A number of people have now published critiques of the "influencer model," suggesting that it doesn't work either because the Internet has expanded opportunities for participation in the marketplace of ideas, or because the model relies too heavily on a very small number of "elite" people who don't enjoy the credibility of "everyday people." We would like to put forward a proposition that the current debate is really about differences in how marketers use the term "influential," rather than a fundamental difference in how we look at market forces.
The differences between social media influencers and the online strategies of other groups are so marked that it is worth asking the question what do social media influencers do that the rest of us don’t? What can we learn from these differences?
Your brand has 10,000 Twitter followers and 2,000 fans on Facebook. Does that mean your social media marketing efforts are paying off? Maybe not. As the old adage goes, it’s quality, not quantity, that counts. Recent data that Meteor Solutions collected from across more than 20 brand marketer clients shows that the type of friends, fans and followers a brand amasses on social media sites matters more than the number. On average, approximately 1% of a site’s audience generates 20% of all its traffic through sharing of the brand’s content or site links with others. And these “influencers” drive an even higher share of conversion. These very important Internet users can directly influence 30% or more of overall end actions on brand websites by recommending the brand’s site, products or promotions to friends.
The role of influence is changing and diversifying and with it, the rules and responsibilities of engagement are also reshaping. While PR, analyst, and investor relations were clear yesterday, the rise of new influencers, tastemakers and authoritative users and customers becomes both pervasive and uncertain. As such, new opportunities for engagement emerge; creating new opportunities for cultivating distributed relationships. However, each new connection requires management, a support infrastructure, including a dedicated host.
As we look ahead to 2010 in the world of social media, we should first stop to appreciate how far we’ve come in this journey to new found relevance and presence. Social media served as a great equalizer. The technology and the corresponding networks that freely connected us, democratized the ability to publish and share content, weave more meaningful relationships, as well reset the ecosystem for establishing and wielding influence. Perhaps most notably, Social networks made the world a much smaller place. As such, it also set the stage for the emergence of a new caliber and genre of influencers and communities that support their mission and purpose. On any given subject, these authoritative networks can incite change and galvanize action to govern, change, and direct market behavior.
As more and more brands are moving all of their ad spend online, defining how influence affects their return on investment is necessary and must be done as soon as possible. While some are making inroads to define these calculations many are overlooking the fact that influence affects everything. Without factoring in the real issue of different types of influence you run into a number of problems, for instance focusing on one group of influencers over another or getting broad sweeping numbers instead of knowing exactly how effective your time and money has been spent on the proper target. One thing that usually doesn’t sync up here is that these online influencers with large followings are not the offline influencers.
Moms and college students have long been critical targets for brands -- moms for their hefty control of household spending and college students for the important transitional life stage they are in, which shapes their brand preferences for years to come. Most Millennials, born between 1977 and 1996, are well within their baby-rearing years. These new parents have been raised on the Internet, email, SMS and IM and quickly adopted social networking in their teens or early 20s. What may have seemed like two polar opposites a decade ago now bear considerable resemblance as a result of changes in communications spawned by technology.
What do Ninja Turtles, Facebook, Hush Puppies and Pokémon all have in common? The answer reveals the secrets to creating a viral marketing machine. Back when I worked on the Hawaiian Punch business for P&G, we spent a fair amount of time analyzing how "fads" became popular with kids. We tried to understand what ignited meteoric "viral" success. We learned some ingredients of viral campaigns -- ease of acquisition, transition and novelty -- but we never really cracked the code of how to predictably recreate a viral marketing engine. For the last few years, there has been a host of books presenting research on how to create a viral marketing engine. These texts add insight into the dynamics of viral marketing, but they fail to define how to execute viral marketing well. How, for instance, do you realistically and reliably identify influencers or content creators or mavens?
Brands, which are mostly untrusted, must develop advocacy programs to influence their market. Despite the good intentions, several risks could undermine the effort and even cause public brand backlash. Interesting. Recently, I attended a corporate event that showcased products related to an industry. Press, media, bloggers, and influencers were invited to attend, and meet a variety of vendors and see products. Some of the attendees were part of the company’s advocacy program and were sampling a few products. Some members of the the advocacy program are bloggers, one with a journalistic background. While the event continued on, a not-impressed attendee with a journalistic background started to make comments that some of the members of the advocacy program were not authentic and went so far as to say quite loudly during the presentation they were “shills”. Let’s break it down, as these same events are likely going to happen to your advocacy program in person and online.
Conventional wisdom about how to “get the word out” about your products is focused on finding and relating to the “influencers.” If you do this, so we’re told, you will get the “big hit” from a mention in a powerful blog or mainstream media publication and that will drive traffic to your website, generating leads that turn into closed business. Now, there’s no doubt that a TechCrunch, Scobleizer, or New York Times can, sometimes, serve as kingmaker, but here’s the equation to consider. Is the return on your effort really worth it?
A company has multiple constituencies when it offers the same product to different market segments. Why is this an important discipline in Marketing? Often times, your direct buyer is not the most important influencer. Children, doctors, relatives and social referential leaders often assume major positions in the purchasing decision. As a result, it is important to understand these indirect customers and influencers and integrate this understanding into marketing strategy.
Successful businesses are always making choices and sacrifices, strategically looking as to how they are going to prioritize their resources, including human capital, budgets, and, of course, time. As the world around them adapts, so too do they need to make changes internally to respond, or to predict where trends are going – and if they guess right, the business could catapult ahead of less-agile competition.
Colleen Padilla, a 33-year-old mother of two who lives in suburban Philadelphia, has reviewed nearly 1,500 products, including baby clothes, microwave dinners and the Nintendo Wii, on her popular Web site Classymommy.com. Her site attracts 60,000 unique visitors every month, and Ms. Padilla attracts something else: free items from companies eager to promote their products to her readers.
Traditional influence has followed a systematic top-down process of developing and pushing “controlled” messages to audiences for decades, rooted in one-to-many, faceless broadcast campaigns.