Influence Marketing: The Dangers of Visible Influence
Influence in life is important. On different levels, it affects our career, our relationships and our buying decisions. The things that influence us affect our behavior, and our own influence can affect the behavior of others.
Influence marketing seeks to use the influence of individuals to encourage others to buy products. Services like Klout, Kred and PeerIndex offer the opportunity for brands to offer perks to influential people, in exchange for promotion through social media. The idea is to create a mutually beneficial relationship between the brand and the ‘influencer’. The influence marketing then comes in when the influencer spreads the message to their followers.
In theory this is a great way to promote a brand. Because these services rate a person’s influence, it’s easy for marketers to identify the reach of an influencer. This rating system also provides further encouragement, beyond the potential perks, for people to get involved in influence marketing. People, by their nature, like to have their ego massaged and a high score beside your name is a nice little ego boost. It also provides encouragement to increase that score, through further engagement. People actively improve their scores, and their potential influence marketing value.
Influence Marketing seems Like a Straightforward Win-Win
And we can see that people can be influenced by influential people. People with a lot of pull in a peer group, especially on twitter, can encourage certain behavior in their followers. Just look at how quickly some celebrity twitter users can gather support over a certain issue. The recent Twitter joke trial in the UK, where celebrities like Graham Linehan and Stephen Fry encouraged support for Paul Chambers. Who was fined for a joke he made on twitter. The support he received on Twitter and donations towards his appeal show how powerful influence can be.
So if influence can encourage people to donate money, it follows that influence can be used to encourage buying decisions. The process for brands is simple, offer the best perks to the people with the most influence then just sit back and wait for your influence marketing to generate sales.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. There are a number of challenges to overcome to make influence marketing really effective. There have been issues raised over the rating systems and some arguments over the potential effect of individual influence over community influence. But these are theoretical issues that will develop over time. In the short term the difficulty with influence marketing is credibility.
Influence Marketing relies on Credibility
People are only influence by statements they believe in. The only way influence marketing can work is if the people who are being influenced trust the source. And it’s unlikely that people will trust a source if they think the ‘influencer’ has been paid to give their opinion. Visibly influencing the influencer can negate their influence.
Klout deals with this issue by making it clear that no one is required to promote a product if they receive a perk. But it also relies on the perks for revenue so it still encourages people to engage in influence marketing. So it’s difficult for influencers to retain credibility if it’s clear they are promoting a product from an influencer channel. Even genuine praise can come off as false if the person is known to be regularly involved in influence marketing.
Some influencers may be able to overcome the credibility issue. Depending on their sphere of influence, some groups may not be affected by the knowledge that an influencer has received a perk in exchange for praise. But most groups will be skeptical about influence marketing once they become aware of the perks involved.
The balancing act for marketers will be to use influencers to promote their products without being so obvious that it damages the credibility of the influencer. It’s a difficult balance that doesn’t have an obvious solution. But if you want to unlock the clear potential of influence marketing, it’s a balance you’ll need to find.
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Post by: Eoin Keenan