Klout Brand Squads: Make Way for the Influencers

Klout, the self-proclaimed creators of the standard of influence on the web and one to never balk at the threat of controversy – often drowning in negative press, released branded pages (aka Brand Squads) into beta this past week. Not too much unlike a watered down version of Facebook Pages, Brand Squads are meant to serve as a central hub for brands and their fans. Unlike Facebook though, Klout’s branded pages are heavily focused on earning and keeping fan interest by tying it back to influence and rewards. Same Klout game. Same Klout story.

Influence pays

For the launch of Brand Squads, Klout opted to give Red Bull first dibs. If you’ve kept tabs on Red Bull and their branding strategy, heavily slanted towards millennials with consistent out of the box marketing campaigns, the Klout partnership shouldn’t come as a surprise. And while there’s nothing captivating about the Red Bull page per say, at least not to the extent that would warrant repeated visits, if you’re a diehard fan it could be worth checking back on every now and then.

No, what really makes this operation get off the ground, and my hunch why Klout has taken this direction, is because of the competitive contest aspect to it. Klout is giving brands a platform to reward their loudest and proudest fans by hooking them up with free schwag. For Red Bull there’s currently an offering waiting in the wings that will adorn the top 100 influencers with branded apparel and drinks, while the top 10 influencers receive a complimentary trip to one of the company’s annual live events.

More harm than good?

If I want to win a trip to the X Games, all I have to do is jump on the Red Bull / Klout bandwagon by using Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ to talk about Red Bull around the clock in hopes of “influencing” others and thus increasing my score. Although my score currently sits at a measly 16 (apparently I’m not influential anymore – I was once a solid 72), getting up to the 60 or 70 range isn’t too difficult with a little bit of thinking and effort. Thus, I present a dilemma…

Are fans really connected to the brand, or are they just interested in winning free stuff? If Klout is easy to game, and apparently it is, what’s to stop faux influencers from hijacking the contests? Klout doesn’t necessarily measure fan appreciation, but rather the scope of how often I can make others respond to my social media activity. If I’m already somewhat influential or some variant of a only famous on the internet type of celebrity, am I really a true Red Bull fan, or am I just a guy who wants to score some prizes?

Bad news for us, good news for brands

The real winner here isn’t you or me, or Klout, or the influencers, but rather Red Bull and all the brands that get a chance to jump on this while it’s still quiet. If this work like it should, Red Bull’s going to have potentially thousands of people touting their praises online in hopes of receiving a hook up. Ultimately for Red Bull the investment is rather minimal and the payoff is massive.

Brand Squads may end up as a force to be reckoned with, but right now it looks like another Klout PR firestorm waiting to happen. Color me skeptical on this one.

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