Klout is a San Francisco-based company that tracks influencers and their impact, or how the network responds, through opinions, links and recommendations on Twitter, soon to integrate Facebook Connect in its calculations.
They define influence as the ability to drive people to action -- "action" might be defined as a reply, a retweet or clicking on a link. In other words, the online action possible on that network, which is not really true impact.
True impact, of course, is the ability by someone to change someone else's attitude, opinion, or behavior. The stuff that happens off line. You measure that with primary research, if you want to know. And marketers do want to know.
From a recent interview with Robert Scoble, we learned that Klout is cutting deals with companies -- for example, Virgin America -- that want to identify influencers for various programs. Virgin is testing flights between Toronto, San Francisco, and LA. That's how Klout is making money, by charging companies for access to data. There are about 450 companies using the Klout API at the moment.
According to the company's site, Klout measures data through user-created content, indicating influence through interaction and size of networks.
CNN Money reports that companies like Starbucks and Cover Girl have partnered with Klout to offer freebies to users who have pull in markets they want to target.Pull is based on context
I would be remiss if I didn't mention that influence really depends. Scoble may influence my looking at an early stage technology because of his passion for and experience in the sector -- he has built authority to bring those to my attention. I would not take marketing advice from him, with all due respect.
The other part built in influence is trust. Have the actions, the experience, and connected outcomes you have of someone given you reason to trust their advice on a topic?
When I analyzed the Twitter @ConversationAge effect, all I looked at was the pass along volume of my tweets. There are many other steps you need to look at before you call me influential. Did the people who retweeted my content read it? Did they pass it on based upon the trust they place in me as a source?
Maybe the topic also aligned with the authority people see me associated with. However, for me to claim any influence, I would need to observe off line action -- a change in behavior, attitude, or opinion. Do people actually do anything with that information?
A week or so ago, I joined two affiliate programs:
1. Amazon's, because it feeds my book addiction and it makes sense from a lifestyle perspective, and
2. Chris Guillebeau's The Empire Building Kit for entrepreneurs, because I truly believe this is a great resource for the right people, trust Chris, and have experienced his authority in the Art of Non Conformity
There are things I can do to make those offers clearer to those of you who think they're appropriate for you. And I will share what I learn from participating in these programs once I have enough information to make it worth your while.
These programs are one of the ways I measure action beyond the inbound links, retweets, etc. The weekly #kaizenblog chat is another way -- do the topics help bring about a change in attitude and opinion about business strategy? Does a business owner change the way they operate because of it?
According to Klout, I am a celebrity -- a relative measure of influence that speaks to part of my online behavior and how people respond to me there. As I wrote when I published my social networks participation policy, although my overall philosophy is the same everywhere, it shows up differently in different places.
Integration of all those aspects gives you a lot more information.
As a marketer, I would need to introduce other variables and data points from observation and experience to capture context and make headway with determining appropriate outreach rather than just basing it upon Klout scores. The true measure of influence goes beyond labels, to facts.
What's your Klout score? Are you planning to use the information? How useful is it to you to learn someone's score?