More amusing, if brainless, assertions from influencer marketing vendors

Among the most stupid opening lines from an ‘influencer marketing platform’ vendor I’ve read all year.

“Identifying the suitable blogger is not only the most critical part of influencer marketing, it also takes up the maximum time.”

How did they make the giant mind-leap from ‘influencer’ to ‘blogger’ without even the slightest explanation? Some bloggers are influencers, and some influencers are bloggers, but in most markets there’s way less than 30% correlation, and often it might only be in single figures. Who are they trying to fool?

http://www.business2community.com/mobile-apps/shelf-great-tool-find-right-influencers-promoting-apps-01206427#s0S02Ab4LePjgPS1.99

Why would a top ‘social’ CMO follow 26,000 people on Twitter?

There’s a top tech CMO I follow on Twitter. She doesn’t post that often (which is fine by me), and I don’t always agree with what she says, but I’m happy to get her updates. She’s a vociferous supporter of ‘social business’ and her company preaches the importance of filtering the online wheat from the online chaff. But I noticed yesterday two stats which struck me. One was that she has approx. 40k followers – I told you she was a top CMO. Second was that she herself follows almost 26k people.

I’ve no doubt she has an extremely busy worklife. So what possible benefit can she get from signing up to follow the stream of 26,000 people’s tweets. Why would she do this? Either she skims every one (v.unlikely), sets up filters to only see the most selective ones (in which case why not just cut back on most of them), or she dips in occasionally for a random selection (most likely). Is that such a great advance on more traditional methods of gauging the public temperature?

Just how selective can she have been to have signed up for each of those 26,000? Surely she hasn’t individually checked each one out in advance? I’m guessing most were followed on the ‘quid pro quo’ basis. So for someone whose job role is to advocate social networks as a path to greater personal efficiency, presumably she doesn’t herself place much value on the importance of gaining online followers. Which to me is a conflicting message.

Maybe I should ask her. I just doubt she has the time to respond.

Are PR agencies telling their clients the truth about their ‘blogger influencers’?

I’m fascinated by the response I get when I talk to senior marketing folk within US corporates. I met with one last week – a >$10bn consumer goods co. – and after a while our conversation moved, inevitably, onto ‘blogger influencers’. Immediately the execs in the room distanced themselves from any interest in courting them. They said they’d implemented a policy of not working with ‘pay for play’ bloggers, that they agreed those people had no credibility with their audience, and certainly didn’t want to subscribe to any blogger database. I was pleased to hear it.

But I keep reading about the “growing success” of several of these ‘blogger influencer’ database companies – the ones that marry up ‘pay for play’ bloggers with vendors willing to commission them. I looked a little deeper the other day – looking at who those companies claim to be their clients. Their client lists showed few brand-name vendors but plenty of PR agencies. And there’s the distinction. Agencies are their market.

Brand-name vendors can immediately see through the folly of these database trolls. I’ve written several times on this. Any blogger signing up for ‘pay for play’ is signing away both their credibility and any previous influence. The fact that almost none overtly acknowledge their paid endorsement is proof that the bloggers realize this too. But most PR agencies don’t seem to care. They can tell their client they’re increasing their reach, that they’re trying new channels, that they’ve forged new relationships. In many cases I’m sure they’re not even telling their client they’re having to pay for each blogger’s posts.

Clients may not have asked their agencies these questions, or at least done so only superficially. I think those questions are being asked more forcefully now. And agencies will start to get uncomfortable without better answers than they currently have.

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/

 

Are vendors even looking for the connection between ‘social’ and ‘influence’?

In preparation for an upcoming White Paper this week I’ve been speaking with three B2B marketing directors, two based in the U.S., the third in mainland Europe. I’ve been asking why they continue to invest in social outreach when there’s so little evidence that B2B buyers are being influenced by social media.

The first is a VP, Marketing for a mid-size web hosting provider in North Carolina. “It’s less a case of proving our social outreach is working, and more a case that we’ve proved previous approaches don’t! So we’re allowing ourselves a longer period to figure this one out. We can’t claim to have mapped that link (between social outreach and increasing sales) yet. Fortunately we’re not yet being expected to.”

The second, a group marketing director at a PAAS (platform-as-a-service) vendor based in Texas, adds, “I’ve recently inherited the existing group budget allocation so we’re just seeing how that performs before pulling anything. We’re aiming for better awareness through our social outreach – I don’t think we’re expecting a direct link to sales this year.”

The third is a CMO for a billion-dollar-plus revenue business outsourcing provider. “We’re investing in marketing for the long-term. You can’t expect to see a sales blip short-term. We’re about three years into our social outreach, and we’re changing the mix each year so it’s difficult to compare success rates. I think it will work out and help our sales prospects – but I wouldn’t like to put a timescale on showing that.”

This just further confuses me why some B2B companies are investing in ‘social influencers’ – when there’s no proven connection between ‘social’ and ‘influence’. At least, not to the bottom-line. Don’t tell me they don’t care about that.

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

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.

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?

 

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