Trend assessment - Rise of Social Influencers Engagement Report
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  • 1. Trend  Assessment  I    MRKT  7546  Digital  Marketing  Dr.  Eric  Ty  Brey     Date:  14th  Feb  2012                                                                                                          Submitted  by:                                                                                                          Deepti  Dhiman
  • 2.   Trend: Rise of Social Influencers Engagement in Online MarketingI. Introduction and factors shaping the trendA trend that has gained considerable attention in recent years is the rise of influencersengagement in online marketing. Firms are making efforts to find, reward and recruit their mostinfluential consumers. “Influencers” are people who have ability and power to affect someone’sbeliefs and actions. In other words, they are “special” people who have the power to affect theopinions of “ordinary” people. In the online world, these influencers are bloggers; however, wealso have a new class of influencer that may not be a blogger or may be more than a blogger(Keath, 2011). The new media influencer could be family, friend, expert, customer or colleaguewho has large followers on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Youtube,forums and more.Currently, influence marketing is a hot topic, but it is hardly a new concept. Brands have beenengaging opinion leaders, mommy bloggers, and celebrity power to promote their product. Theinfluencers concept was introduced by Malcolm Gladwell in his book “The Tipping Point: HowLittle Things can Make a Difference”. He called influencers as “Connectors”, who link us upwith the world ... people with a special gift for bringing the world together. These people haveextraordinary knack for making friends and acquaintances; and have social networks of over onehundred people.In today’s social landscape, the role of influencers has become really important in shaping publicopinion and consumer’s choice. Due to the confluence of several factors, influencers discoveryand engagement is relatively new. Firstly, we have big data especially on social web that we canplay around to find the perfect influencer. Also, there are a lot of tools available to measureonline influence such as Klout, PeerIndex, Twitter Analyzer and more. According to Klout,everyone who creates content online has some influences. Klout gives a score from 1 to 100based on your activity on user’s Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and Foresquare activities. Eventhough none of these tools are perfect, but they do provide some standards that can be used bybrands for identifying influencers who can spread their word of mouth to their followers.Secondly, brands are beginning to understand the importance of being talked about both onlineand offline. The way people use Internet has changed. In the past, brands used to build optimizedwebsite and create strategies to bring visitors to their web site. They used to controlled the   1  
  • 3. experience, managed the message and determine what content should be promoted about thebrand. Now, brand’s website is not the sole place of information as customers are spending moretime and finding information on social networks such as Google +, Twitter and Facebook, andpinterest. Before buying anything from food to cars, young consumers discuss and read reviewsfrom blogs on the social media websites. Thus, there is no one place to get brand experience.Research from JWT Intelligence, the data arm of marketing communications company JWT,further demonstrates millennials’ aptitude for shopping-related social media activities. As ofJune 2011, 63% of millennial internet users had asked for opinions on products on Facebook,60% had purchased a product based on a social recommendation and 57% had posted a statusupdate about a product (emarketer.com, 2012). Brands are slowly beginning to realize theimportance of reputation that is created based on what other people are saying about their brandrather than what the brand says about itself. In addition, those influencers may not be a smallgroup of selected A-list reporters responsible for bringing content to audiences. Theseinfluencers can be anyone in the online world who has created interesting, engaging and relevantcontents, and has built authority and social influence by interacting socially to increasefollowing.Lastly, brands wants to reach beyond the numbers as have understood the value of engagementwith their customers. They have started questioning the hype of having 100,000 Twitterfollowers or "likes" on a Facebook page (Mtati, 2012) Quantity of followers are important but ifthat’s the only thing a firm is doing, then, there will be no call-to-action possible.The trend has significant impact on PR and marketing efforts. Firms are actively finding,engaging and rewarding their influencers. They are rewarding them from a giving a free flight tohonor badges. Casie Stewart, a 28-year-old social-media consultant from Toronto, earned a freeVirgin America flight, a shopping splurge at Marks Work Wearhouse and an all-expenses-paidtrip to New Zealand fashion week due to her prolific tweeting and blogging about her life(Vascellaro, 2011). She has a Klout score of 74 and more than 5,000 followers. Being dubbed as“networker” by Klout, she gained the attention of a range of brands and public relations firmswho hooked her up with prizes.II. Case studiesCase Study 1 – USA for UNHCR CampaignIn May 2011, USA for UNHCR with the help of Shonali Burke consulting company launched“The Blue Key” campaign for people to show their support for millions of refugees around the   2  
