2012 will be remembered as the year social influence scoring became a mainstream conversation among marketers and public relations professionals. It will also be remember as the year that this subject became a lightning rod for heated debate across social platforms, blogs, and at conferences around the world.
Can you accurately measure someone’s influence over social media channels? If so, can it be defined by a numerical score? What value would that score have to people or marketers when achieving high social influence scores can be so easily gamed? These were just a few of the key points being argued by those early adopters and critics of social influence scoring platforms such as Klout, Kred and PeerIndex.
These tools measure the “influence” that a person has over their social graph by tracking their activity across their social networks. The more followers they have and the more interaction they have with those followers, the greater their score. These tools are evolving to better filter the subject matter of conversations and so some are now offering different scores or sub-scores based on the reach and amplification that a person’s social commentary has on specific subject matter.
Love it or hate it, social influence marketing is becoming a permanent tactic in a business’s marketing and public relations tool kit. Yet, with so much dissension regarding its validity, how should businesses deploy this strategy? Danny Brown and Sam Fiorella are writing a book on the subject — Influence Marketing: How to Create, Manage, and Measure Brand Influencers in Social Media Marketing in which the authors analyze the growth of social influence marketing and present a new methodology for businesses seeking to measurably impact their sales efforts.
We had the chance to sit down with Danny and Sam recently to ask them about the book. Here is Part 1 of a two-part interview.
Nimble: First things first. Why a book about influence marketing — and why now?
Danny & Sam: A combination of events and factors conspired to get us to this point. The short story is that we both became early critics of social influence scoring platforms when we, as marketers who provide branding and lead acquisition programs to our clients, saw the technical inconsistencies within these programs. When challenged by our clients to build influence marketing programs, we couldn’t in good conscious recommend these tools. So we set out to discover how influence was truly exerted over consumers across social channels. That research and experimentation led to a methodology that was successful in identifying and acquiring customers by charting influence paths. We knew we had to share our findings with the world.
Nimble: What is the main premise of your book?
Danny & Sam: Contrary to rumors, this book is not a criticism of current social scoring platforms; enough people have done that over the past few years. Instead, the book is focused on presenting a new methodology that moves influence marketing beyond a branding and amplification exercise to a measurable lead generation and acquisition program. We present a proven methodology that various departments in the organization can use to identify and manage the constantly shifting influence paths between a brand and their customers.
Nimble: How do you define influence and by association, influence marketing?
Danny & Sam: Influence is the action of changing the thoughts, attitudes, or behaviors of another person — altering what they might otherwise believe or do. Influence marketing is the process of exerting such influence on a business’s prospects, or customers.
Nimble: How does a brand exert this influence within social media marketing?
Sam & Danny: It’s a process. You must first understand where in the purchase life cycle your prospects are or where in the customer life cycle your existing customers are. Next, determine how they make decisions at each stage and what situational factors impact those decisions at each juncture. With this knowledge, a brand can use linguistics mapping and natural language processing to identify who within their customers’ social graphs are most likely to influence decision-making processes.
Nimble: So why can’t we just use social scoring platforms?
Sam & Danny: Well, there are certainly no shortcuts when you’re trying to determine who will influence the consumer’s purchase decisions or habits. Not all social scoring platforms are equal; some are better than others. However, regardless of which you choose, they’re all focused on the reach and amplification level of a person’s social activity. Those tools can still be used if you wish, but they’re only one data point in an influence marketing practice. We outline what tools and software can be used to simplify the process in our book, but again, there’s no shortcut.
Nimble: Why should brands care about influence marketing?
Sam & Danny: To that point, you could say why care about content marketing …or email marketing… or mobile marketing …or social marketing. Marketing is the strategic umbrella; the tactics are the platforms or mediums, and influence marketing is a core part of strategic marketing today (or should be). Influence marketing (when done properly) offers a huge return potential for brands, as well as approaching customers on the channels they wish to be contacted on, as well as identifying at what point in the decision-making process (research, awareness, purchase, ignore, etc.) they are receptive. This kind of information is crucial for brands in today’s “always on” marketplace, and influence marketing can help you reach a wider, more targeted and warmer audience (again, when done properly).
Influence Marketing: How To Create, Manage, and Measure Brand Influencers in Social Media Marketing is available for pre-purchase today. More information can be found on the book’s website. Or connect with them directly on Twitter: Danny Brown and Sam Fiorella.
Part 2 of this interview will be coming soon. In the meantime, why not ask Danny and Sam your own question in the comment section below? We know they’d love to answer your questions directly.