Why paid-for bloggers have nothing in common with ‘Passion at Work’

I once knew an extremely impressive man who wrote a book called ‘Passion at Work’. His book became the go-to reference for how to create stimulating, challenging and motivating workplaces throughout Britain and beyond. He actually made ‘passion’ sit comfortably alongside ‘work culture’. Not many can do that.

So when I get an email from a blogger outreach company advising on ‘worthwhile points when dealing with bloggers’, I immediately treat sentences like “Here’s one I’m really passionate about” with plenty of skepticism. When it leads on to “keep in touch with bloggers who genuinely love your company’s products” I’ve all but switched off.

The exact advice was, “Keeping in touch with bloggers who genuinely love what you offer is important. Send updates, new products and random gifts to stay on their minds and show up in their posts. Furthermore, when you need help promoting a piece of content or a new product, they’ll likely assist with authentic posts.”

I wondered what possible type of blogger she could be talking about.

It seems to me there’s now fundamentally three types of blogger. The first are those with something to say, an opinion they want to get across on a particular subject area – surfing, japanese design, becoming a sommelier, cloud architecture, etc. These people have a degree of knowledge and are deep-diving into the topic. They may well already be influential on that subject in the offline world and use blogging as an additional channel for their views.

The second type are those encouraged by the sound of their own voice, so they blog about everything going on in their world, however diverse or random the subjects. They go for the cult of personality. Some manage it and good luck to them. Blogging to them provides the same purpose as having a personal YouTube channel does to others. It’s personality-driven entertainment.

And the third type are those now being courted by the blogger platform peddlers. The databases now euphemistically called influence marketing platforms. These bloggers aren’t ‘passionate’ about any company’s products – they’re just willing to shuck a mention of those products in return for a payment.

I took a look recently at the most frequently referenced bloggers on a number of B2B issues over the past eighteen months. Mostly these were established consultants or journalists who use blogging as one outlet for their thoughts. I talked with five of them and asked if they’d been approached by these blogger platforms and if they knew of anyone they respected who’d accepted payments. The rule of thumb they said was that while almost 100% had been approached, perhaps 5% of their blogging peers had taken payments for commercial mentions. What’s more, this 5% were easily and immediately spotted by those inside the relevant industry sector and their credibility ‘re-assessed’. Less than a quarter of those 5% had decided to openly state on their blog that they were part of a commercial incentive.

So yes, there are influential, credible, subject-specific bloggers who are taking payments from commercial vendors. But they’re in the very small minority. Perhaps one in twenty of those approached. Do you think the vendors have thought about this?

http://maximizesocialbusiness.com/10-tips-developing-better-blogger-outreach-15106/?utm_source=GaggleAMP-Maximize%20Social%20Business&utm_medium=Twitter%20(GaggleAMP)&utm_campaign=AutoAMP%20Messages&utm_content=10-tips-for-developing-better-blogger-outreach-httpgagglcic-222699&mkt_tok=3RkMMJWWfF9wsRonv6XKZKXonjHpfsX%2B6OkuT%2Frn28M3109ad%2BrmPBy%2B24MDWp8na%2BqWCgseOrQ8mFgMV8GiS80VraE%3D

The influence marketing platform peddlers are trying to keep greasing the wheels of the marketing depts. by adding more and more bloggers to their PR distribution networks. That has nothing to do with either helping the salesforce or helping the buyer.

If the management team at each vendor was aware of this, do you think they’d allow their marketing depts. to continue supporting them?

Reblog: The growth of social business, from Andrew Grill

Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 10.30.46 AMI dont always agree with Andrew Grill, now of IBM, but in this post he talks a lot of sense. The future of ‘social’ is in the ‘business’ not the ‘media’. A message we’ve been saying for years.

https://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140811104622-283662-why-i-m-staking-my-career-on-the-growth-of-social-business?trk=mp-details-rr-rmpost

Do social marketers understand real-world influencers?

I read somewhere a few weeks back that 30-42% of all current staff positions in B2B marketing depts. were now focused on ‘social’ roles. These either featured ‘social’ in their title or the person’s performance success in that role was largely being measured through social metrics.

Whether or not that figure is accurate – it struck me as particularly high considering the continued emphasis on direct mail, in-person events, sponsorships etc. – it got me to thinking what ramifications this will leave for real-world ‘influencer marketing’ as I see it.

I see a widening disconnect between those who really try to understand the customer’s decision-making process, often people with previous direct sales experience, or at least experience in handling real-world customers, and those attracted to and increasingly filling in-house ‘social’ marketing roles.

I remember once interviewing a candidate for a client’s social marketing role who saw her entire job function as ‘thinking up fun ideas to tweet’. While that person may not represent the typical social marketer, she does undoubtedly represent one type. And the problem is that it’s that type that produces results which can look good on a monthly performance graph. You can picture the Powerpoint now tracking increasing numbers of retweets, likes, followers, etc against ever-lower cost of delivery.

