Influence marketing has been anointed as the golden-haired darling of the social media world ever since marketers first figured out that word-of-mouth over the internet was far more powerful and motivating than any mass media campaign they could ever imagine. The thought process was that you just had to find the most influential people on Facebook or Twitter, get them to say something positive about your product or service, and then sit back and watch as the astonishing results poured in. This seemed simple enough - until reality set in. Who are these influencers, how could they be identified, and how could the effectiveness of a marketing program based on the use of influencers be measured?
Purported measurement services like Klout, PeerIndex and Kred quickly sprang up to fill this gap, but they only served to add to the confusion when they tried to lead marketers into believing that popularity meant influence. Brands soon found out that this approach was far too simplistic because it had no feel for the real nuances of influence marketing, and subsequently began to look for more definitive answers. Online Media Daily reinforced this thought process with its recent post, "Social Scoring Is An Industry, But Marketers Are Skeptical," by Gavin O'Malley. O'Malley pointed to a research study which suggests that marketers remain skeptical about the value of these online social scoring platforms.
A February online survey of about 1,300 marketing professionals, PR consultants, and business executives was conducted around the topic of influence by Sensei Marketing and the consultants at ArCompany. Results showed that 55% of the respondents do not find these services useful for finding influencers. Other key findings included:
- 68% see influence marketing as a lead generation and customer acquisition practice, not a branding exercise.
- Marketers see a clear difference between the practice of influence marketing and social influence scoring platforms.
- More than 50% will be allocating budgets for influence marketing strategies, but more than 60% will not be allocating budgets for social influence scoring platforms.
- 94% don't fully trust the metrics of social influence scoring platforms.
- 74% will include influence marketing strategies as part of their marketing strategy in the next year.
The result of this distrust is that marketers end up manually sorting through lists of influencers to try to find that one influencer who can effect a behavior change regarding their product or service. Clearly a new strategy needs to be developed for gauging the return on influence marketing.
Everything Marketers Ever Needed to Know About Influence Marketing
To address the lapses and needs pointed out in this survey, Sam Fiorella, Partner and Chief CX Strategist at Sensei Marketing and Danny Brown, Head of Technology at ArCompany, have written a comprehensive book, Influence Marketing: How to Create, Manage, and Measure Brand Influencers in Social Media Marketing. Their book is the result of over three years' worth of client research and implementation, discussions with technology vendors, and industry concerns over the impact of scoring on their livelihood.
Brown and Fiorella recognize that the biggest issue is in actually trying to standardize the measurement of influence. They say that there are far too many factors at play - situations people are in, emotional factors, and peer influence - to try and place a one-size-fits-all score on the targeted influencer. Instead, they advocate moving away from even having a core influencer definition at the center of the marketing circle. They want to take the focus from superstar bloggers and social media rock stars and place it back on the person that truly matters - the customer.
The goal of Influence Marketing is to help marketers manage the influence paths that lead consumers to buy. The authors have integrated totally new tools and techniques into a complete methodology for generating more and better leads--and converting them more quickly into sales. They included case studies, empirical evidence, digital workshops and other details to help marketers redefine how they look at influence marketing to provide a beginning-to-completion blueprint for making influence marketing work in any organization. A sneak peek is offered via a free download of Chapter 5, "Situational Influence: A New Model for a New Era." Key lessons and strategies for incorporating influence marketing into a successful strategy include:
- Recognize where each prospect stands in the purchase life cycle right now
- Clarify how consumers move from brand preference to purchase
- Identify key micro-influencers who impact decisions at every stage
- Gain insights into the context of online relationships
- Recognize situational factors
- Understand scoring models and overcome their limitations
- Re-engineer and predict influence paths to generate measurable action
- Master the "4 Ms" of influence marketing: make, manage, monitor, measure
- Transform influence marketing from a "nice-to-have" exercise into a powerful strategy
- Social media plays four main roles in building customer lifetime value - listening, building relationships, magnification, and driving sales.
Fiorella and Brown are wise enough not to leave readers to their own devices in developing their new influence marketing strategies. The book includes detailed breakdowns of successful influencer campaigns where the identification of true influencers and who impacts their purchase decisions led to significant bottom line results, and also offers some fascinating insights into the future of influence marketing. Their website has a bevy of additional online resources such as webinars, blogs, interviews and an ongoing discussion on the topics of influence, influence measurement and influence marketing. This book has the capability of changing the influence conversation into something this is positive and constructive, instead of the measurement argument it has become.
The landscape of marketing in our new social world is definitely changing quickly. While some might feel bewildered or lost in a swirl of new definitions, others are taking the lead in providing a solid plan for achieving success using a personal marketing approach. It's time to say good-bye to the tired institutions and measurement resources of platforms such as PeerIndex, Klout and Kred, and turn back to the final authority on influence marketing - the consumer.