Tag Archives: Social influence

Influencing The Influencers

If you’re a baseball fan of a certain age (OK, if you’re really old), you will probably recall Yogi Berra drinking Yoo-Hoo in commercials. In fact, he was synonymous with the brand (some people thought he owned the company). People loved Yogi, Yogi loved Yoo-Hoo, ergo, you should love Yoo-Hoo too. That’s pretty much how celebrity endorsements work, right? A famous person lends their brand equity to another brand, transferring positive attributes to the brand and for which the brand pays.

(Complete digression) According to his autobiography, Yogi was answering the phones at Yoo-Hoo one day and a woman calls to ask if Yoo-Hoo is hyphenated. His response: “No ma’am, it’s not even carbonated.’ “(/Complete digression)

I’ve written before about the modern digital equivalent of celebrity endorsements which is called influencer marketing. Some of the digital celebrities have huge followings even though in comparison to the older definition of celebrities – sports or entertainment stars – their audiences are niche. That hasn’t stopped many brands from paying the influencers to say nice things about their products. The problem is that unlike seeing the old kind of brand endorsement in a commercial the consumer can’t know for sure if the endorsement has been a paid insertion or whether the influencer just really likes something.

I bring this up because even though the FTC has some pretty strict rules in place with respect to disclosing payments for endorsements to prevent consumer confusion, new data from influencer marketing and media platform SheSpeaks shows that one out of four influencers has been asked not to disclose their commercial arrangements with a brand. That’s bad and self-defeating.

A while back I tweeted nice things about TSA Pre-check but the TSA didn’t ask me to do so. The folks who saw the tweet (and anything here on the screed while we’re on the topic) can rely that it was my honest opinion and not the result of money changing hands. Why would a quarter of  brands want to hide the payments? Do they think the message contained in the post on Instagram or Facebook or Snapchat is compromised if it’s known money changed hands? I think we all knew Yogi said nice things because he was paid but we also assumed he liked the product. Most endorsers I know don’t just cash the check to endorse any old thing. They realize that the brand is also a reflection on them. Either side hiding the payment works to the detriment of both.

This problem isn’t going to go away as influencer marketing continues to grow as a platform. Endorsements haven’t gone away over the years and won’t. Actresses will be given free gowns to wear on red carpets. Jocks will drink Gatorade. One can only hope that all parties involved keep it transparent and above board so it doesn’t become yet another good idea that was disrupted by a few bad actors. You agree?

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Trust No One

I see that “X-Files” is back on the air. I’ll admit that I was never a huge fan, although maybe if I go back and binge watch the old stuff it will grow on me. Still, there was a line spoken during the series that came to mind as I read about influencer marketing: Trust no one. 

You’ve probably heard about influencer marketing before. Many studies have shown that the best possible source of product information and recommendations are from a trusted source such as a friend or family member. Those are influencers, as are some bloggers, celebrities, etc. Influencer marketing is using those folks as channels to sell a product.  Obviously, as the use of ad blockers becomes more prevalent, marketers are seeking other ways to get their messages out, and influencer marketing has become one of those channels. As a report from eMarketer says:

In the past, working with influencers was time-consuming. Brands had to find and vet individual bloggers, strike deals with them and then devote significant resources to managing campaigns. Now, there are an increasing number of talent agencies, networks and matchmaking services for influencer marketing.

I have many nice things to say about my clients but you won’t see me touting their products or services in this space, at least not without a prominent disclaimer.  We have already seen instances of celebrities failing to disclose that they have been compensated to do that and we might have seen another one at the end of the Super Bowl.  I have no doubt that Peyton Manning was going to drink a bunch of Budweiser, and the brand quickly stated that they didn’t pay him to plug them (twice that I saw) after the game.  He does, however, own two Budweiser distributorships.  Does knowing that change your perception of his statement?

I doubt many of us will be asked to plug a new restaurant or car or any other product to our friends via social media.  Still, knowing that some people are asked to do so calls almost any nice statement people make into question.  I don’t know of a way for anyone to label their own post in social media as a sponsored post but it’s a shame that we really can’t trust anyone’s good words nor any blog’s excellent review.  I’m trusting no one.  You?

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Have you ever heard of influencer marketing?  You might not have used the term but I’m pretty sure that it’s a familiar concept.  Simply put, influencer marketing is getting people who hold sway over other people’s decision-making to endorse your product or service.  On a really basic level it might be the audiophile friend you consult before purchasing your new speakers.  Maybe there is another person you know who is very into tech and can help you choose a new phone.

Influencer roles throughout the decision process

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you take that from the realm of your personal friends to more prominent people – journalists, celebrities, experts – you’re moving to more broad influencer marketing.  To a certain extent, influencers are simply people within a subject area who already have established trust with an audience.  Finding them and messaging them in the hopes that they will say nice things about what you’re selling is influencer marketing.

