Oh boy. If you thought Klout was provocative before, wait’ll you hear what they’ve come up with now.
Already controversial for their Klout Scores, which purport to measure a user’s ability to drive social impact across the web, Klout has taken things to a whole new level: placing a numeric value on each user’s individual human life.
How do they do it? Klout’s proprietary algorithm analyzes each user’s social and search activity, then generates a number (called a K-Lyfe) from 0-100 which represents that person’s intrinsic human value. The higher the user’s K-Lyfe, the higher her value to the world.
As importantly, a user’s K-Lyfe earns her K-points, which are redeemable for Klout Perks like magazine subscriptions, Starbucks gift cards or Band-Aid Blister Cushions. Logically, the quality of the Perk offered is in direct correlation to the user’s potential positive impact on humankind.
“We’ve always known intuitively that some people are inherently better than others, but finally Klout has found a way to actually quantify it.” said Klout CEO, Joe Fernandez.
Fernandez went on to explain how they productized their ground-breaking technology. “We didn’t want K-Lyfe to be some ‘present-value of projected lifetime income’ like those used by insurance companies to settle wrongful death suits.”
“We just think that using money to measure human life is crass and shallow,” he said, “But since K-Lyfe Perks are redeemable for valuable offers from our sponsors, the user gets the best of both worlds!”
“It’s also a logical extension of our core technology and value proposition. Just as Klout Scores identify the most influential people in the social-media ecosystem, so we can now identify people who contribute more value to the world’s human ecosystem.” Fernandez reported.
Whether they can actually measure human life accurately remains to be seen, but their ambition in this project is undeniably bold.
“With K-Lyfe, Klout has discovered the answer to one of the riddles of the universe: how reduce the value of human existence to a simple number,” Fernandez continued. ” It’s kind of like how the USDA grades meat…meat from the carcasses of soulless, docile livestock. It’s clean. It’s elegant.”
(you can help boost the author’s Klout Score by giving some +K props here)
The algorithm hasn’t been made public, but here’s what we have been able to deduce from using the tool.
Notably, one’s K-Lyfe fluctuates over time, depending on what they’re doing on social networks or searching for on Bing, Ask.com or MySimon (Klout has not yet secured a meeting with Google).
It stands to reason that the algorithm ranks as positive all the time a user spends posting pictures of his kids or promoting philanthropic causes. It then deducts points when a user queries porn terms, stalks ex-lovers on Facebook or reads cat-themed listacles on Buzzfeed.
But Buzzfeed isn’t the only site that degrades the value of your life – ironically, so does time spent on Klout.com itself.
According to Fernandez, “People who spend significant time on Klout or LinkedIn’s ‘Who’s Viewed Your Profile’ page tend to be self-aborbed and/or seriously insecure. So, they’re actually worth a little less to the world.”
Added Fernandez, “It is ironic, yeah.”
Klout is working hard to differentiate their new product from its historical offering. Dave Mariani, Klout’s VP of Engineering would not say much about the K-Lyfe algorithm other than “it required very minor tweaks from our Klout Score algorithm, yet it yields results that are very different.”
“In fact, some of those with the highest Klout scores rank near the bottom of K-Lyfe.” Mariani continued. “For example, Kris Jenner. She’s got a Klout Score in the 80′s, but barely registers on K-Lyfe.”
Fernandez concurred: “Broadly-speaking, you could say that a Klout score measures who’s talking, and a K-Lyfe measures who’s worth listening to.”
MARKETING TO HIGH-VALUE HUMANS (HVH)
Targeting users by the value they bring to the world would be a very new opportunity for marketers.
“This is a huge proposition for marketers,” said Fernandez enthusiastically. “Just as brands want to connect with influencers, they also want to associate with high value humans (HVH). Marketers consider HVH the ‘mega-influencers,’”
Brands participating in the K-Lyfe beta include Sony Electronics, Toyota and snack-maker Pop Chips (it was offered first to Pepsico/Frito-lay, but they could not obtain the internal legal sign-off in time).
“Trial is important to us, so we used K-Lyfe to get our product in the hands of the best people out there – literally,” said Pop Chips Markeing Direcotr Maria Scaglione. ”After all, which brand are you more likely to choose: the Pop Chips being eaten by a clean, decent person – or the potato chips being eaten by some dirty, shit-bag loser?”
The targeting is very sophisticated and can be combined with third-party data providers to reach very specifc audiences.
Scaglione confirmed its effectiveness, reporting, “Using K-Lyfe, we target a group of users we call ‘Semi-substantive+’ and overlay an @Plan/DataXu filter for people who index 200+ on ‘potato chip consumption’. The targeting is so powerful because there are just not many people who meet both criteria.”
Some brands take a different approach and target only those in the bottom 25th percentile of K-Lyfe. That approach has yielded great results for Trump Casions, Axe Body Spray, and Bravo TV.
“Our consumers are in a different place,” said Trump’s VP Marketing, Stephen Jones. “They may not know it yet, but they are just about ready to give up on their shitty lives.”
“LIKE A CREDIT REPORT FOR YOUR SOUL”
As might be expected, Klout’s move is causing an uproar from religious and bio-ethics community. We outlined K-Lyfe for Stanford bioethicist Hank Greely, who replied, ”I sure hope you’re fucking with me.”
He continued, “Those guys are out of their god-damned minds. Their core product is silly and self-serving enough, but this is just…this is…I gotta lie down.”
By which Greely meant – among other things – that Klout’s efforts fly in the face of existentialism. At best, the new K-score can really only measure the human essence, as opposed to the value of core human existence.
“If you want to view it through the lens of existentialism, then, yes, we’re really only measuring human essence,” confirms Klout’s Fernandez. “But that’s actually good for our business, since essence is dynamic, which means the K-Lyfe score changes and users have to come back to keep track of their score. If K-Lyfe was static, there’d be no reason for users to return.”
“The business model is very much like FreeCreditReport.com – except that K-Lyfe is a credit report - on your soul,” Fernandez emphasized passionately. “Experian is very excited to talk partnership. At the very least, we’ll swap traffic.”
Who’s not excited is the Catholic Church. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York City released a statement saying, “Every human life – from the moment of conception – has value, and not on a sliding scale.”
Replied Klout’s Fernandez, “Well, what does Cardinal Dolan know? His Klout Score is only 67 – and that’s 21 points behind Avril Lavigne.”
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