When I first signed on to Klout, I expected the experience to measure social media much like Alexa measures website hits--that is, not well. It was hard to believe that an algorithm could accurately gauge the use of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media tools. For a while there it looked like the only people using Klout were geeks and social media mavens. But what geeks deem to be awesome usually ends up in the mainstream over time, and Klout is definitely geek awesome.

As of a contentious update in November to produce a more accurate Klout score, it became apparent that Klout is putting a lot of work into developing what it hopes to be the best overall measuring tool for social media influence outside of a paid analytics solution.

How Klout Measures Your Social Media Influence

Your Klout score is based on three major ranking factors. True Reach is the number of people that act on and share your content with spam and bots removed from the equation. Amplification is a measure of how likely people are to act upon your shared content. Network gives you marks for having top influencers in your circle; if they share your content, your Klout score goes up.

What Social Networks Should You Link to Klout?

Your Klout score will suffer if you link a social network that you aren’t particularly active on. If you are measuring social media accounts for a business, don’t include your Facebook page if it isn’t that active. I have found that Klout is most effective for measuring Twitter use; it will tell you if you need to engage more with your audience instead of just posting links, or if you need to increase your network. Klout specifically says that they don’t decrease your score for adding inactive social networks, but why measure something you aren’t using and take the chance?

What Should You Be Measuring?

You should set out to be influential in topics that have to do with your business. If you are an accountant, you’ll want to be influential about money, accounting and any other topics related to your particular practice area. If you are a web designer, being influential about web design is a good goal. These goals are quite reachable with Klout and you will be able to review your influential Klout Topics from your dashboard. You don’t even have to use hashtags on Twitter like #accounting to get there, just post related content and Klout will pick it up. If you are influential in your target topics while increasing your Klout score, your business is doing social media right.

How Can I Increase My Klout Score?

The nice thing about Klout is that it tells you exactly how to increase your Klout score when you use it. When you log in to Klout and go to your dashboard, you’ll see at the top of the screen how much your score has increased or decreased. In this space you’ll also see why it increased or decreased, which can allow you to take appropriate action. My Klout score has gone down recently because my Amplification isn’t that great, which means I need to post better content that gets reposted. I also haven’t been as active on Facebook lately, which has decreased my influence there. Your advice will be just as customized as what you see here and it’s extremely helpful.

Can Klout be Gamed?

This was the foremost question in my mind when I signed up for it and the thing that made me wonder if it was going to be viable as a measure of true quality. I haven’t seen anything yet that has shown me that Klout can be gamed. People who have somehow acquired spammy amounts of Twitter followers without being celebrities have about the same Klout score as I do, if not less. That’s usually a good quality sign, since people with bloated follower lists will usually try to game something like Klout if it is possible to do so. This is likely because Klout makes it exponentially harder to increase your Klout score the higher it goes. According to the company, going from 70 to 75 is much more difficult than going from 20 to 25.

Klout Perks Make It Fun

The big draw to actually using Klout are the Perks. Klout Perks are promotions companies run in conjunction with Klout to give away their products or offer them at reduced prices to influencers in certain topic areas. Some, like mini business cards offered for the shipping cost of under ten dollars, are useful for small businesses. Others, like free energy drinks, are just fun. Major brands like Audi and Disney are using Perks to spread brand awareness.

Klout’s selling point for its Perks are that Klout is a true measurement of a person’s actual influence, and getting a product in the hands of select influencers can do nothing but good for the company that is buying the marketing. This is another important reason Klout cannot ever get a reputation for being gamed; they would lose their revenue source almost immediately if companies didn’t trust that it was really giving them key influencers.

Klout is easy to use, easy to set up, and there is no reason you shouldn’t be using it to help drive your social media use, unless your business requires more advanced metrics.

Angela West dreams of opening a Fallout-themed pub featuring wait staff with Pip-Boys. She's written for big insurance companies, small wildlife control businesses, gourmet food chains, and more. Follow her on Twitter at @angelawest, on Google+, and on Facebook.