If You Are Thinking About Paying Your Influencers...Stop

Paying influencers, which Forrester defines as independent bloggers, industry analysts, and mainstream journalists, is a bad idea.

Public and analyst relations professionals have been managing influencer programs since long before the first utterance of the words "social media." They know how to strike the right balance of keeping influencers informed while gently motivating them to engage with their brand through 1:1 relationship building. Unfortunately, social media has ignited a population of "influencers" who are in it for the financial rewards more than for developing their personal brands. This has led to many brands jumping on the "pay for play" influencer program bandwagon, which, for some, has led to terrible results. For example, Microsoft learned the hard way back in June when its agency blasted out a paid blogging campaign invite to a large audience of influencers. And other brands that have been caught paying bloggers and influencers to write positive product reviews have also paid the price.  

Paid influencer programs diminish the authenticity of the message you are trying to amplify, have legal implications (if not carefully implemented), and can really irritate influencers who detest pay-for play-programs. Yet over 35% of marketers still use financial incentives. My simple advice: Don't do it!

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Jive And Salesforce Reaffirm Their Commitment To Customer Communities

Today, both Jive and Salesforce announced updates to their customer community offerings. Although their updates do not include any groundbreaking innovations (where is McKayla Maroney when you need her?), I find it interesting that Jive and Salesforce have significantly dialed up their marketing efforts for their external-facing community solutions. Historically, both vendors have primarily focused on their internal enterprise community tools and seemed to be on a gradual trajectory to building out their external customer-facing community products. Today's announcements reflect my position that customer communities are becoming the tour de force of social marketing strategies. In fact, last year we published a Forrester Wave that evaluated the ecosystem of community platform vendors in which Lithium was the leader. In that report, I discuss how brands will increasingly seek out the best-of-breed social depth tools and/or enterprise community platforms that facilitate digital interactions with their prospects and customers — on their owned web properties. In response to this demand, Jive, Salesforce

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Two Things To Consider Before You Invest In A Social Content Curation Platform

Chances are, you've recently visited a brand's webpage and stumbled upon a visually appealing, Pinterest-like media gallery with photos of happy customers and the brand's products. Today, media galleries are all the rage as marketers attempt to capture the priceless content their audiences are generating on social networks and at live events. But before you run out and invest what's left of your 2014 marketing budget on a social content curation platform (see Figure 2 from this report) make sure social content curation will help you:

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Use LinkedIn For Social Reach

I became a LinkedIn member when it first arrived on the scene as an exclusive social network for business professionals. I recall all the buzz that was spreading throughout Silicon Valley about LinkedIn, and that one needed a special “invite” to become a member. Looking back, I remember how honored I felt to be “linkedin” by a fellow colleague — I was officially in the club! Over the years, I have watched the social network evolve into an effective recruitment platform (disclaimer: I got my analyst job thanks to a Forrester recruiter who found me on LinkedIn), then to a content publishing platform after it added Slideshare, a newsfeed and its popular influencer program.

Today, LinkedIn is attracting a plethora of B2B and B2C brands that are trying to build a presence in front of 300 million professionals. There are currently more than 3 million company pages on LinkedIn. All of this brand activity begs the question: What engagement rates are brands getting on LinkedIn? We looked at the top 50 global brands and their member interactions across a variety of social networks. We found that LinkedIn’s engagement rate was lower than other social networks that also have professional members:

 

Why does LinkedIn’s engagement rate lag behind the others? Members simply do not go to LinkedIn to interact with brands after they have purchased a brand’s product. Marketers understand this — only 5% use LinkedIn for a social relationship objective (e.g. drive customer loyalty, provide customer service).

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Look Beyond The Obvious When Considering Social Login

Chances are, you have recently registered on a brand’s website or community page and were prompted to use your social network credentials. Perhaps you (reluctantly) used your Facebook login because it’s easy to remember — or it made the registration process a little less painful. 

Personally, I am finding that I am using my Facebook or LinkedIn social credentials more frequently. Just the other day, I used my Facebook login to access the scheduling tool for my favorite barre studio. I use social login out of laziness (its easier) or because my memory is maxed out on user names and passwords. But the more comfortable I get using my social network credentials, the more information I will allow the brand to access — especially if it’s a brand I trust.

And I am not alone. According to this study, over half of the 90% of consumers who encounter social login use it. And for some websites, that percentage is as high as over 80%.

