Klout for Business Is Only First Step to a Serious Marketing Platform

Company could add social ad buying, customer data to product

Social marketing can be wasteful. Depending on how often someone checks their Facebook News Feed or Twitter stream, they might rarely see a brand’s message unless it was paid to be put front and center. Facebook analytics firm PageLever (recently acquired by social marketing company Unified) said last fall that most Facebook page posts fade off into the ether three to five hours after getting published.

But the promise of social isn’t one-to-many broadcast-style publishing; it’s creating a ripple effect. Get something in front of the right people and they’ll push it onward and outward. Not only does that serve as a sort of audience-quality filter, but a side benefit for brands is that it can be as inexpensive as it is efficient. Washington Post-owned social agency SocialCode rolled out an influencer targeting tool last year with exactly that intent, and now the most high-profile arbiter of social influence, Klout, has unveiled an analytics dashboard to help brands pinpoint their influencers.

“This is really the first step—but a meaningful step—towards a set of tools that will enable brands to more effectively understand and engage with their influencers,” said Klout CEO Joe Fernandez. He maintained that Klout remains a consumer company, but Klout for Business definitely levels up the brand side of the business with the potential to become an enterprise-level marketing platform.

At launch, Klout for Business aims to tell businesses who the influencers are among their Twitter followers and Facebook fans, including age groups, gender, location and of course what topics they’re influential on. Fernandez said Klout rewrote its topic analysis system to give companies a dynamic look at those influencers’ interests. “Imagine Pepsi wanting to know who in their audience is influential about snowboarding and invite those people to a Pepsi competition at Aspen,” he said.

A company blog post announcing the analytics dashboard pumped up the product’s ability to help brands fine-tune their influencer outreach, making sure Twitter or Facebook messaging hits influencers’ sweet spots to then ripple outward. That is the case, but then there’s the potential that goes beyond even Klout’s own properties and how companies perceive the social influence analyzer.

Right now companies can take advantage of Klout’s insights to run Klout Perks campaigns, but soon Klout will be expanding its mobile VIP Perks product that places the company into PayPal’s and Foursquare’s territory of better connecting companies with their customers in the physical world. Mobile VIP Perks step up the physical customer service experience by geofencing locations so that when a Klout user who has downloaded the Klout mobile app steps into a store or restaurant, the merchant gets a notification that someone with, say, a Klout score of 57 is in the building. The user can then opt-in to let the merchant see who they are, which could lead to the head chef dropping by the table to see how he or she likes the meal. Fernandez said Klout has tested the product with some small restaurants in San Francisco and conducted a bigger test during SXSW with Cirque du Soleil where influencers got upgraded seats for a performance. “It’s a really exciting feature that is getting a lot of interest from businesses… We’ll be rolling out big partners with it soon,” he said.

Klout is also looking into how it can help businesses target their influencers on Facebook and Twitter through ads on those social platforms. “At this point we don’t offer [the ability to buy ads on Facebook or Twitter], and we don’t know what the exact mechanism would be whether [the ads would be purchased through Klout] or we partner with somebody else. But it’s a common request we get from brands,” added Fernandez.

Then there’s the possibility of brands uploading their own data to Klout. Klout has spent the past few years refining its ability to pull influence from social data, last year adding Wikipedia, LinkedIn and search data from Microsoft’s Bing to make its algorithms more accurate. But as Facebook has shown through its Custom Audiences targeting capability, overlapping social data with customer data can be extremely valuable for brands.

In the future, Fernandez hopes to add a mechanism that would let brands flow their customer data into Klout. That brands have been asking for the feature shouldn’t be surprising since it would let them get a better idea of who their influential customers are and how that tracks with who their social influencers are. “It’s not of out-of-the-box like what we launched today. But for brands to push their own data into Klout, tuning the Klout score to reflect their own business needs and recognize their own influencers online and offline based on that data set is really exciting,” he said.