A-Listless: Misguided Brands Must Stop Sponsoring Jerks

Posted on March 12th 2014

A-Listless: Misguided Brands Must Stop Sponsoring Jerks

ImageIt is without a doubt that influence marketing has reached a tipping point and it isn’t without good reason.

People are doing more and more searching online for articles and information to help them in their buyer’s journey. This goes from diapers to digital and it is rooted in the trust that we as consumers have in other ordinary people as opposed to “Big Brands” and there deep pockets trying to manipulate us through clever ads and catch phrases.

In short, we trust other people and well, brands… Not so much.

So the perfect marriage is we get ordinary people to write about our experiences as they relate to a product, brand or industry. This is reflected in the rise of brands as media companies. Smart brands started doing this years ago and other (less smart) brands are following suit.

Pardon my snark about the less smart brands, but sadly the innovation of sponsored content from influencers is old news. On a more positive note, when done well it works, however this is more the exception than the rule.

This is primarily because brands obsess with the wrong things and too often the agencies they hire proliferate this because they are equally as clueless.

Raw Metrics Are A Weak Indication Of Influence 

While every brand has its reasons (hopefully) for engaging in influencer marketing, the idea that an a-list blogger with large follower counts, page likes, and page views will make a strong brand advocate is misguided.

I tell this to brands I work with everyday:

“I would rather make 5 genuine connections with someone who can actually buy something than 5,000 visitors from people who cannot.”

For all intents and purposes, these meaningless visits are just window shoppers. They come into your store with no intention to buy, and in many cases no ability or interest.

The real key is in the influencers' ability to connect to a specific audience and drive buyer sentiment among a small yet focused audience of people who are potential clients.

I refer to this group as Micro-Influencers and for the most part this is the group that brands need to be pursuing.

Connecting To The Right People: That Isn’t Ideal, It Is The Deal 

I know it is more difficult for a marketer to identify the people who connect to their ideal customers. That is precisely why BS metrics like Klout, Follower Count and page views become key indicators, but just because the easy way is what is accepted as best practice, doesn’t make it right.

The other day an agency executive told me that a brand came to them looking to engage in an influencer program and they wanted A listers with 30k unique visitors a month (minimum). He proceeded to tell me how he laughed at them.

I was hoping what would come next would be a story about how he educated them on the fact that 30k visits doesn’t matter as much as these influencers moving the needle for a small group who become more loyal to the brand as a byproduct of the campaign.

Sadly, I hear the opposite. The agency executive proceeded to tell me that 30k isn’t an A-Lister, but rather 100k plus.

After I finished throwing up in my mouth a little bit I caught my breath, and changed topics because there was no hope to find common ground here, but what I can say with absolute confidence is:

30k or 120k I don’t give a +K or a K(rap). If I’m a marketing executive for a brand I want my content connecting with buyers. And other than the old law of averages for door-to-door sales people I have seen almost no correlation between great volumes of eyeballs and brand conversions. Especially as the products and services grow in complexity.

Focus On The Right Influencers And The Right Audience

If I was a brand working on an influence campaign I would take a step back and seek out content creators that are relatable, create interesting and useful content and show real subject matter expertise.

For instance, if I was selling a data center solution I would look not just for those that write about technology but those that are immersed in cloud, data center and tech disruption. While this much narrower audience may yield a much smaller number of page views, the audience that is reading this content are almost certainly real prospects.

On the other hand, the generic tech writer with a massive audience may be the lucrative pick but often times these generalists are too superficial (content not personality) to really connect with those that are most sought to connect to.

Again, it is about the audience. While the CIO may be a target for any tech focused marketing campaign, often times with emerging technology where great expertise is required, these folks depend on consultants and highly skilled members of their teams to make recommendations. Those are the first line that the
content should be focused on because those are the ones influencing the person who can sign the purchase order.

Isn’t that the whole purpose? Creating brand sponsored content to influence buyer behavior?

For Goodness Sakes, Stop The Page View Porn

Perhaps for no other reason than brands being completely misguided by unicorns, Bigfoots sighting in Yellowstone and the idea that page views and impressions translate to revenue.

If that was truly the case then the best brands in the world should put banner ads on Porn Sites. Because those get far more page views than any A-List blogger on the planet.

But as you may have surmised by now, the numbers by themselves don’t mean that much.

At some point brands in the influence marketing game will realize that hiring people who get a lot of page views but don’t influence the right people end up being extremely expensive ambassadors who don’t move sentiment, and certainly do not create revenue and therefore they are nothing but an overpaid waste of money.

Also Read: A great example of how influence requires not just reach but a strong connection can be seen in this case study done by Mark Schaefer where he found a strong direct correlation between close contacts and the ability to influence someone to get behind a cause (easily replaceable with a brand). Click to read the article

So how about something that brands interested in smarter influence marketing can do to get more 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 tell you to just hire A-Listers just go ahead and fire them now. If your skiddish about it call me and I’ll do it for you.

Nothing against the A-List, I guess. These professional “Thought Leaders” (whatever that means) and pundits alike are tremendous for putting eyeballs on stuff. Their thought leadership often extends to the brilliance of 5 years ago as they regurgitate, perhaps more eloquently the messages of the past and the innovation of what is obvious to those who most need it. And to their credit they have built solid readerships, which should count for something.

But if I was betting my job or my relationship with a brand on influence marketing campaign I would turn my attention elsewhere, such as toward people who can help me build trust with consumers, improve knowledge and sentiment and perhaps most importantly sell something to someone.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming of reading half-ass marketing fodder that will take you on a great journey to nowhere. Happy Happy…


Daniel Newman

Founder/CEO, BroadSuite

Daniel Newman is the Founder of BroadSuite Consulting. An experienced C-Level Executive passionate about Strategy who also loves working with entrepreneurs and their small and mid-sized businesses. Prior to launching BroadSuite Consulting, Daniel served as the co-founder and CEO of EC3, a quickly growing hosted IT and Communication services provider. Before that, Daniel held several prominent leadership roles including serving as CEO of United Visual, parent company to United Visual Systems, United Visual Productions, and United GlobalComm; a family of companies focused on Visual Communications and Audio Visual Technologies.

Daniel is also widely published and active in the social media community. He is the author of Amazon best-selling business book, “The Millennial CEO.” He also co-founded the global online Community 12 Most and was recognized by the Huffington Post as one of the 100 business and leadership accounts to follow on Twitter.
Daniel is also an Adjunct Professor of Management at North Central College. He attained his undergraduate degree in Marketing at Northern Illinois University and an Executive MBA from North Central College in Naperville, Ill. He currently resides in Aurora, Ill., with his wife (Lisa) and his two daughters (Hailey 11, Avery 7).

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Kaloyan Banev
Posted on March 12th 2014 at 7:27AM

Well said, Daniel. At least somebody say how things really are. I am sick of reading misleading guides by A-List bloggers, forums, social media experts and any kinds of pseudo gurus. Not everything is so bright.