Russ Martin: SXSW – The Dangers of Influencer Marketing

While there are some willing to give influence ratings like Klout and Kred time to evolve, members of SXSW’s “The Secret Dangers of Online Influence Marketing” panel seriously challenged these online tools’ effectiveness. Some went as far as suggesting marketers drop their use altogether.

“Klout and Kred don’t work. They never did and they never will,” said Jure Klepic, panel host and a Lucule Consulting strategist who has worked on brands such as Givenchy, Microsoft and Skype.

Klepic said the goal of influence marketing is to find people who have the power to sway opinion and influence purchases, which isn’t necessarily linked to the number of retweets or likes a user receives on a post or tweet (key factors in determining Klout scores).

“The problem today is that brands are looking at a score and deciding whether to talk to someone or not. It happens specifically in the airline industry and in banking. They’re trying to implement Klout scores in customer service,” Klepic said. If a bank, for example, gives better or faster service to a customer with a high Klout score, a more valuable customer with a higher account balance might receive a lower level of service.

Panelist Ekaterina Walter, Intel’s senior social media strategist, suggested that brands should target influential people within the communities they have built on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest instead of more broadly popular online personalities whose messages are diluted by the number of brands they’ve worked with.

“How much content comes out of those folks? Very little. They already work with a number of brands, they’re entitled [to perks]. You’re not a priority to them.”

By encouraging consumers who already act as brand ambassadors on social sites to create brand-specific content, marketers can amplify an authentic message instead of trying to encourage an ‘influential’ user with a high Klout/Kred score or a large following to become a fan of the brand.

“Find the nodes of people who are really passionate,” said Walter. “You don’t give them perks, you start building relationships, talk to them. Those nodes start reaching to their nodes and the message starts spreading because they love the brand.”

As an example of this better form of influencer outreach, Walter pointed to an IT employee named Damien Bayless at an Ontario-based company called Superior Computer Sales who posted a picture of his Intel tattoo to the brand’s Facebook page that later become a big social hit for the brand.

“You bring this guy in because he loves the brand. You don’t have to pay him. You don’t have to give him perks. You give him a tour of the office. You say: thank you so much for being a fan of our brand and spreading the word.”

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