Nearly three years after Klout launched Klout Perks as its first paid product for brands—letting marketers like Chevy reward influential users with offers like a weekend-long test drive—more than one million Perks have been claimed across over 400 campaigns, the social influence measurement company said today. “I feel like Santa Claus with a million people getting Perks,” said Klout CEO Joe Fernandez.
The million-Perk mark suggests the program has gained steady traction among brands and users, even though Klout has only 4 members of its sales team, per Fernandez. Last June Klout announced 700,000 Perks had been claimed over the course of more than 350 campaigns. “It’s been brands coming to us wanting to connect with influencers,” he said.
Now Klout is looking for more ways to bring brands to its users and vice versa. While Fernandez said a lot of Perks are only run when a brand is launching a new product—helping to explain the more than 50 percent renewal rate—he is looking at the recently unveiled Klout for Business as a way to convert Perks into more of an always-on product. Two hundred thousand businesses have signed up for the Klout for Business beta, and their No. 1 request is how can they build relationships with Klout users, he said.
Enter Klout Experts, the Quora-like question-and-answer product the company debuted last week and Fernandez said is internally called “social SurveyMonkey.” In addition to brands rewarding influential respondents on topics relevant to a brand with a Perk, he envisions brands using Klout Perks to post questions that test the waters for an upcoming product launch or Perk campaign. Participation in Perks can then become pinned as Klout Moments, which Fernandez described as the “hall of fame” of content generated by users around a given Perks campaign and could eventually pop up on search engine results pages. “Really we’re getting to the point where we’re a full lifecycle solution,” he said, extending beyond Klout.com through its mobile apps and real-world programs like American Airlines' recent Perks campaign and soon through its Bing partnership.
“They’ve been fascinated with Perks,” said Fernandez of Bing’s advertising and brand solutions teams. “You’ll see some experimentation in the second half of the year. Sponsored answers maybe, [the aforementioned] user-generated content pages for Perks being spotlit on Bing.”
Sponsored answers would mark Klout’s first serious ad play outside of Klout, letting brands promote a Klout Experts post to users querying Bing on a related topic. Fernandez offered a hypothetical example of how it could work. Over the weekend he was looking to get a barbecue grill and posted a question to Klout Experts asking what’s the best grill available for under $300. Within 20 minutes he received 15 answers pointing him to the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker.
“If I had searched on Bing or Google, I’d get crappy [search engine optimized] top 10 lists. The opportunity for Weber or Home Depot or Lowe’s would be to turn [one of those Klout Expert answers] into a sponsored answer on top of search. Think of it as search through people,” he said.
Sponsored answers fits in with how Klout aims to tie in with paid media on other properties. The easy money could come from making its user data available to inform display ad targeting, but Fernandez said he’s more interested in native advertising like Bing’s search ads, Facebook’s Sponsored Stories or Twitter’s Promoted Tweets.
“We’re purposely staying away from standard display advertising. Obviously it’s a big bucket, but we think that where Klout can be most valuable and provide the most leverage is on native advertising in social. We’re definitely working closely with brands on experimenting about taking Klout data and targeting on Twitter and Facebook and you can imagine Tumblr and Google+ and any social network,” Fernandez said. At which point Klout would have converted Klout for Business into an umbrella platform that spans Klout Experts for product feedback, Klout Perks for product launches, Klout Moments for product-related content, ad targeting on Facebook and Twitter for awareness and sponsored answers on Bing for intent targeting.