Klout measures online influence based on behaviors across a variety of platforms, including Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and so on. The results of these measurements are shared publicly in the form of a numeric score called a Klout Score.

Last week, the company announced that scores may rise or drop due to an update to its scoring algorithm. Disappointed by the shift, many users began questioning the importance of the service — to be fair, Klout has always had mixed reviews among the social media crowd. While some individuals are still on the fence, there are a few things that businesses should know about Klout.

1. It’s Not About Having A Lot of Followers or Friends

Influence isn’t defined by how many followers you have on Twitter; it’s about driving action. Klout focuses on how many of your followers will actively listen and react to your messages. It’s less likely to count your friends on Facebook than it is to determine how likely it is that your content will generate Facebook Likes and comments.

“They [Klout] are finding the people who are experts at creating content, aggregating, and sharing content that moves online; nothing more,” stated Mark Shaffer, author of The Tao of Twitter, on his blog.

What it boils down to is this: Don’t start tweeting just to improve your score. Volume and frequency might play a small role, but ultimately it’s about how other influential people are reacting to your content. You might have thousands of friends, but if no one is interacting with you, it doesn’t matter.

2. People Using Social Media Aren’t Afraid to Mention a Brand

People turn to social media to talk about good and bad experiences. While all customers should be treated the same, knowing who your influencers are can be advantageous.

Klout Perks are exclusive products or experiences earned based on an individual’s influence. Currently brands like Starbucks, Chevy, and Subway have partnered with the service to offer perks to their influencers.

According to Klout, each influencer generates, on average, 30 pieces of content and millions of possible impressions. Compared to other forms of advertising, the cost per impression is low. Keep in mind, however, that word-of-mouth marketing works best when people are authentic, not salesy. So, encourage your influencers to be as organic as possible when mentioning your brand.

3. Klout Simplifies Targeting for Marketing and Recruitment

Klout can be a very important part of your marketing or recruiting strategy. Thanks to features like “+K,” businesses can zero-in on relevant influencers or potential hires.

+K is a measurement for social media influence on a variety of topics. This feature has two benefits. First, customers can give you a +K, which adds additional credibility to your areas of expertise.

Second, +K will help you to quickly identify brand evangelists and influencers within your industry. For example, if you are looking for people to try your mobile app, you’d want to find users that have received a +K in mobile, apps, iPhones, and so on. Additionally, if you are working with a group of brand evangelists, you can create campaigns or events based on their strengths. The same theory applies for recruiting, especially if you’re looking for community managers, bloggers, or marketers.

It’s important to note that Klout is only one way to measure influence. There’s no rule stating that someone with a Klout Score below 50 won’t be able to benefit your brand. People on Klout have put work into creating personal brands online, but there is still an offline world. Make sure that you’re balancing your time between networking offline and engaging your customers online.

[Image credits: Steve Harris, Sreejith K, Bill Risser, Ben Sutherland]