Influencer50’s Global B2B Influencer Survey 2013: Advance Teaser – Only 1/3 of top influencers posting to Twitter in the past 2 months.

One headline from Influencer50’s forthcoming Global B2B Influencer Survey 2013. The full survey announcement on Dec 12th.

Influencer50, Influencer Marketing, Nick Hayes, B2B Influencer Survey '13Sneak peak:

As part of its research, Influencer50 analysed the use of Twitter amongst its identified top influencers. While the majority of top influencers across each region did have their own Twitter account, less than one-half had posted any updates in the past two months, so making their account effectively inactive.

This equates to only one-third of all top B2B influencers posting to Twitter in the past two months.

Percentage of top B2B influencers active on Twitter:

Own a Twitter account Posted in past two months
US 68% 36%
Europe 61% 29%
AsiaPacific 66% 27%

“There’s been so much talk over the past eighteen months about so-called ‘social influencers’. All these digital agencies have hijacked the term influencer marketing to relate to those on social platforms – mainly Twitter. That’s never jibed with our own experience of B2B purchase decision-making so we spent a year collating data on the subject.” – Nick Hayes, Principal of Influencer50 Inc.

“It doesn’t even mean that the one-third who have recently posted on Twitter were at all prominent on a relevant subject – they might have been very far down the ‘long tail’ – posting just once on an unconnected topic. So even trawling Twitter for industry talk doesn’t mean anyone would have found them. Twitter is not where the real influence in B2B is being conducted – despite every marketing depts. keenness to be active there.”

This research comprised research across four continents and forty-one countries analyzing a combined 36,218 B2B-oriented individuals. The continents were North America, Europe, Asia and, to a lesser extent, Africa.

– ends

Ty Holden
Influencer50 Inc.


The trouble with the ‘social selling’ argument

I was reading an interesting blog a few days ago by Matt Heinz (@HeinzMarketing) in Seattle. Hat tip to him. I didn’t totally agree with his point of view but that’s fine, he got me thinking. One of his central tenets is that would-be buyers are already active within social channels and this provides salespeople with a short-cut into those organization’s challenges / opportunities – just so long as the salespeople know where to look i.e. Hootsuite and the like. There’s plenty of logic in that. It’s the whole ‘social selling’ argument.

But I got to contrasting that approach with the findings of a recent client project in the traditional manufacturing industries. We’d used our methodology to identify the top market influencers. The majority of these individuals were buried deep inside their giant employers – these weren’t outside world-facing people but they had tremendous clout internally. Many had been with the same employer for twenty or thirty years. When at the end of our research we were checking their LinkedIn profiles we found the majority almost totally empty. A number had less than five connections and many contained perhaps just a single line on their career history. It made our team wonder why they were on LinkedIn at all.

Most likely it’s because at one stage of their life they were curious and created an entry, then thought twice about it, couldn’t see a reason to be there, and abandoned it. If they weren’t looking for a change of employer they likely saw no point in filling out their profile. Their lack of LI engagement has made no difference to the influence they wield in their industry.

As for their blogging and tweeting – well, they’d paid even less attention to that. Their online footprint was often zero. Yet they were undoubtedly influential, many had responsibility for large numbers of people and in some cases very substantial budgets. ‘Social selling’ wouldn’t reach these people, indeed it wouldn’t even know these people existed, and I can’t help thinking there are many thousands of middle-managers in traditional industries who are similarly ‘invisible’ to social selling.

Before we’re told that social selling is more immediate, more cost-effective, more engaging and whatever else, we need to bear in mind that it will only reach the minority of sales prospects. In the largest, most established industries, it may be a very tiny minority. And that’s not about to change.

Loved the recent Mckinsey report. Proves that people buy from people.

Loved the recent Mckinsey report ‘How B2B companies talk past their customers’. I posted about it last week but I just have to return to it. Not all the findings are obvious.

