Have Social Klout and Get a Free Virgin Flight

by Michelle McGinnis on Thursday, August 19, 2010 in Social Media

Last week, I flew back to Toronto on a red-eye from Los Angeles. I had planned to take a short vacation to Disneyland anyway, but imagine my delight when minutes before booking our flights, my friend (and fellow traveler) received an email from Klout offering two free round trip fares to LAX or SFO on the new Virgin America routes out of Toronto. Serendipity, I love you.

Klout is an analytics service that tracks users’ influence on Twitter (based on variables such as the quality and number of followers and retweets). Since Virgin is often at the forefront of the use of social media for marketing and customer service purposes, it’s no surprise that they chose to partner with Klout in an attempt to reach the right people to build its brand.

Klout is trying to do something that all marketers have been struggling with since the dawn of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – put a value on social media. It’s clear that some people have more influence online than others and Klout has managed to quantify this influence.

Klout scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores representing a wider and stronger sphere of influence. The size of this sphere is based on three facets of social influence: True Reach, Amplification Probability, and Network Score. (If you’d like more detail on Klout scores, it can be found here.)

However, once all the excited social media mavens in Toronto started happily tweeting about their good fortune, it led to a bit of a backlash as those who consider themselves to be social leaders checked and rechecked their email inboxes for their free flights. The inboxes came up empty. Those who felt they should have received a flight and didn’t, “disliked” the campaign, feeling cheated. And what happens when the Toronto “Twitterati” feel shunned by a company? They tweet about it.

In the end this campaign was a huge success with waves of positive tweets and blog posts! In addition to the airline’s social media strategy, the actual product is pretty amazing - – right down to the nightclub styled check-in areas and the fun and edgy pre-flight safety video.

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