Francis Bea

Influence matters in the Internet age. The founders of Klout, PeerIndex and Kred have established this by recognizing that our online influence matters both online and offline. Not everyone realizes just why a Kred score of 60 is far more beneficial than a score of 40 but with influencer scores reaching into the real world, brands are wholeheartedly embracing these engagement metrics to shape their marketing strategy.

The most visible real-world influence program to date has been Cathay Pacific Airline, which made a splash in the press when the airline announced its mobile partnership with Klout. The partnership offered passengers with a Klout score higher than 40 access to its airline lounge, typically reserved for business and first-class passengers, at the San Francisco International Airport. And it was the first time many social media users realized that just maybe our influence score is a number that that actually matters.

From the brand’s perspective, now more than ever advertisers have unparalleled access to robust tools that hone in on the key consumers, critical for spreading a brand’s message. For example, an individual savvy in technology with 10,000 Twitter followers might be a prime target demographic for a developer advertising his or her video-based app compared with a film buff with 5,000 followers. However what the developer may not recognize without Klout, Kred or PeerIndex is that the film buff may have a higher influence score than the tech savvy counterpart. What this should show us is that the number of Twitter followers isn’t an accurate depiction of just how influential that user is to his or her followers. What’s important for a brand when it comes to social media is the user engagement, which typically translates to a higher return on investment.

In fact influence is a metric that Twitter is flirting with and may even present as a standalone score in a manner similar to Klout, PeerIndex and Kred. Twitter’s cofounder, Evan Williams discussed during a Branch roundtable that followers are an unreliable metric for determining a user’s influence. With that in mind, Williams hinted that Twitter was developing a “dream metric” that would corral retweets, comments and other engagement metrics into a more definitive influence score.

Klout has since been the first to capitalize on the relationship between brands and influencers. Klout introduced a new channel that allows brands to offer limited edition “perks” to influencers that meet specific criteria. For example, Cadillac is offering a free early look at the latest James Bond flick, “Skyfall,” in select cities one day before “Skyfall’s” US debut for users with a Klout score above 50. And from personal experience, I’ve found that the perks are almost always unavailable due to the insatiable demand. In the consumer’s eyes, free stuff is a fair bargain for tweets or shares.

Klout is now even gauging a user’s offline influence as indicated by factors such as the number of searches conducted on Google for a Klout user’s name. It’s an arguably accurate indication of how much an individual is a participant is in social media, which is becoming a necessity for everything we do today from marketing to finding jobs.

According to Wired, influence scores are creeping into our daily lives even if you may not recognize it. For example, the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas would check guests’ Klout scores as they were checking in and the high scorers were offered additional perks like room upgrades without an explanation. And surprisingly Palms Casino Resort’s strategy worked like a charm and rocketed its social influence to the top among its peers.

Admittedly influencer scores are in the early stages of acceptance from both brands and influencers. There are the skeptics that aren’t willing to accept that a startup with a mysterious algorithm can hold so much power. Then there are those that are embracing their scores for exclusive access to limited edition products and opportunities, as we’ve seen with the demand for Klout Perks. But one thing is certain - the influencer score is here to stay and large brands are thinking of creative ways to best utilize influencer scores, from hotels considering offering free stays to airlines giving priority boarding in exchange for tweets from high scorers.

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