Influence Marketing: It’s about to get real

Danny Brown and Sam Fiorella just shared Chapter 5 from their forthcoming book—Influence Marketing: How to Create, Manage and Measure Brand Influencers in Social Media Marketing. After reading, I can tell you it’s a phenomenal chapter that leaves one hungry for the parts on either side of it. Here’s why.

The conversation around what influence is (and what it’s not) has come a long way. Action, on the other hand, has yet to catch up to rhetoric. That is, until, a new model comes along that can guide marketers forward.

Chapter 5 is about a new model of influence for a new era. In the book, it’s the transition between where influence marketing started and where it’s going.

Throughout the chapter, the authors articulated various shifts in how we should approach, not just influencer-focused marketing, but marketing itself so we can all move beyond soft metrics and get to real impact. Here’s my take on these shifts, but you should totally go read this chapter yourself.

Shift #1: Moving from marketing, especially social media marketing, as a soft science to a measurable customer acquisition process.

Danny and Sam talk about how branding, community building and engagement have always been difficult to link to specific sales or lead gen metrics, but with a new influence model, you can actually connect the dots.

This involves letting go of the notion that influencers are amplification vectors and instead seeing them as people who have contextual relationships with your potential buyers.

I particularly enjoyed their discussion on Big Data. The crux of which is: with data comes an (elusive) promise of insight, but attempting to mine this data can leave us marketers blind to the very important things happening right in front of us.

This leads to the next shift.

Shift #2: Focus less on current trends and more on “trend currents”.

The authors explain that if we want to make an impact, we need to step back and look at what Steve Woodruff calls “trend currents”. Because we have so much data, we run the risk of only looking at shortsighted, empty metrics (for example: an influencer’s audience size).

By backing up and looking at “trend currents” (for example: people are increasing making decisions based on online interactions), we are more likely to tap into the meaningful data that leads to insights we can use to make great things happens.

Danny and Sam talk about the social media marketing status quo and how it’s like gravity pulling us into a compliant orbit of boring marketing. This part reminds me of a recent conversation I had with our VP of Sales, Douglas Sikes.

Doug poignantly pointed out that most every brand out there has a Facebook page and many folks have a “Twitter Strategy”. Which leads us to a place where everyone is “present” on social, but no one is really leveraging the exceptional opportunities social creates for brands.

So the question is how do you justify spend on social media marketing and increase that spend? The answer is you need more than soft returns. You need to move beyond what my colleague, Derek Skaletsky, likes to call “nothing more than Direct Mail 2.0” that “just being present” gets you.

Which leads us to the third shift Danny and Sam talk about in Chapter 5.

Shift #3: Stop putting the influencer at the center of your strategy; start putting the customer front and center.

To escape the gravitational pull of status quo influence marketing, Danny and Sam advocate for repositioning the customer at the center of social media marketing.

Concretely what that means is instead of trying to figure out what you can do to get your influencers to broadcast or amplify a message you provide, you need to find out who your customer is and who they interact with as they make decisions.

In the authors words, “The key consideration is no longer an influencer’s reach and amplification but who and what influences their followers to make purchase decisions”.

Readied with this deep understanding of your customer, you’ll be able to create an influencer marketing strategy that delivers relevant messages at relevant moments at specific points along the path to purchase.

Shift #4: From Macro to Micro Influencers

This is a huge departure from the mainstream understanding of influence. Danny and Sam illustrate how situational influences (communities, economics, culture groupthink) and situational factors (where you are in life, your digital or physical location, emotions) impact WHO is influencing you at any given time.

A micro influencer is someone with whom we have a closer, contextual relationship and who plays a specific role in influencing us. To create a strategy that incorporates micro-influencers, marketers need to create profiles for each of the types of micro-influencers by getting to know the situations in which they come into contact with the customer.

Your brand’s context is unique and the way you define it will lead you to different people. That’s why we built Traackr as a contextual influence tool that surfaces the right people (and only people) given your own definition of a situation.

What gets me jazzed about this book is the hard work Danny and Sam have done to demonstrate the true value influence can play in getting social marketing strategies to produce measurable results tied to core business goals.

Sam recently wrote that influence marketing is what will get social media over the hump between a fluffy side note in corporate marketing strategies to full-fledged contributor to the bottom line.

I agree. Influence marketing forces marketers to recognize that social media is about creating relationships with the right people. The best part is that social gives us better ways to deeply understand how our prospects make decisions and how our brands can be a meaningful part of their process… assuming we can focus on what matters without getting lost in the messy ocean of content…

Assuming the rest is like Chapter 5, they have certainly written the book that will transform the practice of influence marketing.

If you’re in the SF Bay Area, we are holding a fireside chat with the authors on May 15th. Reach out to me for more details.