Ray Lewis has huge Klout in social media

The retiring Ravens legend not only holds weight among his teammates, but also in the social-media world. AP Photo/David Drapkin

This is the first in a series of collaborations between Klout and ESPN to highlight athletes with surprising social media influence. Check out the Feb. 4 issue of ESPN The Magazine as well as the Playbook Tech blog for additional content driven by Klout.

We’re still a few weeks from crowning a Super Bowl champion, but there is one title Ray Lewis can add to his Hall of Fame résumé: highest Klout score among the rosters of the four remaining NFL teams. Hey, at least nerds will think that’s a big deal.

A Klout score is like social media’s equivalent of the NFL’s quarterback rating. There’s a complicated formula to come up with one specific number that attempts to give credit where credit is actually due.

The truth is, to determine one’s online popularity, just having high numbers of Facebook fans or Twitter followers isn’t going to cut it -- especially in a world where you can buy 1,000 Twitter followers for $14, or "friend" anyone with the click of a button.

Klout is looking for more meaningful interactions. The company uses a special algorithm to determine social media resonance. That means they go beyond appearances -- i.e., number of friends/followers -- to measure how engaging a person actually is. To measure influence, Klout surveys tangible data like RTs on Twitter, mentions and wall posts on Facebook, Wikipedia entries and comments and recommendations on LinkedIn.

Case in point: There’s a big difference between receiving a RT (or, better, 100 RTs) or a “like” in status versus a tweet about how tired you are from shopping all day. (No offense, Kardashian clan.)

The social media metrics company, based in San Francisco, can aggregate from up to seven networks (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Wikipedia, Foursquare and Klout itself), depending on what social networks you make accessible. Using its special algorithm, it determines a numerical score, which ranges from 1-100, with scores averaging at 40.

Which brings us back to Lewis. The Ravens linebacker received a Klout score of 84, just beating out the likes of Vernon Davis, Rob Gronkowski, Ray Rice and Colin Kaepernick. For reference, compare Lewis' 84 to the scores of Barack Obama (99), Justin Bieber (92) and Tim Tebow (86). Then you have people like NASCAR driver Tony Stewart, who hasn’t tweeted since March and doesn’t follow anyone, and still manages to swing a 55.

Or, for that matter, Tom Brady, who doesn't even have a Klout score because he isn't on Twitter and hasn't connected his Facebook to Klout.

According to Ding Zhou, chief scientist for Klout, the scores work in such a way that it’s much easier to gain points when you’re on the low end -- i.e., 40 to 50 -- than it is when you get up to the 80s, which is where many NFL players rank.

“Scores are distributed logarithmically,” says Zhou. “That means there are far, far fewer people with scores above 80 than there are people with scores between, say, 40-50. A difference of one to two points at the higher end of the score range thus represents a much greater difference in engagement levels than a difference of 10 points at the lower end. That's why it's much easier to move from a 40 to a 45 than to move from an 80 to an 81.”

So how does Lewis do it? RTs, for one thing. Read a tweet like this:

When a seemingly simple statement like that yields more than 4,500 RTs, as this one did, clearly you’ve got Klout.

Does Lewis have any hopes of hitting 100 on Klout? Getting a perfect score is like pitching a perfect game: certainly possible, but the odds are long. The only person I can ever recall with a perfect 100 was the Biebs, who has since fallen from grace. Klout currently reports that no one is at 100 and they can't check further back than 90 days. (Shameless plug: ESPN is sitting pretty at 99 -- beating NASA by one, suckers!)

In this digital age, ruling the web is almost as important as ruling the field, and heading into this weekend, Lewis is the one to beat.

Regardless of his Klout score, let’s all agree on one thing: Ray Lewis takes that whole “dance like no one’s watching” thing a little too seriously.