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.

Catch Up! Essential Skills of Modern Marketers (Infographic)

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If you are a great marketer, you always want to be ahead of the curve with your marketing team. But what talent ingredients does it need today to be among the leading experts of modern marketing? eMarketer has just come up with their latest „Skills of the Modern Marketer“ report.

In this report we get to know the skills that senior marketers have to achieve or to be coached for in order to manage their teams correct supported by the latest trends. And it becomes clear that it is not only about knowing the right marketing tactics and trends, we also have to shape our personality with empathy, adaptability and collaboration skills. And furthermore, it has become a challenge to understand the latest marketing technologies and how they can foster the ROI of your business.

The following infographic summarizes the report and the findings, based on interviews and a survey with senior level marketers.

eMarketer Essential Skills Modern Marketer Infographic

5% of negative online reviews are deceptive, finds MIT study

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© carlos castilla - Fotolia.com

© carlos castilla – Fotolia.com

We all know that ratings, reviews and recommendations -the 3 R’s of the social consumer- rule the modern world of shopping and our daily customer journeys. When we are trying to figure out the coolest holiday hotel, the latest gadget or the cheapest flights, people tend to rely on what online reviews tell them before purchasing whatever they are longing for. Online reviews make a big impact on our life and happiness, and turn the customer journey into a big secret. Nielsen and Forrester have shown in their studies how we find trust in brands and products, and reviews play a significant role in the purchase decision-making processs.

But what if reviews are simply wrong, or bought from people that don’t flag these reviews as hidden content marketing derivates? Years ago, we might have asked our friends or close people where to go for dinner, what music tape to buy, or which book to read, we now just go online and read what some foreigner might have said. No matter which mentality this person has, which preferences, which background, which age and gender. The 3 Rs make our decisions easier, we think.

Although we might have all guessed it, the proof of wrong online reviews now comes with a study from the MIT and Northwestern University that examined over 400,000 reviews in 6 months. The study states that many reviews were simply deceptive, untrue or even written by people who never tested or bought the product or service. In 5% of all negative reviews people get paid to hype products. Most of these people are writing bad and often untrue reviews but are actually newcomer to the business they are talking about. 

The good part of this study is that the study offer some advice for us and tells us how to detect deceptive story-telling.

„What is most compelling is most reviews tend to be too detailed. Another easy clue look for is repeated use of exclamation points. Two, three or four for emphasis, is often associated with deception,“ Eric Anderson, Northwestern University Professor and co-author of the study said. „At the end (of the study) we concluded that many of the negative reviews came from customers who were trying to act as self proclaimed appointed brand managers.“ Anderson summed up.

Spot On!
However, many reviews might be untrue or bought, it is probably a good way to try to understand what negative reviews are basically saying and balance it against positive reviews. Seeing the positive reviews makes us get out of the bad tonality which often is simply based on anger and frustration around bad services and untrue or bought reviews. And the more people are trying to dive deeper into the intention and personality of the reviews, the faster they might detect if the review is deceptive.

„Really what you have to do is read a lot of them. Don’t just read the 2 or 3 negative ones which may or may not be real–read alot of the reviews.“ Ken Bernhardt, former Professor of Marketing, Georgia State University

5 Tips for Managing an Ecommerce Website

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Whether you’re experimenting with online sales or have already run businesses in the past, when you are first creating an ecommerce website you’ll want to keep a few tips in mind. These can help you use today’s technology to find and retain a steady client base.

1. Use Simple Web Design
With such a high degree of competition out there, even for the most obscure products, you’re going to have to put some time and effort into your website to make it stand out from the crowd. You don’t have to have any web design experience to do this if you use an ecommerce software program with templates. These can usually be customized in terms of logo, font, and colour themes. Aside from this assistance, you’ll want to use your imagination and think of a catchy name for your business as well as an easy-to-navigate site.

2. Organize your Product Catalogue Using Categories
A big part of making your online store easily navigable for customers lies in how you organize your products. It’s easier for customers when you arrange your products into logical categories or collections, so that they can find what they’re looking for more easily. Adding a „sale“ category can help customers feel that they’ve stumbled onto a bargain, so think about running promotions and sale items as a separate collection altogether. Be sure to include high quality pictures of the products along with descriptions.