So if consumers are using their social network credentials, why are marketers lagging behind? Many marketers I speak with do not think about social login as a key component of their social marketing strategy. They understand the obvious benefits like faster and easier registration, but they struggle to see social login’s potential as a complement to their social marketing strategy.

And the adoption percentages reflect this. Social login is the least-adopted social depth tactic by digital marketers:

 

 

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Three Brands Will Inspire You With Their Social Depth Strategies

If you don’t understand what social depth is, just go to your favorite retail brand website. Most likely, you will find either ratings and reviews and/or colorful photo galleries on the site, providing you with customers’ written and visual perspectives of the brand’s products. And if you are a business decision-maker, chances are that you have stumbled on an interesting blog or two on a B2B brand site. Social depth is not a new concept, but brands are increasingly coming up with creative ways to use social content to inspire and influence buyers who are on their website(s). This is because social content helps move buyers from exploration to a purchase.

At Forrester’s Marketing Forum next week (and in a soon-to-be published report), I will talk about three brands that have launched brilliant and successful social depth strategies. These brands really set the stage for innovative approaches and should provide you with inspiration as you think about your social depth marketing plans this year:

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Our Take On Lithium's Acquisition Of Klout

Today, Lithium officially announced its acquisition of Klout and its 60-plus employees. Klout has had its fair share of controversy over the years — primarily because its primary influence score tried to be a universal number, independent of context, and it provided limited offerings for marketers. So when the acquisition news leaked a few weeks ago, many of us who have been following both companies have been scratching our heads: Why would Lithium, a leading community platform vendor, spend hundreds of millions to scoop up Klout? Here is my and my colleague Zachary Reiss-Davis’ perspective on the acquisition:

  • Lithium claims that Klout will enable it to round out its social marketing offerings. Today, Lithium provides a robust community platform and a social engagement platform, providing marketers with solutions for establishing both depth and engagement. But the company lacks a solution to help marketers meet their reach objectives. According to Lithium, Klout will help it close this gap by enabling Lithium to implement future advocacy offerings and do so through Klout’s reach of 500-million-plus consumers. 
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Agile Teams Are Critical For Social Marketing Success

I often ask marketing leaders how they organize their resources for social, and the responses are rarely the same. I hear everything from: "We have one person in PR who does social part-time" to "We have hundreds of full time social marketing managers across the globe." Despite this disparity, I find that marketers often share the same level of frustration when they try to advance their social marketing initiatives. Whether they have one social marketing manager or hundreds of social marketing managers, marketers claim that their existing resources are stretched.

Quantity does not equate to quality

Marketers tell us that a lack of dedicated employees is a big pain point. And if you dig a bit deeper, you will find that this is a daunting obstacle that prevents many organizations from scaling and optimizing their social marketing efforts. Marketers often feel that the only way to scale and optimize is to hire more social marketing managers. Yes, more dedicated headcount helps, but it is not the panacea. In order to be truly organized for social marketing success, you need a new perspective.

You must have agile teams 

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Show Us Your Social Marketing Prowess: Submit An Entry To The 2014 Forrester Groundswell Awards!

The 2014 Forrester Groundswell Awards entry deadline is February 28, which is only 10 days away! There are many benefits to winning a Forrester Groundswell Award — but you must submit your entry by the deadline if want an opportunity to show the world your social marketing prowess! Below are some links to details so you can get started on your entry today:

2014 Forrester Groundwell Awards Announcement

How to win A Social Reach award

How to win A Social Depth award

How To win A Social Relationship award

Forrester Groundswell entry form

Nate's last call for submissions

How To Be A Social Depth Winner

We are currently accepting entries for our 2014 Forrester Groundswell Awards and as we are rapidly approaching our February 28th deadline, I thought I would share some insights on what it takes to win in the Social Depth category.

For those of you who need a refresh, social depth includes all of the various social capabilities that a brand adds to its own website and/or campaign microsite in order to facilitate a buyers' exploration of the brand and its offerings. Social depth tactics can include a blog, ratings and reviews, discussion forums, curated and aggregated social content (user-generated and brand-generated) and social sign-on. These tactics provide tremendous value to marketers who have deployed them. In fact, my recent report shows how B2B marketers give social depth tactics high grades in terms of their contribution to business outcomes.

But what makes a social depth strategy stand out from the rest? First and foremost, your social depth strategy should provide the rich content and customer insights a buyer seeks when exploring your brand and products on your website. This branded and user-generated content should move a buyer from early exploration to consideration and ultimately to an actual online or offline purchase. Brands that do this really well can show how their strategy drives quality leads, conversions and online and/or offline sales.

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