“We’d like to send you one of our new laptops,” the voice on the phone said.

“Thanks, but I have a laptop,” I said.

“But we want you to try out our new model before we release it,” he said. “You have nothing to lose. It's free.”

“That’s nice…” I said, waiting for the catch. “But why?”

“We’re identifying influencers in our target market,” he said, “and your Klout score is pretty high.”

And with that, I started to care a little more about Klout.**

Klout is a tool that seeks to measure and quantify your online influence and determine your “social media reach.” Klout measures the size of your network and how people interact with the content you create. Scores range from 1 to 100: If your score is a 1 you’re probably my grandmother, and if your score is 100 you’re a resident of Bieberville.

I’ll leave it to others to argue about whether Klout provides an accurate indication of social media influence. (Feel free to say your piece in the comments.)

Achieving a high Klout score also is not an end in itself. Your Klout score is just a tool you can use to gauge, in a directionally accurate way, the success of your social media marketing efforts. But if you’re trying to build a network, extend your reach, and better engage with people through social media, the following are simple ways to do that—and to increase your Klout score in the process:

Make your tweets easy to retweet. More retweets means a higher Klout score—and broader exposure in general. If you create a tweet you definitely want others to retweet, try to keep your original tweet under 75 or 80 characters. That leaves other people room to add a brief comment, and allows multiple people to retweet your original tweet with no editing.

Use @names—and encourage others to do the same. Klout measures the number of times you’re mentioned; the more mentions the better. The same is true in a general sense: If your @name is in a tweet, others might click to see who you are… and decide to follow you. The easier you are to find, the easier you are to connect with. When you tweet or retweet, use other people’s @names; they’ll soon start to use yours too.

Contribute to Twitter chats. Twitter chats are based on specific topics and often filled with influential people; engaging with influential people is always a good thing. Check out this Twitter Chat Schedule. Chances are there’s a chat for your industry or interest. Chats can be a great way to connect with smart people in your field. As a bonus, those connections and conversations will improve your Klout score.

Connect your accounts. Klout can draw data from Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Foursquare, YouTube, and other social networking platforms—but only if you connect those accounts. Klout claims connecting accounts will never hurt but may improve your score.

According to social media consultant Aaron Lee: "Don't just network on Twitter. Network with users or connect with the same people on Facebook or Google+ well. I've noticed Klout has recently put more weight on Facebook."

Always think about how you use each channel to engage with your connections and grow your social media footprint. What you do in one channel should complement the other channels; if, say, there’s an opportunity to extend your reach by using Google+, dive in.

Connect individually. Klout seeks to measure engagement, and nothing says engagement like a one-to-one conversation.

"Ask sincere questions and respond to them," Aaron says. "I got a great response when I asked whether people preferred chocolate cake or cheesecake.  It was something different from the usual social media questions and so lots of people participated; not only was it fun, it helped my Klout score since it increased my 'activity feed.'"

Ask and answer questions, pass on praise... better engagement with your connections can help improve those connections and your Klout score.

Connect at the right times. According to KISSmetrics, the best times to tweet are noon and 6 p.m., and the best days are midweek and weekends.

Of course those are averages. To find out when your followers are most likely to see your tweets, use a tool like SocialBro or Tweriod to analyze the habits of your particular audience. Then use a tool like Buffer to schedule your best tweets so they make the biggest impact.

Create content worth sharing. I saved the most important “strategy” for last. Unless you create content other people want to share—tweets, articles, videos, photos, etc.—none of the above really matters. How often you tweet, when you tweet, engaging with influential people… all those strategies are meaningless unless you create great content that other people want to share.

Create and share great content; people will gladly share it. Then interact with your network. Reach out and help people in your industry or niche.

Do those things consistently and a higher Klout score will be the icing on your social media marketing cake.

** But I turned the laptop down.