“Bangs” (Muireann Carey-Campbell) asks Oh, Blogging, where art thou?:
I always thought of blogging as a way to give voice to the little guy (or gal, or non-gender conforming individual). We had a chance to create our own media, to be the antithesis of everything that frustrated us about the mainstream. Now every other thing I see in my timeline is an influencer spouting how much they love whatever their brand of choice is that day, with professionally taken photographs, Photoshopped within an inch of their lives.
With all the tools and opportunity to create a media of our own, we’ve become walking advertisements for brands. Ethics and values – all up for the highest bidder.
Yet, even that can go wrong…
Talking of “influencers“, here’s some very good questions about the use of “influencer” marketing in travel:
Out of curiosity I requested the international visitor numbers to Costa Brava on either side of the 2012 TBEX event in Girona. Arrivals the following year were virtually static: 2,953,097 in 2012 to 2,965,649 in 2013.
TBEX is the largest gathering of digital influencers in the travel space, which makes it (even if it’s not publicly billed as such) by far the biggest “blog trip”. Ready for those big numbers? The event generated 26,967 hashtagged tweets with just under 150,000,000 impressions on Twitter alone. (Google TBEX Girona for an entirely unscientific snapshot of its wider exposure.) So if not in visitor numbers how did Tourism Costa Brava gauge their returns?
How indeed? (Spoiler: “branding”.)
And what does this do for the bloggers and the brands involved?
I honestly wonder if we even know what “credibility” is anymore. Does plonking that standard disclaimer at the end of a post promising that “as ever all opinions are my own” really count? If so it’s a remarkable stroke of luck that bloggers never seem to have a shitty time when they’re travelling on someone else’s dime. Do we know what this is doing to the legitimacy of our messages, and therefore our potential to “influence” consumers in the first place?
The Telegraph takes a sceptical – if not quite cynical look – at the world of the online influencer, especially those with a Klout score of over 70:
John Stuart Mill once remarked that it doesn’t matter if you’re influential: what matters is that people think you are. Companies are willing to pay hand over fist for UYK insight. Some of these high Klouters get paid for speaking or advising companies about “doing social”. Thomas told me that he can earn £500 an hour by training top CEOs “how to use Twitter” and how to set up decent LinkedIn accounts. Seemed to me like an awful lot to pay for what is, fundamentally, very simple.
Online influence sometimes looks suspiciously like a pyramid scheme: those at the top get more influential by building legions of acolytes who also wish to have “influence”. But it’s influence in the abstract – not influence in any particular sphere of life or business. It’s an abstraction to the point of meaninglessness.
Put it this way: I had a link from an “online influencer” recently. I braced myself for the wave of traffic. It never came. I’ve had people with 150 followers send more traffic my way.
Are you obsessed with finding “influencers” for your brand or journalism?
Forget about it. It’s a fiction, an seductive idea that science does not support – according to a recent post on the Harvard Business Review:
Duncan Watts, a researcher at Microsoft who co-created one of the most important models of how social networks function, says, “The influentials hypothesis is a theory that can be made to fit the facts once they are known, but it has little predictive power. It is at best a convenient fiction; at worst a misleading model. The real world is much more complicated.”
It’s worth reading to the end of Greg Satell’s piece on influence – because there are some gems at the end about how to really improve the chance of something going viral.