Klout Wants to Turn Social Media Influence Into Revenue

Startup hires chief revenue officer from Turn

Joe Fernandez, the CEO of social influence startup Klout, said the company is ready to get serious about making money and pursuing advertisers. One sign of that seriousness: Klout just hired its first chief revenue officer, Tim Mahlman.

Klout measures people's influence on social networks like Twitter and Facebook (it recently added Tumblr, Instagram, and others to its tracking). Fernandez and Mahlman said the new position will focus on overseeing the Klout Perks program, where advertisers pay to offer deals to the most influential users in a certain topic. The company has run more than 75 Perks campaigns so far, with companies like Nike, Audi, and Virgin America. For now, Fernandez admitted, most brands are treating those campaigns as experiments, but the goal is to turn them into a significant part of their online advertising budgets.

It helps that the early numbers have been impressive, at least according to Klout. The company said that in past campaigns the average "influencer" will drive 30 pieces of social media content (in other words, they'll tweet a few times about the offer, and then their friends will post about it, too). For example, a recent campaign with Disney involved 500 influencers who drove a total of 159,000 tweets.

Until now, Klout hasn't really had the staff to approach these campaigns in an organized way, Fernandez said—it only has "two and a half" salespeople on a team of around 45 employees. So Mahlman, who previously served as chief revenue officer at online ad serving company Turn, has been tasked with building out the business team.

More broadly, Fernandez said he wants to turn Klout from an "interesting novelty" to something that's "helping people get jobs, helping them get better customer service" and "leverage their influence" in other ways. Mahlman said he's already seen one sign that this is happening. When he was at Turn, he received a few job applications that included a Klout score.

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