Proof of the power of Peer Reviews. Some “used as blackmail”.

Buyer side Journey, Peer Reviews, Influencer Marketing, Influencer50

Fascinating news story on the BBC site about just how influential Peer Review sites can be. Plenty of ethical issues brought up by the counter-arguments in this. Should those being reviewed have the right to equal visibility replies? Should reviews with clear factual mistakes be removed? Should review sites be able to choose not to publish extreme reviews?

According to the BBC article, written by Kevin Peachey, “Businesses are ambushing rivals with fake reviews and customers are using the threat of online criticism to win discounts, research has found.

Allegations have been made of people “blackmailing” firms with poor reviews to get money off, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said.

Review sites may leave negative commentary unpublished to allow firms to resolve complaints, the CMA added.

Consumers could be unaware that some endorsements in blogs were paid for.”

For the full story, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-33184207

 

A question about influencers that was just too good for me

Once in a while clients ask a question of our work that at first I think so basic but then later consider almost inspired. Just such a moment occurred last week.

I was presenting the results of a client commission in mainland Europe when a senior manager at that client asked if we could clarify which influencers influenced internally i.e.. within their own organisations, and which influenced primarily outside their organization.

In the back of my head several responses came to mind. From ‘does that really matter?’ to  “how could we measure that?” to “would knowing the answer affect your interest in them?”. And even “is there an answer to that?”

Thanks Susanne, whether you meant it to be or not, it was a great question. And I’m still thinking of a worthy answer.

How do these ‘social influencer’ peddlers still exist?

In the B2B sector every in-house Marketing VP, Audience Manager or C-level immediately understands that their organisation’s customers & prospects are primarily influenced offline and through online search. Those that meet their customers know that these people aren’t glued to Hootsuite all day long, picking up whatever’s being posted on Twitter, Facebook et al. They laugh at even the thought of it.

So it still bemuses me there are other self-appointed ‘influencer platforms’ that effortlessly transpose the word ‘influencers’ for ‘social influencers’ so as to promote their own Twitter- or blog-trawler software. I used to wonder how these companies exist – because if they met any of the corporate buyers I meet they’d be laughed out of the office. In perhaps every B2B sector that I know of, ‘social influencers’ are in the very extreme minority – less than five per cent.

Then I came to understand how these platform providers exist. They sell to marketing agencies. And marketing agencies just don’t care about real market influencers – they care about numbers of people who they can outreach to. The game is to continuously ‘top up’ those outreach numbers. Even if those people have only the most tenuous connection to their client’s sales prospects.

So why don’t the in-house managers spot this and call out their marketing agencies? Because too many in-house managers themselves never meet real sales prospects. And so also have no understanding of who they’re really influenced by. This cycle has to stop.

Company offers a guarantee on how its social influencer marketing campaigns will perform! Oh dear.

When a company makes the following promise to its clients … I know they’re measuring the wrong thing. If only buyers were so predictable.

A firm describing itself as “a leading shopper social media company, announced today that all clients will receive guarantees on how social influencer marketing campaigns will perform before campaign dollars are invested. Through its new Guaranteed Engagement offering, (company name) brings a unique level of confidence to the online marketing world.”

Confidence in what?

Fascinating BBC Radio 4’s Womens Hour discussion on ‘influence’

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 5.45.20 AM

Interesting discussion recently on the subject of influence on BBC Radio 4’s Womens Hour program. Intelligent people – presenters, writers, business leaders – entertaining views and some of them counter-culture. What’s not to like? The conversation prefaced a ‘Power 100’ listing of women in the world today. Fascinating that they were trying to steer the 100 so as not to unnecessarily highlight those with ‘negative influence’ – Kim Kardashian a given example.

While they discussed at length the various channels though which cultural influence could be conducted these days, there was no consideration to the central question we always ask – influence on what or whom? Without agreeing on that how can you compare one person’s influence over another’s?

Well worth listening to. For those who can access the BBC’s iPlayer service I’d recommend it.

More amusing, if brainless, assertions from influencer marketing vendors

Among the most stupid opening lines from an ‘influencer marketing platform’ vendor I’ve read all year.

“Identifying the suitable blogger is not only the most critical part of influencer marketing, it also takes up the maximum time.”

