New Influencer50 White Paper: ‘Where’s the evidence for investing in B2B ‘social influencers’?’

HomepageBanner.WP#19Influencer50 has issued the latest in its series of White Papers this week, WP#19, ‘Where’s the evidence for investing in B2B ‘social influencers’?’. It asks why Heads of Marketing in B2B organisations are still believing that social media outreach will reach those people most influencing their sales prospects, when there’s little to no supporting evidence.

It quotes recent research from the American Marketing Association, Neilsen Online, ad agency RSW/US and Influencer50 itself to question the logic of assuming ‘social influencers’ are a legitimate target audience. It may not be what many of those in marketing roles want to hear right now – but it’s a compelling argument.

Available for download at: http://influencer50.com/library/white-papers/

 

IHS Survey – “Which Influencer / Advocate actions does your company value most?”

Influencer Marketing, Influencer50, Nick Hayes, Influencer Marketing & Influencer Relations, The Buyerside Journey.comInteresting evidence from Barbara Thomas, head of the Customer Recognition Program at IHS, when her firm asked 100 organizations, “Which Influencer / advocate ‘activities or assets’ are most valued by companies?”

Top of the list – no surprise it’s Customer Videos and Customer Case Studies.

However Barbara says she was surprised at the two lowest rated activities – Facebook Likes and Twitter mentions. Yet this ties in with one of the themes we’ve talked about for the past few years – the over-emphasis on engaging with customers / prospects through social media. B2B customers are just not using Twitter, Facebook et al anywhere near as much as vendors think they do. Good to see her research reinforcing it. Hat-tip to Barbara.

http://creativetactics.com/images/Creative_Tactics_Survey_Results_LinkedIn_1-2015-sm.jpg

How will the ‘social influence platforms’ justify their business after this week’s Buyersphere 2015 report?

B2B Marketing mag, BaseOne, Buyersphere Report 2015,, Influencer Marketing, Influencer50, The Buyerside Journey.comI’m looking forward to seeing if, and how, the Twitter-trawling ‘social influence platforms’ react to this week’s Buyersphere 2015 report from B2B Marketing & BaseOne. I wrote about it yesterday.

The standout finding was that 50% of all B2B purchasing decision-makers didn’t use social media at all to shape their buying decisions and that just 5% of the >200 respondents said they referred to Twitter at any stage for help in their decision-making process. This was the second-lowest score, just edging out the 4% who used Pinterest.

So when agencies trawl Twitter for the noisiest people on particular subjects, and then sell that information to vendors / brands claiming them to be the key market influencers, perhaps the vendors will start to think again. How can they still back up that claim?

http://www.b2bmarketing.net/resources/buyersphere-report-2015

 

PeerIndex sells to Brandwatch in an all-UK deal

Congratulations to Azeem Azhar, someone I’ve always liked, who just before Christmas sold his UK-based firm, PeerIndex, to Brandwatch. PeerIndex was fleetingly a competitor to Klout, at the time Klout was claiming to be ‘the standard for influence’. But I always had a lot more respect for PeerIndex, mostly because of Azeem himself, who I first met fifteen years ago. With PeerIndex he first created clever technology without an obvious commercial use, which he then repurposed to enter the market that Klout had forged – that of ‘online influence metrics’. Much as I never bought into the concept, or its relevance to buyers, I could always respect him as an innovator. Though he’s moved to Brandwatch for the next few years, I’m sure it’s not the last company he’ll create. Congratulations once more.

60 million people in one click! That says it all about blogger databases.

Love it. Just when I was fearing our company seemed to have a different understanding of ‘influencers’ to almost everyone else I see this strapline from a UK firm purporting to specialise in ‘influencer marketing’.

“The UK’s Largest Influencer Marketing Agency. We build creative social marketing campaigns for brands and then distribute them to 60 million people in one click!”

Huh! 60 million people. All influential obviously. Every one of them well targeted no doubt.

I guess they just didn’t want ‘spammers’ in their strapline.

 

So what’s been the overriding trend in Influencer Marketing this year?

The past few years have seen a number of trends on the world of Influencer Marketing. When I look back at these I can’t help noticing that none of these trends have been, in my opinion, good for better understanding who really influences an organisation’s prospects & customers. The largest trends have been short-term diversions and their shortcomings soon realised. The result is they’ve just confused the subject matter, and left the understanding of the subject in no better a place than it was five years ago. I’ve resolved to unearth some more positive trends in future posts. No point complaining.

In 2011 we saw the rise (and later fall) of the supposed ‘online influence platforms’. In 2012 there was the wide-scale transition of Influencer Marketing programs from being managed in-house (where marketing depts. didn’t know what to do with them) to being contracted out to PR and ad agencies (who didn’t care that they didn’t know because they now had a new revenue stream). 2013 saw the ‘pay for play’ blogger / broker networks make a concerted attempt to redefine ‘influencers’ as bloggers and tweeters who’d willingly endorse products and companies for payment. 2014 is actually harder to identify one over-riding trend but I think it’s been the finessing of which social media metrics are most relevant to ‘influence’. I’ve seen no end of graphics illustrating ‘relevance’, ‘appropriateness’, ‘authenticity’, etc.

What each of these have in common is that they’re all marketing-centric, and increasingly generated by the marketing agencies themselves. I’m seeing surprisingly few vendors and brands driving any more productive trends. Why is this?

 

Why would you be tempted to sign up to a ‘blogger influencer network’?

Would love someone from the vendor side to explain to me why they’d be tempted to sign up to a ‘blogger influencer network’. I can understand them being misled by the title into thinking they’d be connecting with real influencers, but outside of those people, and once they’d realised that wasn’t the case, why would a vendor contact one of these database hawkers? Their databases don’t hold influencers, they hold the names of tweeters and bloggers who, in exchange for payment, are willing to write promotional guff while not declaring it to whatever readership they have. How ‘inauthentic’ can you get?

