Why Marketing Should be Dropped From “Influencer Marketing”

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There is myriad data to support the idea that influencer marketing should be a core part of your marketing strategy. More than 92% of consumers say they trust word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising. Influencer marketing campaigns drive 16 times more engagement than paid or owned media, while the average CTR of an influencer post is 15%. It’s only .15% for display and .68% for Facebook, on average.

 

These numbers are pretty staggering, yet marketers are not shifting advertising dollars to influencer marketing at a rate that would suggest acknowledgement of this performance increase. Although marketers know what influencer marketing is, many still don’t quite understand how it works or how to use it. Even when the ROI is substantially higher, their lack of understanding around what it takes to get to the ROI is prohibiting them from taking full advantage of this powerful medium.

 

The first thing to consider is that influencer marketing should no longer be treated as marketing because audiences don’t view it that way. Audiences varticle-2269300-1734324D000005DC-331_634x632iew influencers as purveyors of cool, simply because they do cool things. Those things can range from the practical, like giving advice, providing empathy, or applying makeup, to the impractical, like taking ridiculous basketball shots, Let’s Play videos and epic rap battles.

 

 

Audiences engage with influencers because they are interested in the content those influencers create. With the exception of the upper echelons of the celebrity elite, who amass followers and gain influence just for putting up a social media account, influencers still need to create content designed to add value and keep their followers engaged.

 

Just because a person has a large following on social media doesn’t mean he or she is influential. Influencers are influential because they influence their followers to do things, not because they market to them. A steady drip of content that showcases the fabulousness of their life, like 241B449700000578-2876938-image-m-46_1418779629199Balmain design lead Olivier Rousteing who rose out of relative obscurity to become a top designer, is key in maintaining sustainability. Rousteing did what no one dared do before him; he pulled the curtain back on high fashion. His goal was to make high fashion more accessible by showing what real life looks like, not just the hyper stylized version that plays out on the runways in Paris and Milan (although there is plenty of that as well.) This mass fascination by the public spawned a partnership with H&M and instead of commoditizing the brand, it made it more sought after. This is the power of the influencer, amassed and disseminated in a highly organic fashion.
In this case, Rousteing is providing value in the form of exclusive content. A never before seen view into the life of one of the world’s top designers. From the ultra sleek lines of a simple t-shirt, to the intricate stitching on a leather blazer, watching Rousteing’s creation is breathtaking, but the most shared content tends to be the most candid. The shot of him hung-over the morning after a London fashion show. Or the shot ofOLIVIER_R____olivier_rousteing__•_Instagram_photos_and_videos him working out with a personal trainer next to a glimmering pool just as the sun begins to rise. It doesn’t hurt that Olivier looks like a model himself with flawless skin and sunken cheeks, but he has built his personal brand into an empire using his social media influence to further extend and enhance that halo.  

 

For marketers the benefit lies in crafting a more humanized narrative communicated through the unique voice of the influencer. Balmain was hardly a household name prior to Rousteing and vice veBalmain-Designer-olivier-rousteingrsa, therein lies the sell. The core value exchange between brand and influencer is symbiosis. Some influencers are paid for their influence but others, typically those who aren’t already celebrities, exert their influence for free, understanding that by associating themselves with a brand, they can advance their credibility and further validate their message. The opposite is true when influencers sell-out and become brand shills, but the ideal balance is reached when brands simply ask influencers to do what they’ve always done.

 

Authenticity is key, that should go without saying, but the real value is unlocked  when a relevant brand is organically mentioned. For example, if Dude Perfect, makers of ridiculous basketball shot videos, started imgrestalking about the benefits of Spalding basketballs, that wouldn’t be a far stretch from the content they normally  create. Dude Perfect already talks about the way they meticulously plan their shots, so in that context, mentioning their preference for Spalding because of the superior grip, would feel seamless. This, as opposed to saying, “Go out and buy Spalding balls!!!” or even sponsored by Spalding, is the way brands are going to attract customers in the future. This is more akin to recommendation seeding as opposed to influencer marketing.

