A few months ago, I sat down with Steven Sefton, Digital and Social Media Director for Think Zap, to discuss a variety of topics including the differences in cultural marketing based on location; the changing face of influence; where influence marketing is heading; and much, much more.
Although Klout seems to be no more, social scoring is clearly still a driving tactic by brands when it comes to influence, given the news that LinkedIn has created its own scoring solution – which makes revisiting this interview kind of timely.
Below, you can find part two of that chat (which originally appeared on The Social Penguin), centred around influence marketing, the need to move away from generic social scores, and how brands are focusing on the wrong “influencer”.
I hope you enjoy, and you can find the first part of the interview here.
You’ve written the book Influence Marketing with Sam Fiorella. What made you write this book?
It was a mix of being disappointed at what was classed as influence today – social scoring platforms like Klout – and the realization that businesses would continue to get poor results from that kind of “influence marketing”. The focus was on the wrong people – it’s not influencers that make your brand successful, it’s customers.
We wanted to take back influence, if you like, from non-descript social scoring algorithms, and place the focus back squarely on the customer.
Understand where they are in the purchase life cycle, and who impacts their decisions at that point. Understand that, and you know who you truly need to connect with and how that person can help sway your customer’s thinking, and move them along the purchase path to the next phase, whether that’s Awareness, Research, Intent to Buy or something else.
How do you see influence marketing changing in the future?
Moving past scoring platforms and truly understanding what your customer needs, and working back from there to find who influences them and how. We’re tired of empty metrics likes impressions and social shares – we need to see real deliverables from our investments.
This is why scoring platforms fall down when it comes to real influence – they lack the data and connections that show the real context behind a relationship. The likes of Klout are selling social impressions, nothing more.
Do you think it’s going to become harder or easier to find relevant influencers?
If brands are willing to put in the legwork and avoid the quick-hit buzz-driven approach to influence, it does actually become easier. Instead of generic, scoredriven “influencers”, you’re identifying those that truly impact your customer’s decision-making process, no matter where they are in the purchase life cycle.
This works at every level – the brand isn’t paying for non-targeted campaigns, and has a far higher rate of success, and the customer is being helped at the exact point they need that help to make their decision. It’s not rocket science to run successful influence marketing campaigns; it’s just that some folks and technology vendors would have you think it is.
Can you be an influencer in many areas or will it come down to the super niches?
That’s the beauty of bypassing today’s “social scoring as influence” model, and really understanding what influence is and how to identify who really is influential. Klout goes for the topic approach – but that’s too generic, because human beings are way too complex to be tied to just a few topics.
Mindsets change based on peer pressure – does a guy start to try and like Justin Bieber to influence how a girl he’s interested in looks at him? That’s a simplistic example, but a valid one about the problems facing influence today.
Because real influence is based on who and what sways decisions at a given time in a person’s life, we are all influential in multiple areas. I’m not a “daddy blogger”, but I have two kids under four years old, a boy and a girl.
My experience in this area would mean I may be able to offer insights into what it takes to raise two toddlers, but I’d never be picked up by scoring platforms because I’m viewed as a marketer, or whatever.
THAT, for me, is where influence is going and needs to be – our topics and level of knowledge around these topics change all the time. So, because of that, niches aren’t needed – understanding of where we are in life is, and offers the bigger return.
How can brands better adopt influence marketing as a tactic?
Simple – buy our book!! Failing that…
Our studies, and discussions with both brands and organizations, show that they’re still in the mindset that scoring is the best way to run influence marketing campaigns, promotions, call it what you will. While they can offer a decent starting point, you need to go deeper than the data they offer to really start to understand true influence.
Additionally, brands are still seeing influence marketing as a buzz creator, and using it with the mindset of short-term campaigns. Influence offers so much more than this, and should really be used to move towards advocacy and longterm relationship building.
By using the methodology outlined in the book, and really understanding who influences your customers the most, and how that maps back to your goals, it becomes less a hit-and-hope tactic and more a defined, results-driven strategy.
To steal a line from the book, brands need to stop scoring influence, and start creating influence paths.