The limited power of influencers

He was an influencer, but would he have helped your brand that much?

He was an influencer, but would he have helped your brand that much?

“Influencers.”

Marketers love ’em. We spend time courting them. We listen to their shit, though it may be painful.

While “influencing influencers” has always been, and remains, a key component of many PR and marketing campaigns, the focus folks put on the activity has grown in the era of social media. This despite the fact that today many “influencers” are not members of the traditional fourth estate.

But attention from influencers – whether an endorsement, a mention, etc – doesn’t do that much unless it is seriously sustained.

I’ll tell you about a recent episode I had with a celebrity who fits the definition of a “power user” in terms of social media properties. I think the anecdote has useful insights about the power and limitations of influencers.

Here goes…

Under the banner of my retail business, FAIT ICI, I run a group blog about food and life in Montreal called Ici et here. This blog features 52 posts, by 52 different people over 52 weeks. The celebrity I speak of posted Friday February 18th,  and shared the post via Facebook and with her 200k+ Twitter followers the same day. Here are some facts about what happened:

  • Unique visits on the day she posted and the following two days were equal to a normal month’s worth of traffic.
  • The post received 18 comments, a substantial amount for this blog which is 16 weeks old (most of them were obsequious nonsense and none came from established members of the blog’s community but I’ll ignore that for now).

By Thursday and Friday of last week (6-7 days after the celeb’s post) traffic was back to normal levels. Still solid, but far from the stratosphere type stuff we saw as a result of the celebrity post.

What do I think all this means?

Influencers, power users, celebs, whatever you wanna call them are helpful. They get you SPIKES of attention. But quick bits of exposure or attention from power users is not a sustainable strategy.

Our spike was fueled by the celebrity’s community washing up on our shores. Interestingly, the bounce rate on the day the celeb tweeted the post was 10% above average – high indeed and indicative of the fact that a bunch of newbies had shown up for one reason only. Those who stopped in that day are now gone, and the VAST majority of ’em ain’t coming back without more prodding from the celebrity. They won’t buy from us, won’t share future posts, won’t leave comments, won’t tell us useful things that will help our bottom line.

I am not saying you shouldn’t be happy when some power user brings folks to your owned media properties en masse. What I’m suggesting is that your time is better spent doing the grunt work with folks who are liable to keep paying attention to you over time.

In other words, a real and vibrant community,  – which take OODLES of time to build – is worth far more than a “one hit wonder” from some power user. This is true even if the community is numerically small.

What do you think? Have you had a different experience? Love to hear from ya.

3 Comments

  • Marty says:

    Spot on, J, but you really knew all that already, didn’t you?

    We (dealSpark) experienced the same thing on the day you did your own celebrity endorsement of our venture. A 24-hour spike, and then back to the grindstone.

    Media attention is great, especially for the ego, but for the long term you either establish a mutually satisfactory relationship with your customers/clients/members, or you fail.

  • And through your story, I think you’ve done a very nice job of highlighting the difference between popularity and influence. Too see true impact, we definitely have to build relationships with influencers over time. And if the right influencers. That is all part of building community — understanding who are community is influenced by, what kind of content and conversation they want, etc.

    Good stuff.

  • I think you hit the nail on the head with “spikes of attention.”
    If the person who shared the post was some sort of fad celebrity, it makes sense that there are spikes and just that. And because of the type of following which may not be relevant, it may not be a sustainable influence.

    But while we may want sustainable influence in many cases (long-term causes, customer loyalty, etc.), these spikes of influence may be beneficial for viral activity such as a video or a funny post or something.

    Thanks for sharing the temporal limitations of certain influencers.

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