Some of our clients shy away from pursuing relationships with certain types of influencer – even though they may undoubtedly be important to their prospects – solely because any results would likely be difficult to measure month by month. Forget that such relationships are necessary, common sense, mutually beneficial and more, they can’t be tracked on a continually upward-slope graph. So such relationships are abandoned before they’ve even begun.

As the number of in-house social marketers increase, and as their careers are based on their ability to continually generate impressive-looking graphs, I wonder what the future is for those employees initiating and maintaining longer-term proactive relationships with those influencers who unquestionably impact a vendor’s customers and prospects. It’s an expensive, non-guaranteed, non-linear process – but to generate sales it’s undoubtedly necessary. And every day being eroded by social’s promise of immediate gratification.

I guess it had to happen – an approach from an ‘influence marketing platform’ company!

I guess it had to happen. I was directly emailed on Friday by one of the ‘influence marketing platform’ companies. And my view on them went from very bad to even worse.

On opening the mail I assumed I was about to be harangued for so criticizing them in the past. I think the whole notion of these ‘platforms’ is terrible – they’re just databases linking vendor marketing depts. with freelancers willing to post about that vendor for payment. Can you imagine any credible individual, with real buyer authority, ever being willing to trade that hard-won credibility for a few under-hand payments and a new line in “Am posting this while snacking on some delicious new cappuccino Oreos”?

Their email actually said that they’d identified me as ‘a marketing thought-leader’, that they had tracked this blog’s subject area and that as a result, I might like to consider using my ‘undoubted influence’ (oh the irony of it) to earn additional income by partnering with brands they represented to share my ‘positive thoughts’ on those brands. It said other ‘influencers’ were earning ‘considerable’ amounts through this process. And it gave me a link to their online ‘partner’ form.

So if I didn’t know it before, I’ve now had it confirmed that no-one at this firm is actually reading the blogs & tweets of those ‘influencers’ they’re approaching – they just have bots sucking up relevant words and phrases and then a mass-mailing app which spams them. I can only assume they’re not telling their clients their ‘influencers’ have been so poorly selected.

Would you want those individuals really influencing your prospects to be treated like that?

Is being an ‘online influencer’ as black & white as you think?

We’ve recently been considering whether there’s still a line between being an ‘online influencer’ and an ‘offline influencer’. And if there is, whether that line is still important.

Take the example of say, a leading academic who has no social media footprint, doesn’t tweet, doesn’t blog, isn’t on Facebook, only engages in face-to-face conversations, meetings, presentations and authoring papers. It would be obvious to categorize them as a 100% offline influencer wouldn’t it?

But then what if other individuals, having met and talked with that person, then blog, tweet and post about that person’s views. Does the original influencer then unwittingly become an online influencer?

I’m sure many of you would say yes, in the same way that David Beckham perhaps unwittingly became a major Hispanic influencer a decade ago. He may have not intended to, he may not even been aware of it at the time, but influential he undoubtedly was. With this as an example maybe an online influencer doesn’t actually have to be online themselves.

But the implication is that all online influencers can be reached by online outreach. That that’s their medium of choice. A prominent trend in Influencer Marketing circles this year has been to assume every influencer wants to be engaged online.

What about the possibility that although an influencer may have never reached out socially, they could perhaps be avid consumers of social media, just not contributors. And what if they then took what they’d ready on social channels and conveyed those thoughts back into their day-to-day offline world. They’d be an offline influencer, correct?

So why do we still categorize people as online influencer and offline influencers? Is that still valid? And even if still valid, is it an important division?

We’re convinced it is. Not only does it represent how they influence, but also how best to establish a lasting conversation with them. Something way too few people seem to be focusing on right now.

The shame of so-called ‘influencer marketing platforms’

I sometimes wish people had to pay a small amount of money every time they used the word ‘influencer’. Then maybe they wouldn’t overuse it so much. More importantly, they wouldn’t shamelessly jump on the bandwagon of everyone’s favorite marketing word these days.

‘Influencer Marketing Platforms’ are a red rag to me. They’re nothing to do with influencers. They’re about brokering deals between marketing freelancers, willing to write about anything, and marketing depts. willing to pay them for under-cover endorsements. It’s desperate on all sides.

I was reading about one such ‘platform’ a few weeks back. I wont even put a spin on their words. This is what they say on their website.

“Are you an influencer that would like to work with brands to create content, generate income and engage your readership? We offer a cloud-based application that enables you to connect with brands and participate in influencer campaigns.

We believe that if an influencer’s powerful, authentic and independent voice makes money for a brand; you should be compensated for your hard work. Generate content about products, services and websites you love and let the brands reward you financially.”

A million miles away from our own understanding of influencers.

How can anyone be authentic, independent .. and yet secretly paid? Is this the honest and transparent marketing that I thought the world was meant to be moving to? Or is it just a logical step for those formerly working in advertising?