It seems most marketing messages (from the largest 90 global B2B brands) only correlate on one topic – the importance of a vendor having specialist expertise. The vendors thought it more important than the buying audience, but both did rate it. That’s as far as much agreement went. All this posturing about global reach, driving for innovation, corporate social responsibility, sustainability practices and promoting equal opportunities within its workforce – well, these apparently leave the buying audience largely cold.

Some of this is surprising – you might think that buyers want to feel morally good about their supplier choice. They do but not in the phrasing vendors use. Buyers want their suppliers to treat them, and society, in an open and honest manner. That was the clear number one. And they do want their suppliers to act responsibly throughout their supply-chain. ‘Transparency’ is good.

What was also interesting: brands thought that promoting low prices was an attribute. Buyers, conversely, didn’t think this contributed in any way to improving their brand image.

What Mckinsey also noted was the ‘herd mentality’ in each brand’s adoption of messaging. Few looked to establish their individuality, with IBM’s Smarter Planet initiative raised as a far-sighted exception. The majority repeated the messaging of their competitors – resulting in minimizing their differentiation. Surely not the original intention of their marketing.

As the report concludes, “even in the digital era, the actual personal interaction with the supplier’s sales reps was considered the single most influential factor – across touch points – (in the buyer’s impression of that brand).”

We come back to that age-old saying, at the end of the day “people buy from people.”

Reblog: Big B2B Firms Are Talking Past Their Customers

More proof that too many vendors talk a completely different language to their buyers.–-but-you-dont-have-to/

Hat tip to Paul Gillin for another great post.

Can 60% of B2B companies be increasing their social outreach budget solely due to blind faith?

I keep coming back in my head to this stat from the 2013 State of Digital Marketing report ‘Webmarketing123’ stating that only 54% of B2B companies believed they had generated any leads through their social outreach to date – and that ‘just 39 percent of those B2B companies were able to clearly say they have seen revenue generated from social media’. It’s a fascinating report.

Looking further at the stats, social outreach is one of the activities most likely to increase in budget next year (56%) – and by a significant amount. Almost no respondee (just 2%) said they were planning to reduce that pot. So give or take a few vagaries, doesn’t that suggest that almost 60% of companies will be increasing their social budget despite no measurable RoI through sales? Call it investment by gut feel or blind faith or intuition or whatever. But not RoI.

For the vast majority of companies 2013 wasn’t the first year of their social outreach budget – for many it will have been their fourth or fifth year. That adds up to a lot of investment without noticeable return. And we don’t know what percentage of the 39% that believed they could report sales as a result, thought it enough to cover the costs of that outreach. I think we can assume it’s tiny.

Is it that the return is there but they haven’t been able to measure it? – a common, if optimistic, view. Is it that increased sales is the wrong measurement criteria in the first place? Perhaps, but difficult for any stakeholder to continually accept. Or is it that there’s a time lag of several years between the positive effects of social outreach i.e. increasing brand awareness, and the positive glow that encourages a buyer to choose one vendor over another? Impossible to say.

Of course there’s a fourth option. That in the majority of current B2B marketplaces the kind of brand awareness that social outreach gets you has minimal effect on the eventual decisions of the end-buyer. Because those end-buyers are basing their decisions on very different criteria. One of my next posts will cover this thought in more detail.

New Influencer50 White Paper: ‘Can You Be Influential To A Market And Still Remain Almost Exclusively Offline?’

Influencer50 Inc., Influencer Marketing, Influencer Identification, Engagement & Measurement, Nick HayesHow are B2B decisions really being made these days? And is social media involved in the process?

Has Product Marketing ever seemed less fashionable?

I’ve had two particular conversations with big, big B2B tech brands in recent weeks where I’ve heard the same thing. That their social media budget is now greater than their product marketing budget, both in people and resources. And in one of those companies their social media budget was next to zero just two years ago.

Is it that they’re now seeing the early benefit of their social outreach and so investing more? Are they mapping their customer’s buying behavior and seeing those customers’ migration to social channels? Or is it that they’re just following the current trend towards social, regardless of the RoI? After all, the recent Mckinsey report stressed the prevalence of the ‘herd mentality’ in many marketing depts. these days.