3. Make Payment Easy for Customers
Once your customers have located the items that they wish to purchase, some ecommerce business owners feel that they have already sealed the deal. In actuality, this is where it can all go wrong if you make it hard for a customer to pay you. You’ll want a smooth and easy checkout system that offers multiple methods of payment. One example of this would be a Shopify ecommerce website, which provides a shopping cart and integrated payment system. You’ll want to look for a platform of this nature to help encourage the final sale. If you’re selling products internationally, it’s also helpful to include a currency converter. Be sure to provide a telephone number or email address for customer support for added security.

4. Create a Blog
There are numerous ways to market your online store, including using social media and email newsletters, among others. Yet one of the most effective ways to get in touch with a wide net of potential customers is through creating your own blog. This is also a good way to showcase your brand and personality, thus creating a valuable first impression.

5. Use Analytics to Track Customers
Although many online business owners use analytics tools to track what visitors end up purchasing on their website, you can make use of these tracking tools for a host of other purposes. For example, with analytics you can find out how your customers found you, which URL’s are referring customers to your online store, and what search terms they’re using. With this information, you can more tightly hone your marketing efforts to reach a wider audience.

This post is a guest post from Shopify.

Profiling the social customer (infographic)

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If marketers are looking to understand the profile of a social consumers, they need to have deep insights into their souls and needs. Beyond Digital has asked 3,000 US and UK consumers about the two products and services they had most recently researched online and which steps take them through the purchase process.

Apart from showing gender differences, sharing becomes the main element of strategy. The social consumer is a two-faced personality: First, they can either be categorized as a high or low sharer. A human being that utilizes differtent digital channels in a different manner, depending on whether he or she is researching and interacting with high or low involvement products. Those with a high sharer profile are the most valuable for brands. They recommend products 3x more often and influence others’ purchases…

Study: For Boomers Optimism and Social Conscience of brands is key

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Marko Greitschus / pixelio.de

Are Boomers trying to be younger than they are? Are they just identifying themselves from a brand perspective with a more youthful mindset? Are they buying the latest product trends of brands? A recent study conducted by WPP’s The Geppetto Group states that adults -especially Baby Boomers- are seeking brands that mirror an optimistic feeling back to them. So in some way the study suggests that Boomers have a more sustainable perspective when buying brands.

The survey polled 200 men and women (35 – 64) to find out what drives this audience towards certain brands and how this might affect the purchasing decision process. The message is: We don’t forget those brands we had when we were young. Our personalities are closely connected with these brands – especially if these brands were associated with positive messages.

„Marketers need to ask themselves if they’re missing the boat when it comes to Boomers. Are they offering them optimism and social conscience, and are they identifying with inherent qualities of their youths? Think of the impact that kind of thinking could have for sports retailers or restaurant chains for instance.“ Julie Halpin, Founder and CEO, The Geppetto Group

The study sums up three major findings that are important to know for marketers…

1. 66% of adults are looking for brands that express their personality

For the GenXers and Boomers technology brands express what their personality stands for. Especially if the brands are going hand-in-hand with expressing youthful qualities. Brands like Apple, Dell, Sony and HP were good reflections of their inner selves. And also Levi Jeans are still popular for them, not so much fashion brands like Diesel or Seven for all Mankind.

2. 57% of adults are challenging brands to surprise and delight them

The study finds that Boomers get exhited about brands that for younger generation might come along as boring. For Boomers brands like Swiffer, Keurig and Under Gear can be surprising again, the study reads. On this point I would have loved to get a clearer picture of how the argumentation

3. Optimism and (corporate) social ethics are important for Boomers

Are these values becoming more and more important, the more people experience in life? Is this because you think more about life, the older you get? The study states that brands that incorporate optimism and social responsibility in their messaging score 12-13 points higher for Boomers than for the Gen Xers.

Spot On!
Buying brands people always want to make a statement about their personality. Some to bolster their identity, some to define their personality – some to show off. Brands play a massive role in the process of self-definition in our global value system. If Boomers purchase products we used to think that trust and reliability plays a big role in the purchase process. The study now illustrates that the messages the „In“ brands spread out, don’t necessarily reach the Boomers that are more aligned with the brands of the past, and might be embracing optimistic messaging than just running after the „latest and greatest“ of the younger generation. For me it also makes clear that the value system of brands needs to be reviewed.

