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Dark Influence: Winning Wars, Ruining Reputations, Fixing Elections, and Making Money


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Learn about dark influence: influence that you aren’t aware is part of an influence campaign.

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Dark Influence: Winning Wars, Ruining Reputations, Fixing Elections, and Making Money

  1. 1. Dark Influence: Winning Wars, Ruining Reputations, Fixing Elections, and Making Money U N G A G G E D L A S V E G A S 2 0 1 6
  2. 2. Who We Are » Started out in SEO back in the golden age – 2002 » I now build cool shit, and oversee SEO on some of the largest brands on the web. (they weren’t cool with me telling you the name of the company due to the content of this presentation) » Once a spammer, probably still a spammer Terry Godier CTO, Intellifluence 2
  3. 3. Who We Are » Involved in search industry since 1997 » Have managed several thousand domains and hundreds of clients » I’ve been fortunate enough to play in all facets of online marketing, providing a broad perspective » I handle a variety of ORM/dark ORM campaigns for clients at Digital Heretix Joe Sinkwitz CEO, Intellifluence 3
  4. 4. What is Influence? » Simply put, influence is the ability to get others to listen to your advice. » Edward Bernays called it Propaganda - he wasn’t wrong. He believed that news, not advertising was the best medium to carry advertising. 4
  5. 5. Primer on Influencer Marketing » 1. Identify people with influence within niches I. Look at reach / follower audience II. Look at topical relevance of your ‘thing’ III. Look at engagement. the gold standard. lots of popular people with poor influence (no engagement) » 2. Get them to post about your product in their authentic, natural voice I. Let the influencer write the copy II. Let the influencer use the product (if possible) III. Try for a genuine recommendation (gift basket!) IV. Test this! Sometimes it’s good to quote another influencer in original influencers post… 5
  6. 6. What is Dark Influence? » Simplest definition: Dark influence is influence that you aren’t aware is part of an influence campaign » The intent on dark influence is not necessarily malicious, though it is easier to be malicious » In our estimates the dark influencer ecosystem is much larger than its cleaner counterpart – you’ll be able to see why in some of the case studies, where the amounts of money thrown around are enormous 6
  7. 7. What’s the Big Difference? » Disclosure. By withholding disclosure one cannot see the possible incentive for someone to post. It is important because... » Lack of disclosure implies increased authenticity. Though the reverse is actually true, if you don’t know something is paid, you are more likely to treat as an honest recommendation » Effectiveness. Organic engagement exceed paid engagement on all known channels 7
  8. 8. Case Study 1: Making Money » Microsoft, via Machinima, paid YouTubers to include Xbox One footage in videos, paying $3 CPM for 30 seconds of Xbox One footage. The FTC and Machinima reached an agreement, but how much of the low CPM payment resulted in the 19 million Xbox One units sold in that 2015 time period? » Kim Kardashian gets around on social networks – she earns a minimum of $200,000 per #ad disclosed Instagram posts and more for long format videos, so how much does she earn for this undisclosed beauty? Per Radar Online, probably close to $500,000 given the timeframe of the video. 8
  9. 9. Case Study 1: Making Money » Kylie Jenner learned nothing apparently » Even after FTC action, Jenner was posting full reviews without proper ad disclosure; with a smaller audience she doesn’t earn as much as Kim, but it is still very significant. How is FitTea doing by the way, since this is their primary awareness channel? This stuff works. 9
  10. 10. Manipulating Social Network Graphs: A How To » Find targets - We all know the influencers in our niche… or use something like Buzzsumo to look at sharers of similar content » Look at who they follow + engage w/ content from - Who do they retweet? Who do they reply to? Go upstream » Look for triangulation between targets, identify sources - Do you have more than 1 target? Great, find the upstream sources that cover them in one fell swoop. These are often specific newsletters or content sites » Identify types of content the seeders engage with - What kind of content do they like? Memes? Research pieces w/ stats? Infographics? Interviews w/ themselves or colleagues / associations they belong to? 10
  11. 11. Case Study 2: Fixing Elections » We decided to speak on this topic months before Wikileaks became an election driver. Who hacked the emails and provided to Wikileaks? What was the agenda? Did it have an impact? Note: this slide is being created prior to Nov 8th, so I’ll just say It was a difference from a 85/15 probability to a 65/35 probability today… A 20% probabilistic spread is immense » Fake ads designed to suppress valid votes by suggesting invalid alternatives 11
  12. 12. Case Study 2: Fixing Elections » Not a huge concern? The 2014 presidential race in Indonesia in accounted for mass misuse for disinformation spreading and claims of fraud so significant that the previous ruling party refused to acknowledge defeat after the votes were counted. With politicians taking the route of purchasing media outlets and equity stakes in social apps to drown out alternative voices, the rhetoric of fraud is in a pitched fever even still. In 2019, Indonesians will be voting for their next president electronically. 12
  13. 13. More Case Study 2: I’m Not Fucking Done Yet » Need more examples of where dark influence comes into play in elections? Movie time, with Russian shit posting 13 » This isn’t a right or left issue. Surrogates from both our major parties here in the U.S. have asked me to assist on matters relating to ORM and dark ORM; make no mistake on what the intended goal of this actually is, no matter how pure the initial intent is
  14. 14. Using Native Amplification to Spread Dark Rumors » Authority /Aspirational Influence + Peer Influence + Repetition = Compulsion » The power of memes is that with enough repetition one begins to assume it must be true » Easiest way to do this is to take a few shit posts and amplify them to lookalike audiences. For politics, one might take a registration email list and load it as a retargeting list and blast to them, feeding them into low CPM ad networks with uptake to the same retargeting list. If the goal is to get those participants to spread your rumor, it is very very effective… 14
  15. 15. Case study 3: Ruining reputations (Dark ORM) » Assume identities and run amok online, pissing people off as you go » It’s unlikely influencers will share content about individuals, but they don’t ‘have to. 301, 302, cloak » Hit pieces do well when oriented as insider information… what heinous things do your competitors do? » Claim a page for a biz and treat customers poorly, obscene msgs, political msgs to fuel your hit pieces 15
  16. 16. Taken to an Extreme, with Unlimited Funds, What is Possible? How Great a Reach? » Twitter has 313m monthly active users » Instagram claims 500m monthly » YouTube has over 1b users » How much reach? Too much :) 16
  17. 17. Get Really Nasty » Clone a Facebook person’s profile Add their friends or Hijack account posting w/ an app to leverage their friends 17
  18. 18. Case Study 4: Winning Wars » Think of this as the next evolution of winning over elections, and it is currently underway. Disinformation campaigns to designed to change public opinions on Sweden joining NATO; Russia’s intervention in this example sways possible military response times and attack vectors. » Russia is the master at this. In 2014 it used social media disinformation campaigns to obfuscate deployed forced which were used to seize Crimea. » ISIS, using consistent Anti-Western sentiment over Facebook via false stories and dark influence to incite violence, such as was in the case of Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik in San Bernardino California. This is the real danger; in a distributed and guerilla war that is fighting against ideologies across borders. This isn’t just an Islamic issue; we are all prone to living in our own bubbles and can be convinced of doing a variety of horrible things if we believe it is the only choice in changing something we care deeply about. 18
  19. 19. In Conclusion » Dark influence isn’t only real, it is very powerful and growing ever more powerful » Be aware what you read and how you interact with content; is it truly authentic? We’re now in a world lacking critical thinkers where ads are possibly the most authentic form of content available » If any three letter agencies want Terry and Joe to speak to them on this subject, we’re happy to do so 19
  20. 20. Thank you Graphics courtesy of