Social influence scoring platforms such as Klout have been widely criticized by marketers for claiming to accurately measure who is influential – and who is not – on specific subjects. These platforms have evolved from their early days, yet with every new algorithm, user interface, and gamification tactic employed, the criticisms continue. Regardless of how accurate you believe their scores to be, the one issue most experienced marketers continue to struggle with is the usefulness of the data provided.
The problem lies in the size and complexity of data that these firms are trying to analyze and interpret. Even with advancements in natural language processing, it’s near impossible for any of these platforms to accurately understand the context of the relationships between influencers and their audiences based on their online conversations. In a business context, having influence suggests that one person has the ability to impact the behavior of a customer, meaning that an influencer has the ability to convince a prospect to choose one product over another.
Influencing Purchase Behaviors
Assessing an individual’s capacity to influence purchase decisions requires more information than the size of their following across social channels and the frequency with which they engage their audiences around certain keywords. It requires an understanding of where the customer is in the purchase life cycle and what his/her needs and motivations are. An influencer’s recommendation won’t resonate with a prospect who is at the awareness stage (the beginning of the life cycle) as it will with someone at the final decision-making stage.
Further, the situational factors surrounding that prospect or customer greatly influence the reaction different people will have to the same recommendation or brand message. Take for example customers with similar profiles: male, sports fans, over the age of 30, high disposable income, all fans of ESPN sports anchor Barry Deley. When you apply additional profile data and situational factors such as the economic conditions where they live, the industry they work in, their purchase history with the company, etc. to the campaign filter, you can see where each will require a differently architected message to achieve the same end result: a purchase. Barry Deley might be a well-recognized and actively followed figure by everyone in that customer demographic, but his endorsement of a product or brand will resonate differently with different people in that group.
Influence marketing is about moving a prospect or customer along the customer life cycle. It must combine social data with very targeted messaging to specific customers by specific influencers at the specific stages of the life cycle. In reality, social influence scoring platforms lack the necessary information about the customer life cycle and the situational factors impacting the customers in your industry to effectively allow influence marketing programs to impact the purchase decision.
Consider the effect of pulling the big data collected by companies like Klout into a social CRM solution, which combines that data with existing, contextual data about the customer based on purchase history, third-party demographic information, social contacts, etc. Now imagine the impact influence marketing campaigns can have when you understand the nature of the customer’s situation, where they are in the purchase life cycle and who the people most likely to influence them at that stage are.
Next, consider the usefulness of an influence marketing campaign executed through a social CRM that tracks the online conversations and transactions that occur between the influencer, the customer and the brand after each campaign is executed. You’ve just discovered a method to create, manage and measure effective influence marketing campaigns that social influence scoring platforms alone cannot provide.
The future of influence marketing is tied to the ability of a brand to identify the people most likely to influence unique subsets of prospects based on where they are in the customer life cycle. Doing so requires a social CRM that has the ability to merge social data with additional personal and transactional data both pre- and post-purchase.
Influence marketing has a bright future. It’s just a matter of connecting the right data to the right applications. What are your experiences with influence scoring platforms? Where do you see the integration between these solutions and social CRMs?
Editor’s Note: You will see several more articles from Sam over the next few weeks. He and his friend, award-winning marketer and blogger Danny Brown, are about to publish their book, Influence Marketing: How to Create, Manage and Measure Brand Influencers in Social Media Marketing. You can preorder the book on Amazon.
Image Credit: Atos, licensed via Creative Commons