The State of Digital Influence 2013

Technorati Digital Influence Report 2013

Leading social media ad network Technorati Media recently released their 2013 Digital Influence Report.

Gathering feedback from more than 6,000 influencers [bloggers and content creators], 1,200 consumers and 150 brand marketers, this new Digital Influence Report replaces Technorati’s annual State of the Blogosphere report.

The fact that Technorati, widely seen by many as “the blogging Bible”, has replaced their blogging report with one about influence and influencers highlights why this topic is such a hot one, and why brands need to better understand this ever-evolving medium.

The 2013 Digital Influence Report shares some interesting facts on the evolution of social media in general, as well as where influence is playing an increasingly key part in the marketing campaigns of brands globally.

Here are some of the key findings.

Social Scoring is Losing Traction

One of the things we’ve continuously talked about, both here on the blog and across social communities, is that social scoring for influence is merely an entry point component, and shouldn’t be used as a key metric in an influencer campaign.

The graphic below, which highlights the key factors brands take into account when finding influencers to work with, back that view up.

Brand Influencer Attributes

Data insight companies like comScore and Nielsen, along with social proof like Facebook and Twitter connections, are used, as are blog statistics.

While these are still basic starting points, when you look to the right of the chart you can see how this approach is diluting the use of social scoring sites. Klout, Kred and PeerIndex are all skewed towards the “Don’t use” response, while LinkedIn is also seen less favourably than social proof and statistics.

A reason for this could be the lack of public success stories social scoring sites are sharing; or it could be that brands are finally realizing scoring is just one small part of the bigger influence marketing picture.

Either way, it’s interesting to see how the scales are shifting.

The Connected Consumer and the Micro-Influencer

One of the key messages throughout our book is that the identity of the influencer, as he or she stands today, needs to change.

Mass marketing influence – where brands pay for several thousand “influencers” based on an algorithm with no true context – is missing the bigger picture: the real influence lies in macro and micro influencer communities.

Again, this thinking is borne out by the image below.

Community Size

More than half the respondents to Technorati’s survey stated the smaller the community, the greater the influence (which ties back to the question about the effectiveness of mass influence marketing based on social scores).

As we discuss in the book, there are several components and layers to a successful influence campaign – just as there are several layers and components to the situational factors that could disrupt a campaign.

This includes the people in the immediate circle of a consumer (the micro influencers), and those that impact thinking but not necessarily decision-making (the macro influencers). Outside of these two circles, then you have the mass marketing approach, and the influencers that have the least impact.

Blogs Are Still the “In” to Influencers

With the rise in social media communities and networks across sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and the other leading players in the field, many analysts have suggested this means the blog as a productive medium is dead.

This thinking is misled, at best, particularly when it comes to the influencer space.

Consumer Purchase

For a medium that’s in its death throes, blogging holds its own when it comes to that most important of metrics for brands running influencer campaigns to generate sales.

While retail sites and brand sites lead the way (another important pointer on why brands need to become involved in social media), blogging shares the third spot with Facebook (which has yet to truly show its value for brands using it as a business medium).

Twitter is almost redundant, highlighting its strength in building the relationship to the sale, while marketers’ current darling of the day Pinterest is also lacking in substance when it comes to importance to the consumer during the purchase cycle.

The relevance of blogs as a key medium for influencer campaigns is further strengthened by the metrics influencers themselves allocate importance to.

Influencer Metrics

Of the top eight responses, blog metrics account for three of them: page views, comments and uniques.

The comments one in particular is one that brands should be looking to when looking to connect with influencers. A connected community with a responsive blogger is one that can identify a product launch’s weakness, as well as offer valuable insights into the honest opinions of your target audience.

Social scoring sits way down at the bottom of the metrics influencers take note of.

The simple takeaway here – if your brand wants to create an effective influence outreach campaign, blogs and their audience are still a hugely important part of the puzzle.

Context and Partnership is Key

One of the biggest standouts from our research for the book, and one that’s being increasingly seen in online conversations, is the lack of context in many influencer campaigns, which – naturally – offers poor results for brands partaking in these campaigns.

It makes perfect sense, then, that context as well as a true partnership is high on the list of key preferences from influencers when it comes to working with brands.

Influencer Brand Pain Points

Looking at the top five responses, influencers are recognizing their importance to brands, as well as wanting to ensure that the trust they’ve built with their audience is not eroded by non-relevant content and partnerships.

The key message for brands here is simple – treat influencers with the same respect you would other media spend. Work closely with them on tailoring your message for their audience; compensate them fairly for their time; and be responsive to questions and concerns when trying to access their community.

The Future of Influence

The full Digital Influence 2013 report offers other valuable insights, including the disconnect between influencers and brands and the metrics that matter (brands see Facebook Likes as a success, while influencers are measuring activity and action around their site and promotional message).

it also shows that brand spend across social, mobile and video will increase in 2013, at the expense of search and display ads.

What this means for brand looking to participate in the space successfully, and where influencer campaigns begin to play an increasingly larger role, is clear:

  • Context remains critical for partnerships and promotions;
  • Social scoring is becoming marginalized as a key metric;
  • Blogs are still an important medium;
  • Micro and macro influencer communities are more effective than large-scale outreach.

It’s clear to see from the report that social media – and, by association, influence marketing – is maturing, with expectations of true business results versus social amplification and scores leading the way.

This is great news for the platforms adding true value to the influencer space, and for the brands willing to look beyond scoring and simple metrics to a bigger conversation.

We look forward to continuing that conversation.

You can download a copy of the full report here.

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