In this first episode of the Marketing on Tap vlog and podcast, we take a look at how influence marketing has changed since our acclaimed book on the topic came out five years ago.
Is influence marketing in a better place than it was? Are brands using it better to gain actual business results? And how has influence marketing software changed since the days of Klout and social scoring?
Settle back and enjoy this week’s topic, brought to you in the usual unscripted manner that you’ve come to expect when Sam and myself take the mic.
If you prefer to listen on the go, the audio version of this week’s episode can be listened to below.
The key takeaways from this week’s episode:
Influence Marketing is Improving, But It’s Not Perfect Yet
When we wrote our book on influence marketing back in 2012/2013, influence marketing looked very different – or maybe not so much.
While the darlings of the time, like social scoring platforms Klout and Kred have fallen by the wayside, many businesses and agencies – as well as influence platforms – are still judging the weight of an influencer by their follower count across social media.
These types of influencers – more often known as macro-influencers – can certainly help raise awareness of a brand’s message, through the sheer size of their audience, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to a successful outcome for the brand and its goal(s).
Too many influence marketing vendors are still taking shortcuts when it comes to identifying the right influencers for their clients, resulting in disappointing results and the misconception that influence marketing doesn’t work.
Influencer Software is Still Geared Towards B2C
Five years ago, as social scoring platforms showed, influence marketing platforms were heavily skewed towards B2C brands, since consumers were easier to “score” than B2B professionals.
Jump forward five years, and not a lot has changed. While today’s platforms are looking to provide better insights at a more granular level, they’re still very much geared towards B2C results.
Consumer-facing brands are benefiting from these changes, but when it comes to B2B and how influence marketing can help sales and marketing teams, as well as hiring managers and more, it’s still very much an untapped area, and one full of opportunity.
Influence Marketing is All About the Relationship with Your Community
As we discussed at length in the influence marketing book, influencer platforms can only get you so far when it comes to running successful influence marketing campaigns.
Businesses and agencies still need to roll up their sleeves, jump into the trenches, and build, manage, and continuously nurture their relationship with influencers once identified and engaged.
Yes, “social influencers” with large followings can push your message to a wide audience, but that approach has a limited shelf life, especially if you’re only using them as paid proponents of your brand’s product and/or service.
Instead, true reciprocal relationships with the influencers, and – equally as importantly – the community that follows them, will reap better results when it comes to brand awareness, campaign goals, insights gained, and real business results.
Ready to get started on an IM Campaign?
Sensei Marketing has helped create and implement dozens of successful Influencer Marketing campaigns across North America.
|Speaker 1:||Welcome to Marketing on Tap, a weekly podcast in which marketing pros and authors, Sam Fiorella and Danny Brown serve up the latest marketing hot topics, campaigns, and trends, all washed down with a great craft beer. Join in for the fun as they debate the pros and cons of the topic of the week, while featuring popular, or up and coming micro-breweries. Topics include influence marketing, brand campaign successes and misses, customer advocacy programs, and marketing challenges facing businesses and agencies. It’s the marketing podcast to listen to for CMOs, senior sales executives, and key decision makers at mid- to enterprise-level organizations.|
|And with their good-natured bashing of each other, each episode promises to entertain and educate in equal measure. Welcome to Marketing on Tap.|
|Sam:||All right guys, welcome back to our reboot, I guess it’s a welcome back to Marketing on Tap podcast and video. My buddy Danny Brown and myself, Sam Fiorella over here at Sensei Marketing. So while Danny is pouring our drink here, cheers mate.|
|Sam:||I wanted to … Cheers everybody. I wanted to share with you, just really quickly why we’re doing this. For those of you that watched some of our earlier attempts at this podcast, we were trying to experiment, basically. We weren’t sure what kind of a format we wanted to follow, what type of technology we wanted to use. I was really new to podcasting, I’d been listening, but never really done one on my own. I had guested on some.|
|Anyway, very long story short, it was a bit of a disaster. Technology-wise we tried to get out to our favorite craft breweries, and that didn’t work. So we decided to try something a little bit more controlled environment, which is where we are today. In a nutshell, Marketing On Tap is something that Danny and I essentially have been doing on our own for the last five years, since we wrote Influence Marketing. And we wrote that book literally in a bar. We would get together every Friday night, we would have a couple of pints, we would sketch out some ideas. And then when we sobered up on Saturday and Sunday, we actually tried to read the notes and write the book.|
