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Influencers... Don't?

By: NMK Created on: May 2nd, 2008
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A recent study from Canadian research group, Pollara, could prove to be a rude awakening for marketers keen to exploit social media as a channel for pushing brand messages. According to the study, so called social media influencers may not have as much sway as marketers thought them to.

A recent study from Canadian research group, Pollara, could prove to be a rude awakening for marketers keen to exploit social media as a channel for pushing brand messages. According to the study, so called social media influencers may not have as much sway as marketers thought them to.

The research revealed that of those engaged in social networks, nearly 80 per cent say they trust the recommendations of family or friends compared to only 23 per cent who think the same of popular bloggers.

Credible but not influential?

facethumbHowever, according to the research, this does not mean that the credibility of bloggers should be dismissed altogether - merely re-evaluated. There is still value in the number of people this group reaches. Social tools (such as blogs, communities and social networks) are still very important to the day-to-day lives of respondents with more than half stating they used social tools when researching products.

Negative but influential?

A separate study by research firm, Millward Brown found that marketers should not look at Internet influencers as a channel of communication or endorsement, but actually monitor them for negative feedback about a brand or product.

Their survey of 1,000 UK consumers found that of those who used social communities and blogs, a third had received negative brand opinions from them and only four in ten received positive feedback. In contrast, offline reviews are much more likely to be positive and the consumer’s most widely used source of information. The survey found that 54 per cent said they received a positive recommendation with offline contacts.

According to Ged Carroll, lead consultant, Digital Strategies Group (EMEA) at Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, social networks have forced marketers to change their tactics.

"The key challenge (for marketers) is that the speed of these tools mean that they have to speed up their response time, a great example of what happens when you don’t do that is how the Phorm story has run away from the communications team and fostered a hierarchical community to fight the company," said Carroll.

Second to personal contacts, price comparison sites, such as PriceRunner were also seen as influential in the study, with 57 per cent of respondents finding them very relevant and almost a quarter (24 per cent) choosing a brand purely because of the recommendation. The print media remains significant, though its influence is declining. Only ten percent are affected by messaging in newspapers and magazines during the purchasing process, which rises to 20 per cent for specialist press.

Do not ignore Internet influencers

Although online word of mouth has become a more widely source of information, it was still relatively small compared to other sources. However, Anthony Tattum, marketing manager of events and exhibition company, Custard Factory Spaces, believes that marketers should not ignore opinion leaders on the web.

"The most powerful form of promotion is word of mouth. If you can get ten people actively talking about an event the chances are you will sell a hundred tickets. If you can get a hundred objective ambassadors then you can get a thousand. Advertising, PR and all recognised marketing services are the tools to start these rumour mills but the power lies in the direct contact from consumer to consumer," he said.

"This is why social networking sites like Bebo, MySpace or Facebook are so popular and have such a strong control over the minds of popular culture. People love to gossip, and like it or like it not, information that is passed by word of mouth will register more succinctly in the mind of any consumer than any marketing campaign, no matter how effective. The trick is to use our marketing resources to position your message in the subconscious of your audience. Once an individual thinks that your message is their own idea, and in turn start to relay that to a third party, you will have the most powerful brand ambassador in the business," said Tattum.

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