Can we unlearn the notion that real market influencers are noisemakers?

Perhaps the single most damaging concept that’s emerged over the past couple of years in Influencer Marketing is that the most important influencers are those who are most prolific on Twitter. We know which company we have to thank for that notion. They were championed, then loudly criticized. I don’t think anyone now considers them ‘the standard for influence’, if they ever did. But much as the fire is out the smoke is still around.

‘Influencer Marketing’ has these days come to stand for mass-database platforms of tweeters and bloggers already writing about a given subject. That doesn’t make them influential, that just makes them noisy. And there’s no evidence that anyone was listening. A would-be prospective client called me the other day and began the conversation with “I’ve been researching plenty of companies who do what you do”! I had to bite my lip. As far as I know none do what we do.

You think 2014 might be the year when ‘Influencer Marketing’ reverses out of the cul-de-sac of ‘social influencer scoring’ and gets back to the intention we originally had for it – understanding who really influences buyer decision-making? Or maybe the name has been lost forever now and we need to create a new title for it? Maybe ‘Influencer Marketing’ has been subverted once too often.

UK Channel 4 Dispatches TV show ‘Celebs, Brands & Fake Fans’ replaying

Nick Hayes, Influencer Marketing, Influencer50For those in the UK, the Channel 4 Dispatches TV show – ‘Celebs, Brands & Fake Fans’ – is replaying tonight I hear. It covers how corporates and celebrities alike are using illegal click-farms to create fake Facebook fan numbers and contracting marketing agencies to illicitly hype up their Twitter buzz. It features various interviews with experts and interested parties – including me.

One hour long, it was originally broadcast in Aug’13.

Don’t ‘practice’ on your audience when it comes to Content Marketing. They wont like it.

I was watching an online training video the other day on Content Marketing. It was aimed squarely at marketers and the trainer at one point said, “I cannot stress enough, practice with your content, keep putting more and more out there and you’ll gradually get better at it.” He then went on to discuss the various tools and processes required of today’s content marketers. He was saying there were no excuses, every marketer needed to be on Facebook and Instagram because that’s where customers were sharing their photos.

Watching the video all the way through was hard but I persevered, just in case it all made sense at the end. Needless to say it didn’t. And that’s what the buyer community has to face – marketers putting endless ‘stuff’ out there in the hope that some of it sticks. And marketers ‘practicing’ on their audiences.

At no point did he mention anything about the customers – what they might want to receive and interact with, what they might need to hear to prioritize their purchase, what might be needed to differentiate one supplier over another, etc. It was clear that this marketer didn’t see it as his job.

If you’re a company selling accounting stationery it’s difficult to see how Instagram should be central to your campaigns. If you sell jet engines to aircraft manufacturers I’m not sure how Facebook will help fill your order book. But too many marketers think like this trainer clearly did – that a full marketing plan is a series of cookie-cutter processes. It’s nothing of the sort. A marketing plan should wrap around the needs of the customer – what they need to hear, when they need to hear it and in what format they’ll listen.

You don’t need to cover all bases – as this trainer advocated – you need to cover the right bases. And only your customer- or prospect-base can tell you what’s ‘right’. None of them will appreciate you treating them as guinea-pigs as you misguidedly practice your marketing. They’ll remember that when it does come time to buy.

A recent prospect conversation. No deal was done.

True life. A recent incoming call from a prospect. Needless to say, no deal was done.

“So can you identify our influencers for us?”

– “Yes, I’m sure we can. Tell me more.”

“We don’t want to know the journalists and analysts – we already know them. And we don’t want industry consultants – because they just want to be paid. And it’s not the people already inside our industry – because we know those too. It’s the others we want …”

– “The others? ..”

“Yeah, you know, those on Facebook and Twitter and that kind of thing ..”

– “Do you think your clients are listening to what’s going on on Twitter?”

“No idea. Probably not. I don’t really care. I’ve some research budget to spend and I need to present some results quickly … like yesterday.”