|Danny Brown:||That’s why it took so long to write, ’cause we couldn’t understand the notes. So we were basically going from scratch anyway.|
|Sam:||Yeah, exactly. It took a year, more than a year to write that book between doing the research, and the case studies, and trying to understand why there was a big penis drawn on … We had a Venn diagram with two penises, that’s what I found on a Saturday morning when we were drinking. I had no idea where that came from. But it was really interesting, ’cause we found some really insightful processes and workflows.|
|Anyway, so we’ve been doing that ever since. Just getting together and having a pint because we’re buddies, and then we always end up on the conversation of marketing. And some of the latest successes, and more often than not the latest-|
|Danny Brown:||Lot of fails.|
|Sam:||-fails that we like to make fun of, and pick apart, and how would we do differently? And a few people said, “Why don’t you guys actually start a podcast? ‘Cause that sounds like fun. Drinking beer and talking, basically being a fly on the wall of your conversations.” So here we are. So, because this is actually the five year anniversary of Danny and I publishing ‘Influence Marketing’, we thought that the first topic would be …|
|Danny Brown:||Five years on, has influence gotten any better?|
|Sam:||Five years on. So let’s talk a little bit about that. But before we do, I wanna just give a shout out to the craft beer that we’re trying today. This is White Water Brewing Company, which from my understanding is out in the Ottawa Valley.|
|Danny Brown:||Ottawa Valley, yep.|
|Sam:||And this one here, I picked this one because it’s called Farmer’s Daughter. There was actually another one, it was an IPA that Danny is a big fan of, and it was You’re an Ass IPA. So I thought it would’ve been perfect. But then I thought maybe for the first one I’m gonna try and be nice to him. So we picked up this one here.|
|I love the marketing on this one. It says, “It’s our pleasure to introduce the farmer’s daughter. A light pale ale, with just the right hint of adventure.” I don’t know if this is like a cologne that I’m supposed to be spraying on me or a beer. “Best served in the hay loft. This beer is hand crafted using only the freshest ingredients from the Ottawa Valley. Brewed by friends for friends.” Perfect for us.|
|Sam:||Anyway, their website is whitewaterbeer.ca if you guys wanna go and check them out. I picked it up at the local liquor store over here, but I’m sure it’ll be in the beer store or liquor stores near you. Anyway, let’s give this one a try.|
|Danny Brown:||It’s pretty easy drinking, it’s like 22 IBU, so it’s not very hoppy.|
|Sam:||Well, that’s actually a good thing for me.|
|Given that it’s summer I thought this was probably something really good, ’cause it’s very refreshing beer. I like that. We should actually make a future podcast on the beer marketing.|
|Danny Brown:||Marketing of beers, yeah.|
|Sam:||I can’t believe we’ve never even thought of that before, but that’s a good one, right?|
|Danny Brown:||Well, yeah. For sure.|
|Sam:||Okay, somebody write that down. Send us an email. Take a note that we’re gonna be doing this.|
|Okay so, let’s jump right into the topic. Five years on. Where were we five years ago? What made us write this book?|
|Danny Brown:||Probably two things. I mean obviously we had the social scoring platforms. So you had Klout, Cred, Pure Index, and a lot of people were great in influence on the score that these platforms give you. So the higher score you had, the more influence where you worked. And to a degree that kind of worked, because obviously we want to look at macro-influencers when we discuss them a little bit further. The big social reach and the higher numbers can help you from an awareness point of view. But, from an actual real, true influence in business marketing we know, from ourselves, how easy it was to game the systems.|
|Danny Brown:||So the systems start to get a bit of pushback. We were seeing businesses that were trying to get quick fixes, but weren’t actually getting it, and then complaining that influence wasn’t working, and enhance the work that we were doing with other clients or software companies. Working with. That’s really where that…|
|Sam:||And I think that was the promise of social media, of influence marketing back then. I know, infamo- … Famously, I lost a job because my Klout score wasn’t high enough at the time, and then I spent two years trying to get my Klout score up for no reason. I got to an 80 something, I got all of these calls from conferences to go and speak because my Klout score was so high. But I actually didn’t have any more business. As a marketer, my … I found this throughout my career, actually, over the last fif- … not my career, but the last 15 years in particular, since the big Klout craze, especially, that the less Klout I had, especially when I went off the platform I got zero, I had more business opportunities. Because my work spoke for itself, and not what others said. But anyway, that was the promise, let’s find the software that identifies somebody with a high engagement score based on somebody who can get a message out there and get people to retweet them and follow them. And then let’s give them some free stuff and hope that they talk.|
