India’s time to provide the momentum in Influencer Marketing?

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Reviewing the applications to join the Influencer Marketing & Influencer Relations LinkedIn group we’ve seen that 31 of our most recent 100 applications have been from individuals in India. Typically we’d expect no more than 10%. Is this just a quirk or is this the year of India really getting to grips with its market influencers? Or has something else happened to create the groundswell there?

And looking at the organizations those individuals are from, it’s clear they’re some of India’s largest global and multi-nationals – in utilities, tech, engineering and auto manufacturing.

Continuing to look at the geographies involved, the majority of applicants were from the most expected regions – led by the US, UK, Germany, India, France, Singapore, Canada, Spain, Sweden, and Brazil.  No great surprise there.

But what was most interesting was which countries weren’t applying. Japan, Australia, China. Leaving aside the obvious language barriers for Japan and China I’m wondering why Australia is so quiet on the topic? It has a common language, a mature B2B and B2C marketplace, and no shortage of marketing skills. LinkedIn is popular there.

So why so few interested applicants?

Reblog: New Study Shows LinkedIn is the Tool of Choice But Blogging Declines Among the Inc. 500

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 7.22.05 AMThere’s a new study from the Society of New Communications Research (SNCR) this week that looks pretty interesting. No surprise about the continued success of LinkedIn – much as we question the B2B impact of Facebook and Twitter, we’ve never had any doubts about LinkedIn. But these are the first figures we’ve seen to state that blogging among the largest U.S. companies is declining. And a 6% decline is significant. Maybe it’s just too time-consuming for almost immeasurable return?

Here’s the original. Well worth a closer look.


The difference between a typical PR mindset and an influencer marketing mindset.

IMIR logoOne of my roles is to chair the ‘Influencer Marketing & Influencer Relations’ LinkedIn group. It now has well over 900 members, all from the vendor side. It’s not a group for agency staff or contractors. I’ve posted before that we admit approx. 40% of those who actually apply – simply because 60% of applicants don’t meet the entry criteria we’re looking for.

Over the past four months or so, I’ve been approached several times by a very senior in-house marketer with a primarily PR background. They’ve been looking to join and I’ve hesitated. I was concerned they weren’t a good fit. In early Jan I accepted them. Since then they’ve continually uploaded discussion items with links to their own posts on the Forbes management site. The posts are generic management pieces not specific to influencer marketing. It struck me this person is indicative of the gulf between a typical PR mindset and that of (what I hope is) an influencer marketing mindset.

What this person is proving is that she wanted to join our LI group to broaden the distribution for her own posts – more channels equals more eyeballs seeing her work. Even if her contributions weren’t on-topic. That’s the traditional, or at least historical, PR mindset. The influencer marketing mindset is, or at least should be, quality over quantity. It’s about reaching out to perhaps far less people, but that those few are the most important ones, knowing that they’ll relay the intended message to those they themselves find most important, and so on. Rifle-shot not scatter-shot.

So I wonder why someone apparently so interested in joining an influencer marketing forum would then miss the very point of it?

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:


Seeing trends in our ‘Influencer Marketing & Influencer Relations’ LinkedIn Group

IMIR logoIt’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.

LinkedIn data shows ‘Influencer Marketing’ job roles are really social media job roles

thebuyersidejourney.comIn 2014 LinkedIn featured 514 recruitment posts for ‘Influencer Marketing’ or ‘Influencer Relations’ positions. That’s up from 289 the previous year. 206 of the 514 were from marketing agencies looking to fill roles within their agency, leaving 308 ‘in-house’ positions. We then looked at what criteria were most commonly cited as being requirements for the position. The three leading criteria, in order, were: Experience of social media outreach & engagement, Proven ability to apply metrics to activity, and Ability to integrate influencer outreach into broader marketing goals.

No wonder Influencer Marketing has gone so off-track. The LinkedIn data proves that those recruiting the positions are now seeing it as social media-based and those fulfilling the roles are themselves wishing to focus on social.

I’m wondering where the ‘understanding of the customer and what influences them’ comes in to play – if at all. I don’t see it in the ‘social media engagement’ because I’m pretty sure that’s all about the level of retweets / comments and shares. And I don’t see it in the ‘integrate outreach into broader marketing goals’ because that’s likely about the number of eyeballs reached and turning outreach into email addresses and Facebook profiles.

So as the incoming generation of influencer marketers bring with them their interest and focus on social media metrics, I think we’ll just have to look elsewhere for a greater understanding of the customer and their buying behavior.

Time for a step-change in what we’re doing.


Is Influencer Marketing just being outsourced to agencies?

Influencer Marketing, Influencer50, Nick Hayes, Influencer Marketing & Influencer Relations, The Buyerside Journey.comAs chair of the ‘Influencer Marketing & Influencer Relations’ LinkedIn Group I’ve just spent an hour or so this morning going through approving or declining those who have recently applied for membership of the group. Our group is quite specific – it’s a vendor-side group only, we’re not for contractors or those from agencies. And with that in mind I’m seeing an undoubted trend.

