Can Brands Buy Real Influence?

Can Brands Buy Real Influence?

Dec 30, 2013

Just as fast as I posted 2014: The Year of the Brand Influencer, the post started spreading throughout the internet.

Apparently the idea is gaining popularity making my prediction a little more ‘early adopter’ than ‘innovator.’ However, I’m okay with that, perhaps a bit meticulous at times, I try to stay right on the cusp of what looks real and what is real.

Digital influence is real. No question about it. However, as quickly as I posted about the shift in brand influence I was hit between the eyes with a dose of real that I couldn’t ignore.

My Facebook notification went off and I saw I was tagged in a post by Olivier Blanchard, “The Brand Builder.” Olivier is one of the most authentic people I know on the web so I always like when my content grabs his attention. Additionally, he is well regarded for his thoughts on influence, which you should read if you haven’t already.

This time however was different. It wasn’t a quick share or a “Hey, check this out.” It was more of a “Hey, buyer beware…I’m sharing this, but only partially because I like it. Mostly because it is missing something really important.”

What was it missing?

The answer is very simple, my article was missing the incredibly important context that most people who proclaim to be influential aren’t influencers at all.

Here is what Olivier had to say…

Influence Context
 

The Morale? Context Cannot Be Ignored With Influence Marketing

 
In short, what Olivier said that is so important for brands considering influence marketing is that brands cannot think that influence can merely be bought by employing a few bloggers but rather influence is driven through genuine connections.

I couldn’t agree more, and I felt it was really important to communicate this to all who read the last post and to any brands considering campaigns with online influencers.

Further what Olivier eludes to is how important it is to find influencers that are deeply entrenched with a brand or as he refers to the “Micro Influencer.” This type of influencer will drive a very small number of people, however whether it be 10, 20 or 50, the micro influencer will lead to real conversions.

Another salient point that marketers cannot ignore in their selection of influencers.

My response to Olivier’s post.
 
influence context connection emotion
 

The Moral of the (Influence) Story

 
The interwebs have become chuck full of “wannabe” influencers and people who will swindle brands for their money for perceived influence. However, real influence is much more organic. Paid or not the type of influence brands are looking for comes from real people connecting to real people on an emotional level.

That type of connection is where brand advocates are born. Money alone will rarely (if ever) build the type of influence most brands seek.

For influence to work there has to be more than just paid content; there has to be a deeper connection. For brands looking to build an influence campaign, this need for deeper connections cannot be ignored.

Building an influential brand, like everything in life worth doing, takes commitment. Brands that get it right will reap the reward. However, I won’t be the least bit surprised to find many brands will cut corners and learn this lesson the hard (expensive) way.

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10 comments
larry levy
larry levy

Daniel,

It's encouraging to see great debate taking place on this issue - something we've been beating the drum on for the better part of 2 years. Brands and agencies alike wanted a big red "easy" button to solve this issue. Turns out that it takes creativity, consistently applied over an extended period, with genuine people who, when they speak or write about a specific topic, garner reactions from others.... Love the conclusions in this over your prior post.

danielghebert
danielghebert

Great post Daniel! Oliver makes some interesting remarks as well.


I think you hit the nail on the head - context. In which context is an "influencer" actually "influential." But I would go even further and look at relationships, and buyer intent.


How many followers, readers, community members in the influencer's community fits the brand's target market? Are they in the right geography, demographic, or social class? Are these people ready to purchase, or considering purchase decisions? Are they well connected to the influencer, and do they trust them?


When you start exploring these questions, along with context, all of a sudden you get a much better picture of who might be an influencer. It might not be an A-list blogger you're looking for, but a regular Joe with 200 Twitter followers that are hyper-geo located and ready to buy your product. Data is definitely needed when reviewing influencers for your brand.


Influencers can be bought, yes, and this practice will continue. I don't think it's a bad practice either, just needs more time in research on the brand's part before engaging an influencer for a paid campaign. This way, the influencer doesn't lose credibility, because the right context is in place. And brands maximize their ROI by minimizing the guessing game, and actually targeting influencers based on data.

I wrote a lot about these topics on the InNetwork blog - also love the Technorati graphs, they paint a pretty powerful story :)


Daniel Hebert

Inbound and Community Manager

InNetwork Inc.

James_Madison
James_Madison

I highly recommend you read Influence Marketing by Danny Brown and Sam Fiorella. This is the book that, for me, really defines true influence as a valuable business strategy and is the definitive voice on the topic of influence.

danielnewmanUV
danielnewmanUV moderator

@larry levy Thanks Larry - it continues to evolve.  I have taken some heat for these posts as well, but that is part of the deal when you post your ideas. 

I agree it takes consistency, creativity and more to make influence work.  

I'd love to see some of your posts on the topic - where can I find them?

danielnewmanUV
danielnewmanUV moderator

@danielghebert hey Daniel! thanks for adding to the conversation.  Oliviet definitely helped me find some additional clarity and your comments are important as well.

We are influenced by many people in our lives. Not just celebrities or Bloggers, but friends, family and others. 

Businesses need to seek out those that can reach the most real candidates and then connect them to the brand.

That will take some work!

Trackbacks

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  3. […] Just as fast as I posted 2014: The Year of the Brand Influencer, the post started spreading throughout the internet. Apparently the idea is gaining popularity(…) (Can Brands Buy Real Influence?  […]

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  5. […] for their investments in influence? How about get their heads out of their asses and start hiring people who actually connect to customers and remove it from the obsession that is A-List bloggers. And when hiring an agency, if they try to […]

  6. […] audience. Once they can see that you are there and committed to helping them in a meaningful way, advocacy (real influence) is born; this is where the best will separate from the […]

  7. […] for their investments in influence? How about get their heads out of their asses and start hiring people who actually connect to customers and remove it from the obsession that is A-List bloggers. And when hiring an agency, if they try to […]

  8. […] for their investments in influence? How about get their heads out of their asses and start hiring people who actually connect to customers and remove it from the obsession that is A-List bloggers. And when hiring an agency, if they try to […]

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