Klout LogoThis is another post in the ongoing series on “Social Networks for Ski Resorts“. To be clear, Klout isn’t a social network, it’s actually one of many ways to measure a person’s “influence” via their social network presence. There have been a few travel centric promotions that have keyed off a users’ Klout rating to provide high-ranked individuals with perks or freebies, probably the most prominent of these being Virgin America’s use of Klout to promote their new Toronto routes.

The use of Klout to check on a job applicant’s background generated some very interesting discussion on this post on The BrandForward Blog. Klout has also been the topic of a recent Twitter chat which discussed how Klout might be used to procure travel upgrades. The main question, is does a ski resort need to use a service such as Klout to help benchmark which “social influencers” get special attention – lift tickets and the like.

There are a number of tools that offer “social influence” ratings similar to what Klout provides, but does a ski resort (or any business for that matter) need to use a service, such as Klout, to determine how they offer benefits to influencers? First off, does having these “influencers” getting free or upgraded product really benefit the resort? I don’t know. But I do think that a “really great day on the mountain” tweet or Facebook status update that directly influences a small group of dedicated friends or even better, friends that ski or snowboard is just as good if not better than an update from a social media influencer. Second, if brands do indeed shift to providing more comps and deals to social media influencers, I think that it wil only be a matter of time until some get a letter from the FTC in regards the guidelines that the FTC released just over a year ago. Klout does publish an “Influencer Code of Ethics“, but is every business going to truly step up to the letter of the FTC guidelines until they see some compelling reason to do so?

Klout is also branching out beyond just Twitter, it also connects with Facebook and is in beta for LinkedIn. As it continues to expand into other social networks, can Klout be a way for businesses to graph and rate the social web? Or will each business need to find ways that best fit within their strategies and goals in order to best track who they should be work with in the social space? I lean towards the later, but I do think that as things scale larger and larger in social, that ratings systems like Klout, but can adapt to a businesses’ individual needs will fill a needed void.