Klout Perks Up Online, Offline Worlds

Rewards program expands to other sites, iPhone app

Klout used to be cute. It was a way to claim status by having your social influence measured. Influencers liked being deemed influential and having others aware of their influence. Then Klout changed its algorithm, leading to lower scores for some influencers and questionable ones for others, and things got quiet.

A couple months ago Klout rolled out a massive redesign aimed at crediting real-world influence. With President Obama deemed more influential than Justin Bieber, the measurement felt more legitimate. Now Klout is looking to get influencers to carry their more solid score with them outside of Klout and be rewarded for doing so.

“Internally we call it going beyond Klout,” said Klout founder and CEO Joe Fernandez. “We want people to be recognized for their influence beyond just the experience on Klout.com.”

As part of that push—which includes the recent integration with Microsoft's Bing search engine—other sites will be able to recognize users’ influence through Klout Pass, which like Facebook Connect, will let users connect their Klout accounts with non-Klout sites. By being able to recognize a visitor’s influence, those sites can then reward the user with a Klout Perk, and the user wouldn’t have to return to Klout.com to redeem it. For example launch partner 500px, a photo-sharing-and-selling site, could use Klout Pass to reward users carrying a 90-plus Klout score with a Klout Perk such as a 100 percent discount that could be redeemed at checkout.

“If you’re any kind of membership site, you want people on there saying, ‘This is the best to store photos, view photos, buy photos. Why shouldn’t those people participate in the growth of the site as a partner to you?” said Fernandez.

Yet another intriguing use case would have content sites letting influential users step over their paywall to access articles free of charge, the idea being that those users would be more likely to share the articles to their follower bases, which would in turn be more likely to click on that shared link and visit the publisher’s site. “If you’re highly influential about business or technology, you could get access to content for free because when you’re sharing, others are interested,” Fernandez said. So how likely is that latter example? Fernandez said he’s had ongoing discussions with publishers. “Over the next coming weeks you’ll see some big partnerships there,” he said. Also in the near future would be e-commerce sites showering influencers with Perks like free shipping.

Klout isn’t only taking Klout Perks elsewhere online but offline as well. Currently, if someone wants to claim a Klout Perk, they have to go to Klout.com, by which time the Perk may no longer be available. Trying to redeem a Perk offline isn’t much easier. But now Klout is baking Perks into its iPhone app so that users can be notified and claim a Perk without a computer in sight. The company’s also taking advantage of the new Passbook app Apple rolled out in the latest version of iOS, so that users can add their new Klout Card, which stores their Perks.

In May, airline Cathay Pacific began running a Perk permitting users with a 40 or higher Klout score access to its lounge in the San Francisco Airport. While a seemingly slick campaign, users had to fire up the iPhone app to flash their scores upon entrance. Now users can just show the Perk via Passbook. The airline is one of “a few partners” with whom Klout will begin testing the Klout Card in early-to-mid November, said Fernandez, who is eyeing San Francisco and New York as probable test markets.

But it’s not only big-budget, tech-savvy brands Fernandez has in mind with the rollout of Klout Card. The aim is to get smaller, local merchants on board and running Perks. “That’s really what this release is setting us up for,” Fernandez said. “For those businesses, it’s even more important to connect with these influencers. If you don’t have a web presence, you need influencers for word of mouth to grow the business.”