I have always been suspicious when people throw around the word clout.
As Mike Royko wrote in a favorite column, those who are not from his home town of Chicagotend to get the meaning of the word “thoroughly goofed up.”
The easiest way to explain clout is through examples of the way it might be used in conversation.
“Nah, I don’t need a building permit--I got clout in City Hall.”
“Hey, Charlie, I see you made foreman. Who’s clouting for you?”
Now, I am from Chicago, and I don’t remember the last time I used the word clout in a story. But lately, I’ve been distracted by something that pops up on my Hootsuite account called “Klout”.
Klout purports to be the “Standard for Influence” on Twitter, that vast database of 140-character aphorisms. It is a 1-to-100 score that rates “your ability to drive action” with your tweets. My Klout score hovers around 46. Justin Bieber has a Klout score of 98. Nuff said.
No, this particular usage of “Klout” does not pass the Royko test, and it is perhaps a good thing he is not here to see it propagate.
Today, the people at Klout — which, by the way, is based in San Francisco — released one of their periodic rankings of universities with the top Klout scores.
Texas A&M is No. 1, with a Klout score of 73. Rounding out the list are the University of Wisconsin (71), Harvard (69), Oklahoma and Stanford (tied at 67), Indiana and Syracuse (66), Berkeley, Louisiana State and Marquette (65).
The last time Klout ranked schools, Stanford topped the list, six points above everyone else. What has changed? To judge by the schools that have ascended, perhaps sport fans are discovering Twitter.
Here, incidentally, are the Klout scores of a few schools around the nation’s capital: 62 for the University of Maryland, 55 for Georgetown, 58 for Johns Hopkins and 54 for George Washington University.
Being in Royko’s home town doesn’t appear to help: The University of Chicago has a Klout score of 53.