There are some big plusses with this tactic, the biggest of which is that there is a demonstrable effect on sales.  According to a Burst Media study, advertisers who implemented an influencer marketing program in 2014 earned $6.85 in media value on average for every $1 they spent on paid media for such programs.  That’s an excellent return.  Obviously, it’s not easy to find market specific influencers, especially as you drill down to the consumer level but there are firms that do this.  I could write a few hundred words more on how you can work your own data to do so but that’s not my thought today.

Instead, I have a couple of caveats should you be considering – or currently doing – influencer marketing.  The first is that there is a tendency to get fixated on quantity and not quality.  Maybe you identify someone who has a large social audience – lots of friends on Facebook, hundreds of thousands of Twitter and Instagram  followers.  That person may have  a large megaphone but very little influence.  One mom who can get her 5 close friends to buy your product is better than a mommy blogger that’s widely read but mostly ignored.

More important is that there are a lot of fake important people out there.  I can point you to several people who claim to have large followings and, therefore, great influence.  Having run their accounts through the tools that identify fake followers it’s pretty obvious that they’ve bought hundreds of thousands of them.  When 97% of your 1,000,000+ followers are fake, that’s not an accident.  Don’t get fooled!

Influencer marketing isn’t new – some people trace it back to the 1940’s.  As with so many things these days, the tools have changed but the marketing smarts that drive their use haven’t.  Stay smart!

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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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Does anyone remember nuance?

Emoticon logo Title

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You know – the subtle differences that are out there in the non-virtual world.  Maybe it’s why some folks see Azure, Cyan, or Turquoise while others just see Blue.  Nuance is why some people who can read the words really can’t understand the meaning of what they’ve read.  It’s for sure why some managers have issues with their staff and peers – they can’t hear the nuances in tone that are so critical in interpersonal communications.

I worry about nuance from time to time.  Most of the communication we all seem to have these days is via the written word – email, social posts, and texts.  None of those things have nuance.  I think that’s in part where emoticons came from.  They can help add nuance to social posts (and are totally inappropriate for business communications, kids).  I also think that we all have been on these lengthy email chains from time to time because someone is missing the nuance in one of the notes.  Ever wonder why a brief phone call or in person meeting resolves the back and forth issues?  Nuance.

It’s not just written stuff that lacks nuance.  A lot of the evolving social scoring or influence measurement totally misses the nuance of influence.  Two of the most influential people in my life can barely turn on a computer and are invisible on the social web.  They have neither Facebook nor Twitter nor other social accounts.  The people who are influencers in my life that are online don’t have tons of followers or friends.  I checked one of my friend’s Klout score and it’s in the teens but people online and offline come to him for advice and guidance all the time.  Quantity certainly misses nuance and even attempts to measure the quality of his user base fall short.

What matters isn’t how many Twitter followers and Facebook fans you have or your business has.  What matters is how you and your business turn those embryonic links into real relationships – ones that involve nuance in the interpersonal communications.  That leads to buzz but it also leads to more satisfying bonds with your friends, your staff, your clients, and your customers.

You see the nuances?

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By What Authority?

The word “authority” has may different meaning depending on context. It can mean “power.” It can mean “status.” It can come from a government or from a culture or from within. The kind I got to thinking about today is the kind that’s the kind one commands yet can’t demand.  I suppose some folks would call it credibilitybut I think it’s more than just that.  One can be a credible idiot – that doesn’t make an authoritative voice.

A segment of a social network

A segment of a social network (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like this from the Wikipedia page:

Authority is an essential factor in the organisation of social life and regulates social control and social change. From a social-psychological standpoint, the use of authority is a type of social influence.

The above implies that authority comes from others – I guess that makes it a gift of sorts.  Then again, it’s basically knowing what you’re talking about, so maybe that’s a gift to others.  Either way, I think as professionals we all strive to be authoritative about something and as businesses we like to be seen as resources that speak in that same authoritative voice.

The real trick is not to pontificate (I can hear you laughing now…) but to listen and respond with useful, actionable information.  Yes, part of establishing my bona fides is part of why I blog each work day but I read thousands of more words each day than I write.  I try to learn from those I’ve found to be authorities on the many fields in which I work.  Great salespeople never “sell” but become the resources I mentioned.  We each have friends who are the “go to” people for movie or restaurant recommendations.

Establishing your authority is a critical part of growing as a business person, both in and out of the office.  What have you done today to boost yours?

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Split Personalities

All of us who are active online face, from time to time, digital overload.  As individuals, we might be active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google + and a host of smaller or emerging social sites such as Pinterest.  It can be exhausting – remembering to check-in, write a review, etc.  Companies and brands face a similar situation which is magnified many times over.  The big difference is I only have to worry about one account per platform and I’m…well…me!  I don’t have to monitor anyone else posting on my behalf.  The issues of social media guidelines, who owns a brand online, and how an employee’s activity online reflects on the company for which they work are big issues.

All of these came to mind as I read a new study from The Altimeter Group the other day.  Let’s see what you think. Continue reading

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