The dynamic isn’t entirely new. There are certainly some similarities between the way brands engage influencers now and the way they’ve engaged media in the past. But it has evolved from there and understanding the many nuances of how to integrate the influencer in as seamless a way as possible is key to maximizing ROI and will become even more critical as people get smarter. Influencer marketing needs to err more towards smart, subtle influencer integration, as opposed to overt influencer mouthpieces. If this can be done effectively, brands have an entirely new way of communicating their message and it won’t cost them a dime in media spend.

 

 

 

 

 

Influencer Mapping: Classifying Influencers In the Healthcare Communications Ecosystem

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Remits seem to be flying in on an almost daily basis for influencer identification in the healthcare communications ecosystem. Whether those influencers are patients, professionals, academics or HCPs, the demand for influential social mavens is at an all-time high. Clients understand the value of social influencers and plan to use them for a number of different reasons including, content creation, activation programs, expert panels, blogger summits, mentorship programs, awareness campaigns, or simply because they want a smart looking data visualization. Below I am going to delve into the world of influencer mapping and explain some of the key elements that go into making this activity a success. This post, the first in a series of two or three, will cover classification of influencers.

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The first thing I will point out is that an influencer is not a KOL. When you talk to a client about KOL mapping, the kind of work a Medcomms agency typically does, do NOT expect that from your influencer program. KOLs can also be digital influencers, particularly if they are HCPs or Academics, but digital influencers are rarely KOLs. An influencer can be converted into a KOL with training, exposure and a platform, but I will cover that process in a separate blog post.

Influencer programs should always start with social listening intelligence. The first step is to identify the main social platforms on which conversation is occurring. Interaction e.g. likes and retweets is not always the best indicator of when to source an influencer. It does help, but impactful influencers should also inspire conversation e.g. comments. Your social listening will often tell you that most of the conversation is occurring on Forums / FB Groups. Or on Blogs / Twitter. Many more recently popularized platforms like Instagram / Pinterest, two of the best platforms for visual content and preferred by Gen Z and Moms respectively, are good to keep an eye on, but for now lets focus on Blogs / Twitter and Forums / FB Groups.

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Now I’ll explain why I am grouping these social platforms as such. Blogs & Twitter are frequented by a certain type of influencer. These are classified as individual influencers because they have amassed a following all by themselves and they exert influence over this following. They aren’t reliant upon anyone else to help build their following or grow their influence. Take for example, a diabetes patient influencer who has thousands of followers on Twitter or subscribers to her blog. This influencer has, of her own accord, set out to establish and maintain a meaningful social footprint. She is not piggybacking off of an existing group or network. She has built her own.

Forum / FB Groups have a different type of influencer. These are classified as sub-influencers because they haven’t built their own network of influence, instead they are reliant upon an existing one. These sub-influencers may be working just as hard as individual influencers to create content, answer questions or engage community, but it is impossible to determine just how influential they would be if extracted from the Forum / FB Group then setup on their own.

The last grouping of influencers are classified as cross-influencers. Where most influencers are active on multiple social platforms, cross-influencers are also influential on multiple platforms. A cross-influencer is invaluable not only because of their reach, but also because they exert influence over the many types of people that frequent the different platforms they are on.

For the second step, after I’ve identified where the conversation is occurring, I segment the influencers into each of the three classes mentioned above, to form what looks like a hierarchy of influence.

The exercise here is to determine, based on the desired communications goal, which influencers are the most valuable. You do this by assigning value to key social metrics and then weighting those metrics according to the type of influencer. A sub-influencer’s engagement metrics would be weighted at a lesser value because they are part of a much larger Forum / FB Group that helps to amplify their influence.

