Klout likes to call itself the "Standard for Influence," but really it's just trying to do one of the hardest things around - put a value on social media. There's no doubt that some people have greater influence than others when it comes to social media presence, and Klout is trying to highlight those people. How can they make money on that? Well, it partners with companies like Virgin America to do targeted marketing campaigns that will likely have a bigger impact than if done randomly.
Virgin America has teamed up with Klout to promote its new Toronto flights. When someone goes to the Klout site, that person signs up for an account and links in Twitter and Facebook. Klout then analyzes the history of those accounts and spits out a report talking about if they're an influencer or not.
I decided to put my Cranky name to the test to see how Twitter user crankyflier ranks. It turns out I get a 32 out of 100, which seems to be pretty good. It's not @SouthwestAir at 67 or even @AvWeekBenet at 51, but it's strong. Cranky is apparently a "thought leader" meaning that people rely on Cranky for opinions and information, or so they say. It then goes on to give metrics about true reach (mine is "very large and highly engaged"), amplification of messages (mine are "more likely to be amplified than the average person") and engagement level of followers ("followed, listed, replied to, and retweeted"). It's actually all very fascinating.
So does that mean that I qualify for a Virgin America flight to Toronto? Beats me. I simply see the message, "We're analyzing your account for future perks. We'll email you if you're eligible for this or a future campaign."
The beauty of something like this is that Virgin America can decide what type of people it wants to reach out to, and can then determine how many tickets it wants to distribute and hand them out to the top influencers. This has greater potential than just a random drawing because it's highly targeted.
The best part about this program? It has a very strong code of ethics. Accepting or denying something does not change your Klout score and your information is never given to third parties. Most importantly, you are not obligated to tweet or notify anyone about having received something. If you participate in the program, you must disclose that you were given something for free via Klout. Full transparency is key, and there is no pressure.
For strong brands that think they can offer a Tweet-worthy experience, working with Klout seems to be a great way to target marketing efforts. I imagine Virgin America will get a very good response from this.