When putting together a marketing program that involves third party influencers (bloggers), do you ever wonder whether an online influencer’s “reach” is a measure of their influence?
Reach is a soft, squishy term and most people equate it to readership or general audience numbers. Okay, let’s assume reach and audience are the same for the sake of discussion.
So, does it then follow that those same readers that are “reached” can be expected to become paying customers as the result of an endorsement by the writer? If reach = influence, that would make sense, right?
It’s an interesting question. But the answer is no.
The reality is that influence requires an extra step on the part of the reader. Is he or she going to take an action suggested by the writer? Will those readers make buying decisions based on the advice or endorsement of the influencer?
I think you’ll agree that this is a different thing entirely especially as we are talking about a B2B situation where purchasing decisions are neither impulsive nor simple.
In my experience, corporate clients are overly concerned about reach to the detriment of influence.
Let’s use trade journalists as an example. Most are well versed in the subject matter they write about and the publications they work for command substantial readership (or reach). I don’t think there is much doubt about that.
Yet, how often does a C level executive purchase based on an article he or she reads in one of these publications? Not many, I am willing to bet. If it were the case, then industry trade publications would be sales juggernauts.
This is why smart marketers seek out independent influencers (read not journalists) who work in the industry and blog about it.
Don’t get me wrong, having a favorable article appear in a trade publication can mean great things, especially in driving awareness about a new product or service, but it does not necessarily equate to new sales.
So, why do many marketers make this assumption when it comes to online influencers (non journalist bloggers)?
Perhaps because its just easier.
But let’s get back to reach for a moment. Reach is not exact and at best is a reasonable estimate. Most online tools do not accurately measure it, especially with blogs because those statistics are private to the blogger.
Video can offer a more complete window, especially if the influencer posts content to YouTube since the views of each video are openly accessible.
And once we include Twitter followers, Facebook and LinkedIn it becomes clear that the best that can be done is to cobble together a reasonable estimate.
So, let’s take a closer look at what makes an influencer influential in the B2B arena which is where I do much of my work for clients.
Unlike B2C where customers can purchase a product with the click of a button, B2B decisions are business decisions and often involve other parties including sales organizations, VARs, consultants and analysts. Therefore, the sales cycle can be a longer one where it may take weeks or even months.
Another way to look at influence
I can only tell you how we do it. We look for influencers who speak to our client’s customers and who have credibility to influence purchasing decisions. How do I know they can do this? I find out what they do for a living, where they work, what their specialty is and who they interact with professionally.
As an example, I know several influencers who informed me that readers of theirs purchased B2B technology products based on their endorsement via a blog post. Interestingly, these influencers command small, but loyal readership bases rather than large ones. This demonstrates tangible influence.
Once you get to know your influencers and you begin to build some trust with them, they will most likely confide in you about customers who decided to purchase based on content they posted. We do this at Ivy … speak to the influencers in order to get to know them.
Okay, its not exactly the most elegant solution, but it is effective.
I’ll cover more about influence in a later post, but for now, here are some more tips to help you get started:
- Take a close look at what the influencer does for a living. This indicates how they are involved in the industry they write about and where they derive their authority.
- As an authority they necessarily interact with others in their field. Who are the other influencers he or she connects with? I know blog rolls are dated, but they do provide a place to start. Also, see who subscribes to their Twitter feed to find out who is following them and who re-tweets their content.
- Arrange to speak to the influencer. So much more can be learned through a simple phone call. Don’t underestimate it.
What do you think? Do you have a different viewpoint on this?