Piers Fawkes: Should You Hire Staff Based On Their Klout Score?

Marketers at the top brands and creative directors at the best ad agencies average higher than their peers. Is it time to use the socialgraph for recruitment?

PSFK Presents The Future Of Work

Should employees be evaluated on the price of their ‘social currency’? That’s a question we were discussing in PSFK recently when our consulting team asked us all to come up with ways to help a prospective client of theirs judge the effectiveness of retained work. We talked at length about using a “Klout score”  as a metric to judge an employees’ level of cultural participation.

Klout’s system monitors the frequency and shareability of people’s updates across social networks such as Twitter, Google Plus, Facebook and Pinterest. Through an algorithm, the service gives a score to everyone who signs up – and because Twitter is indexable by spiders, the social scoring service has a number for every tweeter with a public account. You can watch a video of an interview conducted by PSFK’s head of consulting, Scott Lachut, during our San Francisco event last year with Klout’s founder Joe Fernandez where he explains the service and its implications in greater detail.

The challenge Scott and his consulting team wanted to overcome was how they could judge the impact of providing an internal client team with weekly debrief of leading edge culture and ideas from around the world. How do you measure something so abstract?

Klout is an interesting metric because, in theory, it quantifies how well people are engaging with culture. Using criteria such as regularity of online conversation and network reach, a user gets a higher score based on how frequently they are involved in discussions and how far those discussions are traveling. Our team’s conclusion was that if they did their job well and inspired their clients, then their social conversation would increase and their Klout scores should rise over time.

Arguably, a Klout score describes how engaged someone is in the wider conversation around culture. If you have a job in which you’re tasked with creating and disseminating culture, could Klout be used to judge your effectiveness – or at the very least rate your level of participation in this cultural discussion?

PSFK analyzed the scores of two types of executives to see if their score could be correlated with their company’s performance. Our research shows that creative directors at more highly regarded ad agencies have a higher Klout score than their peers at lesser performing firms. We also found that marketing chiefs at the more progressive brands had a better score than those at less innovative companies – in fact, the less ‘innovative’ a company, the less likely the marketing chief had a Klout score at all.

Agency Creativity & Klout

When we looked at Advertising Age latest list of the top ad-agencies in the US, we found that the senior creative at each agency in the top 10 – had an average score of 51.6 – while the creatives in the bottom 10 of the list had an average score of 38.8. [Note - this figure has been updated with Huge's Joe Stewart since PSFK originally published this article]

Rei Inamato, with his lofty score of 68, is also the top creative of what AdAge considers is the most creative agency on the list. If you remove the creative from the bottom 10 list, then the average Klout score for the bottom ten drops down to under 32 – almost twenty points less than folks in the top 10.

Beyond the difference in scores between the top 10 and the bottom 10, what’s also surprising is that at least 50% of creative execs who work for firms in the ad agency list don’t have a Klout score – which begs the question, what are they doing running an ad agency if they’re not directly engaging in modern communication mechanics? I approached a couple of the agencies on this list about this, but they declined to comment.

Brand Innovation & Klout

After analyzing the agency market, we looked at the latest available Top 100 Most Innovative Companies list from Forbes and extracted what we considered to be ‘lifestyle brands’. We found an even greater disparity between the top marketers and the bottom ones  than we identified when evaluating the advertising industry. The four chief marketers who worked at the top 10 most innovative lifestyle brands had an average score of 60.25. Whereas, only one marketer in the bottom 10 brands had a Twitter account – Chris Capossela  of Microsoft – and his score was 42.

It would be interesting to perform this analysis over time to see how an individual’s score changes respective to the ranking of their company.

Sure, while this may be a quick-dip into the subject, their is a level of robustness around the scores of the people featured. I’m sure that many of the executives who don’t have a score could argue that they are too busy running the companies they work at to participate online – but considering how the world is changing, there’s definitely a large part of being a successful, modern creative or marketer involves staying on top of and participating in what’s going on, regardless of whether you’re a CMO, Creative Director or new hire. Sure, you can get your staff to tell you about channels like Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest but the best way to leverage these tools effectively across an organization is to be actively engaged with them as well.

Klout has an extra feature that should be noted. By combining updates with user suggestions, the service tells you what people are experts are in. If you want to hire an expert in an industry sector, maybe Klout will reveal whether they really are one?

I think people are going to feel uneasy about the notion of a prospective employer checking an interviewee’s Klout score but it doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen. Recruiting is not a gentleman’s sport with a level playing field – every participant (employer and employee) needs to use any and every tool at their disposal to gain an advantage. And given its formula, Klout seems to be a very robust way available to judge the cultural capacity of a prospective or existing employee. How far off are we from having employees bring their scores to annual reviews to reveal how engaged with culture they were and around what topics they influenced others?

And sure, as one of the PSFK Consulting team reminded us, Klout can be gamed so that people can receive higher scores than they might otherwise be entitled. But perhaps, we as employers should be even more interested in hiring someone who knows how to manipulate social media to their own advantage.

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Over the next 4-8 weeks we want to start a conversation around what you see as possible in the Future of Work.  Be sure to follow the conversation on PSFK and participate in the daily competitions. Tweet us your ideas to @psfk using #FoW

Check out last week’s look at the influence design is having on the office of the future, read more about it here.

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