YOU no longer need to be a celebrity, rock star, politician or a media personality to be considered influential.
Social Media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and Google are a fantastic way to encourage the democratisation of influence.
It's not critical to have a huge TV budget, to be a prime minister or even a sporting star to influence people in 2012.
Anyone who knows how to build a community of engaged followers, offer great content and build loyalty can have a major social impact today.
And so to Klout. Many of those most affected by scores from Klout, the monitor of social media influence, are social-media consultants and senior marketing executives primarily in the US and Britain.
However, there is no question that the goal of measuring "socially influential" segments of people online is an area that Fortune 500 companies are already exploring, testing and refining. And, yes, it's starting to make an impact in Australian business and marketing circles.
Nike, Disney, HP, Audi, Starbucks, CoverGirl, Dannon Yogurt, Virgin America and Fox are just some of the growing ranks of those testing the water.
Last year, about 80 per cent of Klout's +k Perks programs were repeat users. That clearly illustrates that clients and brands using Klout's insights and analytics are getting results.
Klout scores typically range from one to 100. On Klout, which is the market leader in this space, the average score is in the high teens. A score in the 40s suggests a strong, but niche, following. A 100, on the other hand, means you're Justin Bieber. US President Barack Obama is a 94. In Australian terms, at the time of writing Julia Gillard had a 68 Klout score, Kevin Rudd was a 67, Malcolm Turnbull a 57, Kylie Minogue a 78, Shane Warne a 71 and Hugh Jackman a solid 66. (I am a respectable 56).
Joe Fernandez, chief executive of Klout, recently stated: "Klout is basically your social credit score - consumers should care because it affects the way employers, companies and others rate your ability to spread information as a critical part of the attention economy today."
I recently heard that a US company "cut" an executive in a job search because he didn't have ahigh-enough Klout score for the role, in their estimation.
Major corporations using Klout today are supposedly already upgrading seats on flights for elite Klout scores, upgrading hotel rooms, giving influential customers free products and freebies, supplying new cars for test driving and providing discounts at point of sale.
Virgin Airlines even offered high-influencers free plane tickets to introduce a new airline route between Toronto and San Francisco or Los Angeles. The benefits and enterprises using Klout are expanding daily.
Companies such as Klout, Kred and PeerIndex are processing and scoring hundreds of millions (maybe billions) of people on their level of influence. If you have a Facebook, Twitter, Google or LinkedIn account, I guarantee that you have already been analysed, evaluated and judged. Or you will be, as the service continues to roll out worldwide.
Klout and its competitors use social analytics to measure your true reach, amplification probability and network score by collating all your likes, clicks, comments, lists and re-tweets - a total of 50-plus variables - from Facebook, Google and Twitter.
Bernardo Huberman, director of HP Labs' Social Computing Lab, stated it best when he said: "Businesses have a finite amount of money and time. Therefore, they must identify the most connected people they can to help expand their reach. In social networks, brands can connect with everyday people who are the celebrities of their networks. "The value to businesses is that they can have access to the respective Rolodex of consumers and reward them as a result."
Klout's analytic system, with its team of PhDs in mathematics, may not have perfected the scoring/analytics yet, but brands such as HP, Virgin America and Audi appear to be using and valuing the results. (Klout's algorithm involves three separate stages of semantic calculation: true reach, amplification probability and network value.)
Since 2007, social media has promised marketers a high return on investment, and I think this may be the first big step towards realising that elusive return.
Geoff De Weaver is the Chief Executive Officer of Touchpoint Digital Group.
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