The two other main considerations in influencer mapping are Audience and Relevance (in addition to Influence). I will cover those in my next post along with the various types of social data points I use to effectively amass social influence scores across the three influencer classifications I mention above. I invite your questions or comments below.

The Apple Watch and What it Means for Health: A Personalized Approach to Wearables

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The New Apple Watch. The Apple Watch with magnetic leather band. The latest in wearable health technology expected out early 2015.

The much-anticipated Apple event this morning, or afternoon if you are on the East Coast like me, went off with a hitch. The hitch being an absolutely abhorrent live stream experience that was only available through your Safari browser. Amidst the multicolor, 80’s looking barred screen, strange stock sounding music clips and error messages, I was able to view about 75% of the presentation live and then the remainder thirty minutes later. All in all, it was indeed a BIG event. The excitement somewhat  reminiscent of downloading your favorite songs from Napster, only to find that 4 of the 7 actually made it through. Aside from the new phone, which looks markedly different from the last, Payments, which looks similar to a more widely accepted version of Google Wallet, the real game changer was the announcement of the Apple Watch (not iWatch like many of us had speculated).

The Apple Watch is going to have custom sensors to measure intensity, distance and elevation. The idea is to gauge quality of movement, not necessarily quantity. A few other fitness wearables actually count the distance you’ve driven in your car towards your daily movement total. In the activity app three key aspects of movement are measured via a series of rings that look like a donut chart sliced in half: the move ring, which measures calories burned, the exercise ring, which measures brisk activity, and the stand ring, which measures how often you’ve stood up to take a break from sitting. This means less sedentary time spent at say, your apple computer. There is also a dedicated workout app that provides “more detailed (fitness / health) measurements when you need it most.” There will of course be a developer kit to allow for the creation of third party app development i.e. something like My Fitness Pal. Apple did reference the ability to goal-set, which in and of itself isn’t new. The real innovation comes in it’s ability to dynamically learn, helping you customize your goals to match your personal fitness level over time.

Most exciting to me is the way the Apple Watch is poised to revolutionize the health wearables market by providing a completely integrated and personalized health experience. Admittedly, I feel quite invested in health wearable as I am currently wearing a Nike Fuel Band and lately have been researching newer options, like the FitBit and Up24. This isn’t because I dislike the Fuel Band (I actually love it) but rather because it doesn’t incorporate key features, like sleep tracking, heart rate monitoring, or the ability to gauge high intensity / low movement exercise, something along the lines of weight training. I was intrigued by the Up24 but I opted to wait and see what Apple had in store during the announcement today and I admit I wasn’t disappointed.Apple - Apple Watch - Overview

The Apple Watch is so much more than a way to experience content from your phone, on your wrist. It runs a completely new but “familiar” interface that uses the crown of the watch to scroll through and select content, similar to the way the first iPods made use of the click wheel. From a health standpoint the Apple Watch is essentially an “all-day fitness tracker… that can track a wider variety of activities because it’s able to collect more types of data. It uses an accelerometer to measure your total body movement. It has a custom sensor that can measure intensity by tracking your heart rate. And it uses the GPS and Wi‑Fi in your iPhone to track how far you’ve moved.” In addition to an accelerometer, also present in your phone, there is a new feature called a barometer that measures elevation by tracking air pressure. This means that the watch can track how high you’ve climbed as well as how far. It can also measure number of stairs, helpful if you live near the top of a walkup or frequent fire escapes.

The watch will be sold in three uniquely stylized lines called the Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch Edition. The watch is priced at $350 – the catch is, you will also need an iPhone but let’s be honest, if you are going to buy an Apple Watch what are the chances you don’t already own the phone? We also don’t know if some of the more high end looking watch bands are going to carry an additional cost.