Our group was founded five years ago and we now have nearly 1000 members – all vendor-side. Throughout those five years we’ve had many contractors and agency staff apply – no surprises there. But the ratio of applicants is definitely moving towards those on the agency side.

In 2010 the ratio was 69% from vendors, 31% from agencies. In 2012 it was 57% vendors, 43% agencies. With nine months of 2014 gone this year it’s currently 44% vendors, 56% agencies. For the first time we’re having to decline significantly more applicants than we’re accepting. But that’s not the important fact.

I think we’re seeing evidence of our long-held belief that vendors have largely outsourced their interest in, and staffing of, influencer marketing. It’s just not being done in-house. Whether it’s the PR agency, the ad agency or the social outreach agency, influencer marketing activity is being outsourced. That would certainly explain why there’s no universally accepted understanding of what it means – because the ad agency shapes it to mean one thing and the PR agency twists it to mean another. More often than not these agencies then pass responsibility for it either to another division in their own firm or outsource it further along the line to their SEO partner, blogger relations team or whoever.

Influencer Marketing has been jumped on by every type of marketing services firm – because of the revenue opportunity they see in any new trend. And in doing so in-house marketing depts. have been left blinded as to what initially drew them to Influencer Marketing – the chance to directly reach individuals who actually make a difference to their sales.

Of course it could be simply that there are more agency staff and contractors than in-house staff these days, or that they’re just more disposed to joining LinkedIn groups than in-house staff. But I think the whole current direction of influencer marketing is being driven by the agency agenda – an agenda to deliver impressive sounding numbers back to their in-house bosses.

But if those bosses really thought about it, they’d want something very different from influencer marketing than they’re getting. They’d want it to be helping them with their sales.

The temptation of social is to only look at the headline metrics.

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.

B2B buyers supposedly refer to LinkedIn when buying. But to do what?

thebuyersidejourney.comWhenever I question the use of social media, mainly Twitter and Facebook, when I analyze the B2B buyer decision process, I’m always careful to make an exception of LinkedIn. Much as it gets nowhere near the same degree of media attention and general buzz as Twitter and FB, I don’t doubt its importance. It’s the one social platform that generates widespread acceptance whenever I mention it at any client’s offices. It’s almost unanimously used, it’s respected, and it’s still considered to be a growth platform. But what I’m less convinced about is how it’s being used by buyers.

Move to one side for a minute its role for recruitment – we all get that. And many of the best and most successful salespeople live by it – what’s beginning to be a core strand of ‘inside sales’. I understand the whole prospecting, data mining, validating, social proximity side to LinkedIn. It’s invaluable there.

But I’m talking here about buyers not sellers. How are buyers using it? Are they deciding what products & services they’re interested in, then searching for who they’re connected to from those providers? I don’t think so – I’ve not heard of that anecdotally and it seems a long shot approach anyway.

Are they going to LinkedIn to read the Company Profiles of possible vendors? – Surely not. There are far better places to get that info – like the vendors’ own websites.

Are they searching for peer connections to ask those people directly for their views on particular purchases? Doubtful – that would be broadcasting a lot of potentially commercially sensitive info to people you don’t know directly.

So we must be left with discussions within the LinkedIn groups. This must be where the action is, but as a member of some of these LI groups I find the chances of getting original detailed feedback to questions placed in the groups still a longshot. For every 500 members of any LI Group you’ll get 480 passive watchers and just twenty who post or respond to anyone. I see questions being asked, but little in the way of answers.

Without doubt peer recommendations are some of the most influential referrals a prospective buyer can receive. As a source of influence it’s almost unbeatable. At the low-ticket end of the market just think of the persuasiveness of book reviews on Amazon. But LinkedIn Groups aren’t great as a source of peer recommendations because out of the 5% willing to respond to anyone’s question, the chance of those individuals having purchased the same product or service and going into detail about their experience is unlikely. So maybe the recommendation is just a thumbs up / thumbs down on a particular supplier, most likely based around their customer support. I can see this happening – but it’s pretty broad brush and unfocused. It doesn’t feel an effective approach.

I still don’t think I understand how buyers are really using LinkedIn. And the more I continue being unconvinced, the more I think that when clients tell me about their support for LinkedIn, what they’re really meaning is they know their salespeople like it, so they’re imagining the buyers must be using it too. Buyers clearly are using it – but I haven’t seen any evidence it’s for buying. Have you?

Influencer50’s Global B2B Influencer Survey, 2013

Influencer50, Influencer Marketing, Nick Hayes, The Buyer-side Journey

Our company Influencer50 has just issued its latest Global B2B Influencer Survey 2013 – showing the real importance of offline to online to social influencers in B2B buying decisions. What it shows is that somewhat over 50% of B2B influence on real buyers is being conducted offline, a little over a third primarily online (i.e through Google-type searches) and 5-10% primarily through social channels. There are small differences in these numbers from continent to continent but the narrative is the same.

