eMKTG 2011: Leveraging Online Influence for Your Brand


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Leveraging Influencers for Your Brand, presented at the eMKTG conference at Fanshawe College in London, ON on March 1, 2011 by Melanie Baker and Jason Santo.


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  • Good morning everyone. I’m Melanie Baker and I’ve been the Community Manager of PostRank for the last 3 years. This is Jason Santo, our Marketing Manager who recently joined us. Jason and I are going to spend a few minutes talking to you about the concept of online influence, how it’s evolved to have a significant impact on all of us, and how brands and agencies can effectively leverage it for marketing and promotion purposes.
  • So let’s start with some data. This is a Mary Meeker slide she did just over a year ago that highlights how incredibly out of whack ad spend is in relation to where consumer attention is now focused. I don’t think it’s a surprise to any of us that time spent by consumers on print, radio and TV has been dropping dramatically and a significant amount of attention has been diverted to the internet. What IS more surprising though, is that ad spend hasn’t nearly caught up to that, and there is a massive undiscovered opportunity - $50B dollars worth of opportunity – in knowing where and how to most effectively advertise on the internet.Advertising on the internet though is still, for most brands, an exercise in trying to design the best display ads and banner ads, and relying on impressions and click throughs to grow market awareness and get purchase conversions. But how many of you have had big success with that? Today’s reality is that the explosion of the internet and fragmentation of the audience have meant that targeted ads on sites that get large numbers of pageviews, aren’t very effective in influencing a consumer. And we’re seeing brands and their agencies starting to adjust to that and looking for more effective tools to find and engage audience.
  • Let’s step back for a minute and talk about how the concept of online influence originated.The genesis of online influence was really Google’s insight back in the late 1990’s that if you measured how many links there were to a particular site and its content, those sites that got linked to the most must be more relevant, popular or interesting than other sites. So when a consumer searched on something, PageRank would bubble up the sites and stories that had the most links to the top of the search results. Those sites in turn would naturally get more pageviews, and the entire ecosystem around advertising online and paying more for sites with significant pageview numbers came to be.But what’s the reality today?
  • In the mid 2000’s three significant technology developments caused a fundamental shift in online activity:Web 2.0 allowed audience members to not just READ the content on a site, but to INTERACT with it via comment engines.Blogging took off – anyone on the internet could create content and easily publish it, potentially reaching every corner of the world.Social networks exploded, allowing community members and friends to share, like, bookmark, digg, tweet and engage in “conversations” in a host of new ways not previously possible.In addition, social networks allowed each of us to “connect” with people we’ve never met and to create social circles that include both real friends (in the sense of people we’ve met) and internet friends – people we’ve never met and that we have much looser ties to, but that have a common interest or taste on some level.
  • How does that relate to the concept of influence? Today, the vast majority of things we pay attention to are as a result of what we find in social media. In fact, by analzying our own data at PostRank, we now know that over 80% of the time an article or story on a website is found, it’s because we saw something tweeted, bookmarked, liked or somehow shared by a community member in a social network we belong to. We click on those links, and watch or read (what we call “engage with”) what our community members have recommended to us. Only 20% of the time do we go directly to a website because we’ve searched on a term via a search engine.Social activity or engagement online has now become a key driver in influencing where and what we pay attention to and value.
  • In addition to that, over 50% of the attention we give content happens in the first hour after it’s published. The pace of volume of publishing content and the social activity related to that content is so rapid that for most of us, if we don’t see it on the front page of the network when we log in, we don’t scroll down through earlier pages to find things.
  • Here are a couple of other interesting statistics recently published by Scribd:The average number of followers in Twitter is almost 63 per user and the average number of followees is about 44.In Facebook, the average number of “likes” an item gets is over 217 and each user has “liked” something an average of almost 30 times.Let’s take the Twitter stat – for those of you on Twitter, chances are that the people you are following aren’t just your personal friends – they’re celebrities, industry gurus, topic area experts that you don’t know – in addition to people you have personal relationships with. But, you’ve chosen to follow them for some reason, and some have chosen to follow you, which creates a cross pollination of message and opinion that can travel far and wide.In fact there is a recent stat that 60% - 80% of all buying decisions are made without information coming directly from the brand – it comes from peers. (SOURCE: Francois Gossieaux author of "The Hyper-Social Organization”)All of these factors have created that massive advertising opportunity for brands and the agencies. They need to leverage social proof and the 80% statistic thatI spoke about at the beginning.
