The value of (online) influencers: An attempt to define an undefined digital species

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They blog from the first row at catwalks. They share cool design gadgets on Instagram. They strike a pose with a selfie in front of 5-star hotels on Pinterest. And, they record „Let’s plays“ for Youtube while testing the latest computer games. The one thing they have in common? They are online influencers. A digital species that challenges and changes the marketing world of models, testimonials and the publishing industry.

According to an annual Nielsen study, it is a common knowledge that people trust most in recommendations of people they know. In the past, marketers put models or celebrities in this „recommendation seat“. It was meant to address two benefits: Brands intended to grasp some of the consumers’ attention by trying to hitch-hike on the wave of VIP awareness and public relevance. And, they used the reach of magazines and the trust those public voices had for the people.

Nielsen Study Trust 2015

It seems to me that the tables are turning now, and marketers have to rethink their brand extension strategy.

1. Models – the personalization dilemma
When using models, brands couldn’t tell exactly which audience they were addressing. It was a marketers’ and model agent’s best guess which model fits which brand. However, a model does not have a transparent target-group. They are just faces without any open address books or lead list.

Social influencers are their own agents. Their content markets their personality, their personality defines their content, their reach expresses their quality. They have got fans, followers, and friends that everybody (not only when following them) can see. A clear defined and dynamic target-group that is commited to them and engages with them on a regular basis. What they say gets read. What they state is trusted. In fact, their consumer opinion becomes one of the most trusted sources that people believe in – more than traditional ads of any kind.

Just imagine the influence on purchase intent, when an influencer is posting online to a large audience of friends and fans. Social influencers are perceived of their active and growing audiences as „more real“ than models, somehow even as „friends“.

But also the traditional model business is affected by the upcoming influencer trend: Previously interchangeable and relatively anonymous faces are now increasingly becoming personal brands thanks to their personalized Instagram and Snapchat channels and/or (mostly fashion- and beauty related) blogposts. Consequently, numerous models with significant reach are also acting as influencers to their audiences.

2. Testimonials – the authenticity dilemma
Testimonials need to match brand authenticity and follow the brand message in order to become valuable for marketers. Serious investment in dollars does not allow a testimonial’s mistake. Contracts are long-term and include testimonial involvement not only in all brand campaigns but also in personal PR and marketing engagement during the contracting period.

Money counts for testimonials – as much as monetary rewards do for online influencers. This is definitely true for the fashion and beauty industry, states the „Fashion & Beauty Monitor“ report in partnership with Econsultancy named „The Rise of Influencers„. However, three out of five surveyed influencers believe that the „relevance of brand in relation to own area of expertise „is essential when collaborating with marketers. Influencers are very well aware of their personality as brand that has to be secured and consequently, they do not sell everything just because they are asked to. Of course, this in return means a certain loss of control for marketers when working with powerful influencers. Just to state an example, years ago, I offered MINI a cool opportunity to collaborate with me. I fear the idea never reached the BMW four-cylinder tower – perhaps for fear of losing brand control?

Think about it: How authentic can testimonials be that are selected by brands as of their popularity in sports, fashion and lifestyle? Testimonials sell their media value. On the contrary, engagement with influencers can only work when brands do not act too commercial with them and meet their personal authenticity. Social influencers are personal brands; authentic brands that companies can collaborate with.

3. Publishers – the relevance dilemma
When content from influencers gets more attention (and is trusted more) than content from advertising, relevance becomes a critical tipping point. For years, marketers and PR experts were convinced that „serious“ traditional publishers are more relevant to readers than bloggers or any other form of social media active people. Thus, they invested serious dollars in brand building activities with the publishing industry. Today, these very media houses are approaching influencers to increase their declining media value.

A recent study by Collective Bias shows that content from influencers is viewed for more than 2 minutes (which is 7 times longer than the digital display ad average with a view time of just 19.2 seconds). Plus the relevance of someone’s personal opinion -whether rating, recommendation or review- has become of high value for consumers. Now if content from an influencer is relevant and perceived as being „authentic“ , publishing is facing serious competition in the future.

