A credit score affects many aspects of people’s lives from buying a home to applying for a job.
If Klout CEO and co-founder Joe Fernandez has his way, the Klout score will become a new way of measuring people and their influence online.
His start-up measures people’s influence on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and finds the most influential people on particular topics. That is, how often they post messages, how often the messages are reposted or retweeted, and how much impact they have online.
Then Klout matches relevant influencers to relevant brands, which provide special offers, especially perks like previews on new product launches. For example if you are influential about technology, HP might send you a free laptop. Or you could get a free upgrade at your favorite hotel.
The idea is that these influencers will create social media buzz that can help a product take off. (People have to sign up with Klout to receive the offers.)
This is more effective than the traditional advertising model of spending wads of cash of a massive ad campaign and hoping that a certain percentage convert to paying customers, Fernandez says. For the influencers who are tapped to get freebies, it’s a big plus, he says. Klout does not give the names of the influencers to the brands but contacts them on behalf of the brands, so that it can control the amount of contact the influencers receive from the brands.
In a current campaign, Klout is targeting influencers who would get to watch the new Kung Fu Panda film early. Nike, Disney, HP, Audi, are some brands that’ve tried out the service.
But what about the ethics? If people get a free HP laptop do they have to sing HP’s praises online? Fernandez says no. Companies can say whatever they want and the companies generally seek to understand what they say even if it’s negative. Klout members also have to note that they got a product for free when they write about it online, Fernandez says.
Klout is still in most companies’ experimental marketing budget since it’s still early days. For example there is no standard pricing or ad format as there is with online ads. But this form of marketing could become big. The service started out with early adopters but is growing, Fernandez says.
The 34-person company wants to add more features to show people how they can improve their 1 to 100 Klout score. The company has raised about $10 million in venture funding from Greycroft Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Mayfield Fund and others.
Especially for people in sales or marketing, the score could be a plus in people’s careers, Fernandez says.
“Klout is basically your social credit score,” Fernandez says. “Consumers should care because it affects the way employers, companies and everyone looks at your ability to spread information as a critical part of the attention economy today.”
Watch the video interview of Fernandez speaking with Forbes’ Kym McNicholas:
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