How did they make the giant mind-leap from ‘influencer’ to ‘blogger’ without even the slightest explanation? Some bloggers are influencers, and some influencers are bloggers, but in most markets there’s way less than 30% correlation, and often it might only be in single figures. Who are they trying to fool?

http://www.business2community.com/mobile-apps/shelf-great-tool-find-right-influencers-promoting-apps-01206427#s0S02Ab4LePjgPS1.99

Why would a top ‘social’ CMO follow 26,000 people on Twitter?

There’s a top tech CMO I follow on Twitter. She doesn’t post that often (which is fine by me), and I don’t always agree with what she says, but I’m happy to get her updates. She’s a vociferous supporter of ‘social business’ and her company preaches the importance of filtering the online wheat from the online chaff. But I noticed yesterday two stats which struck me. One was that she has approx. 40k followers – I told you she was a top CMO. Second was that she herself follows almost 26k people.

I’ve no doubt she has an extremely busy worklife. So what possible benefit can she get from signing up to follow the stream of 26,000 people’s tweets. Why would she do this? Either she skims every one (v.unlikely), sets up filters to only see the most selective ones (in which case why not just cut back on most of them), or she dips in occasionally for a random selection (most likely). Is that such a great advance on more traditional methods of gauging the public temperature?

Just how selective can she have been to have signed up for each of those 26,000? Surely she hasn’t individually checked each one out in advance? I’m guessing most were followed on the ‘quid pro quo’ basis. So for someone whose job role is to advocate social networks as a path to greater personal efficiency, presumably she doesn’t herself place much value on the importance of gaining online followers. Which to me is a conflicting message.

Maybe I should ask her. I just doubt she has the time to respond.

Are PR agencies telling their clients the truth about their ‘blogger influencers’?

I’m fascinated by the response I get when I talk to senior marketing folk within US corporates. I met with one last week – a >$10bn consumer goods co. – and after a while our conversation moved, inevitably, onto ‘blogger influencers’. Immediately the execs in the room distanced themselves from any interest in courting them. They said they’d implemented a policy of not working with ‘pay for play’ bloggers, that they agreed those people had no credibility with their audience, and certainly didn’t want to subscribe to any blogger database. I was pleased to hear it.

But I keep reading about the “growing success” of several of these ‘blogger influencer’ database companies – the ones that marry up ‘pay for play’ bloggers with vendors willing to commission them. I looked a little deeper the other day – looking at who those companies claim to be their clients. Their client lists showed few brand-name vendors but plenty of PR agencies. And there’s the distinction. Agencies are their market.

Brand-name vendors can immediately see through the folly of these database trolls. I’ve written several times on this. Any blogger signing up for ‘pay for play’ is signing away both their credibility and any previous influence. The fact that almost none overtly acknowledge their paid endorsement is proof that the bloggers realize this too. But most PR agencies don’t seem to care. They can tell their client they’re increasing their reach, that they’re trying new channels, that they’ve forged new relationships. In many cases I’m sure they’re not even telling their client they’re having to pay for each blogger’s posts.

Clients may not have asked their agencies these questions, or at least done so only superficially. I think those questions are being asked more forcefully now. And agencies will start to get uncomfortable without better answers than they currently have.

1. Marketing depts. are still heavily, and rigidly, compartmentalized.

EngagementCover.peel1I was putting together a presentation on our Influencer Engagement Programs last week and thought it might be useful to outline some of the key learnings we have. There’s way more than six but I’ve chosen six and I’ll write about each in separate posts.

Point 1. Marketing depts. are still heavily, and rigidly, compartmentalized. And that’s a problem. The influencer model requires breaking that apart. As soon as we’ve identified the key customer influencers for a client, those influencers are then typically segmented into those the client routes to the PR agency, those to the social media team, those to the AR folks etc. Those that can’t be dispatched to these teams are mentally put into the ‘others’ category. Most companies have little existing mechanism to deal with these others. Through no fault of their own, they’re considered ‘awkward’ to accommodate. The cause is that their benefits are ‘awkward’ to measure.