However, relevance needs to meet relevance both ways. Just putting brand messages into the mouth of online influencers won’t accelerate a brand’s value. In order to become relevant to an influencer and his or her audience, a brand needs to be „love-brand“ in a social influencer’s mind. If not, the influencer will be perceived (and probably also act) like a traditional publishing product without a media-kit.

Solving the dilemma – budget and advertising strategy
The world of testimonials, models and publishing is changing with the rise of influencers.
More and more companies and brands start working with social influencers. I personally doubt that they will completely replace models, testimonials and publishing houses, but the future will tell. However, the world of recommendations will be redefined by a new species.

Nielsen Study Recommendation 2015

According to a recent #BrandofMe study, brands invested 1 Bio. USD in 2015 in influencer programs on Instagram only. Influencers earn between 500 and 10.000 USD per Instagram photo or Youtube video – obviously depending on their media reach. Which means that some influencers get paid as much as some publishers for their ad space. A lot of budget that moves away from traditional brand building worlds.

The question is what values more to brands in terms of business impact: tradition or progression. But that question can only be answered when brands understand the power that online influencers can have on and in the sharing economy.

Five components of digital marketing operations (Infographic)

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According to some infographic from McKinsey&Company successful digital marketing can boost their marketing effectiveness by 15-25% if they use the following five components of marketing operations. So, if your company wants to beat the competition, you better follow the advice to implement these five important components.

Here is just some remarks from our consulting business to why those topics might be of relevance to your digital strategy…

1. Customer Insights
Many companies still have not yet implemented a real web analytics or a social media monitoring tool in order to understand the inner and outer impact of consumer demands and reactions.

2. Customer Experience
Market research and product marketing often pretends to know what needs to be build, produced or offered. However, reality shows that often consumer expectations and company opportunities lack the match. Often companies lack the alignment with sales and marketing.

3. KPIs and Measurement
Understanding what makes consumers, companies and decision makers purchase a product or service is aiming for predictive analysis and forecasting when focusing on ROI. Still, KPIs need to be realistic and often lacks the knowledge of what technology is capable of.

4. Marketing Technology Infrastructure
The real bottleneck of digital marketing these days. As of the big marketing technology landscape and a grown intern technology infrastructure, technology decisions are very often a shot in the dark.

5. Process & Governance
Generating real benefit from technology is depending on the right people who get the appropriate training und understanding for the tools‘ capabilities. And as people are often not used to those modern tools and how to use them, they want a (brand) governance (and compliance frameworks) which keeps them in their seats.

McKinsey-DMO-Infographic

comScore: Increase in app usage, mobile web still important

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Mobile is on the rise but web is still king? Well, it is one of these findings that makes you wonder on first reading. Although websites still reach bigger audiences, web users spend most of their time in mobile apps according to comScore.

Monitoring the time between June 2014 and 2015, comScore finds in some research that the audience for mobile websites is around 250% bigger than mobile apps. Furthermore, it is growing twice as fast as apps. As a reason for this development comScore sees the closed garden phenomenon a challenge for apps. Web versions are much more fluid in terms of linking between content, social and search.

comScore also found that FB and Google own eight of the 10 most-visited mobile apps with Facebook winning the „competition“ (almost 126 million unique visitors) with nearly one in two users who installed the app saying using it most frequently.

comScore apps web usage 2015

It is not surprising that Facebook’s app as of it’s reach is not the fastest growing app any more compared to Google’s audio-video sharing platform Youtube (9 to 18% growth) with 99 million users. However, after seperating their Messenger app from their main Facebook platform, the Messenger was grew double the size compared to last year.

Where people between the age of 18 and 34 spend most of their time is on Facebook (nearly 26 hours a month), Instagram (7 hours), Snapchat and Tumblr (6 hours) and Twitter (3,5 hours).

comScore digital time spend 2015

ComScore said mobile phones now account for 62% of all time spent online. Within that total, the research firm said 44% of time is spent on smartphone apps, up from 33% two years earlier. Mobile users spend more than 70% of their time in smartphone apps, dwarfing time spent on tablet apps and mobile websites.