A few features Apple hasn’t mentioned yet but I hope they plan on incorporating: sleep tracking (they reference charging the watch at night so this doesn’t look promising, although the technology to do this is already built-in to your phone), blood pressure (I don’t know how they would pull this off on a wrist watch but as the rumors were flying the last few months, many notable sites and media outlets seemed certain Apple had found a solution, lastly power (those that don’t train with power don’t appreciate or even understand it for that matter, but what’s great about power is that it provide a benchmark for all your activity and you can compare and contrast it with friends. It’s funny because the proprietary “Fuel” metric is what I like most, while it’s also been the biggest criticism of Fuel Band).

The Apple Watch is set to launch early next year. Apple is now making developer kits available so you can only imagine the bevy of amazing apps that will be released with the watch. Whatever happens between now and Q1, one thing is for certain, Apple is going to take ownership of yet another market and we will never view health or wearables the same way again.

 

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The Apple watch with white band.

Why A Social Media Community Is Like New York City

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New York City. The Big Apple. The city that never sleeps. 8 million stories…Many things can be said about New York City but unlike any other city, if you are doing business in New York, New York wants you to live here. New Yorkers are famously outspoken against outsiders and when they refer to New York, they mean New York City. Long Island and Upstate may as well be another country. This may seem counter-intuitive because New York has, and always will be, a melting pot. But that pot only melds actual residents with addresses in the City. Whether it’s technology or real estate, if you are making money in New York, you need to be part of New York – for better or for worse. And for all the good, there is a whole lot of bad as well. The brutal winters, the stifling summers, packed subways, tiny apartments, overpriced everything, there is a familial thread that ties all New Yorkers together. You see this especially in times of crisis. No city has ever rebounded faster or stronger from a tragedy than New York after 9/11. But even during unexceptional times, if you meet a New Yorker on the other side of the world, you connect with them instantaneously. Even if it’s just for a moment, contained in a single look, it’s palpable. New Yorkers are probably the most ethnocentric breed but that’s because New York makes you feel like you are part of something bigger. You are either in or you’re out. New Jersey, Long Island and Westchester, all think they are in but really they are on the outside looking in. To quote Sinatra, “if I can make it there I’ll make it anywhere” and it’s true. But you need to be here. We want you here!

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For this reason, a social community is exactly like New York City. If you’re a brand trying to make money off of social, you need to be here. You need to be neck deep in social communities, forums, blogs and platforms. Companies like Coca-Cola, Red Bull and Starbucks all understand this and sure, they are billion dollar consumer brands with limitless budgets, but E.L. James built a billion dollar reputation through book forums long before 50 Shades of Grey, while Zappos relies on ratings and reviews for their outstanding service because they can’t compete on price. One vertical still hasn’t come to this conclusion however and unsurprisingly, it’s Health that’s late to the party. Health organizations would rather play ostrich with their heads in the sand than listen to, or engage in, the social community – petrified by perceived risk and calcified through process and regulatory. What’s more, the third most prevalent internet behavior behind general search and email, is looking for health information. The first step Health organizations need to take is social listening and many have done just that. But this isn’t nearly enough. It’s not a physical address. It doesn’t get you real estate. In order for Health to take advantage of this channel and monetize it, they need to live here, otherwise they’ll never get it. Like Long Island they are on the outside looking in and things will never change unless they decide to “make it here.”

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A good social agency is like a real estate agent. The first step towards residency is going through a broker. But you’d better select a broker who understands the market. The nuances of a patient population are just like the nuances of SoHo, Murray Hill or TriBeCa. An Uptown broker isn’t going to know all the quintessential intricacies of The Village just like a CPG agency isn’t going to understand all the unique idiosyncrasies of a patient population like MS. So when you do decide to finally make your move, please do two things – make sure you find yourself a good health agency and make sure they specialize in social.