|Now obviously that didn’t work. Klout, again, almost poetically five years since our book was written, decides that it’s got to shut its doors because it’s not working properly, even after it got sold. So good for you Joe Fernandez. Made some money. I’m proud of you as an entrepreneur, fellow entrepreneur. So that was the promise. And finding a way simply to attract a large audience and get your message out to that large audience through that one person who has their ear. That didn’t work. So there was all kind of changes that had to happen.|
|What were some of the things that we’ve seen since that was proven to be a failed way to do influence marketing?|
|Danny Brown:||Well I think the core thing is people were actually looking for business results versus just an awareness push for influence and just getting high numbers through social shares, likes, views, etc. And then realizing to actually get the business results that you’re needing to justify the budget that you’re putting into these platforms, and the new platforms that came through, you’re actually looking for real influencers, the ones that can, to use an over-hyped phrase, move the needle. When it comes return on investment, etc.|
|So I think we started to see, Sam, when we started writing the book, we started to see new platforms come to the floor that were more geared towards relevancy and how relevant that influencer was to your brand or your business goal. Whatever that looked like. So they came forward. I think a lot of people, stopped obviously, waving a low Klout badge, which was nice to see. But it was really about getting back to good old market and research and hard work. And putting the legwork in to get the results from influence marketing.|
|Sam:||I think there’s been a whole shift, maybe we talk about that for a second, there’s been a whole shift in these platforms. I actually just wrote a blog post on this recently, that with every influence marketing platform that seems to have died, two more pop up, about identifying and selling access to these influencers. And every one of them comes up with some new algorithm, like you were just talking about, that’s based on relevancy or local reach, or whatever that happens to be. But none of them, I’ve tested a few, well we’ve tested a few … we have a client very recently where we were looking for influential restaurant owners, and chefs, and bar managers. It was a B2B play. And we took a couple of the very popular software, influence marketing software tools out there today, and we tested them. We asked for a demo and we said, “Okay. Here’s a live case study. Find me influential restaurant owners.” And they couldn’t.|
|Danny Brown:||No it came back with maybe one?|
|Sam:||Yeah. And I think that even that wasn’t…it was a writer. It wasn’t even an actual owner.|
|Danny Brown:||And in the UK.|
|Sam:||And in the UK, not even across Canada and the US, which is what our client was asking for. So, I still don’t see that as being an option, at least not in the B2B space.|
|Danny Brown:||No, no.|
|Sam:||In the B2C space, I know lately there’s been a lot of negativity about influence marketing platform, because of the fake followers. The number of fake followers.|
|Danny Brown:||Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah.|
|Sam:||How has that impacted the path, or the progression, that influence marketing has taken?|
|Danny Brown:||That’s kept it slow, for want of a better description, ’cause it goes back to the false amplification. You’re not really amplifying to numbers that’s gonna impact your brand. You’ll maybe get a whole bunch of people on, out of those, and Instagram followers. But how many of these are actually gonna buy your product because ‘Influencer X’. Look at the girl that, over in Ireland, the Irish hotel. And she wanted a free week or whatever, because she had x, y, on Instagram. But it wasn’t relevant to this guy’s business, and this guy’s business goals. So continue to go down the route of, all you need is 100,000 followers to really ramp up your visibility, it’s gonna keep it back. Especially, ’cause all these guys, they don’t play by the rules. They don’t disclose that they’re being paid, or they’re sponsored by x y zed. And, I can’t help but think that’s had a lot to do with some of these platforms going by the wayside.|
|Danny Brown:||The GDPR privacy thing, looking at that, and how you’re actually presenting yourself and presenting your brand, etc. So I think, when it comes to social influence like that, it’s being used incorrectly, and it shows that when you do the legwork it works more effectively than just a quick, easy fix.|
|Sam:||Well then maybe that’s a good segway into talking about, how is it working today? Like, it’s still a thing. So, despite the fake followers, despite the criticism, despite all the failed platforms and algorithms, and everything else that we’re finally discounting, it is working today. I know it’s working for us. We’ve got a number of clients that we do influence marketing for that are successful. But we don’t use those influence marketing platforms. I guess Nimble is a social relationship management tool, is probably the only thing that we use that I find is effective.|