Spot On!
The comScore mobile report gives a good indication of where the evolution of apps and their usage might lead in the future. It shows that „messaging is a very hot sector for apps“ but is still early stages in the US. Looking at the time people spend with certain categories, the leading areas of interest were social networking (29%), radio (15%), games (11%), multimedia and instant messaging (6%), and music (4%).

comScore share of mobile apps time spend 2015

As the research was monitoring the US audience, the two apps that were not owned by Facebook and Google under the top 10 were the music apps from Pandora and Apple Music. Furthermore, new service apps like Uber and Lyft have become more and more popular, comScore finds.

Why influencer marketing is the future of content

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In many posts have we written about the relevance of influencer marketing and how it differs from the value of brand advocates. Today, many marketing organizations and brands have understood the power of influencer marketing and dedicate a significant amount of their budget to them. And there are good reason for it which we can see from one of the latest infographics in the market provided by the guys from The Shelf.

Shoppers trust in influencers and use them as their third-most-consulted consumer decision information source. Although brand and retail sites are still in the lead as an information source. Blogs already come in right after them, even ranking higher than well-trusted social networks like Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram.

Years ago, we have made clear that the 3 Rs of the social consumer will be leading the decision making process in the future: ratings, reviews and recommendations. The infographic is another proof for our thesis those days. These days, influencer are more trusted than brand content where recommendations have got the biggest power with 92% of consumers trusting in those. Reviews have become the second most trusted source (70%). People also try to stay on top of thought leaderwith blog content that is consulted by 47%.

Although the opportunities are there, only two out of three marketers (65%) invest in influencer marketing so far. and every second company separates their budgets for sponsored social content from other budgets (52%). Still, the amount of investment is not „nickles and dimes“ anymore for brands and companies. Every fourth company already spends over $500,000 already.

Spot On!
Why influencers play an important role inside your content strategy is obvious. They can explain products from various subjective and objective angles. They can play an important role in your community management when negative input needs tob e turned into positive arguments. They can have a big impact in your content production strategy in having an external view on your business and relevance in the market, and thus become your „search-engine-optimizers“. And, they will play a significant role in your sales approach if you take your time to think about it (or maybe talk to us if you don’t have an answer).

Have a look at the infographic and decide yourself if and how you would like to use influencer marketing in the future.

TheShelf-Influencer-Marketing-Infographic-2015

Influencer Trust and Recommendation – A real challenge for marketers (Infographic)

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Some years ago and in many seminars, we make clear that the 3Rs of social consumers will revolutionize the sales world: ratings, reviews and recommendations. However, the question arises what make people recommend brands and services? What is their intrinsic motivation or human driver that makes them push out more positive comments around a brand.

A recent infographic by Social Media Link pulled together the most important findings of a study that surveyed 24.000 social media consumers. Still, the best customer experience that leverages recommendations is „a positive experience with the brand“ (93%) and „receiving a free product or sample“ (79%). On the other hand, a poor customer experiences motivates sharing, too. 71% stated „a negative experience with a brand“ makes them write a review as well.

The survey respondents also mentioned that they are more likely to trust a product recommendation on Facebook than any other social network (71%), followed by Instagram with only 38%.

Not surprisingly, Facebook and retailer websites ist he place to discover new brands and services (53%). However, for purchasing the retailer becomes more important and after purchasing a product people use predominantly Facebook to share their buy (54%) – again Instagram comes in second place.

Spot On!
Now, when you think you just need to give a free product to someone, it makes them write a review or recommendation, you might be wrong. Although, 88% trust friends’ and family members’ reviews when these write about their give free product in exchange, the bloggers only come in at 78%. BUT: Is payment included in exchange for the review, trust-level goes down – especially at bloggers to 48%. Still, the best way ist o have apersonal story which is authentic, not animated and personal.

social-media-recommendations-infographic-2015

Social Selling 2015: The year of redefined engagement

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Selling through social media has always been a challenging business. However, all brands and companies we have spoken to in 2014 wanted to turn around Social Media from a brand reputation channel into a sales opportunity touchpoint.