SXSW Health Review

photo Having just returned from the Interactive portion of SXSW in Austin, I was struck by the emphasis now being placed on Health. Of course that’s why I attended in the first place, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a separate venue in the Hilton, entirely devoted to Health. From technology and startups, to new theories, ideas, trends, personalities and panels, the Health portion of the show, at least from a presentation standpoint, didn’t disappoint. Unfortunately the tradeshow floor, across the street in the convention center had no health related exhibitors to speak of. I suppose this is because the idea was to keep Health contained to the Hilton but my question would be, as large as Health was this year, I wonder how much longer before it warrants a separate segment entirely at SXSW, like Interactive or Film?

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Just gauging from the SXSW mobile app, and then actually spending the better part of four days at the Hilton, there appeared to be thousands of Health focused attendees present this year, which was wonderful, but not necessarily for the reason you might expect. Yes, it’s great to get a bunch of like-minded health folks together in one place, but the end result is usually something like Digital Pharma – a legitimate show in its own right, but one that can at times, feel a bit stale. Like you’ve read about it and seen it and maybe even come up with some funny acronyms, but the conference itself only serves to add validation to what you’ve already been thinking and reading about for awhile – networking aside.

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This is where SXSW differs considerably. Forget cool industry personalities and new technology launches, they have it, we know it, but let’s consider what’s really going on. This is digital, social and mobile pioneering…the fringe…a petri dish of ideas contaminating the minds of thousands of attendees willing to bear the outrageous prices and swarming crowds. But, like with any germ, some people try to prevent the spread and remembrance through excessive use of alcohol…I’m not talking about Purell. And that’s fine. But for the rest of us who are down to witness and participate in pioneering, this is the place to be because there is a legitimate newness to what is being presented and discussed. Granted, some ideas are so fringe (see boxer shorts with air bags) that they literally evoke laughs upon presentation.  But I am much more willing to sit through a few of those ideas to find true innovation, than to sit through semi-fresh ideas that have been under a heat lamp for days before being packaged and served as hot.

 

 

Will Facebook / WhatsApp mark the end of the “App Bubble” like AOL/Time Warner marked the end of dotcom?

facebook whatsapp - Google SearchMany agree that Facebook’s recent acquisition of WhatsApp is the perfect representation of just how disjointed the market is. Where a company that has a flimsy monetization strategy can finagle 19x more out of Facebook than any of their previous acquisitions combined. The last most notably being Instagram for $1 billion in April 2012. Mark Zuckerberg calls this a bargain while the rest of the world, particularly the financial sector, looks on with skepticism.

So how can a messaging app, who’s main function is to provide an amalgamation of  features similar to existing apps, sell for $19 billion dollars? There is all kinds of speculation as to the answer but at least this much is true:  WhatsApp users send 600 million pictures a day. 1 million more than Facebook. 70% of WhatsApp users engage on a daily basis. Facebook sees a 50-60% daily engagement rate. WhatsApp has a strong presence in emerging markets such as Latin America and India while Facebook does not. Lastly, WhatsApp has seen a user growth rate even greater than Facebook’s astronomical growth. Which of these reasons most heavily influenced Facebook’s decision is impossible to know unless you are on the inside, but it’s likely they all factored in to some degree.

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What does this mean for the app ecosystem? There is speculation that this will ultimately crash and burn sending Facebook into a tailspin, evoking memories of the AOL / Time Warner deal that marked the end of the Dot-com boom. The major difference here is that WhatsApp, like many other high price tag apps, actually provides a utility, which is to say it adds value. That value may come in the form of saved time or money, better pictures, easier sharing, faster connectivity or more accurate geo-location, whatever the case may be, people find value and they continue to use these apps at a staggering rate.

Whether this acquisition ultimately helps or hurts Facebook is anyone’s guess but irregardless, the app ecosystem is only going to continue getting stronger. If this particular deal does fail it will mean that greater emphasis will be placed on due diligence upfront, in other words, more assurances the app has a working and sustainable monetization strategy. If the WhatsApp deal works out on the other hand, Facebook will undoubtedly try to make similar purchases, perhaps equal to or greater in value. Apps will work to replicate the WhatsApp model, even if that means a barrage of apps that all look and feel very similar to end users – though this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Competition breeds quality and as long as app makers can continue to produce apps that provide quality utility to end users, then the app ecosystem will remain firmly in tact.

