Klout plans to announce a new feature on Wednesday that will prompt users who are supposedly influential about certain topics to answer related questions when they log into the site, building on the company’s idea that one’s knowledge about a particular topic can increase your credibility online.
The new product puts Klout in competition with several different products, from Quora to Yelp. CEO Joe Fernandez explained in an interview that the company wants to help users actually grow their visibilty on the internet and provide useful information to others, rather than just measure their internet visibility or connect those users with brands. However, the questions product, called “Klout Experts,” seems like an odd choice for the company, which has become something of a punchline in consumer tech and social media circles but might have more options courting businesses and marketing professionals.
The company used the questions of, “what’s the best veggie burrito in San Francisco” or “what’s the best digital SLR camera to buy” as examples of questions that users might answer, but it’s hard to imagine enough Klout users answering those questions more thoughtfully than the realm of other sites providing such information, or that people will go to Klout when they want burrito or camera advice. It’s true that no one has totally solved social recommendations, but there are companies with a good deal more payments data and location data giving it a shot, including public company heavyweights like Google and Yelp.
Fernandez touted the company’s integration with Bing as a key audience driver for the product (popular Klout answers will eventually show up in Bing search results), but with about 16.7 percent of market share in February, it’s not like Bing is a default search engine for many people.
However, when I asked Fernandez about the progress of Klout for business, he perked up (pun intended). Users have now redeemed more than 1 million Klout Perks since that product launched several years ago and said that they already have several hundred thousand businesses signed up for the program. Fernandez said the company is on track to do $10 million in revenue this year, and he sees his company becoming more like LinkedIn, where the majority of the revenue comes from products sold to businesses so it matters less how often consumers visit the site.
Fernandez said right now, businesses are eager to work with some of the people using Klout’s platform. For instance, McDonald’s might give a Klout Perk to fitness and health experts so those people can try out a new health-conscious menu item, in hopes that if the food is good, those people will tweet how much they love it. So the new question and answer product could become a way for both businesses to poll users about certain topics, or identify people who are particularly vocal online.
Here’s what users will see when the Klout Experts product comes to profiles: