Final Analysis: Under the Influence

Someday, your Klout score will be more important than your credit score. Sigh.
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Do you know your Klout score?

I used to be an 11. In the world of social media, it was appalling. On a Darwinian level, it put me somewhere between fungi and green algae.

Should anyone really care? Joe Fernandez, who founded Klout in 2008, thinks so. Last year, he told students in an MBA class at New York University: “We really believe every person that creates content online has influence. We want to understand who they influence and what they’re influential about, and reward them for that.”

The rewards Fernandez refers to—Klout calls them perks—are goodies that Klout showers upon its members to induce them to be more active in social media, so they can get even more stuff. In May, Cathay Pacific Airways opened its First and Business Class Lounge at San Francisco International Airport to Klout members with scores of 40 or higher. Nothing says influence like being able to go where the rest of the great unwashed cannot.

So here’s the drill: If you spend a lot of time telling us on Twitter what you had for lunch, or sharing on Facebook what you’re having for dinner, you can win swag from Klout.com. And your score goes up. Does this really mean anything in the grand scheme? I’m doubtful. But I’m also curious. So I joined Klout.

As noted earlier, I was an 11 at first. In Klout’s parlance, I was an “observer,” happy to hang out on the fringes of social media, keeping abreast of what’s going on but not inclined to cannonball into the deep end. Then I woke up one day and my score was a 43. (Hello, Cathay Pacific!)

I have no idea what I did to merit such a bump. I had done no cannonballing in my sleep. Hadn’t tweeted any more than usual. Didn’t post a thing on Facebook. I suspect it was simply a matter of Klout catching up with my vast network of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn friends and deciding I was worthy of sitting in a fancy airport lounge in a city where I don’t live.

As I write this, I’m still a 43. No other perks have come my way, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before there’s an Audi parked in my driveway. (Klout recently gave “key influencers” the opportunity to test drive the new Audi A8.) Turns out I’ve gone from “observer” to “networker,” which means I “know how to connect to the right people and share what’s important” to my audience. I have “a high level of engagement and an influential audience.”

I have a feeling this is a load of crêpes. (Klout served them at its Bay Area headquarters last year.) “We’re doing something that’s a lightning rod for controversy,” Fernandez told his NYU audience. “We’re putting scores next to people. I totally get why that rubs people the wrong way.”

Fernandez also gets that Americans love competition. We love to see how we rank against our friends, our foes, our families. Companies are even using Klout scores as a metric in hiring. Wired magazine reports that a guy named Sam Fiorella lost a marketing agency job to someone with a Klout score of 67 (out of 100). Fiorella’s was 34—well above the national average of 20 but obviously not good enough. So he worked to get his score up to 72 and now reports the job offers are pouring in and he’s getting lots more speaking invitations.

“Fifteen years of accomplishments,” he told Wired, “weren’t as important as that score.”

Can’t wait until we’re all caught up in this insidious web. Forty-three out.

JOHN LEVESQUE is the managing editor of Seattle Business magazine.

Final Analysis: The Sporting Life in 2017

Final Analysis: The Sporting Life in 2017

Three predictions for the coming year on a new arena, an old arena and the Mariners.
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As every first-year business student knows, a city’s economy is not considered “world class” until said city has erected at least four shrines to professional sports and these shrines remain empty and unused most days of the year. Seattle is knocking on the door of world classiness because it already has KeyArena, Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field up and running. Occasionally. Just one more monument to appease the great mass of athletic supporters and we’re there. Hallelujah!
 
It’s only a matter of time because Chris Hansen, the San Francisco rich guy who wants to build a new arena on First Avenue South and bring pro basketball and pro hockey to Seattle, is this close to getting his way. In October, Hansen revealed that he and his investors are now willing to pay the whole honkin’ bill for plopping a new arena into the SoDo neighborhood a block from Safeco Field. He still wants a piece of Occidental Way vacated and also expects some tax breaks from the city, but that’s how rich guys are. (See: Trump, Donald.) Besides, the people who believe we’re not world class until the NBA returns to Seattle are salivating over this deal because it’s the best deal we’re ever going to get
 
Of course, these same people said Hansen’s previous offer, which would have required that $200 million in public money be plowed into a new arena, was also the best deal we were ever going to get. 
 
Hansen’s decision to pay more for his arena places the sports economy clearly in the local spotlight this year. Heaven knows we could use more opportunities to pay $9 for a beer and see millionaire athletes selling Jaguars and BMWs on TV. It’s the kind of economic shot in the arm that only comes around whenever a sports league is in a coercive mood. 
 
And so, in the spirit of this January issue’s “looking ahead” theme, we offer three predictions relating to the regional economy as the Hansen arena intrigue continues to unfold.
 
Prediction 1: Hansen, who has already spent more than $120 million buying up property in the area of his proposed arena, will persuade the Port of Seattle, his arch nemesis in this melodrama, to fold up its tent and send all cargo-handling operations to Tacoma. That decision will pave the way for so many trendy bars and restaurants with names like Kale & Kumquat or Cobblestone & Wingtip that Hansen will be persuaded to create a private streetcar system to connect Pioneer Square with the burgeoning Stadium District. 
 
Prediction 2: The city-owned KeyArena, whose very future is clouded by the Hansen proposal, will announce plans to house up to 10,000 homeless persons every day. Even on days when the Seattle Storm and Seattle University basketball teams need the building, the city believes the Storm and the Redhawks could use the attendance boost, so it becomes a classic win-win.
 
Prediction 3: The Seattle Mariners, who still don’t like the arena proposal, will channel their hostility onto the field of play — and still not win the World Series. (This is called pattern-recognition analysis.) However, always mindful of improving the fan experience — because it’s not whether your team wins or loses, but whether you’re inclined not to press charges for being gouged by a vendor — the Mariners will introduce several new fan-friendly food items, plus mani/pedi stations in the pricey seats and roving loan officers to assist anyone trying to finance the purchase of hot dogs and sodas for a family of four. 
 
JOHN LEVESQUE is the managing editor of Seattle Business magazine. Reach him at john.levesque@tigeroak.com.