  • 4. world leading up to World Refugee Day on June 20th. To spread the word in short period of timeand with limited budget, the company adopted the Blue Key Champion strategy, which was tobring on board a selected group of influential “champions” to spread the word and get more keysordered. The champions were asked to commit to buy the $5 blue key and to write a blog post ontheir websites explaining why they support the cause. Their goal was to get 6,000 keys orderedwithin a period of one month (from May 9 to June 20 2011). On June 13th, the championscontribute to a “tweetathon” which turned out to be a huge success. Based on the analytics, theywere 1,524 tweets with the #bluekey hashtag circulated in one day; a drastic increase from thedaily 50-tweet average throughout the campaign. There was 169% increase in traffic to the BlueKey website (Traackr, 2011). Based on results of Google Analytics, it was found that Twitterwas the main driver of web traffic; this was not the case before the tweetathon. In addition, morethan 50% of key purchases during that week were a result of the tweetathon.This case study is a very good example that shows the benefit of involving influencers to spreadthe word of mouth. The reason for the success goes to identifying right champions and tocommunicating with them throughout the campaign. Burke’s consulting company created aprivate Facebook group to facilitate champion’s support for the campaign (Kanter, 2011). Theyengaged them at every stage of the campaign. Before the campaign, they worked closely with thechampions to organize the “tweetathon”. During the campaign, they kept them posted with thetrends, which motivated them to achieve more and to keep the momentum going. They measuredtheir success based on the number of tweets that used the hashtags and keys purchased on weeklybasis. In addition to the number of tweets, they also tracked the outcomes they were trying toachieve. They did real time tracking to see what was being retweeted and the type of responses tothe tweets. These observations were posted on the Facebook page, and were seen by the otherchampions who used this information to make any adjustments to their tweets as needed.Case Study 2 – BillMyParents CampaignIn August 2011, BillMyParents, a teen prepaid debit card firm, launched a three-month majorword-of-mouth marketing campaign with help of Tremor, a P&G-owned marketing firm. Thecampaign was successful in reaching 600,000 highly interactive moms in just three months.Tremor helped the brand to create social influence by creating an attention-grabbing message“Plastic that actually reduces teen spending!” and utilizing “try and tell” review model. Thecritical part in the success was the use of dedicated microsite “Vocalpoint “ , which is a massiveonline community of engaged moms . The brand engaged frequently with the influencers in thiscommunity with several surveys and focused email communications to drive trials and   3  
  • 5. subscriptions to BillMyParents. In addition, each registered mom in the community wasencouraged to share her product experience with five friends outside of Vocalpoint; increasingthe brand exposure to reach to more than 2.5million moms nationwide (McCracken, 2011). Inconclusion, rather than looking for numbers of “likes”, the brand identified niche community ofmoms and then engaged them. The case study is a good example that shows the power of nicheinfluencers who may not be as broadly known.Other ApplicationsThe trend has application in every industry and business, especially in the business-to-customermarketing as compare to business-to-business marketing. In the financial service sector, most ofnew business comes directly from existing client referrals. If business development people canidentify their influential clients and know which are most likely to share their experience, theycan maximize their efforts in making new clients. In fashion industry, bloggers play an importantrole in forming opinion and influencing people. Recently, fashion bloggers are grabbing a lot ofattention because they can get news, trends and updates out to audiences online quicker and moreeffectively than traditional glossy magazines. In addition, fashion industry has realized the otherroles that these bloggers can play including advertising, promoting and styling.Section 3: Future of the TrendBusiness Landscape Impacts and Potential Changes - According to David Mercer, an on-linebusiness specialist at Site preBuilder website and founder at desing-a-wepage.com, the trend isgoing to have a great impact on business. The rise of social influencers is going to change howbrands conduct social media marketing. In 2012, quality will be more important than quantityfor brands. Brands will be more focused, look for more meaningful engagement and will searchfor relevance and insight, rather than large several twitter followers and random chatters. Firmswould want to justify their social media spending by measure their reach and return oninvestment.In addition, I believe new business models will come up that will leverage social mediainfluence. One such example is a Minneapolis-based startup firm Wahooly launched in late2011. The firm aims to match a start-up with influencers who can propel the companys nameinto the social media stratosphere (Rubin, 2011). In Nov 2011, the company partnered withKlout and would invite those with Klout scores of 45 or more to join Wahooly. In return, theinfluencers will get equity in the start-ups.   4  
  • 6. Consumer Segments and Specific Industries Significantly Impacted - According to David, anysector that has one to many relationships will find social influence more and more useful. Thereasons are - low barrier to entry for business and their customers, no technical expertise requiredand minimum input in terms of resources. Influencers involvement is rising in many industries,especially retail and technology sectors. I believe that small businesses will be impacted themost. Since they do not have grand budget and expertise they can definitely get benefited fromthe social media influencers if engaged properly.In addition, the trend has also impacted gaming industry. For example, Empire Avenue game is apopular “social influence” stock market game that lets you buy and sell shares of social mediausers. The ‘market value’ of player is determined by three factors – activities on social channels(facebook, twitter, LinkedIn and so on), audience size, and their engagement. The user’s sharesare measured in “eaves”, which is a virtual social currency.Potential Future Changes in the Trend - “It is very difficult to say. I am