3 Myths of Social Media Influence

3 Myths of Social Media Influence

Increasingly brands are becoming obsessed with finding and reaching out to the people that they perceive as, or are told are, social media influencers. Agencies, Digital Marketers, Social Media “experts” are telling companies that this is the way “to do” social media effectively. After all there are 500 million people using Facebook, you can’t reach out to all of them. What you have to do is find the key influencers in your market area and reach out to them and let them do the outreach for you.

The theory is in fact fairly sound. In the military this is known as a “Force Multiplier” something that increases the ability of a military unit by a known (or sometimes) unknown factor to improve the odds of success. In marketing this is of course the “holy grail” of “viral”. Senior exec’s have been known to use the “V” word in conjunction with types of media as though they were synonymous, “I think we should make a viral video”, “how do we get the Mommy Bloggers to make this viral for us?”, yes these are things I have actually sat in meetings and heard.

The Myths

  1. Tools that measure influence are the best way to target influencers
  2. Influencers are grateful for the exposure the campaign will bring them
  3. Working with influencers is free and so we can count it as earned media

Let’s take each of those in turn:

Tools that measure influence are the best way to target influencers: Tools like Klout use fairly sophisticated algorithms to calculate a number that represents influence. They take into account the level of engagement, the size of the network, the composition of the network and a variety of other factors to generate this number. However, Klout relies on the user to actually connect their tool to the users own social media networks, otherwise its calculations are based only on Twitter.

While Klout has definitely managed to move beyond just the popularity metrics that some earlier systems used, simply generating a list of people based on a score is not the way to find social media users who will act as force multipliers. It is however a quick and easy way to do it and of course that is the attraction. Marketers who are already overwhelmed by the size of the social media landscape and are being tasked to get their company involved are seeking these options. A better but of course much more involved and drawn out process is to actually spend time finding the users who are already promoting your brand, or are active in your brands area. For example if you are in the automotive industry finding bloggers who write about the industry, who provide good content to their audience and are actually listened to is going to result in more action than working with a group of people who have a “score” above a certain threshold but who come to your event purely for the freebies.

Influencers are grateful for the exposure the campaign will bring them: While this is certainly true for some influencers, the point here is that if they are influencers they already have exposure. You don’t need to provide events for them to increase their exposure, the idea is to increase your exposure. In this relationship you definitely want to achieve some form of balance and synergy however, that isn’t done through the promise of exposure. Of course this has become the accepted form of barter in the world of social media since the FCC stepped in and demanded an increased amount of disclosure, disclosure that serious influencers were already providing. I am a strong advocate of finding something else to barter with. Sometimes that bartering tool will actually be MONEY. Yes, even in this post FCC regulated world it is ok to pay a blogger. Contrary to popular belief the FCC did not mandate that bloggers and other social media users not be paid, what they mandated was that the user be transparent about the fact that they were recompensed in some way.

Which brings us to the final myth.

Working with influencers is free and so we can count it as earned media: Earned Media is the term marketers apply to mentions, posts, articles and other forms of communication about their brand, product or service that they did not have to pay for. Of course social media influencers fall immediately into this category because after all, they are so grateful that a big name brand reached out to them and invited them to talk about their new widget that they will gladly do so for free and therefore generate earned media. Which in turn means that the C-Suite can be told, yet again that social media is free and it generates money by off-setting paid media. Then everyone can all join hands and skip merrily into the sunset.

The reality is that influencer measuring tools are not exclusive to marketers, social media users view them as well. They check their scores, they compare them with other users. They have a sense of their “value” to a brand. At the very minimum what these tools are doing is adding to the sense of entitlement that some of these users are now getting. Increasingly we are seeing influencers demand some form of compensation for their involvement. Which, while it may come as a shock to some marketers, is actually appropriate. Why should these people work for free or for a bag of swag?

So those are 3 of the Myths I have seen, what are yours?

image used under license by crackdog

About Simon Salt

Simon Salt has been creating online content since 1993 and blogging since 2000. He is an author, speaker and digital strategist. He can be found on most social networks as "incslinger". When he isn't working he is either taking photographs or riding his motorcycle - sometimes at the same time.

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  • http://www.sheilasguide.com Sheila Scarborough

    Number Three is happening with lightning speed. Many, many of my fellow travel bloggers are well aware of their value to the tourism industry, for example, and a freebie press trip to write a bunch of free coverage for someone else will not cut the mustard much longer, because it does not pay the light bill or put food on the table.

    Pam Mandel and Gary Arndt, for example, have entered into contractual arrangements with two different tour companies; they'll be paid to provide content, in addition to having their travel expenses covered (on tour company trips.) I expect to see more and more of this as we go from being seen as "bloggers" (wooo, scary) to being seen as "online publishers" (like that crazy Tina Brown, who went off to launch The Daily Beast and now pwns Newsweek.)

    To be brutally honest, most mainstream entities wouldn't give bloggers the time of day when I started in early 2006. Now, we're the Flavor of the Month because of all the hard work we did to create content and build online networks. Those who want access to what we've worked so hard to build can darn well pay to do so.

    And yeah, sorry, but the fact is, you're late. You could have joined me in my sweatpants and T-shirt at 2 am about five years ago, busting tail to figure this stuff out. Your search for shortcuts to get yourself or your company to where I am now is your problem, not mine. Do the work. Put in the time. Learn the craft and the space. Build the relationships.

    • incslinger

      Sheila, thank you for the amazing comment. You are so right. I love the way you describe it "You could have joined me in my sweatpants and T-shirt at 2 am about five years ago, busting tail to figure this stuff out." As always you are spot on. The so called overnight success of social media is in fact the result of hundreds of people like yourself working damn hard to get somewhere.

  • http://twitter.com/sarahevef Sarah

    Amen Sheila! I have been writing online since 2003 and you bet I feel the same way you do. I get tired of people asking me "How do I get YOUR job?" I often tell people, "If you can't research for yourself how to do what I do then you're not cut out for this business. No one helped me get where I am, I worked hard and sacrificed to get here."

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