Influence and Spending

I always look at research with an eye toward the axe the researcher is grinding. The fact that a survey is conducted to prove a point doesn’t necessarily negate the value of the findings but it does mean we have to be careful about how questions were asked. That said, I took a look at a study released by the folks at Technorati Media called the Digital Influence Report.  It takes a look at the role “influencers” have on purchase decisions and how brands are spending to reach the influencers.  I guess the thinking is that if these folks like your product they’ll drive their friends and followers to make a purchase.
Technorati‘s axe to grind is that they sell ads on blogs.  They’ve put together target segments of bloggers.  Not surprisingly, one characteristic of the aforementioned “influencers” is “Influencers are most active on blogs, as 86 percent say they have them and 88 percent of those say they blog for themselves.”   However, even with an axe to grind, the point is a good one.

For as long as I’ve been in media (since the late 1970’s, thank you) someone is trying to make the point that the audience/spending equation is out of whack.  The argument is always “we’ve got X% of the audience and yet we’re only getting Y% of the budget and we should be getting a lot more.”  There’s truth in that although it does ignore a few key factors:  environment, cost/value ratios, and others.  In this case, the food chain look like this:  spending against social media is about 10% of the digital spend, and spending against influencers is roughly 6% of social.  In other words, it’s tiny, especially compared to the influence these people have against purchase decisions.  As you can see on the chart I’ve embedded, 32% of consumers identify a blog as a source most likely to influence a purchase decision.

We can debate the merits of this particular study but I think the point is a good one.  There is too much of a herd mentality when it comes to advertising and that appears to be the case in social advertising as well. Blogs have as much influence as Facebook but Facebook gets more than half of all spending against social.  In part that’s due to its ubiquity.  In part that’s due to the “safety” factor – you don’t get fired for buying a market leader and it’s a much easier sell when the higher-ups have actually heard of the medium you’re buying

I take all research with a grain of salt.  That doesn’t mean I don’t believe it but we should always try to get beyond the intent (or bias!) of the researcher and into the good stuff that might be hidden inside through our own evaluation.  What do you think?

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