Obviously, many of the companies had already failed. Most of them as they were either too greedy, or just not prepared to go in a bar without expecting someone to sell them a drink – or respectively, to buy their products and services after the brands or companies have posted their first status updates. In my eyes, it is time to shift expectations and start anew. 2015 should not be your year of sales disappointment, it should become your year of redefined engagement.

All companies aim for the same goal. Customer engagement is what companies are waiting, hoping and praying for. Thus, they pump out tons of content pieces from their latest brand sponsoring activities to the best white papers and case studies they can offer until they cannot find any content piece in their PR or marketing repository that has not been shared across the globe. And by accelerating the content via Facebook, Twitter and the likes, they expect their KPIs to become real.

And then, the guys from SocialFlow conducted a study in summer last year. analyzed organic posts with almost 1.5 billion social actions, showing them 99 percent of those updates on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ create little to no engagement at all. Did brands use engagement the wrong way? Where their tactics bad? And if so, what were the obstacles they did not obey?

Engagement Facebook 2014

Let’s look at the following three tactical approaches. Ask yourself if you really follow the three rules of engagement.

1. Engagement: Think cross-department, cross-partners and cross-employee

Companies still tend to be structured in silos. Internal politics, department thinking and career ambitions rule out what could be replaced by community engagement, employee engagement initiatives or engagement incentive plans. Still, most responsible managers don’t know or forget how networking inside the company and with all external forces like resellers, retailers and partners might might leverage selling opportunities.

Now, whether it is limited digital capabilities of employees or the HR department that is often only involved in social media in terms of setting up social media guidelines, companies should start realitzing that their social media manager is not the company’s silver bullet. HR and marketing need to align forces and work closer together: Culture, relationship building and trust creation is not only a sales business which got nicely highlighted by a study from Altimeter at the end of 2014.

Setting up processes, programs and platforms that work towards a common goal, that get updated by various minds, by different perspectives and manyfold views attracts the engagement of more customers. The formula is easy and proven: More brains can be in more conversations and generate more engagement.

2. Engagement: Learn cross-platform, from „free-meal“ to „pay-for-play“

Companies and brands seem to accept that social media is not a „free-meal“ any longer by investing in consulting companies to help transforming their social media efforts into social selling enagement. Facebook is leading in driving engagement to brands according to Simply Measured’s 2014 Facebook Study which analyzed the Interbrand Top 100 Global. Photos accounting for 77% of total engagement, and link usage to around 16%.

However, brands still haven’t respected the fact that getting people to listen and read their marketing messages by posting in social media is changing dramatically. When Facebook turns the algorithm into „less promotional“ this year, companies need to start redefining how they approach their customers more subtile. Even if they will be addressing them with building clusters (or circles), contacting them via the „@name“ phenomenon or hashtags. The wording needs tob e chosen carefully, and we can be sure other networks will follow that example.

Thus, the next big thing will be the shift from investing in traditional media to spending more money in platforms that leverage social networking engagement. Products like the LinkedIn Sales Navigator or individual targeting through the combination of data analytics and marketing services, will become the new sales kid in town. Where marketing and media decision makers have invested in nebulous target-group definitions, social networks can cluster target-groups by their individual interest in content, in pictures or in videos.

The only shame is that smart data (and especially media and sales data exchange) across platforms does not work yet. So, banners and sponsored posts will continue to haunt customers although they have already bought a product or service a banner promotes to them. Clever managers invest in blogger programs, in brand advocates and loyalty programs to drive up and cross-selling opportunities. Don’t just think about content!

3. Engagement: Understand cross-quality values

Just to make this clear from the beginning: A LIKE is not only a LIKE, like a Retweet, Repin or Reblog is not just a meaninglesss interaction of some lazy engagement. In many seminars, we see marketers that still center their KPIs around quantitative engagement figures while under-estimating the chances that are covered behind such „automated“ customer interactions: joy, interest, passion, emotions, etc..

Clever sales people use such quantitative engagements for profiling their customers’ habits, experiences and interests in their social CRM database or sales management systems. They value every single customer engagement as they know when to turn quantitative into qualitative engagement, and how to turn it to their favor in meetings, calls and conversations. Knowing that a client has liked a shared golf or football video can be the start of a long-term relationship and open up doors for introductions to others.

