While still considered a punchline by many, for others that are happy to receive the perk of free access to American Airlines Admirals Club, Klout has been diligently trying to find ways to up its game. No longer content in just assessing one's social media score, Klout is morphing into a social network of sorts.
In a strategic alliance struck between Bing and Klout, Microsoft is playing a high-stakes game of Chess with the grand-daddy of search engines, Google. As the Big G consistently maintains over 2/3 market share, it continues to sit as royalty with its online dominance in the search space. For Bing as 'pawn' to overtake the mighty king, it needs to fuel its engine with more than a multi-million dollar TV ad buy of commercials.
If a user's Klout score is presently 70 or above, he or she is most likely been asked by Klout to become an "expert" in a certain field where they have displayed expertise or influence. When one agrees to respond to questions on a particular topic, your responses will have the opportunity to appear on Bing's SERPs (search engine results pages).
In essence, your Klout ranking will increase the more active you become as an expert. So while folks previously improved their score by being socially active on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn et al, now they can move the needle by buying into's Klout's new social search functionality, vis a vis signing up as an expert.
As Steven Levy from Wired puts it, "there's a weird element of recursion in this: in addition to gauging your mojo on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and the rest, (now) Klout will be measuring Klout clout" -- sort of like the beast-feeding-itself type of business model. And while this evokes the taint of "answer mills" the likes of Demand Media, Klout and Bing overcomes this criticism by requiring users to vote up a particular response to make it worthy of being added to Bing's search results.
Lawrence Ripsher who manages user experience at Bing stated that Microsoft believes the content provided will become extremely useful if enough users get involved. "Content is so powerful that it almost doesn't matter whether Klout's 'experts' actually have any real expertise. If enough Klout users vote up an answer, it will still likely be a worthwhile addition to Bing results," added Ripsher. Sounds a bit counter-intuitive since one would think the reason you are seeking more and more experts is based squarely on their expertise, yes?
So what are the monetization incentives for the users to entice them to enlist? Well, to be perfectly honest, there aren't any. While sites like Demand Media and Google Adsense do reward freelancers and bloggers with ad payments, Klout is expecting your content for free, with the caveat your Klout score will go up if you can show you are more Klout-centric than other users who choose not to become Klout experts.
Sharing your expertise is on a "play for no pay" basis. Your only rewards are pinned to an "ego boost 'bragging rights,'Joe Fernandez and the opportunity to ratchet up your Klout score. And at the end of the day, you don't even own your content. Klout and Bing do. “We own the answer,” says CEO and founder Joe Fernandez. "You’re free to share it anywhere, do whatever you want with it–but we are also building a database.” Hmmmnn, well that takes some of sheen off of the offer, doesn't it?
So is this a cautionary tale of things to come? In order for Klout to reach its new goals and derive increase revenues from its Bing partnerships are users and their resulting scores at the mercy of a ranking system that is now seeking more participation? Is this a veiled threat of sorts that if you choose not to be an expert, you might lose some of your 'influence' footing because you're not willing to play under the new rules of the game?