Influence Marketing: 68% Of Marketers Allocating Significant Share Of Budget (But Klout Gets A Thumbs Down)

Influence marketing researchInfluence marketing has become a core marketing discipline, with more than two-thirds of marketers saying they’ll be dedicating 20% or more of their marketing resources to social media influence campaigns in the next 12 months. But the majority will not be using social scoring platforms to support those efforts, saying they are “not sold on social scoring as a valid measurement.”

According to a new influence marketing survey of about 1,300 marketing professionals conducted by Sensei Marketing Inc.  and ArCompany Inc., marketers are sold on social influence–but not on influence measurement tools: 28% say social media influence marketing is a “key part of the majority of their marketing campaigns,” 37% say they have “occasionally” adopted social influence campaign, and  another 15% are assessing the viability and cost/resources required.  The majority, 68%, say they plan to dedicate one-fifth or more of their marketing budgets to social media influence in the next year.

But they’re not necessarily using social scoring tools like Klout to do so. 79%  have used social scoring platforms, with 43% having used them “several times.” But more than half–55%–say that these tools are not useful: the results are too varied, and its “hard to understand why these influencers should be contacted;” 94% say they just don’t trust the tools. As a result, the majority (64%) use the scores as just the starting point, and then manually sift through the results to identify influencers to work with.

Only 5% say that these influence measurement tools are a key part of their marketing strategy.  And only 3% say that yes, the scores do actually indicate a higher degree of influence. 62% say that it is unlikely they will use social scoring tools in the next year, and another 7% say there is zero chance they will use these tools to identify influencers.

Influence marketing research scoring tools

The reason that influence measurement tools are getting such a low review? Marketers report that they are either not useful–or they are not familiar with them. Half of the marketers rated Klout a 1 or a 2 in terms of its usefulness to them as a marketer, on a scale of 1 to 10 where 10 is the highest rating.  30% rate Technorati the same low score. But while they don’t rate Klout or Technorati very highly, they’re typically not familiar with any of the many alternative influence measurement tools on the market. “Don’t know” was the highest rating for Kred (47%), PeerIndex (44%), Traackr (41%), Empire Avenue (64%), Appinions (73%), Tweetlevel (67%), Swaylo (78%), and Crowdtap (75%).

How do marketers define influence marketing? The majority, 60% see its value as being about word of mouth, defining it as “the ability to connect with online users who can share your message to a wide audience.” 44% see it as a lead generation tool, 24% a customer acquisition tool, and 16% a branding exercise.

How do you plan to use influence marketing in the coming year? Will you be looking at some of the newer tools that are not yet as widely known, or have you written off  influence measurement tools altogether?

If you’re interested in learning more about the discipline of influence marketing,  Sensei Marketing’s Sam Fiorella and ArCompany’s Danny Brown are the co-authors of the upcoming book, Influence Marketing:  How to Create, Manage and Measure Brand Influencers in Social Media Marketing (for which I acted as technical editor.)

  • Hi Tonia,

    Thanks so much for sharing our report findings here. I have to admit, the results staggered both Sam and myself – we’ve lived in this “bubble” of questioning what influence (and by connection, influence marketing) really means, and have had our own thoughts on the value of scoring platforms (hence the genesis of the book).

    To see such a report, with the participants of the survey representing who they do, was quite an eye opener even for us. The future looks interesting, that’s for sure!

    • Yes, indeed. The findings really map to what I hear from most of the marketers I’ve talked to: they take the concept of influence marketing very seriously, but serious marketers are skeptical of the scoring tools.

      It’ll be really interesting to see what happens as the new wave of more sophisticated tools start to penetrate the market — whether marketers will take a close look at them and find value, or are they completely turned off by the idea of automating any of this.

  • I am glad I don’t work at Klout or Kred; I had a fascinating discussion with a Chairman of a Fortune 50 company whose biggest fear was ‘what if our PRODUCT becomes the enemy?’ He saw what was happening to soda sales and knew that could happen to his product.

    I suppose that the folks at Klout & Kred could reconfigure their own scoring algorithms, but I ask myself – are they too far gone? They’ve been arguing that their model is solid, but this survey makes it obvious that their core market doesn’t believe in it.

    • Experience and time will tell — but it’s certainly hard to regain trust once you’ve lost it.

      As I mentioned in my comment below, however, there are a lot of newer, far more nuanced and sophisticated tools coming onto the market, tools that look at context, conversations and communities rather than assigning random individual scores to people. It’ll be very interesting to see what kind of reception those tools get…

  • Hi Tonia, despite the skepticism that marketers face with social scoring sites, we still shouldn’t dismiss the idea of scoring as “part” of the method to define influence. It would be great to have a simplified approach IF it takes into consideration ALL the variables that go into a person’s decision making. Credit scores use this approach for years to determine someone’s credit-worthiness; but it uses a number of variables including credit history, debt, types of credit used plus other variables to allow banks and other financial institutions to rate you as a viable customer for their credit products. I don’t know that influence can be easily distilled down to a single numeral but I would challenge that the future of influence looks bright and technologies will be looking to past and present solutions to make it easier for marketers to make these decisions.

    • couldn’t agree with you more, Hessie. The problem with the credit score analogy, however, is that credit ratings are trying to answer one simple question: does this person pay their bills on time and have a history showing that they can responsibly carry debt? Attempting to rate my “influence” is far more complex: I may have a history of being influential in specific topics, across specific communities, at specific points in time — but that does not mean that influence will carry through across other topics, communities or points in time. @JureKlepic and the team at recently released a report identifying all of the factors that need to be taken into account (and which is on my list to blog about!)..

      • Yes, I just finished reading Jure’s report. It is indeed complicated. And I agree it may not be as easy to simplify this approach. Perhaps it comes down to common sense augmented with current technologies.

        • Common sense??? You mean I can’t just automate everything?????? ;-)

  • Chris Spinks

    Social scoring platforms like Klout are necessary because they measure things like the amount of RTs and how many people actually engage a users content. The fact that any random joe can buy hundreds of thousands of “followers” today, marketers don’t know if the influencer they are paying to share their product actually has those real numbers they are looking at. I know many people being paid by companies to tweet products to their fake followers because the companies didn’t think to check the persons real influence before hand. Instead they looked at the amount of followers and were deceived.

    • Hey Chris – thanks for stopping by. Here’s my question: why are companies paying people to tweet about their products? What kind of engagement does that really deliver — regardless of whether their followers are real or fake?

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