Chris provides strategic marketing advice to startups and PR firms. This typically includes everything from content and SEO counsel, messaging and branding, PR and social media.
He has been in tech PR and journalism for nearly 18 years, including writing for Computing and V3.co.uk. He also trains companies on how to utilise digital channels both independently and for the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA).
Chris is on a personal mission to improve the communications industry. Having been on both sides of the ‘influencer’ fence – as a PR pitching to media and bloggers, and as a journalist and football culture blogger himself – he sees so much room for improvement.
Chris wrote a fantastic article recently called, ‘Embrace The Micro-Influencer,’ I wanted to look at this role of influence and people trusting one another, not necessarily brands.
Six questions, six answers….lets jump in.
Why is influencer marketing ‘going through the roof’ as you say in your Econsultancy article?
The media has fragmented greatly since the Internet came on the scene. Before that we’d only get news from three main sources: papers, TV and radio. Now there are billions of voices with different opinions, some of whom have done a great job of building faithful audiences around their content.
Traditional media now has to compete for audiences with these self-made ‘influencers’ for their eyeballs. Meanwhile, for brands whose goal is to inform and persuade target audiences, influencers provide a key platform to get their product or service seen and reviewed.
Studies have indicated that people trust bloggers more than brands, so you can see why brands are keen to earn (or pay for) the endorsement of an influencer.
In addition, influencers often have powerful websites, which provide a valuable link back to the brand’s site for SEO purposes.
But it’s not all about audience size. As I blogged recently, it can be more effective for brands to engage with a wide range of ‘micro-influencers’ than focus on expensive, wide-reaching influencers.
Do you believe that in order to become influential we don’t need to be right, but to believe in something to earn attention and action (Seth Godin said that, I like that)
Unfortunately, yes. Recent political activity has shown that facts don’t necessarily win over the emotional context.
In the context of online influence, one does need to be entertaining, engaging and educational. If you’re not at least one of those, people will simply go elsewhere.
Do people make the mistake of focusing on reach and collecting as many people as possible, rather than building a community of people that make a connection?
I’m sure that’s true of some brands, especially for marketers who grew up in the ‘coverage’ era, when reach (opportunities to see) was everything.
Nowadays you’re looking for a wider set of goals: growing social following, drawing in links, generating shares, prompting people to answer calls-to-action and so on.
Numbers are a vanity metric. They can be important, of course, but it’s more about who and why than simply how many.
Are people more willing to trust other people, rather than brands with no face? N.B. This is a nod to the Edelman Trust Barometer and people trusting businesses more than the media and government in the UK
Yes, this has been proven time and again, and should come as no surprise. People seek out like-minded people. We curate our social media audiences, for example, as we don’t want to follow people who we find abhorrent.
Forming a ‘bubble’ like this can be dangerous, however. Take a look at how surprised some were by the EU referendum result. Anyone confident of a ‘Remain’ vote would not have looked outside his or her bubble; it was always a close call.
Social proofing – online scores and content share counters, for example – are proven to influence people. If it’s good enough for them, then it’s good enough for me etc.
Is it now more important than ever before for businesses to know their audience and move from a purely transactional relationship ie. I do, you pay?
The challenge for brands is to be useful and focus on the audience. They need to think like publishers. When I wrote for IT managers, I had to know what kept them awake at night and would speak to them daily. However, the vendors pitching to me as a journalist only seemed to want to talk about the product, rather than how it would help IT managers.
Brands must know the audience, their pain points, their interests etc. and serve them useful content that helps them in their daily lives. They need to ‘step away from the brand’ and stop trying to sell so hard. Instead, they should look to earn trust over the long term. If people trust your content and respect your company spokespeople on social media, for example, they will build up familiarity and trust for your brand, improving the likelihood that they’ll become (and remain) customers.
In an era of social listening, understanding audiences is easy to achieve, it just takes a change of mindset and internal structure.
If you could go back to when you started in the world of PR and media, how would you tell them 2016 looked like?
I started out in PR in late 1998 faxing press releases and using dial-up Internet, but the basic foundations of what we’d recognise as social media and mobile culture – online chat rooms and basic mobile phones – were there. The key thing for me is the power of the individual to create content, and it share instantly and globally.
Influence has democratised, but the tools to track those influencers are there for brands to utilise.
Massive thanks to Chris and sharing his perspective. Why not connect on his side of the tracks. Great work coming from his space.
Chris on Twitter: click here
The Silvester & Finch blog: click here