So someone tell me what’s the attraction?

What’s wrong with the current state of Influencer Marketing?

A starting point is that it needs to get back to having the prospective buyer at its center, not the vendor’s marketing dept., or worse still, the vendor’s PR agency. Five years ago it was of clear benefit to the salesforce, helping them better understand who was most influencing their sales targets. Marketing depts. took it on because they could see it at last being the glue ensuring sales & marketing alignment.

Then social media, which plays a very different role for marketers than it does for buyers, took hold. Marketers saw that through social media, influencers could simply become an additional database at which to aim their promotional messages. Which then led to a series of problems.

1. The term ‘influencers’ was given to any tweeter or blogger with even the smallest of networks

2. Systems like Klout emerged that allowed these tweeters to big themselves up – wasting a lot of people’s time in the process.

3. Marketers – desperate for metrics to show their bosses – could now show impressive graphs of outreach, retweets, likes and more.

4. New marketing tech firms emerged looking to sell the identities of these tweeters & bloggers to brands desperate for new outreach channels.

What this has created is a new marketplace for those acting as middlemen providing access for brands to ‘pay-for-play’ bloggers. Of course, the two sides are sold very different stories. The bloggers are told to endorse the paying brand as surreptitiously as they can, knowing that the more they can smuggle in brand references the more likely they are to earn repeat business. The brands are told that these bloggers & tweeters have been individually selected for their authenticity, sensitivity and audience. And that all their bloggers operate a full disclosure policy to their audience. When the brand notices that the blogger hasn’t disclosed their association they’re told this was a one-off mistake. And far from being individually selected, the middlemen are playing a numbers game. They aggressively advertise for increasing number of willing bloggers, just as low-end taxi companies promise endless numbers of would-be car drivers the best-paid job of their lives. For their part, the bloggers & tweeters game their own numbers – audience numbers, Klout scores, subject coverage, etc. in order to out-compete their rivals for any type of payment.

But these are very far away from being influencers. The problem is that it’s not in any of these circle’s interest to admit that. Brands want to be able to show they’re reaching real influencers, the bloggers & tweeters want to appear as attractive as possible to attract the money, and the middleman broker agencies (for which there’s absolutely no barrier to entry!) want to promise brands access to the largest possible database of would-be promoters. It’s an ‘emperor’s new clothes’ scenario. And it wont stop until the vendors’ salespeople remind their marketing dept. of what they expect from their influencer outreach. Legitimate sales prospects!

What ‘bloggers for hire’ claim to offer

I’ve been receiving quite a few approaches recently from ‘bloggers for hire’ assuming that Influencer50 operates a so-called ‘influencer marketing platform’ – in reality just a database of bloggers willing to promote products & services in their posts for an upfront fee.

This raises several issues for me. How poor the targeting of these bloggers must be – we don’t operate such platforms, I must be one of the most public voices against them, and they clearly haven’t done even the minimum of research on what we do do.

Secondly how generic their approach is – see below at one I received yesterday. They’re selling their claim to be a ‘social media influencer’ and will endorse pretty much anything. What they have to offer – they claim – is a high Google PageRank and a regular level of traffic.

When people like this start permeating blogs with their undisclosed promotions, all casual blog readers need to be on alert. And what does it say about those sponsors willing to reach their audience this way?

Dear Sir/Mam
I’m a tech&auto blogger at xxxxxxxxxxxx.com and social media Influencer for Brands like Toyota,Allianz,Cars.com,Victorinox,Brainwavz,Asus,Videscape.com etc under sponsored digital marketing campaigns.

I’m interested to participate in paid/sponsored social media promotion and marketing campaigns of tech products& gadgets,
Please assist me to connect with the concerned team.
Regards

Blog Details:
Blog:https://www.xxxxxxxxxxxx
Google Pagerank: 02
Monthly Traffic: 7,000-10,000
Domain Age: 1 year

Why would a marketer turn to bloggers they’ve never heard of to help their outreach?

Why would a marketer turn to bloggers they’d never heard of to take their brand message to their highly valued prospects? I’ve never been able to work that one out.

Every marketer should strive to understand their company’s customers and prospects. That’s a given surely. In some B2B markets there are no important bloggers. None. Now if those marketers know their market at all, and let’s hope they do, they’ll already have an idea which, if any, bloggers in their space carry any credibility. Let’s be generous and say that 10% of bloggers on a particular B2B subject are listened to by potential buyers. Don’t you think a marketer would have a pretty good idea which 10% were most credible? And which should just be ignored.

So why would they pay a ‘blogger platform’ company to ‘suggest’ tens or even hundreds of previously unknown bloggers, none of which the vendor then has a direct relationship with. Those bloggers, all of whom have made themselves available for hire, then agree to promote or reference the marketer’s message in their posts? It’s a nonsense, doing untold damage to the marketer’s brand. And all while the talk in marketing circles is for brands to create ‘authentic conversations and relationships’ with their prospects and customers.

Marketers are always looking at starting intelligent conversations with their customers and prospects. The problem is that most often they don’t know where to begin. Why not begin by asking your prospects which bloggers they follow? Maybe give them a list to select from, if you really don’t want to leave a free choice. You’re asking them an intelligent question, you’ll probably get intelligent replies.

If any marketer were ever to compare the list of bloggers as voted by prospects, with those provided by the blogger platform sellers, the two would be very different. Blogger platforms offer up only those bloggers available for hawking. It’s insulting to hear them called influencers.