To the end of ‘influenceratis’
In 2017, the scandals of fake news, fake advertisements, fake accounts and fake profiles made the headlines of all media. Since the beginning of the year, cases of fraud (or the limit) have followed one another, revealed to the big days. Several studies have shown the existence of false accounts and false subscribers including Facebook where there would be more than 60 million automated sites.
Recently, the New York Times published the results of inquiries that revealed the existence of a true followers factory, Devumi, a company that manages 3.5 million fake accounts and more than 200 000 customers to whom it sells Twitter followers, YouTube views, SoundCloud plays and even recommendations on LinkedIn. His clients include reality TV stars, athletes, comedians, TED speakers, and even multimillionaires like Michael Dell. Devumi also played an important role during Donald Trump’s campaign.
Since the beginning of the year, ‘influenceratis’ also fall like dominoes. In the USA, it’s enough to mention the famous cases of ¨Youtubers¨ with their false recommendations (like PewDiePie and the WarnerBros Games), and fake accounts on Instagram (Calibeachgirl310, Wanderingggirl), without forgetting the debate that still persists on the manipulation of popular opinion with the false news during the last presidential campaign. In France, there was also the case of the advertising campaign disguised with Louise Delage on Instagram, while in Quebec, several fake profiles (or empty shells) on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube raise serious questions, and are probably already under investigation.
All these ‘influenceratis’ finally sold only chimeras, based on false representations. And, they were unmasked. Such is taken who thought to take … The companies and organizations that rushed headlong on the easy way of popularity begin to disillusion and realize, either that they were fooled, or that their fraudulent ride risks to jump them in the figure (if it is not already done).
The fundamental difference between influence marketing and advertising
Since Facebook and Instagram have decided to tighten their algorithm to stem the problem and limit the reach of users to 30% of their audience, by choosing the content that appears on the newsfeed, the organic reach of companies has dramatically dropped. And, those who have been fooled by the lure of easy gain and popularity by buying fake subscribers will quickly change their approach. They will then have to pay to position themselves or bet more on the true influencers to reach their customers. They will then have to be more authentic in their approach.
Finally, this is probably good news for influencers, because it will finally clean up, and redefine the real role of influence marketing on the Web and networks. Brands, like businesses and organizations, must stop talking about influencer marketing when it comes to disguised advertising. This is what is now stipulated, and very clearly, the new regulations adopted following the investigations. Paying George Clooney to become Nespresso’s spokesperson or Guillaume Lemay-Thivierge for Nissan, is nothing more than a form of advertising. They are hired only for their acting talent, popularity and reach. Neither one nor the other claims otherwise.
When it comes to defining the influence on the Web and social networks, there are several criteria to consider. The popularity, the range of the network and the amplification of the message are certainly to be considered, but in the end, they remain secondary because they can be easily distorted or bypassed. Scientific studies such as that of MIT Research have also demonstrated a few times during the year. Unlike advertising, the success of influence marketing is mainly based on qualifying measures, which makes it less attractive to marketers because it is not measurable according to quantifiable algorithms standards.
Influence marketing is rather a combination of skills and expertise, credibility and notoriety, demonstrable and validated by users. To rebuild their reputation and re-engage them, businesses and organizations will need to demonstrate greater authenticity, bringing real added value to users. And, invest more in new, longer-term relationships with thought leaders, niche influencers, and micro-influencers to develop and broadcast quality content.
In 2017, Traackr and TopRank Marketing joined forces to conduct a large-scale study, which Brian Solis analyzed in detail: “Influence 2.0 – The Future of Influencer Marketing“. To do this, they surveyed more than one hundred leading brands in the world (3M, Adobe, Amazon Web Services, American Express, Diageo, Microsoft, and many others). 70% of respondents came from companies with more than 1,000 employees, 36% of which are now Fortune 1000 companies.
According to this study, content creation and production currently accounts for 22% of all digital marketing budgets, compared to public relations, which accounts for one fifth (20%) followed by events (17%), technologies (13%), Marketing agencies (12%), Influence (10%) and Consulting Services (6%), which share nearly 80% of allocated budgets and more than half say they invest less than $ 100,000 in their marketing budget. 25% invest between $ 100,000 and 250,000 and 12% between $ 250,000 and $ 500,000.
