Defining influence isn’t the big problem. Nor is finding the “right” influencers. The real problem is where to put the data. This post is a response to a blog article we enjoyed reading by SocialSteve: A Real Look At Social Media Influence. Steve, I’d like to pose an extrapolation of your point: “One of the things that none of these tools do well is to cross correlate an individual on all the channels.” You have hit on the crux of where our influencer, earned and social marketing industry is headed over the next 18 months.
We have a data problem. A “big data” problem. This is not about executing earned media marketing campaigns or figuring out how to get influencers to write about your brand without it seeming like “bought influence”. Those problems are solved, the experts in the industry know how to do them. All of the questions from brands about “how do we identify the right influencers” are missing the point and asking the wrong question. Identifying the “right influencers” for a program or brand is a manageable task, it’s just a process. It takes a little experience and skill, and helpful tools are getting better and better, and it’s a known quantity.
The question we need to ask is where do you put the data? Once you’ve identified influencers, and especially once you have worked with some of them – what do you do with that information? It’s the one part of the Influencer Marketing process that is not figured out.
It is a pain point for brands and agencies of all sizes. The band-aid at present is the use of spreadsheets and Google docs – a fragmented, uncontrollable solution that cannot be measured and will not scale. This is Influencer Relationship Management (“IRM”), directly analogous to CRM. The natural question here is why don’t the established players in the CRM space solve this?
- Not in their DNA: Salesforce.com is not going to solve the social publishers at scale problem.
- Focused on other products: Buddymedia has to keep up with management of specific and ever-changing social publishing platforms.
Neither of these guys are going to solve for this in the near term – but they both provide inspirational examples that can lead us to the right model. The data lessons of CRM, the engagement, monitoring and gamification lessons of Facebook and Twitter all apply naturally to a community of influencers in an IRM network. We need channel agnostic influencer marketing at scale.
WHAT WE DON’T KNOW
Let’s take a look at the components of the influencer marketing process:
- DEFINE GOALS
1. WE KNOW HOW TO: Define Goals – Business, Marketing, Strategy & KPI’s.
2. WE KNOW HOW TO: Identify the right influencers – Requires the listening tools SocialSteve mentioned, plus targeted Google search, as well as more refined recent entries into the arena such as SocMetrics, Traackr, GroupHigh. The point is, this problem is solved for the industry. And yes it helps to categorize your influencer targets. I approach Steve’s three categories as the pyramid below.
- Traditional influencers = Professional
Top of pyramid: WSJ, NYT, Bieber, etc.
- Emerging (digital) influencers = Power Middle
From mommy bloggers to niche interest Twitter publishers.
- Influencers by connection = Advocates
The cream of the crop recruited from Facebook and Twitter communities, consumers, brand email lists, employees, customers.
3. WE KNOW HOW TO: Activate - good old fashion marketing & PR. Messaging, Content, Co-creation of value, Offers, Calls to Action; all the components of brand to influencer/advocate collaboration. Manage the value exchange, whatever that may be. No mysteries here, just expertise required. By the way, this is Klout’s real value. Klout provides a simple way for marketers to “rent” a set of influencers/advocates to obtain hoped-for outcomes. Klout is basically an email list marketer. The score becomes an after-thought. It can give a marketer a very broad “ballpark” prior to any rigorous planning, but the primary value of the Klout Score is the “carrot” with which they pulled in their user data in the first place. Klout’s promise to consumers was “if you give me your email, I will put a gold star on your forehead.”
4. WE ARE GETTING THERE: Rank/Filter: Klout, Kred, PeerIndex, SocMetrics, Traackr – they all give us ranking metrics that are useful in varying ways. The big next step here is to provide marketers with the ability to include performance data into the ranking algorithms. This doesn’t negate the generic scores, it adds an additional score to the brand marketer’s toolkit that actually correlates to relevant outcomes.
Use Case: If I am a marketer setting up a new target list for an upcoming campaign, I want to pull my list of top influencers within a specific category and rank them not only by these generic scores but also by variables that are proprietary to my relationship with these influencers. For example, if one of them has participated in five campaigns for my brand and delivered measured conversions or sales, that social publisher (influencer/advocate) will rank higher on my leaderboard than another who only worked on one campaign with our brand. This is real world measurement of the action produced as discussed by SocialSteve when he defined influence from a marketers POV.
We need brand-specific, proprietary scores based upon influencer action and outcomes — the next generation of influencer scores. Put in another way: beyond “contextual scoring” and “individual scoring” marketers need “performance scoring” - which is only possible in a closed-loop IRM platform where the brand owns the relationship with the influencers.
5. WE DON’T KNOW HOW TO: Manage the influencer data: store the influencer data in a UI that enables marketers, enrich that data over time, keep the influencer relationship warm, track what they are doing for your brand across all channels as well as what the brand is doing for the influencers. This is where comes in to play, and where the PR firms mentioned by Greg(comments) need the most help. In fact, all brands large and small need to manage growing amount of earned and social influencer data.
SOLVING FOR THE REAL PROBLEM
IRM System: The Basic Elements
Strategy Statement: The marketing & communications industry needs a “big data” earned media platform, one that empowers marketers to manage relationships, manage content, and manage value exchange.
- Manage the influencer relationship, and enable the communication with same, at scale. Brands need to own these relationships, not rent them from Klout. Measure, rank and filter data over time.
- Manage content (BGC, UGC, IGC). Content must be distributed with control and tracking, while allowing for authenticity.
- Manage the value exchange across a spectrum of options. During the length of a brand-influencer relationship, and especially during marketing program activations, there is a value proposition for each party involved and an exchange that takes place. The values involved here are a subject for another post, the currency can be $money, content, credibility, validation, product or access – either way we need a platform to facilitate this marketplace environment.
Defining Influence isn’t the big problem. Nor is finding the “right” influencers. Harnessing Influence via marketing programs is an old skill that we all have. And ranking influencers is well on the way to a scalable solution. The real problem here is a data: we need a place for brands and marketers to store and manage the data. We need IRM.