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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Filed under Huh?, Thinking Aloud

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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Filed under Reality checks, Thinking Aloud


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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