What’s your “Klout Score?” It’s a question you’ll hear more and more often in the months to come.

One of the social media trends for 2011 continues to be the gathering and leveraging of opinions. Not just opinions of those who like one brand over another, but of those who are so influential as to change the minds of the folks who very well could be your new customers.

Klout, a network that allows users track the impact of opinions, is becoming a powerful tool for companies who want to collect large amounts of data about how people interact with their brands, services, products and overall image. You can use this tool to identify key influencers and keep track of their online influence.

Here’s an interesting case study from a few months back: Virgin America used Klout to  hand-pick a key group of influencers and then took them on a free flight to Toronto–their newest destination—from either San Francisco or Los Angeles.

What did the airline company ask in return? Nothing but a simple online acknowledgement – good or bad – about the flight they had just received. Of course the recipients blogged, tweeted and posted their good fortune and even now the ROI is producing great results!

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