The Engagers: Danny Brown
Today we welcome Danny Brown, Chief Technologist at ArCompany and coauthor of Influence Marketing: How to Create, Manage and Measure Brand Influencers in Social Media Marketing (available here) to The Engagers. His blog is recognized as the #1 marketing blog in the world by HubSpot, and is featured in the AdAge Power 150 list as well as Canada’s Top 50 Marketing Blogs. In a nutshell, he’s one mighty marketer.
Danny, you just cowrote a book on influence marketing. Tell us why the topic of social influence has become such a polarizing subject among business leaders?
For me, it’s down to the fractured identification of influencers, and what “influence” truly means in today’s social landscape. If you’re looking to the native definition, it’s the ability to instill change in mindset or behaviour, and/or create an action by someone who wouldn’t have otherwise taken that action in the first place. Social scoring platforms have muddied that definition a little, with amplification and popularity seeming to be an indicator of influence. With this confusion around definition, and the question of how effective social influence is when it comes to actual business results, it’s easy to see why it causes so much discussion and opposing points of views amongst those looking to utilize its obvious strengths and benefits.
As someone who excels at engagement online and off, what is the most challenging part for you? In other words, what is your kryptonite?
Losing connection to people. As you spend more time online, and your circle of connection grows, the actual connectivity lessens. People you initially grew with aren’t in your immediate vision anymore, and that’s sad. It’s a natural part of growing up – as children, we lose friends and make new ones as we move to teenage years; as adults, we lose touch with school friends and old work colleagues as new relationships are melded. And as our lives get busier – I have two young children now – we have to prioritize where our time goes; for me, it’s my kids and wife. The natural result of this is less time online and more lost connections.
You’ve been a vocal opponent of social influence scoring, yet you wrote a book on influence marketing. Is this not contradictory?
If you believe social scoring is measuring influence, then yes… In all seriousness, though, the reason for my opposition, if you like, to social scoring is that – for me, anyway – it’s less about influence and more about activity and generic influence. So a platform can find me 70,000 people on a topic – great, but which seven are going to be the the ones that drive sales and acquisition? Which seven are the ones that will be my customers, or if they’re already my customer, which ones will drive referrals and loyalty? So far, there hasn’t been a lot of public success stories from brands and social scoring campaigns. For me, that highlights the issue we have with influence marketing today, and why we need to think differently when it comes to how we approach it.
What is the biggest challenge businesses will face in developing an influence marketing strategy in the next 12 to 24 months?
Changing their methodology from what they know now into what they need to know, and how to implement. For example, when you mention “influence marketing” today, many people automatically think of scoring platforms. Yet they’re not offering the level of contextual complexity that’s needed to truly understand who’s the most influential for your brand at any given time. People make decisions based on many factors; and brands need to understand what these factors are; what’s influencing them; and how to navigate them. To understand that data takes legwork, and too many brands have become lazy and have placed their faith in a score or a generic filter of influence. This is why it’s exciting to see the direction companies like Traackr are taking – these are real business platforms with technology that drives business goals. Brands need to step away from the comfort zone and get back to doing the legwork that delivered results before influence marketing went off on a tangent.
If asked to provide only one piece of advice for marketers seeking to identify and engage influencers, what would that be?
Know exactly what your goals are and work from there. Is it brand awareness? Then perhaps social scoring is a decent starting point. Is it lead gen and customer acquisition? Then you need to go deeper with platform and methodology. Is it crisis control or brand damage reparation? Then you need to be much more strategic in who you’re looking to connect with and how you do so. Get the goals right from the start – and have the measurement in place to track these goals and where you are in the campaign – and you’ll find you’re much more successful with your outreach.
Your blog is frequently listed as one of the top marketing blogs in the world, with a very large and engaged audience. How have you used influence marketing to build that audience?
Ironically, I haven’t. I just did the old-fashioned legwork that comes with building a blog audience – I commented prolifically on other blogs; I tried to put content out that wasn’t being discussed on 100 other blogs; I took part in online discussions; and I encouraged counter (but respectful) discussion in the comments section from day one, to let readers know I wanted them to have an equally shared voice on my blog. I guess if we were looking at influential outreach, then my approach to guest blogging could be counted. Instead of accepting guest posts, I would invite selected others to guest instead. They would be people whose opinions I valued immensely and who I thought could bring great insights to my readers. So I guess that could be seen as influencer outreach, as it was very specific people I wished to have guest for the blog?
If there really was a team of superheroes named the Engagers and you were on it, what name would you give yourself?
Flash McSporran, the Scoring Scourge.