We’ve recently launched our new InfluencerCommunities subscription service. Here’s why. There’s a massive disconnect between the importance of an industry sector’s most important influencer communities, both online & offline, and the attention paid to them by vendors’ marketing depts.
According to InformationWeek, special interest communities featured in the top five most likely sources of vendor information for prospective purchasers (both at initial problem scoping and at vendor choice stages).
And while over three-quarters of B2B industry marketing heads rate their industry sector’s main forums & communities (both online and offline) as very important in influencing their prospects, less than one-third are confident their company has ongoing, proactive relationships with those top communities.
So companies really need to know which online & offline communities are the most influential in their sector. Which they should monitor, which to ignore and which maybe to join. Where are their industry’s most important conversations going on and who’s instigating them?
And it’s not just about which communities have the most members. Are their members those people moving & shaking the sector or are they just … followers? Which of their sector’s top influencers are members? And what should they do to engage with those people once they’ve identified the most important ones?
Our new Influencer Communities subscription service answers all of the above and more. We expect it to become one of our most popular services.
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Review sites may leave negative commentary unpublished to allow firms to resolve complaints, the CMA added.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
An interesting survey was published earlier this week with recent data on how business purchase decisions are being made. These were all for UK B2B purchases exceeding £20k (approx.$32k). And the standout finding for me – reaffirmation that social media is not being used by buyers to guide their purchase decisions to anywhere near the degree vendors would have you believe. 50% of all purchasing decision-makers didn’t use social media at all to shape their buying decisions.
It gets worse for Twitter. Just 5% of the >200 respondents said they referred to Twitter for help in their decision-making process. This was the second-lowest score, just edging out the 4% who used Pinterest.
Top of the social platforms was not surprisingly LinkedIn (18%) and Google+ (16%). Online community sites came in at 10%.
So why are vendors (and their agencies) continuing to invest so much in their Twitter outreach? It’s certainly not based on a knowledge of their customers.
It’s always interesting to look back and review the make-up of those applying to join the Influencer Marketing & Influencer Relations LinkedIn Group. With LinkedIn as a platform going from strength to strength, and each year reinforcing its role as the go-to place for online B2B communities, I think reviewing the types of role of those applying is more relevant than ever.
For the second year running there have been more individuals from agencies applying than from in-house roles at vendors. In 2010 the ratio was 69% from vendors, 31% from agencies. In 2012 it was 57% vendors, 43% agencies. Reviewing 2014 it was 41% vendors, 59% agencies. Since our LinkedIn Group is designed for vendor roles only, we’ve once more declined far more applicants than those we’ve accepted. What’s new is the make-up of those from agencies.
Three years ago they were mainly from PR agencies, two years ago they were overtaken by those from generic or integrated marketing agencies. The first six months of 2014 saw the largest category being marketing tech agencies – those providing blackbox solutions rather than consultancy or services. Think of them as very broadly the descendants of Klout. But halfway through last year began a new trend. A phenomenal number of applicants from small startups offering brokering services between brands and ‘pay for play’ bloggers and tweeters. Looking at the photos of these applicants, these people are very young, I’d guess well under 25. Their startups look unfunded and they’re from all over the world, Asia in particular. Our LI Group isn’t for these people so we have to decline their entry. But it clearly shows where the most movement in this sector currently is.
Influencer50’s new White Paper: WP#18 : To what degree are your prospects & customers influenced by online & offline communities? – is now available for download at: http://influencer50.com/library/white-papers/
Synopsis: A 2013 McKinsey survey of B2B buyers stated that ‘an honest, open dialogue with customers and society’ was the number one most important perceived attribute of their chosen vendors. A 2013 Forrester report polled thousands of B2B marketers and concluded that online communities were one of the most influential tools in a B2B marketer’s toolkit. Despite 76% of B2B industry marketing heads rating their sector’s main forums and communities (both online & offline) as ‘very important’ in terms of influencing their prospects, only one-quarter of those same vendors are confident their organization has ongoing, proactive relationships with them. There’s clearly a vast gap between the perceived importance of industry communities to potential buyers – and vendors’ understanding of them. So why can this be?
I chair the ‘Influencer Marketing & Influencer Relations’ LinkedIn Group. One of my roles is to approve all new member requests and I’ve some interesting stats to share. The group is very specific, and only professionals from the vendor-side are admitted – no agencies or individual consultants. These rules are to encourage uninhibited vendor to vendor discussion, free from agencies endlessly pitching themselves or steering conversations round to self-promotion.
We’re always reviewing the stats surrounding the group. We now have well over 850 vendor-side members. But what I wanted to share are the request stats. Since Jan’13 73% of all requests have come from agency-side or students. We’ve had to politely decline each of these.
It would be easy to boost the numbers by admitting every request. If so, we’d now enjoy over 2500 members. And that’s the temptation of social. Quality suffers at the hands of metrics – the core numbers are the first impression anyone gets and you’re rarely allowed the attention span to explain quality.
On social, no-one invests the time to think behind the headlines.
At Influencer50 we’re currently collating the responses to a short survey of 150 U.S-based marketing heads on their views of industry-specific community groups, both offline and online. What we already know is that B2B buyers see certain communities as very influential in their decision-making.
One particularly fascinating finding, which until now has been just our adopted wisdom, is that many buyers are either active on Twitter and other social media or online communities – but not both. You might assume that someone who takes an active part in social media conversations would naturally extend those conversations into online community forums. But it seems users largely make a choice between one or the other, or perhaps neither, but almost never both.
Perhaps they feel they’d be repeating their contributions, or perhaps culturally they feel they’re either a Twitter or online community kinda person, but it appears rare for any one individual to be active on both platforms. We first noticed this a few years back as part of our auto-industry work for Michelin, and it seems to be emphasized by our latest survey.
The findings would suggest that any social media outreach your organization may be undertaking is not reaching the online communities you’re likely assuming it is. And so working with your online communities needs to be considered a very separate strategy.
Influencer50’s latest survey is scheduled for release in early June.
For 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.