Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Influence Is Earned

Mitch has a good post this morning on the entire sponsored blog debate. He makes three excellent points:

1. Real interactions between real people
2. Trust is non-transferable
3. You can't buy trust

I believe where a lot of the debate stems from is that fact that we aren't really sure how to view blogs as part of the media landscape.

With regards to 'social media' platforms, as marketers we set objectives like moving opinion. But what happens to the model when we aren't "influencing influencers" with our brilliant product, service, and/or marketing idea and instead, we are actually trying to just buy them? If money can't buy you trust, that leads to the question, what CAN money buy you, if anything?

IMO, money can buy you awareness. And maybe that's what's happening here. As mass media options continue to be disintermediated, marketers are trying to find new ways to get their messages out. Buying media remains one of the easiest ways to get that message out. In digital, this often means banner ads...and now within the blogosphere, it also can mean 'paid posts' with the 'transparency disclaimers'.

As a marketer however, you have to be sure that what you are trying to do is get awareness of your message and not gain influence on your product and/or service - because influence implies that you have somehow earned that recommendation or blog post. As the reader the blog post in question, I now perceive that piece of content differently and therefore how you are impacting my purchase decision is equally changed.

Ultimately, there is likely some influence on every level of the tactics that you choose to employ but if it's influence you want and not just awareness, that simply cannot be bought.

To paraphrase Mitch, money can't buy you trust.

6 comments:

Dino said...

great post.
it's a problem of language as well. the idea that blogs, social networks and communities are "media" leads most people (marketers, actually, to be more exact ;) down the path of applying models that they are familiar with (buying space/influence).
the big difference of course is that they are not really "media" in the traditional sense at all. they are social spaces.
introducing pay per post interactions muddles up the social grammar of the space with commercial grammar. it not only fails to buy influence as you say, but also throws off the implicit foundation of weblogs (unless they have been set up from the start with a commercial logic to them).

Leigh said...

It's an interesting perspective Dino...

question for you - aren't we all media now? Why do you think social spaces and media are mutually exclusive?... i'm not sure social and commercial grammar necessarily have to be ... it does depend on the community you interact with - the audience has a lot to do with it.

Some years back I had been speaking to a Sr. mucky muck at the Toronto Star and trying to convince him to do more partnerships with brands - not advatorial exactly but say sponsoring special sections on technology - maybe a conference extension etc. He got all high and mighty with me talking about his audience and their integrity yada yada. I appreciated what he said, but as their business started to fail, they started to do all sorts of wacky stuff to get ad revenue - and some stuff i thought was way more off base then what i had been suggesting.

It will be interesting to see how it evolves over time. I suspect some things we are really not pleased with now, we might loosen our thinking on as the services and our usage of the medium matures.

Dino said...

we are all media, of course we are. but i think leaving it at that obscures very basic differences between "social" and, for lack of a better word, commercial media.

i don't think that social spaces and media are mutually exclusive. i think that introducing $$$$$ into social spaces messes things up. as dan ariely says in predictably irrational, it's like going to a dinner party and offering the host ten bucks for dinner.

the bloggers that mitch mentioned in his original post built their reputation and earned their influence with conversation and through the use of social interactions, and they should not be surprised if, by accepting pay per post deals, that influence and trust is compromised!

Samuel said...

Ultimately your right Dino - and if you end up losing your audience (aka trust) bc you take money then you won't have an audience for very long and where goes your audience so does your money.

Leigh said...

By the way, that wasn't Samual that was me! (my 6 week old was sending thank you emails for all his gifts and i forgot to log him out)

Dino said...

so funny, that is so cute!

i wish my four and a half year old twins were that thoughtful. they're too busy stealing snowman cookies in the kitchen these days!

 
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