Customers will be happy if they get good content to share with their own peers and community. They appreciate the dedication (seasonal content), commitment (consistency of service) and the quality of engagement (high interactivity) that brand accounts offer to them according to a study by the Engagment Labs. Appreciation, well-understood from customers and companies, is the key to social media engagement.

Spot On!
The link between customer engagement and employee engagement was not only proven in a study by Answers Corporation lately. In many examples with customers and experts have we experienced that social media engagement is not rocket-science, however the process of setting it up plus using and finding the right technology is a challenge. Still, the rules of engagement are changing in social media, especially in social networks. Facebook is the former RSS feed, just with the difference that you can sponsor it now. Youtube is the new search engine. It’s 2015! Redefine your engagement mindset!

dmexco 2014 – Flashback in Quotes & Discussions

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dmexco 2014 Debate HallThe growth trend of the digital marketing show dmexco is impressive and continues to write a promising (hi)story.

Visitors: 31.900 – increase by 16% compared to 2013
Exhibitors: 807 – means over 65 exhibitors more than 2013
Speakers: 470 – as of various stages with new start-up village and work labs

This year I wanted to wait some days before I am writing my little review to see what really stayed in my mind, and what people were talking about after the event. This is what stayed in the brains of my friends – maybe it should reach you.

1. „dmexco is like the Lumascape brought to life.“
#Quote in Breaking Down Silos for Brands Panel
Damian Burns, Director of Global Strategic Partnerships, Google

2. „Nerd is the new black“
Brad Rencher, SVP & General Manager Digital Marketing, Adobe

3. „Online is the new offline.“
Quote by Joko Winterscheidt, TV-Moderator

4. „The play is to work out the first against the second screen.“
Quote in „Addressable TV – A Marketers‘ Dream Panel“
Jim Clayton, Executive Vice President, HE New Business Division, LG Electronics

5. „The digital revolution is over, we are now in the digital evolution.“
Quote in Digital Revenue optimization 2.0 Panel
Sital Banerjee, Global Head of Media, Philips

6. „The brand in many ways need to take the back-seat. It can’t be all about the product if you move into the content section.“
Quote in „The Content Summit“
Jimmy Maymann, CEO, Huffington Post

7. „@ft presence at #DMexco so big they don’t even have a stand! They are on every phone and tablet! @dmexco @ftbized“
Quote from #FT rep/via Oliver Matthews

The three main takeaways from the event for me were…
a) Trend: dmexco stages are challenging global TV stages.
b) Topics: TV goes mobile. Digital is leading corporate strategy.
c) Town: Cologne needs more taxi drivers and/or UBER subscribers.

Really looking forward to moderate the next dmexco, 16th and 17th of September 2015.

CU there!

Why ‚A‘ marketers are better than the rest (Infographic)

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Although many marketers have heard of the analytics, data and technology challenges, a minority of 26% of marketers understand their value for the business they run. This is the latest results of a joint study from VisionEdge Marketing (VEM) and ITSMA Marketing Performance Management (MPM) with input from 380 marketers gives insights on marketing performance and best-practices.

The study shows how marketers can earn an „A“ grade from the C-suite as they understand impact on data for business. The outperforming marketers know how to make performance management a priority. They know how to plan and implement a well-defined and documented road map for performance improvement. While many marketers measure effort and activity, these „A“ grade marketers find the right metrics on ROI efficiency, while building dashboards in order to communicate business benefits of their efforts.

Not surprisingly, „A“ grade marketers know how to align their marketing objectives with business priorities, which are the basis for selecting the right metrics. They understand why their offerings create a bi-directional benefit for customers and shareholders.

Of the top performers, 63% claimed increased customer share of wallet. This is a massive success when compared with 48% of „B“ marketers and 38% of low performing marketers. When monitoring improvements for business growth, 54% of „A“ respondents confirmed improvements in their win rates. This stands against 39% of the „B“ competitors and 25% of laggard marketers.

