The topic of marketing accountability is a recurring theme here on Sensei Blogs and a personal passion of mine.
The need for accountability in marketing was further highlighted in the results of a survey released last week by Sensei Marketing and ArCompany. During February 2013, we surveyed over 1300 marketing and public relations professionals to determine the profession’s experiences with – and plans for – influence marketing and social influence scoring platforms.
Among the key insights from the study was the distinction marketers make between “influence marketing” and “social influence scoring.” Given the popularity of social scoring platforms such as Klout, we suspected that marketers failed to see the difference between the two.
Yet the results proved that the two are clearly differentiated in the minds of marketing professionals and that there’s a growing gap between need and solution.
Satisfaction with Social Scoring Platforms Low
79% of marketers surveyed reported using social scoring platforms in some capacity. However, 55% of all respondents claimed that these tools were not useful in selecting influencers they wanted to work with.
22% said they were useful, but that the results varied quite a bit. Further, when asked if they trusted the scores provided by social influence scoring platforms, a whopping 93% chose “no” or “not really.”
Clearly, satisfaction and trust with social scoring platforms are very low. But what does this mean to the future of influence marketing as a strategic marketing exercise? Not much apparently.
The majority of marketers surveyed indicated they’re highly likely to invest in influence marketing campaigns in the next 12 months. In fact 44% of those surveyed indicated that they were more than 50% likely to engage in influence marketing campaigns this year.
What we found surprising was the amount of budget that was being dedicated. Over half of the marketers claimed to be allocating between 20% and 50% of their budgets towards some form of influence marketing; 14% stated they’re dedicating more than 50% of their budgets.
The full results from this survey can be accessed here.
Why the Gap?
If you’ve been following along, you may have noticed the discrepancy.
The majority surveyed have tried influence scoring platforms and stated they don’t trust those scores to identify the influencers they want to work with. However, intent and marketing budgets are still being focused on influence marketing.
Clearly, the industry has drawn a line between social influence scoring tactics and influence marketing strategies. In fact, of those the 25% who claimed to use influence scoring platforms as part of their marketing mix, 20% said “only as part of a bigger marketing strategy,” 5% reported it was “a key part of how we market online.”
The overwhelming support for the practice of influence marketing is encouraging. Marketers and public relations professionals understand the power that socially-connected voices have over the fate of their businesses.
Brands can be hurt by the “wisdom of crowds” as easily as they can benefit from it. Social media gives consumers round-the-clock access to the attitudes and recommendations of their most engaged peers. These are the views that shape buying decisions. These are the views that marketers must shape and use.
The gap between need and solutions comes down to the issue of marketing accountability. Marketers have begun to understand the complexities of exerting influence across social media channels and the lack of measurement-against-sales that high-score influencer campaigns generate.
There are many situational factors at play that disrupt the influence path between brands, their chosen influencers, and their target customers. These include psychological, emotional, personal and environmental factors that derail a message from swaying a purchase decision.
Even the number of devices and technologies we use to engage our peers can change these influence paths. Jure Klepic, a consultant at Lucule in New York, produced an excellent study on influence and online behavior, and the role of technology on that influence.
He found that a study of form, message, device used, and the level of engagement of the message recipients is required to provide clearer, more meaningful metrics in understanding and establishing influence.
Where’s the Solution?
With such high demand for influence marketing, and such low sentiment and trust for social scoring platforms, what strategies will fill in the gap? What’s the solution?
The results of this survey demonstrate that marketers have realized that social influence strategies, based on the ability of an influencer to virally spread a message across their social graph, do not provide the marketing accountability executives demand.
As part of the research conducted for my soon to be released book on the subject with Danny Brown, Influence Marketing: How to Create, Manage and Measure Brand Influencers in Social Media Marketing, I been introduced to a dozen new platforms and services that have launched or will soon launch to address the evolving practice of social media including Appinions, Traackr, oneQube, and InNetwork.
I believe the solution for brands will be found in understanding the situational factors that affect how a recommendation or marketing message is created, shared, and received within brands’ social graphs, regardless of the software used.
The practice of social influence must be concerned with how consumers make decisions, not the distance and depth of an influencer’s reach.
At the end of the day, social influence scoring platforms will not fill the gap; marketers and their strategies will.
Sensei Debates – The Influence Gap: Need vs. Solution. Where do you see the gap between the need to influence consumers across social channels and the available solutions and methodologies? What’s missing from today’s line up of service providers and tools? Is there a solution?
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego
Influence Marketing: 68% Of Marketers Allocating Significant Share of Budget (but Klout Gets a Thumbs Down)
Influence Marketing Will Be The Tipping Point in Social Media ROI