If your Twitter feed starts blowing up with effusive praise for Virgin America, it may be because the airline has influenced those sets of 140 characters with free flights.
Mashable reports the airline is looking to hand out free trips to Los Angeles or San Francisco to Toronto Twitterbugs with major influence as determined by Klout. A Klout blog post quoted by Mashable says there’s no funny business going on:
We do not want to ‘buy’ your tweets. You are receiving the product because you are influential and have authority on topics related to the product. This is a more targeted form of receiving a sample while shopping at the grocery store. You are welcome to tell the world you love the product, you hate the product or say nothing at all.
Do you think it’s OK for influential Twitter users to accept free flights?
UPDATE: We received this comment from Virgin’s social media manager:
As a new Company with a different kind of service, we’ve found that once people fly us – they are hooked. In addition, as a brand, we’ve found that social media is an informal, authentic way for us to engage with guests and prospective guests – and also amplify our awareness within limited ad budgets. As we enter a brand new market we thought it was an interesting approach to partner with Klout in this way.
Klout has worked with us to hand-pick influencers – based on Klout scores – in our Toronto and California markets who would be interested in trying us out. They were provided with a promo code for a free roundtrip flight (taxes not included), free in-flight Wifi, and a special invitation to our star-studded Toronto launch party on June 29th. Promo codes were made available to the first 120 influencers to book a flight between June 23rd and August 23rd. All participants are subject to the Klout Influencer Code of Ethics (http://klout.com/perks/virgin/CA).We hope that by providing free samples of our unique in-flight experience, including WiFi on every plane, mood-lit cabins, touch-screen seatback entertainment system, and on-demand food we will convert flyers and build word-of-mouth and loyalty amongst key influencers in new markets.