Let’s go back one step. Marketing depts. are intrigued by who the individuals really influencing their customers are. There’s a genuine interest to find out. And an excitement with the ‘identification’ results – the feeling of a new dawn. But when they do find out, clients rarely have the internal structure & processes to act on this new knowledge. And then they can stumble.

Marketing depts. don’t have to break anything to commission us to identify their real customer influencers. They have to have interest, and a budget. But to act on our findings they often do have to break something internally. Because much as they’d like to create a new way of interacting with these new-found influencers, they’re restricted in how to deal with them by the existing fiefdoms within their organization. And they get into people-politics.

How do they choose to engage with the single consultant, who occasionally blogs, sporadically contributes an article to a trade mag., but who regularly consults to a number of large prospect opportunities? The PR team doesn’t want to lose that person from their long list of journalists, even though they’re never going to be a priority on that list. The client’s consultant relations team hasn’t the resource to proactively engage with small consultants either, preferring to spend their time with the much larger consultancy brands. And in terms of the influencer outreach program, how do you measure the value that influencer contributes when they act only as a background advisor to one or more prospect companies? Keeping them ‘onside’ with you costs time, patience, budget, and your influencer program needs to show a return on investment each quarter.

PR depts. and agencies think they have a hard enough time justifying their own existence – yet their traditional focus on journalists & the media means their eventual return can at least be measured in column inches, site stats, audience ratings, etc. AR teams can find they have a harder job because often only the analysts’ written reports are seen as tangible returns, when their actual role can be much broader. But how do you persuade your bosses of that? Yet compared to other categories of influencer, the returns from AR & PR activity are relatively simple to display on a PowerPoint chart. And that’s what seems to count. When each category of influencer may require a slightly different RoI metric to reflect the success of your outreach, it needs a particularly motivated, secure, senior and understanding client executive to support the ongoing engagement stage.

No surprise then that so many marketing depts. opt for the instant, though sugary, gratification of social media outreach. All those retweets, shares and weblogs look so much better on a PowerPoint graph. Whether they have any effect on sales is a very different argument.

The unbelievable return of EAV (Equivalent Advertising Value) metrics to blogger outreach.

Has marketing forgotten what it learnt twenty years ago? In the 1990s I ran a PR network in Europe. Agencies looked a lot at measurement techniques for the media coverage they were achieving on behalf of their clients. For a short while the industry used an EAV (Equivalent Advertising Value) metric. Some clients liked it but it was always a house built on sand. What was the point of knowing that a particular press clipping on page 87 of a monthly magazine would have cost $190 were someone to have advertised in that spot? The client wasn’t advertising in that spot (for no doubt good reason), the magazine didn’t take ads on that page (so the EAV was an arbitrary value anyway), and the coverage was not exclusively focused on the client (as any ad would have been), so the comparison was impractical from every view. Clients soon saw through it and agencies dropped the metric. Why raise a claim that could be so casually, and easily, shot down. This issue sprang to mind when I was recently reviewing what’s being called ‘blog outreach software’.

I couldn’t be more critical of the current generation of blog outreach software. It’s nothing more than extremely low-end advertising. The bloggers being courted by these software providers are only interested because of the payments they’ll receive when mentioning particular products or services. If the bloggers have any current influence, and there’s no proof they have, that will be immediately lost once they start product placing within their posts. But the thing that most struck me when looking at this software were the metrics they were using to measure the validity of each blogger. ‘Potential impressions’ and ‘estimated impressions value’! Two entirely hypothetical metrics. Have people learn’t nothing in twenty years?

I well remember a marketing director in the 1990s tell a large group of employees that the ultra-expensive Formula 1 sponsorship deal he’d just signed (the firm’s logo was on a car’s wing mirrors) had a potential TV viewership of hundreds of millions of people. He justified the spend by multiplying the likely TV viewing numbers by the length in minutes of each televised race to arrive at that number. As if the tiny wing mirror logo (on two of the twenty cars) would be visible for even 1/100th of each broadcast! In reality it was more like 1/1000th.

So for blogger outreach, why measure each blogger by ‘potential impressions’ and ‘estimated impressions value’? Why is this any more credible in the era of bloggers than it was in the far more stable, and less busy, era of print titles? I look at the (mostly) agencies supposedly using this software and I wonder what story they’re telling their clients.