SXSW Diaries Part 1: Key Takeaways from SXSW Interactive Trade Show 2012

I am back in NYC and better than ever after seven exhausting 18- hour plus days at SXSW. The show was a smashing success and there are a number of key takeaways I want to share with other companies, agencies and brands looking to throw a party, exhibit at a booth or employ guerilla-marketing tactics in and around the city of Austin during SXSW Interactive. Below is the first in a series of three posts I am going to share, which detail the pros and cons of exhibiting at the convention center during the interactive portion of SXSW.

Background

This was my 2nd time at SXSW, but it was my first time as an exhibitor and the first time that I threw a party or did a sponsorship. Although our party was a tremendous hit and our sponsorships worked out great for the most part, our booth was a disappointment. I should actually say that our booth was great, but the trade show was a bust for exhibitors. Yes we made some good contacts on Monday, but Tuesday through Thursday traffic dropped off dramatically and meaningful conversations were nowhere to be found.

This isn’t my first rodeo when it comes to trade shows. Fluent does close to 20 trade shows a year and I probably attend half to three quarters of them as an attendee, speaker or exhibitor, so I know how to gauge traffic, quality of conversation and overall value. At the end of the day, the SXSW Interactive Trade Show feels like a sham for the exhibitors inside the main convention center’s inner hall. The companies and brands that can secure booth space in the outer hall (the ring around the inner hall) which is open to everyone with or without a badge, do considerably better. This is because the outer hall is open from Thursday through the following Thursday, to align with the SXSW Interactive Festival.

Overview

An Interactive Festival by definition means that people should be able to interact and engage with a specific piece of content, a booth or an exhibit. The outer hall was filled with such exhibitors and they all did a great job providing badge holders and the general public with a highly interactive experience. The inner hall, although it did feature some interactive displays and exhibits, was largely about showcasing digital companies, agencies or brands. And because the opening of the inner hall Trade Show didn’t align with the Interactive Festival, it seemed more like an afterthought as opposed to an intricate part of the SXSW experience.

Just to recap for those who have never been, the SXSW Interactive Festival starts on Thursday night but the first full day is Friday. The Interactive Festival then runs Saturday, Sunday and most people either leave sometime Monday, or early Tuesday morning. For those reading closely, I understand you might be confused because I just noted that the Interactive Trade Show runs from Monday through Thursday. This means that you are just getting started as an exhibitor in the Trade Show, when everyone else there for the Festival is leaving. To validate my point, all you have to do is look to the top of SXSW.COM, the official site for the show, and you can clearly see the dates for Interactive. The 9th – 13th is Friday through Tuesday.

It’s perplexing I know. The Trade Show should start on Friday and end Monday or Tuesday afternoon, to align with the actual days of the Interactive Festival. To all those exhibiting, it feels like you’ve been taken by SXSW. The amount of money it costs to exhibit isn’t worth the booth traffic you receive on the best day, which is Monday.

Takeaways

The net net here is that unless you have a booth in the outer ring of the convention center, that’s highly interactive, you are paying to exhibit for three days after your core audience has left, assuming your audience is people who are attending the Interactive Festival. Why the Trade Show doesn’t align with the Festival has eluded me, but what I do know is that the $7,500 I paid for setup and to exhibit wasn’t worth it. Next year I’ll be more wisely spending that money on platinum badges for my team, then sending them out to proactively network during day. We will skip the hours spent loafing around a booth talking to UT students and faculty about how great the new Wi-Fi hotspots are on campus – it’s simply not worth it…

This week look for SXSW Diaries Part 2: Key Takeaways for Throwing a Party or Doing a Sponsorship

Next week look for SXSW Diaries Part 3: Key Takeaways for Guerilla Marketing