5 stairways to „Why should we use Twitter…?“

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Rainer Sturm / pixelio.de

This is one of the question, I still get asked frequently by many friends, fans and business decision makers in webinars or seminars: „Why should I (or we) use Twitter?“

The answer is so simple, so obvious, so broad. Just as broad as the opportunities and chances that are opening up when people listen to Twitter.

Twitter is like a stairway to a modern social personality which is self-defining, enlightening and inspirational…

I listen so we are…
I follow so we can rate and like…
I get followed so we show interest in lives…
I learn so we see peoples‘ latest thoughts, visions and ideas…
I share so we keep people connected as a never running dry fountain of inspiration…

This is why I use Twitter and why you, your company and your employees might do so as well. And why I manage my Twitter account myself, and don’t let anyone else manage it – no matter if private or business. Or as Twitter says in their new video… „Follow Your Interests. Discover Your World. Twitter“.

KLM Surprise – a discussable social media campaign…

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When I first came across the KLM Surprise idea, I thought „cool customer service“, „very modern approach“ and „nice use of a Social Media campaign“. It seems KLM engages in how to make their clients happy, how to understand personalized customer service of the future and how to use social media to reach out to their clients one step ahead.

On a second thought, clients could be overwhelmed in a negative way. The approach of the airline might be seen as „social media stal….“. Shall we really use this phrase? Is there some validity in it?

The idea implements all aspects and features of an advertising campaign, and the KLM claim for me seems to be: modern social advertising. Or as the brand puts it: KLM is „committing little acts of kindness because we wanted to discover how happiness spreads“.

Nothing bad about it in my eyes. I like the idea in some way…

Nevertheless, my question is: Is this modern social advertising approach going to far? Is it addressing too much the human characteristics of personality and individuality? Or is it just the modern way of personalized advertising? Some kind of the future of Social CRM?

Know what?! Let’s discuss it! Watch it and give us thoughts….

The 3 types of social networkers that influence the buying process

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It’s been a rumour in the industry for quite a long time now: Facebook and Twitter are becoming indirect shopping platforms and their buttons can boost sales. A recent survey by the research firm Gartner Inc. discovered that most of the users appreciate and take suggestions from their friends through social networking sites before purchasing products. And furthermore, they rely on three types of social networking friends for their purchasing decision process.

The Gartner study asked nearly 4,000 consumers across 10 key markets. The interesting part is that people in the social networks are taking different positions inside the purchasing process when recommending products to people they are connected with. Gartner identifies three types of people and roups them into three categories: ‚Connectors‘, ‚Mavens‘ and ‚Salesmen‘.

So, how do they differentiate from each other?
The ‚Connectors‘ are defined as those who „perform a bridging function between disparate groups of people and enjoy introducing people to each other“. The ‚Mavens‘ are „knowledge exchangers or information brokers“, who are experts in particular area and people go to them for advice. But they are not people who wish to convince people to buy certain items; they are more interested in acquiring new knowledge, it said. The ‚Salesmen‘ are those, who have „extensive social connections“ and the personality trait that persuade people around them to „act on information in highly directed ways“.

„Our survey results showed that one-fifth of the consumer population is composed of Salesmen, Connectors and Mavens. These are three roles that are key influencers in the purchasing activities of 74 per cent of the population.“ (…) „Salesmen and Connectors are the most effective social network influencers and the most important groups for targeted marketing based on social network analysis.“ Nick Ingelbrecht, Research Director, Gartner

Gartner advises companies based on the findings of its survey to pro-actively engage with these different types of people on social networking sites. Not surprisingly, they define these categories of social media influencers as the „critical, but underutilised, aspect of the marketing process“ for the future.

