Klout, the king of social influence

This online "influence meter" sets a price on your head If you’re good at what you do, you might even get a reward

Joe Fernandez.
Joe Fernandez.R. J. C.

From a shoe warehouse to a movie set for a Hollywood western. Founded in 2008, Klout knows how much you’re worth. In fact, that is what it does for a living: it sets a price on your head, and if you’re good at what you do, you might even get a reward.

Binh Tran and Joe Fernández decided to measure the influence of each profile on the social networks. Their application assigns each profile a number between 1 and 100, and adds tags with the topics that each person likes to talk about. A score above 70 will get US users early tickets to a movie premiere, book releases before they hit bookstore shelves, or passes for exclusive clubs. It all depends on how high you score. They call these rewards perks, and they apply to everything from dog treats to the envelopes that businesses hand out to their employees.

And that is precisely where its business model lies: in charging companies for promoting their products among target groups of people who use the social networks and whom Klout sorts out by personal interests and tastes. Users get free access to Klout, which encourages them to “share and grow your passions.”

The concept of social influence came to Fernández in 2007, while he was recovering from surgery to his jaw. The founder and CEO of Klout had plenty of time to think about ways to develop an influence meter for the social networks.

Advice on how to be influential

Be constant

It is not a good idea to leave your profiles in different services unattended for too long. Klout looks at the activity of the last 90 days. As a result, one cannot live off the past.

Attractive content

Shared messages must be interesting, unique and practical. They may be advice, photographs, quotes or a different view on a particular subject. This type of content gets retweeted more often.

Live the conversation

Debating, commenting, asking... This is the main way to climb rungs: by being able to generate conversations. The more users join the debate, the better.

All the networks

Klout adds several references. Ideally, one should have a profile in each service it measures. It is pretty useless to be the king of Twitter but irrelevant on Facebook. And let’s not forget YouTube, Google+, FourSquare or Instagram.

Contacting influential people

It’s not just about what you say, but who you interact with. Ideally, one should engage in conversation with people who have shared interests.

Klout’s headquarters, in the heart of San Francisco, look like the set of a Hollywood western. A stuffed bison hangs over the entrance, and the walls are covered with reward posters offering $8,000 to whoever finds the best candidate for a new position. The decoration is the founder’s fault. “I’m from Las Vegas and it’s all inspired by Nevada and Colorado.” Although he only speaks “a little” Spanish, Fernández’s family is from Cuba. “My grandfather, who was of Spanish origin, used to work at the casinos in Havana; when the revolution banned gambling, he, like many other colleagues, emigrated to Vegas to found what it is today,” he says proudly.

Unlike other startups in the area, there is no food or candy lying around, although they do hire a catering service when there is a birthday or a company milestone to celebrate. Every Friday they meet to discuss company-related issues and assess where they are headed. Personal involvement is high, and everyone follows a slogan on the wall that exhorts employees to “Be Bold.” The good vibe in the air is evident in the meeting rooms, which – for better or for worse - get baptized with the names of trend-setting celebrities like Gaga, Sheen, Bieber…

Question. How would you define Klout?

Answer. As an influence meter. By influence we mean an ability to drive action, to change people’s minds about products, services and concepts. With the rise of the social media, anyone has the ability to influence others just by sharing their passions and interests. We don’t measure the quality of the comments, just the echo they produce.

Q. How do you measure it?

R. The Klout algorithm measures around 12 billion social signals and 400 million people every day. The system is often updated and our references are Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, FourSquare, Bing, Wikipedia and Klout itself. These are not the only websites we follow, as there are increasing numbers of interesting networks, but our concern is to reflect influence in a simple, understandable way.

Q. What carries more weight, Facebook or Twitter?

A. It depends on each profile and the use it makes of the social networks. If you are more active on Facebook than on Twitter and if you sign up for our platform with either one of those services, then that’s the one that rules.

Q. Whyshould people use Klout?

A. To see their own influence and that of others, to witness trend-setting moments or get a sense of the most interesting things going on in the social networks in the last three months. Also, to get small rewards or incentives for it.

Q. Such as?

A. The most common perks are promotional coupons for McDonald’s, Red Bull, Moo cards… But there are lots of things. We’ve been offering them since 2010: snacks, trips, Spotify accounts, access to parties, fruit baskets, soft drinks…

Q. What can I do to gain influence?

A. I think the best way to be influential online is to be yourself, to share interesting content and to interact with others who are also influential.

Q. Who is the world leader according to your meter?

A. According to our indicator, Barack Obama, with a score of 99.

Q. What about in Spain?

A. We don’t have a list by countries, but the best thing to do is type http://klout.com/#/ followed by the Twitter name of the person you want to look up.

Q. Klout is integrated with Passbook, Apple’s mobile payment storage application. How is that working out?

A. We did it as a trial for a commercial project. We don’t use it very actively, but we maintain it because it might get reactivated in the future.

Q. When will we see a version for Android?

A. We don’t have a specific date, but we do have an interest in this platform.

Q. What is your next goal?

A. Europe, conquering Europe, having perks there; also in Japan, where we have experienced great growth. Our only experiences on the Old Continent have been with the NBA in Germany and with Orange in France, which placed their trust in us when they started to offer 4G. We are in talks with the city of Madrid to promote the city. In Seattle we had an action that tripled the material available on blogs and social networks, and increased the number of tourists to the city.

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