What’s particularly interesting is that even amongst the ‘social influencer’ channel – this influence is through LinkedIn and interest-specific communities way more than Twitter.

And the third take-away – approx. 60% of top influencers have a Twitter account, yet only one-third of those have posted to it in the past two months. So hard to call them exactly active tweeters.

Here’s the released Survey’s details:

Global B2B Influencer Survey shows Social Media, despite the hype, is still NOT a major primary influencer for B2B purchases

Offline and Online influencers are the clear two most significant channels for influence, with ‘social influencers’ a very distant third.

For B2B products & services costing >$1000 – average 68% of key influencers are primarily offline, 26% online, 5% social

For B2B products & services costing >$100 but less than $1000 – average 48% of key influencers primarily offline, 40% online, 12% social

Influencer50, the award-winning Influencer Identification, Engagement & Measurement firm announces the results of its Global B2B Influencer Survey 2013, conducted over one year across four continents. Over 36,000 B2B-oriented individuals were evaluated – the company’s largest aggregated survey to date. The survey seeks to identify the relative importance of offline, online and so-called ‘social influencers’ in B2B purchasing and adoption decisions.

Influencer50 amalgamated the results of 58 B2B research projects from Oct’12-Sept’13, across forty-one countries. Small but significant differences were found in the make-up of those top influencers from one continent to another.

This table shows through which channel the top B2B influencers (for all values of product & services) primarily influence (they can obviously influence across more than one channel, but only one channel was considered primary).

B2B sector Offline Online Social
US (aggregate) 60.7 31.3 7.7
US products & services >$1000 68 26 5
US products & services >$100 <$1000 48 40 12
Europe 62.9 29.8 7.3
AsiaPacific 56.8 33.7 9.5
Average 60.8% 31.2% 7.9%

(The Average totals in the table are weighted to take into account the scale of data from each region).
Offline Influence is defined as influence conducted through in-person meetings or conversations, either face-to-face or to a group, phone conversations, etc.
Online Influence is defined as influence conducted through online search results and/or browsing.
Social Influence is defined as influence conducted through, but not limited to, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.

The survey results show that while influence conducted primarily through social media channels is significant, averaging almost 8% of the influence on B2B purchasers, it takes only a very distant third place to online and offline channels. And the numbers are not trending dramatically towards social media. Yet there remains overwhelmingly more industry ‘buzz’ about social channel influence than about offline influence.

“We just don’t understand why so much noise is being created by those talking about ‘social influence’ when it’s clear that B2B buyers aren’t actually listening. Just look at who’s contributing to those conversations – it’s all marketing agencies and contractors. All the sellers are on Twitter but that’s not where the B2B buyers are. Everyone seems to be conveniently ignoring that. The real influencers are much harder to find than simply trawling Twitter for who tweets most often. It’s apparently too much trouble for most people to track down the real influencers.” – Nick Hayes, Principal of Influencer50 Inc.

Influencer50, Influencer Marketing, Nick Hayes

As part of its research, Influencer50 also analysed the use of Twitter amongst its identified top influencers. While the majority of top influencers across each region did have their own Twitter account, less than one-half had posted any updates in the past two months, so making their account effectively inactive.

Percentage of top B2B influencers active on Twitter:

Own a Twitter account Posted in past two months
US 68% 36%
Europe 61% 29%
AsiaPacific 66% 27%

“There’s been so much talk over the past eighteen months about so-called ‘social influencers’. All these digital agencies have hijacked the term influencer marketing to relate to those on social platforms – mainly Twitter. That’s never jibed with our own experience of B2B purchase decision-making so we spent a year collating data on the subject.

“Social media may be having a very different effect in consumer sectors than it is in B2B. And it’s certainly reshaping our personal culture. But in the commercial sector the agenda for influencer marketing is being pushed by people with a vested interest – largely by digital marketing agencies who want to sell their clients on various social listening programs.”

“What’s also interesting is that it’s through LinkedIn, rather than Twitter, where most of that social media influence is conducted. That’s a story that often gets lost when agencies discuss social influence – because LinkedIn is much more difficult for them to trawl than Twitter.”

“The wider picture is that it’s part of this generational shift towards marketing automation. There’s a drive towards ensuring everything can be measured and scaled. These social influence platforms tick both those boxes. No-one seems to care that what they’re measuring might effectively be junk in terms of increasing a company’s sales. It’s a race based around ‘the emperor’s new clothes’. The industry needs to get back to addressing real-world buyer behavior – and many of the ‘influence marketing’ providers seem to be ignoring that.”

Influencer50’s clients include Microsoft, IBM, Wal-Mart and Michelin amongst many others.

This research comprised research across four continents and forty-one countries analyzing a combined 36,218 B2B-oriented individuals. The continents were North America, Europe, Asia and, to a lesser extent, Africa.

– ends

Ty Holden
Influencer50 Inc.