„Companies attempting to use social networks should develop relationships with key customers over a period of time and progressively refine the social network profiles of those individuals.“ (…) „Retailers who run small shops have instinctively done this with their best customers for years with the intention that these ‚VIP‘ customers will not only buy the new products but recommend them to their friends.“ Nick Ingelbrecht, Research Director, Gartner

Spot On!
For me, there is a strange thing about this study. It causes a Deja-vu, I have never had before in my life. Two years ago, I published and explained -in German- in a long post the importance of these three types of people in business networks for business decision makers, and how businesses should focus on them when talking about their social media approaches. And guess what: Two years ago, I came to the same conclusion and refered to the same types of people. In these days, I have read the book „Tipping Point“ by Malcolm Gladwell for the second time. And in this book you will find the same categories of people, and you are told to rely on them and work with ‚Connectors‘, ‚Mavens‘ and ‚Salesmen‘.

The main question is now, how to address these social networking influencers? Can you call them up and talk to them directly? Send an email? Invite them for dinner or lunch? What is the best way to start the conversation with them?

Best feature of social networks? The Pick-a-boo effect…

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pick-a-booDon’t we love to play this game with kids because we know how happy it makes them… Pick-a-boo. But as adults using social networks: What is it that makes us happy? Some weeks ago, I asked some friends of mine who in turn asked friends of theirs as well as their colleagues: What is the main benefitial feature of social networks? The most frequent answer that came up was the ‚Who has been on your profile lately‘ feature which goes along the lines of ‚The Pick-a-boo‘ effect.

Now, what does that mean ‚The Pick-a-boo‘ effect‘? Well, people register in social networks in order to get in contact or connected with peers, (old) friends or humans that are (or might be) interested in them or/and their work. The tricky point is that there are people in the world of social networks we don’t want to contact any longer, in the future or in general. Nevertheless, we still love to take a peek as we wonder if they are still interested in us, what they are up to and what impact is driving their lives. It’s kind of human vanity and curiosity thing. We want to compare ourselves with them, want to check out how ’sexy‘ our online (and offline) reputation is – not only in terms of business life. We want to play Pick-a-boo. We are there and everybody in social networks knows that, but we are not visible all the time. And, we would love not to be visible for everybody when we are looking at people’s profiles who appear not to be relevant for our life. But we’ll pop-up from time to time to stay ‚up to date‘.

So, we make us accessible and available in social networks for those who are also users of these networks. As we don’t know the size of the target group of people who is interested in us, we want to find out about it. By this we are making the ‚ego-community‘ transparent for ourselves. And most of us ’social medians‘ are eager and would love to know that, wouldn’t we? Some networks have acknowledged this desire of being famous and our nasty habit of being vain. And they satisfy our need and desire for that with great application features supporting this pick a boo effect: status updates, birthday calender or ‚contacts of your contacts‘.

No matter if you are a sales person, a recruiter or a consultant. We all want to know how a person looks like after making a call, or attending a meeting or a conference. And we all want to know more about them, either because it facilitates a second conversation or because we would like to recruit someone or sell something. The more we know, the easier the effort. Playing Pick-a-boo has become standard.

The active Pick-a-boo
Let’s identify the active pick a boo effect in social networks. We try to find the person or/and go to a profile page, x-ray the contact or find out details on his mentality, personality or hobbies. So, we take a quick look at the profile and then we are off again. Sometimes, we might be going there for a second or a third time before getting in touch with that person. And the funny thing is: We know that the other person knows that we have been visiting their profile page. Is it because we want them to do the first step. Or we ‚pick-a-boo‘ just to let them know, someone is interested.

The passive Pick-a-boo
The passive benefit of the pick a boo effect lies in the feature ‚Who has been to your profile‘ application or widget. Although a paid service feature on some social networks (XING and LinkedIn), it is probably the most viewed or reloaded feature of active social ‚medians‘, those users who have access to it. Why is this ‚pick a boo‘ application so attractive for us? We can…
… receive transparency on the ego-community
… monitor the quantity and quality of visitors to our profiles
… identify our ‚personal branding target group‘
… evaluate our job market options
… see how often Google is used for ‚Recruit-Googling‘
… see who ‚delivers‘ good contacts to us
and finally the best of all parts: Via the passive pick a boo effect, we can contact people and definitely have a starting point for a business and/or private conversation.

Spot On!
Seeing all these benefits of the Pick-a-boo application ‚Who has seen to your profile lately‘, it surprises me that the biggest network of all, Facebook, still doesn’t have this application feature. Or will it be coming with the announcement of becoming a paid service platform? We will see…

Curious to hear your view and experience on the Pick-a-boo effect in social networks?