  • At PostRank, measuring and leveraging the online social influence of publishers of content is our business. We help brands and agencies identify, measure and connect with the people on the net who have the most social capital in topic areas they care about.For the last 3 ½ years we have been tracking and archiving stories published to the web from all parts of the world in real-time, and at the same time collecting and archiving every social engagement event with those articles and stories happening across more than 20 social networks. By matching up that data, we can expose which authors/bloggers/publishers have the most loyal, active and engaged audiences – and therefore a higher probability to influence audience members - in the topic areas they write about. Every day we now collect about 7 million stories and 25 million social engagement events with those stories giving us a very deep and meaningful way to measure the online influence of content creators.
  • Our original application for that data was to help consumers who were looking for the best content on the internet to have a way to find interesting articles and storeis using social proof as a way to filter and rank what they wanted to read.About a year and a half ago though,brands and agencies starting asking us “If you can find the content on the web getting the most social engagement, what can you tell us about the authors or creators of that content?”.The result has been two services which we now offer – the first is shown on this slide – an analytics tool that allows you to measure all of the off-site engagement (the 80% I spoke about earlier) with an author’s content. We tell you which social network it’s coming from, what those activities are, and who the audience members are who are engaging with the content. Brands and agencies can measure not only the performance of content on their own sites in the social web, but how competitive content is performing.
  • The second service gives you granular information about the author – not only how his or her content is performing in the social web, but:. What topic areas they are expert in;. What social graph profile or presence they have (ie. What social networks they belong to); and. What sorts of promotional acitvities they are willing to engage in with brands and agencies.Our real-time platform helps you to identify who and how you can leverage the network effect of these individuals to get better results.
  • In answer to the question “Can Influencer’s Help Me?” our response is a resounding yes, and the following example demonstrates something we’re seeing much more frequently.Brands and agencies are often really keen to get their product or company mentioned on sites like Techcrunch; the site has 4M subscribers so therefore, what appears to be a pretty large audience. But there’s an average 1.5% open rate for the site, which gets them about 60 thousand eyeballs and the big question is, how many of those result in purchase conversions? Contrast that with an individual blogger, expert in a topic area, who might have only 20 thousand subscribers. We know that those sites often have more than a 70% open rate, so proportionately speaking, they get a significant larger number of eyeballs on the content. In addition to that, those individuals tend to be much more loyal audience members who highly value the opinions and stories of the authors. As a result, if that author runs a contest, does a product review or expresses and opinion, their level of influence can be materially higher. In fact, we have anecdotal evidence that conversions are 3 times higher.So the strategy now being employed by many brands and agencies is to find 5 – 10 (or more) smaller but highly influential authors to run campaigns with. It is no longer the case that targeting traditional “accredited” media (newspapers, magazines etc.) or sites with just large pageviews, is the way to spread your message.(SOURCE: PostRank)
  • Validation of influencers as having a huge impact on consumer spending happened with Tim Armstrong of AOL commented in a recent memo to all employees after the purchase of the Huffington Post a few weeks ago. He spoke about the Huffington Post being core to their strategy and their 80:80:80 focus:. 80% of domestic spending is done by women (and if any of you understand the numbers and power of mom bloggers in North America you’ll know this stat is huge). 80% of commerce happens locally And. 80% of considered purchases are driven by influencersThe influencer part of this strategy will be very potent moving forward.
  • I’m going to leave you with some interesting information on the next few slides related to influence. These last thoughts are some of what have informed our thinking about how and why we identify influencers.After doing a lot of analysis of online authors over the last year it turns out that understanding the social graph is essential if you’re going to understand what makes an individual influential. Up until recently, it’s been very expensive to collect social graph data so research and metrics have focused on individuals. But now as a result of those phenomenon we spoke about earlier, the amount of social graph data is exploding.So what about networks? Well an individual and their immediate network is called the ego network. Ego network metrics are important and useful, but they are best tailored towards predicting behavior of the individual, not the network.
  • An influencer is often associated with the “central” node or high profile node in the network, but most influencers are highly clustered and depending on how and where you want you message to be amplified, that might or might not be a good thing.The graph above is an actual graph of sites whose content is focused on Ruby on Rails, a software development language. It depicts sites that have linked to each other in the community, with the most “linked-to” sites being the larger bubbles.
  • Here’s another take on the same community, except this time, these are the sites that have linked the most to other sites.
