It’s easy to glaze over when we all read the word ‘influence’ one more time. I see so many brainless articles on the subject. So this story, in PR Week of all places, jumped out yesterday. At last – someone talking sense on the subject.
Here’s a flavor:
“The very word ‘influence’ is being thrown around in many contexts and some completely abuse the real meaning or conflate it with popularity.
Real influence means to convince someone to choose to do something on their own—without threatening them or bribing them—which they would not otherwise have done. That’s much tougher to come by. It is earned through sustained relationships, and not fleeting or dependent on compensation.
Influence is a demonstrable chain of persuasion from person to person leading to new attitudes and behaviour. Having a large audience does not necessarily mean wielding influence. Views and likes are not measures of influence though they may correlate or be coincidental.”
Thanks to PR Week and Christopher Graves, Global Chairman of Ogilvy Public Relations. I couldn’t agree more.
How come we rarely hear from the brands themselves about the success of their Influencer Programs? Rarely a day goes past I don’t hear or read of marketing agencies touting their skills at working with ‘influencers’, of successes achieved or local awards secured. Many of these stories come with the flimsiest of evidence – mid-range bloggers saying how thrilled they were to work with the brand, a regional magazine writing a fluff-piece about a local agency, or the agency itself spinning numbers of ‘passionate brand advocates’ they’ve engaged with. But rarely do the brands themselves do the talking.
Are they just too busy? – maybe, do they not want to tout figures for reasons of commercial advantage? – maybe also, or perhaps the agencies are just more motivated to shout their perceived successes. All I’m sure are a factor but I think it’s primarily something else.
I think the metrics agencies are working towards just aren’t the same ones that the brands are. The agencies may well be satisfied with seeing a rise in fans, retweets, impacts and OtS (opportunities to see). But this isn’t enough for the brands. The C-level execs running them know these measures aren’t strong enough to bring in new customers, or even move new prospects far along the pipeline.
Until they can tie those important measures into their influencer programs I think they’ll be staying quiet.
I don’t have big numbers to share. I have five anecdotal conversations – each with a CMO, or equivalent, of organizations ranging from $35m to just shy of $1bn revenue. Here’s the first. There’ll be more to follow.
This East Coast marketing chief paid $9,000 in total to get five bloggers to write two blog posts and a minimum of four tweets over a four-week period about their supposed adoption of a new tablet accessory. These tweets were then re-published as part of the vendor’s launch invite activities. Each blogger then attended the San Francisco launch earlier this year. That’s approx. $1800 each person.
Was it worth it? The marketing head, who’d identified the bloggers through a ‘social influencer’ database provider, was initially “ok with it, though we’d already known two of the five so we could have approached them direct. We’d have preferred to work with independent bloggers who didn’t need payment, but we were told most did, so we went along with it.”
“It felt a commercial arrangement throughout, with them having all creative control. That was a surprise. It felt like it was all give from us. The upside was that all four turned up at our launch, it wasn’t obvious to anyone else we were paying for them, and we could use their endorsements in our web ads. Financially it wasn’t a bad return for us, but I’ll definitely read their future posts with a lot more skepticism than before. I’ll always wonder if they’ve taken a payment to write about what they have.”
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
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.
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.”
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.