Getting Your Klout Out

The site's social media influence score is showing up on resumes

It’s like high school all over again. Only this time, popularity pays.

A doting Twitter following now comes with perks, thanks to Klout, a website that analyzes and rates the influence of tweeters. The site tallies 35 variables, including retweets, responses, Facebook likes, and click-throughs to produce an influence score. (Incidentally, no one but Justin Bieber has hit 100, the top score.)

Quantifying one’s Internet popularity has real world corollaries. Klout scores are showing up on resumes, for example. More than 2,000 companies have purchased Klout’s data, which they use to prioritize customers. A high-scoring visitor to a Las Vegas hotel may be awarded a free upgrade, says Klout CEO Joe Fernandez.

A VIP on the Internet should be treated that way offline too, or so the idea goes. “It’s like a social credit score,” Fernandez says.

The implication for brands is clear: Klout can quickly identify influential, engaging people who are often happy to spread a brand’s message. It makes sense, then, that the company launched Klout Perks, a program that pairs high-scoring Twitter users with brands they’re likely to care about. Starbucks, Audi, Virgin America, Danone, CoverGirl, and Dove have offered free products or experiences to tweeters identified by Klout for their interest in the topic, their geography, and, of course, their influence. They’re not required to tweet about it, but odds are, they will.

“We pick people who are passionate and engaged in online conversation, and it sparks their network. It engages thousands of other people who weren’t even in the program,” Fernandez says. Participants are asked to link back to Klout’s code of ethics, which states the perk was free and the user’s opinion is his or her own.

It’s working for brands. In March, 78 percent of Klout Perks programs were repeat business.

So who has clout?