However, some of you marketers might think you should have the ROI in focus, the „B“ grade marketers
are too much looking for sales figures. They are spot on getting leads for their pipeline and try to map the customer journey intensively. Still, they lose the big picture of the long-term web strategy. The lazy laggard marketers just see the production of marketing campaigns as their target instead of producing and generating real business results, according to the study.

ITSMA-VEMMPM-Study-2014

Study: Most Engaging Content on Twitter and Facebook

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According to a recent study by Klout, the most popular content topics on Twitter and Facebook seem to be similar. However, they differ significantly beyond the top 10 topics, states the report based on Klout Topics data from more than 580 million people all over the world. The topics were categorized interests, passions, and content areas.

The study shows that music and television are still the main topics to talk about on the main social networks Facebook and Twitter. And obviously, people are still generating and sharing their words and views on celebrities, holidays, software, films, and business, which showed up to be highly popular among the social networks.

Klout-Top-10-2014

In general, engagement and interaction on various content topics occur in 40% of the cases on the same top 10 content on Facebook and Twitter. The pattern of engagement does not really make a massive differentiation obvious on the various social networks. Still, the remaining 60% show some interesting variations on interactions which definitely need some mentioning as tzhey vary from network to network.

However, the remaining 60% of all engagement comes from topics beyond the top 10, and the percentage of interactions with those subjects differs significantly by network

Dogs
Twitter 95 vs. Facebook 23

Cats
Twitter 104 vs. Facebook 52

Customer Service
Twitter 89 vs. Facebook 197

Homework
Twitter 98 vs. Facebook 196

Babies
Twitter 66 vs. Facebook 21

Parenting
Twitter 50 vs. Facebook 22

Klout-Differentiation-2014

Report: Most Trusted Marketing Automation Tools

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Marketing automation tools are making their ways into the business world, not only for large enterprises but also for small companies some solutions have proven to be promising, and not only since IBM bought Silverpop. However, which tools are the right ones for your business? At least we get some advice now from TrustRadius„Buyer’s Guide to Marketing Automation Software“. They did a report based on 400 in-depth reviews by authenticated end-users of marketing automation products combined with the results of more than 10,000 comparisons performed on the TrustRadius‘ website.

The report looked at software solutions that include various demand generation capabilities like email campaign management, landing pages,or even lead scoring. However, the analysis out those providers which just offer one aspect of marketing automation (i.e. only lead scoring). In their focus were those tools that „help to automate and scale repetitive marketing tasks and the analysis of those efforts.“

These were the findings they came up with…

Small Businesses (Up to 50 employees)
Small companies gave quite positive and high ratings with at least a 4 out of 5 (average was 4.3 out of 5 – better than the average in the midsize and enterprise companies). Then TrustRadius ranked the products via two factors: a) average user rating and b) how does the product serve the business segment (determined by the number of comparisons made by organizations of that size).
The leading 3 solutions were HubSpot (4.8, 69% of comparisons by small businesses), Act-On (4.7, 53%), plus Infusionsoft (4.3, 96%). Other solutions like Marketo, Pardot, Eloqua, and Silverpop also got good ratings. Still, they ranked lower as they had a smaller proportion of small business comparisons.

TrustRadius Marketing Automation Small Business 2014

SMB Businesses (From 51 to 500 employees)
The average rating in the midsize company category was 3.9 out of 5. The report shows that a higher demand goes alongside bigger companies and more complex requirements for marketing automation tools. Here, the trusted vendors are Marketo (4.2, 60% midsize category) and Pardot (4.0, 58%). Act-On, Eloqua, and HubSpot also got positive ratings.

TrustRadius Marketing Automation SMB 2014

Enterprise Businesses (500+ employees)
The average rating for enterprise marketing automation products was 3.8 out of 5. Eloqua showed up to be the top marketing automation software for enterprise companies (4.4, 59% enterprise focus). Act-On, HubSpot, Marketo, and Pardot also performed well according to users, but they had a smaller proportion of comparisons from enterprise customers.

TrustRadius Marketing Automation Enterprises 2014

Tell us about your findings. Which tools do you use and what has proven to be successful for you? All insights can help other companies make faster decisions.

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