really looking forward.It is possible a new technology could come along and completely alter the direction we take” ,says Davis. He added that more and more interactions between entities would take place in thesocial sphere. The trend toward digital automation will continue. Anything that can berepresented digitally will be a candidate for digital socialization. In future, I believe that moreand more companies will be adopting the social influence ranking tools. There will be focus ondeveloping sophisticated tools that will combine online and offline social influence; offlinefactors are not taken into account in the available tools such as Klout and PeerIndex. In addition,analytics is going to be more accessible and easy to use. I also see development of new easy touse and low cost software for analytics and for managing social media for people. Hubspot is anexample of one such marketing software that serves basic marketing, analytical and publishingneeds.Needed to Maintain a Competitive Advantage – According to David, Social influence will beone of the most important factors for achieving success in online marketing. The brands that willhave the greatest reach will have a competitive advantage. To remain competitive, brands willneed to reverse their thinking from “Influence is when one person causes another person to takeactions” to “How is a consumer influenced to make a buying decision?”The importance of social influencers cannot be denied as we engage more in the online world. Itwill be critical for brands to identify the right influencers and to understand the context. Researchpublished by emarketer.com in 2011 shows that, on average, consumers trust their friends and   5  
  • 7. family 73-per-cent more than they trust strangers, which includes delivery mechanisms such asword-of-mouth, blogs, tweets and other social media posts (Healy, 2011). To have a competitiveadvantage, brands will have to focus on relevant influencers rather than the most popular onlinecelebrities. The brands will have to look close and research communities to find relevantinfluencers. The relevant influencers are people who have built authority with a target audience,earned trust in specific business field, genuinely interested in brand’s product. Then, engage andbuild relationships with influencers by consuming their content, participating and learning theirecosystem. By providing the value first, the brands will have to just reach out to them to ask theiradvice and to help promote their products.In addition, for influencers and those who want to gain social influence, it will be important to bea part of activity and establish credibility by creating content that is interesting and compelling. Ialso believe that brands need to have deeper understanding of data and who their customers are.Those brands will have competitive edge that understand and seek to analyze data.References:Dubios, Lou. “Why social influence matters to businesses”. Inc. 03/31/2011. Available at:http://www.inc.com/guides/201103/why-social-influence-matters-to-businesses.htmleMarketer Daily. “Women’s influence on purchases decisions on the rise”. 02/01/2012.Available at: http://www.emarketer.com/Article.aspx?R=1008807Healy, Mark. “Days are numbered for social influencers”. The Globe and Mail. 11/01/2011.Available at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/small-business/sb-marketing/advertising/days-are-numbered-for-social-influencers/article2220817/Kanter, Beth. “Interview with Shonali Burke: Analytics tell stories”. Beth’s Blog. 08/23/2011.Available at: http://www.bethkanter.org/un-blue-key/Keath, Jason. “How to leverage today’s consumers influencers”. Socialfresh.com. 03/24/2011.Available at: http://socialfresh.com/social-media-influence/Lee, Macala W. “How to: Connect your brand to the right online influencers”. Mashable.com.05/09/2011. Available at: http://mashable.com/2011/05/09/leverage-online-influencers/   6  
  • 8. Mtati, Mongezi. “Influencers take the web and run the streets”. BizCommunity.com. 01/26/2012.Available at: http://www.bizcommunity.com/Article/196/424/69876.htmlRubin, Courtney. “Wahooly: Publicize your startup, pay with equity”. Inc. 11/07/2011. Availableat: http://www.inc.com/news/articles/201111/wahooly-publicize-your-startup_pay-with-equity.htmlTraackr.com. “From the frontier of online influence”. Traackr.com. 10/01/2011. Available at:traackr.com/frontier-of-online-influence-2011.pdfMcCracken, Dave. “BillMyParents partners with Procter & Gamble’s Tremor, accessing morethan 600,000 moms”. Tremor.com. 08/16/2011. Available at:http://www.tremor.com/BMPPressRelease/Vascellaro, Jessica E. “Wannabe Cool Kids Aim to game the Web’s new Social Scorekeeper”.Wall Street Journal. 02/08/2011. Available at:http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704637704576082383466417382.html#articleTabs%3DcommentsBiography: David Mercer Founder at design-a-webpage.com and Online business specialist atSite prebuilder, Cape town Area, South Africa.David is known throughout the world as a practical and knowledgeable expert in business andtechnology. In 1999, he gradated from the University of South Africa with BS in AppliedMathematics. He has almost 12 years of experience as an editor and author of programming,web development and business books. He has been featured on Wikipedia as a noteworthytechnical writer and his works have been translated into French, German, Spanish, Polish, Greekamongst other languages. Mercer has contributed editorially to a number of titles for the opensource community, including books on Linux, Perl, PHP and web technology. He has worked asan editor at Wily, Pearson, Wrox press. His book on Drupal 6 was reviewed on Slashdot andwent on to become a best seller. He is a founder of design-a-webpage company that provideswebpage design services. In addition, he maintains an Internet marketing & online business blogknows as Site prebuilder to provide supplementary skills and knowledge for his readership.Currently, he is focused on business and the Internet, e-Commerce and entrepreneurialism withan emphasis on strong web development skills and good analytical and online business acumen.     7