Majority of respondents in a Gallup survey said that social media had no influence at all on purchasing decisions!

Really good article in last week’s WSJ. Exactly what we’ve been talking about for years. Here’s a snippet but for the full thing I encourage you to go to:

http://online.wsj.com/articles/companies-alter-social-media-strategies-1403499658?mod=e2fb

Note the line “A majority of respondents in a Gallup survey said that social media had no influence at all on purchasing decisions”.

Social Media Fail to Live Up to Early Marketing Hype

Companies Refine Strategies to Stress Quality Over Quantity of Fans

WSJ - Just Being SocialIn May 2013, Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. bought ads to promote its brand page on Facebook. After a few days, unhappy executives halted the campaign—but not because they weren’t gaining enough fans. Rather, they were gaining too many, too fast

“We were fearful our engagement and connection with our community was dropping” as the fan base grew, says Allison Sitch, Ritz-Carlton’s vice president of global public relations.

Today, the hotel operator has about 498,000 Facebook fans; some rivals have several times as many. Rather than try to keep pace, Ritz-Carlton spends time analyzing its social-media conversations, to see what guests like and don’t like. It also reaches out to people who have never stayed at its hotels and express concern about the cost.

Ritz-Carlton illustrates a shift in corporate social-media strategies. After years of chasing Facebook fans and Twitter followers, many companies now stress quality over quantity. They are tracking mentions of their brand, then using the information to help the business.

“Fans and follower counts are over. Now it’s about what is social doing for you and real business objectives,” says Jan Rezab, chief executive of Socialbakers AS, a social-media metrics company based in Prague.

For the full article go to:

http://online.wsj.com/articles/companies-alter-social-media-strategies-1403499658?mod=e2fb

Our next White Paper: To what degree are your prospects & customers influenced by online & offline communities?

WP#18We’ve been spending plenty of time in recent months on the subject of influencers within online & offline communities.

Our next White Paper:  WP#18 : To what degree are your prospects & customers influenced by online & offline communities?

Available for download next Monday.

Do any top B2B bloggers operate on a pay-for-play basis?

Can anyone think of a B2BThe Buyer-side Journey.com, Nick Hayes, Influencer50 industry sector where any of the ten most influential bloggers or tweeters operate on a pay-for-play basis?

I was talking last week to one of the heads of the so-called ‘influencer marketing platform providers’. His service actually just brokers relationships between vendor marketing depts. and those bloggers & tweeters willing to promote such vendors for payment. He claimed many ‘top’ bloggers are on his company’s books.

The payment from vendor to blogger is typically pay-by-results-based so ten tweets over a month by one person might cost $100 but by another with greater reach cost $1000. I can see why services like this are keen on the idea – they’re charging a 5-8% cut of any business generated – simply for introducing the marketer to the blogger.

I think every influential blogger / tweeter I can think of would run a mile from such a service. They value their independence too much and accepting a pay-for-play deal would instantly kill both their credibility and their dignity.

There clearly are bloggers more than willing to be paid to write. But nothing tells me they’re the influential ones. Or am I wrong? Is there even one industry sector where influential bloggers do take direct commercial payment for writing about particular vendors? I’d be keen to know.

If I hear of any I’d love to apply our company’s methodology to track their level of market influence and see how that influence is being impacted.

Some marketing depts. have outsourced their logic to Eloqua

The Buyer-side Journey, Influencer50, buyersidejourney.comI was in a prospect meeting last week, running through one of our Influencer Engagement Programs. I was surprised at their quizzical faces when I outlined the program. I thought I was talking common sense. Then they explained. They’d been told not to green-light any marketing program if they couldn’t measure its effect in Eloqua. That’s why they’d moved exclusively over to digital outreach.

Click-rates, open-rates, pass-ons, linger-rates, funnel times – these were all fine. And there didn’t need to be a link with sales, but there did have to be identifiable user actions caught in Eloqua.

But what about real market influencers – those who are one-to-one advising the buyer decision-makers, I asked? They might be doing that in physical real-world meetings, or in direct emails to each other, or across their organization’s intranet. Or there might well be an ‘approved supplier’ list to negotiate first. No, none of those would count, I was told.

I asked why they thought their intended prospects were keen to absorb their outreach digitally, why they believed that increasing click-rates correlated with their buyer’s eventual decisions. There were no answers. They cared only about how Eloqua made them look each quarter.

I ran through how they themselves had made business purchase decisions since the start of the year – items they’d bought or sanctioned for their employer – and whether their decisions could have been tracked had the supplier of that equipment used Eloqua themselves. They agreed their purchasing interest would not have been trackable. But it cut no ice.

The entire conversation was about playing the system with Eloqua. It’s not Eloqua’s fault. But the way some people are using it means they’ve lost sight of what they’re meant to be contributing to their company. That connection between Sales and Marketing is more broken than ever.