  • And here’s another view – these are people, who have linked to other people by mentioning their names in articles and stories on their sites.From studies in virology, we know that picking the optimal nodes in a network to spread information has little to do with just picking the influencers. In reality, you need to look at the network at large. Usually you end up with a mix of connectors, influencers etc.
  • There isn’t much academic research on actual social networks of scale, but we do know some interesting results from other fields. For example, from studies on diffusion of innovation, we know that highly clustered networks tend to exhibit high “cohesiveness” which often leads to barriers to adoption of new technologies etc.So in the case above looking at the entire community, you might want to pick the people in the middle area for the purposes of a campaign, because they have looser ties to the whole community and the chances that the message will spread further are greater.Different types of networks will have different behaviors; early adopter networks behave differently from other types of networks. Meaning, depending on your campaign, the same strategies can yield different results.Also, the cost of influencing someone is not the same for every individual so you also need to optimize for the budget.
  • So we have access to networks now, and it’s a goldmine. We can start mapping the subgraphs, by topic for example, start developing tailored campaigns, and go beyond the simple concept of influencer to something a little more rich and meaningful.Thank you!
  • eMKTG 2011: Leveraging Online Influence for Your Brand

    1. 1. Leveraging Online Influence for your Brand <br />Melanie Baker, Community Manager<br />Jason Santo, Marketing Manager<br />@postrank<br />www.postrank.com<br />
    2. 2. Can Influencers Help Me?<br />Yep.<br />(A) TechCrunch conversion:<br /> “Influencer” conversion:<br />~4M subscribers<br />~1.5% open rate<br />~ 60,000 eyeballs<br />~20K subscribers<br />~70%+ open rate<br />~ 14,000 eyeballs<br />~ mention you, endorse you, reprint<br /> your content…….or not <br />~ huge market for social media <br /> listening platforms now<br />Hail Mary…<br />Relationship driven<br />
    3. 3. Idea: “Great Pages” are the ones with many links<br />“PageRank” circa 1997<br />Links as votes<br />
    4. 4. Today’s Internet<br />Votes, Bookmarks, Comments, Tweets, Diggs, Trackbacks, Likes…….Social networking has taken over……<br />
    5. 5. 80% of the articles & stories we pay attention to are found in a social network…..<br />
    6. 6. 50%+ of that engagement happens during the first hour<br />
    7. 7. How Wide is Our Influence?<br />Twitter<br />Avg # of Followers – 62.97 per user<br />Avg # of Followees – 43.52 per user<br />Facebook<br /># of FB likes – 217.2 per item (liked)<br /># of FB likes – 29.3 per user<br />
    8. 8. 3B+ Archived Metrics 2B+ Archived Posts<br /> 350M+ user panel indexed & available in real-time…<br />
    9. 9. Real-time<br />Off-site + On-site<br />Friendfeed for your content<br />PostRank Analytics<br />http://analytics.postrank.com<br />
    10. 10.
    11. 11. Can Influencers Help Me? Absolutely!<br />TechCrunch Conversion:<br /> “Influencer” Conversion:<br /><ul><li>4M subscribers
    12. 12. 1.5% open rate
    13. 13. 60,000 eyeballs
    14. 14. But how many convert?
    15. 15. 20K subscribers
    16. 16. 70%+ open rate
    17. 17. 14,000 eyeballs
    18. 18. Anecdotal evidence of 3X the conversion rate of regular onlineadvertising</li></ul>Hail Mary…<br />
    19. 19. Big Media is Catching On…<br />Tim Armstrong (AOL) – “ 80:80:80 focus”<br /><ul><li>80% of domestic spending done by women
    20. 20. 80% of commerce happens locally
    21. 21. 80% of considered purchases are driven by influencers</li></li></ul><li>People Matter<br />Social graph, hard to map historicallyEgo networks, best predict behavior of individual<br />
    22. 22. Different Ways to Look at Influence<br />Ruby Authorities - Sites that have linked to each other in the community<br />
    23. 23. Different Ways to Look at Influence<br />Out Links - Sites that have linked the most to others<br />
    24. 24. Different Ways to Look at Influence<br />Ruby Influencers - People that have linked to each other <br />
    25. 25. Different Ways to Look at Influence<br />Ruby Influencers-People that have mentioned other people<br />
    26. 26. Thank You!<br />melanie@postrank.com<br />jason@postrank.com<br />@postrank<br />www.postrank.com<br />