There is an interesting, and perhaps alarming, trend brewing on the social media scene.  Take a look at a couple items in the news last week:

  • The Palms Hotel in Las Vegas is providing perks to guests based on their Klout score (an assessment of social media influence)**
  • By the end of the year, Twitter said their new analytics will provide influence scores for every user.
  • People are now curating lists of the most influential bloggers by Klout score.
  • Virgin Airlines offered free flights on a new route to people with high influence scores on Twitter.
  • Hoot Suite allows you to sort Twitter results by the influence of the people in the list.

I’m guessing that within a 12 to 18 months, you will be able to use new augmented reality technology to scan a room of people with your smartphone and get a numerical social rating for every person in sight.  I constructed the graphic above as an example, but the technology is already there to make this happen.

OK, first I need to get this out of my system. This CREEPS ME OUT.

Good. I feel much better now. On with the show.

While it may be a sad and disturbing reality that we’re about to create a new social media caste system, the business benefits are obvious and powerful. This system can provide highly-targeted marketing and PR opportunities.

Advertising Age reported that the Virgin promotion generated 4,600 tweets about the new route. This led to more than 7.4 million impressions and coverage in top blogs and news outlets like the L.A. Times and CNN Money.

This week, Klout began pulling in Facebook data to get a fuller picture of an individual’s social media footprint and they also have their sights set on LinkedIn, MySpace, Digg, and even Youtube, for future integration.

And this is just the beginning. Forget about Klout scores, there will be competitive rating systems for everything and it will be available to anybody at a push of a button. Wouldn’t it make sense to assign numbers for single people on the dating scene based on “user ratings”?

It seems inevitable that you and “your number” are going to be compared, analyzed and dissected by everyone you meet.

Think about the implications of this.

1) Social influence is the new black. Your social score may ultimately be more important than your resume when getting a marketing job, especially at an entry-level position. Your information is going to follow you around and be available to every person you date, every potential employer, every waiter at your favorite restaurant.

2) You better take this seriously. You know how some people whine that so-and-so blogger is only big because they got there first? Well guess what — the folks reading this blog today are probably already way ahead of the curve on social media sophistication. When it comes to social scoring, you have a chance to “get there first” too. Once these scores go mainstream — and it’s already happening — everybody is going to want a number … a high number. You have a head start. Do something about it.

3) Personal branding starts with social influence. Don’t take my word for it. The Harvard Business Review said that creating a robust online presence is the first step toward building a C-suite personal brand.

4) Prepare for the gamers.  If you think all those people selling lists of Twitter followers is annoying, wait until people figure out how to game Klout scores.

5) Do you have a Klout coach? Here’s the business opportunity of the year. Become a personal Klout coach. Basically this is “personal branding SEO” right?  Social scoring is going to become so important that people will certainly pay money to pave the way to a high influence score.

I hate the fact that we are on the brink of creating social media caste systems. However, we can’t live in a world we wish for. We have to live in the world that is.  So let’s deal with it. Go figure out how to improve your Klout score. Watch for new scoring systems that are emerging. Participate. Dominate. It’s going to be important.

This is a new perspective on technology and personal branding that is more than a little icky. What do you think about this concept and its implications?

**If you are unfamiliar with Klout scores, here is a definition from the company:

The Klout Score is the measurement of your overall online influence. The scores range from 1 to 100 with higher scores representing a wider and stronger sphere of influence. Klout uses over 35 variables on Facebook and Twitter to measure True Reach, Amplification Probability, and Network Score.

True Reach is the size of your engaged audience and is based on those of your followers and friends who actively listen and react to your messages. Amplification Score is the likelihood that your messages will generate actions (retweets, @messages, likes and comments) and is on a scale of 1 to 100. Network score indicates how influential your engage audience is and is also on a scale from 1 to 100. The Klout score is highly correlated to clicks, comments and retweets.