Moving fast, making friends, breaking things and trying to change the world. I would say that 2011 had all the ingredients of an amazing year for the Klout team.
With all that has happened, it feels impossible that January was only one year ago. I remember being excited but nervous heading into 2011. We had just closed a round of financing with Kleiner Perkins and Greycroft. The pressure was on to evolve Klout from interesting novelty to meaningful business. We were also at a crossroads in terms of how we wanted to think of our business. The obvious path was to be a data-centric company focused on helping businesses target influencers. This didn’t feel right though and we made the call to continue our consumer focus. We felt that by empowering people to understand and leverage their influence we could have the biggest impact. We wanted to unlock the world’s influence.
Our goals coming into 2011 were to be “the standard” and to make the Klout score matter. To be the standard, we wanted to be recognized for having the highest quality data and to have the Klout score distributed everywhere. From using Klout to quantify a politician’s traction, to credit cards integrating Klout to reward customers with loyalty points, the Klout score became the industry standard. In fact, distribution of the Klout score grew from about 1000 developers in January 2011 to over 5000 partners now. Even more exciting is the amount of API calls, which grew from about 100 million per month last January to over 7.5 billion per month now!
The bigger challenge for Klout in 2011 was to make the Klout score meaningful and relevant to everyone. In May, we relaunched Klout.com and saw a huge surge in engagement and user registrations. Soon after, we released +K which allows users to explicitly recognize their friends’ influence. +K has been a huge success with over 50,000 +K’s generated daily. We reintroduced our much improved topic pages and also added LinkedIn, Foursquare and Google+ to the algorithm while beginning to analyze YouTube, Tumblr, WordPress, Instagram, Flickr and other networks to provide a complete picture of an individual’s influence.
Klout Perks also made a huge impact in 2011. Over 250,000 people were rewarded for their influence with amazing Perks from brands like Spotify, Red Bull, Hewlett-Packard, Turner, American Express, Chevy and Microsoft. I am particularly proud of the Klout Perks program. To have top brands recognize the impact not only of social media but also the power and voice of the individual was exciting to see. These brands followed our Klout Perks Code of Ethics and simply let influencers experience their products without knowing what the influencers would say and getting no private information about the participants. This past year we also redesigned our Klout Perks packaging, so be on the look out for the orange Klout Perks box because we are looking to take Klout Perks to the next level in 2012!
With all of our successes, 2011 wasn’t without some major challenges and screw-ups. Measuring influence is a monumental challenge and as the social media landscape continues to evolve, our algorithms need to evolve with it. In October, we launched the biggest algorithm change in the nearly four-year history of the company. In planning for this change we thought we had our bases covered in terms of transparency and communication. But it’s clear we didn’t do enough. The reaction was a great kick in the pants for the team and we appreciate everyone who cared enough about their Klout scores to #occupy us.
Privacy is another area where we learned some tough lessons in 2011. The nature of social networks and the data Klout analyzes makes privacy a consideration in every decision we make. In an effort to be more transparent about the data Klout analyzes, we launched the “Understanding Klout” portal. Our goal for 2012 is to be seen as a leader with respect to privacy.
Through the ups and downs of building a startup, my favorite part was getting to work with so many amazing people. From our investors to customers and partners we were lucky to have so many brilliant minds helping us. The Klout team grew from 15 people to more than 50 and I have never met a more humble and passionate group. I also want to thank our users for inspiring us to push harder and do better. We appreciate your support and patience and we look forward to helping you unlock your influence in 2012!