Mitch Joel is a digital marketing expert. A blogger, podcaster, author, and passionate entrepreneur, Marketing Magazine recently dubbed him the “Rock Star of Digital Marketing”. He is also the president of Twist Image, an award Digital Marketing and Communications agency. I recently caught up with Mitch Joel to get his thoughts on upcoming trends in social and online marketing.

Marketo: In a recent blog post of yours, The Nick of Real Time, you asked the question, “Are customers’ expectations getting out of control with real time engagement?” Are you are finding that to be the case?

Mitch: I think that when you ask a question on Twitter when you’re frustrated, you expect an immediate response because there is so much out there about best practices on how brands should respond. So in the back of your mind you have sort of misaligned expectations.

Recently, I had a dryer bust in my house and when they came to repair it, they had the wrong piece and said it could take another month. I wrote a blog post about it. I wanted to go ballistic and the forums for doing so are Twitter, Facebook, and blogs. I think it has created a perpetual cycle where the expectation is, like I said in blog post, my iPhone 5 is already here from China but how long does it take to fix the dryer?

Marketo: A hot topic in the social world is leveraging influencers and other B2B marketing professionals across the social world. Do you think influencer marketing is essential?

Mitch: The first thing to acknowledge is that influencers aren’t journalists, they’re not a media property, and they are not there to do your bidding. They are there to do their own bidding and the only way to leverage influencers is by providing them with something valuable. The dichotomy is obviously in the fact that a lot of these influencer programs are really just paid sponsorships and editorials, they are not really influencer programs.

You need to provide something that influencers are scaling to get their hands on. They want to talk to their friends about it and better yet, they want to share the news because it’s a story. It’s a brand that has provided them value or it is a brand that they know and trust. So, it’s not so much a question about waking up and saying “do we want to do influencer marketing?”, it’s about waking up and saying, “do we have a product that anyone cares about?”

Marketo: One thing you talk about a lot is the power of direct relationships in regards to social. Do you think that businesses are taking full advantage of this or do you think there’s still lot of room to grow?

Mitch: No one is even close to understanding it right, regardless of the fact that we have a place where everyone is fighting for direct relationships. Everyone is competing for the same customer and consumers have a limited attention span when it comes to brands and marketing messages. From the brand perspective, you need to have those direct relationships, you need to be really connected with your consumer and build a relationship.

Marketo: My final question for you is what’s your focus for the rest of 2012 at TwistImage and what can we expect in 2013?

Mitch: Right now we are very fortunate that we have a business that continues to grow and stay healthy. The agency model is one of resilience, because you win some and you lose some. We’re fortunate that we’ve been around for almost thirteen years in 2013 and have always had nice, constant and organic growth. We’re excited because our new book, Control Alt Delete is coming out in May, but the focus for us as an agency isn’t on us, it’s on the client work. We‘re constantly looking for a way to leverage technology to push marketing and innovation to bring great stories to the people who want to see them.