and faculty, he asserted: "The whole web has shifted. It's gone from being about pages to being about people. I think of it as an ‘attention economy', where Facebook, LinkedIn, and other sites have forced us to start using our real names. Once you start using your real name online, your personal brand becomes very important."
Fernandez founded Klout in 2008 as an effort to empower everyone to understand and leverage his or her influence online. Today, Klout is the standard metric of influence on the social web. Simply put, the Klout score represents your ability to drive action, as measured by clicks, retweets, @mentions, likes, shares, and comments. Klout scores range from 1 – 100, with the average score being around 20.
The chief criticism of Klout is that it is a "vanity metric" and that it fosters elitism instead of enhancing meaningful relationships. "We're doing something that's a lighting rod for controversy. We're putting scores next to people, I totally get why that rubs people the wrong way," says Fernandez. "But we really believe every person that creates content online has influence. We want to understand who they influence and what they're influential about, and reward them for that."
Not surprisingly, assigning metrics to what certainly can be considered "how important you are" can encourage a high degree of competition. Professor Galloway has found a way to leverage this competitive spirit in his Brand Strategy course in order to enhance students' understanding of brand management while offering them an opportunity to make an important investment in their personal brand that will deliver lifelong value. Each week, he presents the rankings of the students' Klout scores to the class, highlighting the winners and losers. While one's actual Klout score factors only minimally into each student's participation grade, the rewards for achieving success are tremendous: he treated the five students with the highest Klout scores mid-semester, Keren Mizrahi, Johanna Pesso, Ari Wolfe, Asha Shivaji, and Dorottya Csegezi, to an all expenses paid trip to Shanghai to participate in the L2 Social Graph: China Clinic. When asked about the consequences for the lowest Klout scores in the class, Professor Galloway replied bluntly, "public humiliation."
I was fortunate enough to have been given the opportunity to design "Klout Kurriculum," an academic offering for Professor Galloway's Brand Strategy students to help them understand and optimize their social influence, using Klout as a metric. With the guidance and support of the team at Klout in San Francisco, and the knowledge I gained designing and implementing a "Klout Kompetition" as a summer internship project at Professor Galloway's firm, L2 Think Tank, I have attempted to explore and capture best practices and practical advice for enhancing one's own digital footprint.
This week, the Klout Kurriculum captured the attention of the Wall Street Journal. As part of a multimedia feature about Klout, I had the chance to speak about my L2 "Klout Kompetition" and Stern "Klout Kurriculum." Three of my classmates, Keren Mizrahi, Johanna Pesso, and Ari Wolfe, were interviewed about how the Klout Kurriculum shaped their Klout strategy in Brand Strategy class, as well as their recent trip to Shanghai. The feature will go to print (and digital of course) in the coming weeks, and will hopefully further anchor NYU Stern at the forefront of understanding of digital influence.