|So, maybe, I’ll start this part of the conversation by saying what works for us. And I wanna talk a little bit about micro- and macro-influencers as well, so don’t let me forget that, but I think what works for us is just rolling up your sleeves. Speaking of Nimble, Jon Ferrara just published and ebook, The Ultimate Influencer’s Guide, that I was honored to be able to contribute to. And in that ebook, my contribution was talking about our project with Echo. There, for me, we didn’t use an influencer marketing platform. Instead, we looked for micro-influencers, and we did that by building the community first.|
|Sam:||Right? And to this day, that rolling up my sleeves and doing the hard work, I find to be the most effective. And in this particular case, we created a community where brand advocates as well as brand attractors could all come together and help each other out, build their communities. And then through that engagement, I know you’re working on this project even more closely than I am, we’re able to identify influencers who then we could engage and work with. How are you finding that in comparison to using software that we were using in the past?|
|Danny Brown:||Yeah. Well, the whole relationship part. You mentioned Nimble. You mentioned the community that we’ve grown as part of the program. And having people feeling a valued member of that community, as opposed to just a shelf for a brand, that’s paying them to shove content out the door, or whatever. If you get that two-way reciproc … I’m not even gonna say that word, ’cause I’m not putting my teeth in this morning. You get that two-way relationship, right? And then we’ve got the value of both sides. We know what they’re bringing in, or what we’re helping them to achieve from their goals. And you have a brand that is brave enough to support that as well. It’s gonna have a lot more success. It shows what we’re doing, you know with Echo. And we’re having the influencers come to us now to recommend people for future programs, for, they’re identifying trends, etc. So it’s giving us a lot of information that otherwise would take a lot of time as well.|
|Sam:||For me it’s the authenticity that comes from this engagement platform. That we didn’t look to build and influence marketing platform. We didn’t hire a company to find influencers for us. We built a platform from which the entire audience, influencers and non-influencers, can engage. And then when we see who’s honestly looking to help other people, who can drive those conversations. But not only who can drive the conversations, who’s driving action. That’s what building a community allows you to do, because they’re doing it on their own and you’re just stepping back and watching. I found that to be one of the most successful aspects of it.|
|So, we’re at last call here, for today. Our episode one relaunch of Marketing on Tap. So maybe let’s come up with that final thought on this. Five years later, where are we with influence marketing?|
|Danny Brown:||I think we’re in a far better place, obviously. And we’re still seeing brands that actually share in success stories as opposed to fluff [inaudible 00:15:25] metrics. Compared as a success story. I still feel we’re missing the B2B influence platform. Like you said earlier, we’ve got a whole bunch of B2C stuff that’s awesome, but from a B2B point of view, that’s still missing. And it means you have to put the work in, which is fine, but until you hit that then I think influence is still gonna be something that a lot of brands are still kind of scared of.|
|Sam:||Yeah. See, for me, I don’t think we’re quite as far along as maybe you think. Definitely, there’s more positive stories out there, and you’re starting to hear things like micro-influencer. Something we introduced five years ago in this space. The problem is, I find that most people are still not defining it right. They’re using micro-influencers as somebody who has a smaller following, and then maybe niche. When that’s really not the right way to do it, because that still being identified based on follower counts. Influencers, I think you wrote it in Gini Dietrich’s Spin Sucks post, remove the ‘r’ from influencer marketing. Right? It’s not about the person, it’s about the audience. So, who influences them at the point of making a decision? And I think that that’s the focus, and that’s what building your own community, or joining communities allows you to do. Is removing the person, the influencer, and focusing on what motivates people to buy, and what changes their perceptions.|
|So anyways, that’s my final thought. I think moving forward this focus on micro-influencers has gotta be where we’re gonna go if this industry’s gonna really mature. And really, one non-related final thought is maybe, I can understand you so much better when you’re drinking. So I think before we do our next podcast, your Scottish accent is just a little too heavy for me, so before we do the next one there’s our lesson learned. Somebody take some notes. We need to drink a lot more before we start this. Cheers again, mate!|
|Danny Brown:||He’s had two glasses. Cheers!|
|Sam:||To our next one. See ya everybody.|
|Speaker 1:||You’ve been listening to Marketing on Tap with Sam Fiorella and Danny Brown. If you enjoyed this episode, make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the next one. And please, feel free to leave a show review. That’s always worth a cheers.|