One of the first points that emerge from the Traackr / TopRank Marketing study report is that the true potential of influencer marketing on social networks rests on the quality of relationships developed with influencers. However, Solis still observes a certain lack of investment from the organizations, resulting in a delay in the integration of the strategic priorities.
Quoting his colleague, he reminds us that it is high time for influence marketing to become more mature:
“The return on the relationship (RonR) is the added value that a person or a brand brings through a relationship. A long period. It demonstrates the brand’s trust and loyalty to the brand, and that authenticity is then relayed more effectively to consumers– Ted Rubin, CMO Brand Innovators.
The Natural Convergence of Content Marketing and Influence
Today, content marketing and relationships with influencers form a winning combination and an inseparable pair, the Yin and Yang of digital marketing. Businesses and organizations now understand that it is only through the relevance of the content they broadcast that they will be able to regain user trust and stand out on social media. And, only by emphasizing the quality and authenticity of relationships with influencers will they maximize the reach of their message.
By analyzing the 2017 annual reports on the marketing of B2C and B2B content, produced by the Content Marketing Institute in collaboration with MarketingProfs, we can see that the budgets devoted to content marketing over the next year will increase as much in the B2C sector (81%) than B2B (84%).
¨Places and rules of engagement change. And consumer expectations are very different from what they were a few years ago. Today, we simply need to better understand these new foundations in order to stand out. Readers will always be attracted by relevant, interesting, current and engaging writings. If you regularly produce and publish content that meets all three of these criteria, it will inevitably attract your readers. The hardest part of all this, and most importantly, is to stay interesting and entertaining. Always wonder how our content will captivate the audience, how it helps us stand out in the clutter of information circulating on the web. We have to constantly ask ourselves: is this the kind of content that you like, and that you would like to share? ¨ explained Mark Schaefer in an interview.
There are, however, many aspects of a content marketing strategy, and there are many unavoidable steps that should not be overlooked or discarded before reaching one’s goals. Effective planning is more a question of strategic approach than tactics and tools.
In the age of social media, connected consumers (B2C), like professional buyers (B2B), are always better informed, and often arrive more informed than the seller about the products they are looking for. Thus, the proposed content must be able to answer their questions and be mainly focused on their needs. Companies should, therefore, avoid focusing solely on the value of the company’s solutions. With social networks, businesses and professionals must stop talking about it and show empathy. They must stop wanting to sell at any price, and instead become guides in the consumer journey.
Today, these “prosumers” have an undeniable power of influence over companies and brands, and they are increasingly aware of this. They require to be considered as individuals, individuals and human beings, and to answer their questions or complaints in real time. Organizations must, therefore, position themselves effectively on social networks, to be able to respond at any time. This is the basic principle of connected prospecting, or “reverse marketing”.
Building influence with blogs: The Intelligentsia Coffee case
Many professionals and companies are already using blogs and content marketing to build a strong and enviable reputation on the web and social media, such as the Intelligentsia Coffee roasting chain in the United States. At the beginning, in 1995, two great San Francisco coffee lovers, dissatisfied with the quality of the coffee they could find, the couple Doug Zell and Emily Mange, decided to open their own roasting shop and offer their own coffee. After a rough start, they moved out and opened a new boutique in the eclectic Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago. In this new environment hipster, installed with their equipment rather old in the shop to roast on the spot, and demonstrate their know-how in an artisanal atmosphere, they quickly obtained a success of esteem and fidelity of their new customers. They took the opportunity to expand their network, share their expertise and knowledge on social networks, with a blog and a white paper, allowing them to contribute to a regular column in the prestigious magazine Brew Guide.
Today, 22 years later, Intelligentsia Coffee has become a chain of coffee/roasters in five major strategic cities, located in the areas most frequented by their customers (Generation X and Y), who serve and sell only its own products but also sophisticated brands of machines of which they became business partners. Their expertise in roasting is widely recognized in every city, and they even offer on-site training labs. And their network content marketing strategy has attracted 52,000 followers on Twitter, 60,000 on Facebook and nearly 135,000 on Instagram.
(Disclaimer from the author: Several segments of this article will be found in my new self-published book: Generation C – Confluence Marketing in the Connected Consumer Era, which is now available on FriesenPress Bookstore, and soon on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Chapters/indigo and Ingram)