Marketers are just guessing how their customers’ buying decisions are made

DigitalDistressCover-1024x575I’ve never understood why marketing depts. don’t put far more effort into understanding their company’s prospects and customers. I say ‘far more effort’, but in fact, most don’t put any effort into it. Many marketing depts. aren’t even allowed to go anywhere near their customers and prospects – the sales team like to very carefully control who goes near them. The gulf between most sales and marketing functions within any organization means that there’s very little knowledge transfer going on there. Where do marketing depts. get their steer from? The truth is it’s mostly from other marketers – whether in-house co-workers, hired contractors or industry competitors. No wonder there’s so little insight going on.

So marketers are left to pretty much guess how their customers’ buying decisions are made. And let’s face it – all too often that shows.

Do marketers not believe that they need to understand how buyers’ decisions are being made, or what trends there are in how companies make those decisions? I assumed not, no matter how bizarre that seems. It now appears many are well aware of this shortcoming – they’re just not doing anything about it.

Take a look at Adobe’s extremely interesting recent survey of 1000 U.S. marketers. Called ‘Digital Distress – What Keeps Marketers Up At Night?’, the headline finding was that the number one concern for marketers was reaching their customers! Or rather their apparent awareness that they’re failing to reach their customers (82% rated this No.1 concern).

Only 40% thought their company’s marketing was being effective – a terrible indictment but none too surprising.

Perhaps a greater admission came when questioned about from where Marketing Decision-Makers choose to get their marketing advice. At 23% the top response was from their in-house marketing colleagues (who by default would be junior to them), then their Agencies (19%), Industry Associations (17%), External Peers (17%) and Industry Publications (15%).

I think we can paraphrase these findings. Marketers could do a whole lot worse than talking directly to their prospects and customers. What are they looking for?, When do they know they have a problem?, How do they set about resolving it?, What do they want to see from their suppliers?, How do they make their choices?, etc. etc. That would be a great starting point – and it’s clearly a thousand miles from what’s happening now.

For the (highly recommended) Adobe report go to:

How did the world of Influencer Marketing come to this?

When we started our company, and then wrote one of the original books on Influencer Marketing, our intention was to identify the real-world sales influencers – whether they made a noise about it or not. We wanted to better understand how sales were being made – and better understand what was standing in the way when sales weren’t made.

Today when we read discussions about Influencer Marketing they’re most commonly nothing to do with those subjects. They’re invariably about social scoring, about how brands can create databases of those who are most active online on a particular subject. Want to know who tweets most often, to the widest number of people, on the subject of say Android? Or who the most prolific pay-for-play bloggers on the subject of consumer goods are? How did we get so far from real-world sales?

Klout certainly affected the perception of influencer marketing by saying they were something they were not. They said they were ‘the standard for influence’ and because of their notoriety, and the level of funding behind them, people listened. Then everyone realised they weren’t – but by then all kinds of newcomers had entered the fray. Most criticized Klout for just how speculative its evaluation system was, just how easy it was to game their score, and then tried to make their own company’s scoring a little more robust. But Klout established the concept that identifying influencers meant identifying social influencers, that influence meant activity on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and the like. And that’s the connection I think has been most damaging to the real world of influencer marketing.

Over the past eight years we’ve identified the market influencers for hundreds of organizations across more than forty countries – from the U.S. to Australia, from Vietnam to Sweden. And in almost every market sector the number of ‘social influencers’ – those influencing a real-world market primarily through their social media activity – amongst our top influencers has been less than 30%. Way less. Sometimes it’s almost unmeasurably low. And that’s because we’re measuring ‘purchasing influencers’ – those who have a direct effect on the sales of a company’s products & services. Occasionally, and I mean occasionally, the number of ‘social’ names within the top influencers can be significant. But only in very specific and very ‘online’ markets.

Most companies operate in a mix of the offline, online and social worlds. That’s where their existing customers, and prospects, live. What I’m most interested in are those who are really influencing sales. It seems a very different path to the 2013 version of Influencer Marketing. And I’d like to help it back on track.