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As if there weren’t already enough digital things to worry about (How many of my “friends” are hiding my Facebook posts? Should I tell my doctor how many blogs I’m reading? What does my Amazon purchase history say about me to local law enforcement?), far too many of my peers are now obsessed with their online influence.

Influence, as defined by my buddy Ray-Ray, is the ability to impact a person or thing in ways that inspire action. That’s pretty simple to understand. If I went out and got a perm, there’s a chance that a few of my friends would do the same, depending on my level of influence.

The twist that the internet puts on influence is that it’s much easier to reach thousands of people digitally than it is in real life, where you’re limited to your immediate social circle. Plus, it’s easier to see when you’ve moderately influenced someone online, whether in the form of comments, shares or creepy YouTube dedications.

The question is: How do I know if I’m influential online? Everyone gets a handful of Likes when they post something cool to Facebook. Does that make you influential? It’s hard to say, since it could just be a case of your friends being polite. Influence is supposed to inspire action, right? If only there were a mathematical formula that describes your potential to influence others…

Oh snapdragons! That totally exists. The leading barometer of online influence is called Klout, a web service that allows users to plug in their social accounts (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare) so that the site’s creamy, magical core can crunch the associated data and produce a numeric influence score from 1 to 100 — the higher your Klout score, the more influential you [probably] are.

It gets better. Klout analyzes the content that you’ve shared on those networks to extract topics and subjects that you’re influential about. If you post nothing but horse poetry that resonates with lots of people, you’re likely to get categorized as influential about horses. It’s not always that sensible, though. Let’s look at a staggeringly handsome example.

My Klout score is 56. According to the company, the average Klout score is 20. This means I’m pretty sweet. Beyond being sweet, however, I want to know what topics I’m influential about. According to my profile, those topics are Boulder, social media, journalism, Colorado, blogging, education and Sesame Street.

I’m not kidding. Klout has analyzed a wealth of my social media content and determined that I am a leading influencer on Sesame Street, among other things. Is this accurate? Probably not. As with any web service that uses formulas and algorithms to arrive at a conclusion, there are going to be outliers. For the most part, my influence rap sheet looks pretty accurate.

Klout presents an intriguing perspective on how others see you, as defined by how a robot interprets the items you share via social media. Do I write a lot about Boulder and social media? Yes, I do. Thus, it follows that I am influential on those topics.

I encourage you to pop over and see what your own Klout score is — just as long as you avoid trying to inflate your score to be more influential. Don’t suffer from Klout doubt.

Ef Rodriguez is influential about donuts. Describe your favorite donut to him at

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