I recently heard about a brand officially breaking up with a blogger. Not because the blogger did anything wrong, but because the brand believed the blogger was not longer of value. Did the blogger still blog? Yes…but less frequently, in exchange for strength in other social platforms like Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest and more. She is publishing where her audience is engaging- since blog readers are falling off rapidly for all blogs as social platforms grow. Her digital footprint is actually far broader than when the brand relationship started. In fact you could say easily she is much more influential now, than when she began her relationship with the brand.
But alas, the brand- chose to rank self-reported blog analytics* far more valuable than diversity in audience, category exposure or the power of off-line influence. In essence, the brand was taking a narrow, small minded view of what it means to be influential. They were applying traditional media rules sitting around stuffy board rooms asking “what are the blogger’s impressions? What is her reach?” instead of seeking out the true influence indicator which is the ratio between reach and digital engagement across all channels. They weren’t placing weighted value on those social actions taken by the blogger’s audience based on her recommendations. Who cares if a blogger is ‘talking’ to a million people if NO ONE IS LISTENING. Reach is a lie. Sadly the brand wasn’t taking any of that evolved thinking into consideration and seem to be stuck in a 2005 approach to working with influencers.
And I feel sorry for this brand. When Influencer Relationship Marketing began, this brand’s simplistic approach was the norm. But great brands (Nintendo comes to mind) have moved past that- building networks of advocates across categories and all with a range of reach. Brands doing great IRM work understand that relationships drive advocacy, and advocacy drives action. Chasing reach is the ‘antiquated’ way of approaching IRM and great brands are now wise enough to be looking to work with ‘power middle’ influencers, who offer personal platform communities that act on recommendations versus those who profess high reach alone.
The worst part of the story is how the brand has interpreted ‘brand loyalty’. Brands want influencers to be endlessly loyal – and yet they are willing to walk away from the blogger when their profile or digital footprint changes. Apparently ‘loyalty’ is not a two way thing with this brand….which means the brand isn’t really practicing influencer REALTIONSHIP management. They seem to be practicing influencer TRANSACTION management; to use influencers as long as they fill up their Excel column that says ‘blog reach’ so they can justify event and program spending. Buying temporary influence based on single data points does not generate sustained advocacy. And without that as a goal-then why bother?
So what happens when a blogger gets the official break up notice? In this case, it was a brand the blogger had worked with for many years- creating content and becoming highly associated as an expert on the brand. Fielding emails from readers for advice weekly. It is likely she will remain quiet and not let others know that the brand no longer believes she is valuable. She may choose to remove past publications, videos and posts as there is no reason the brand should continue to benefit from her SEO halo. In most cases bloggers who have been treated this way appear to go away quietly…until they have something negative to say. Perhaps a brand crisis or newsworthy issue will draw the rebuked blogger back to her screen to speak negatively about the brand. Which is ironically when the brand will take notice at the individuals level of influence again.
At that moment the brand will scratch their head and think ‘oh maybe we made a mistake’. But it will be too late. Because their advocate is now a BADvocate- and there is little that can be done once a blogger has been scorned by a brand.
It is a cautionary tale for brands to understand what it means to be in a relationship with your influencer networks. Like any relationship it should be based on trust and commitment. From both sides. It doesn’t mean it is a permanent relationship- but it does mean you should clearly define your thresholds and parameters UPFRONT, so both parties know when it might no longer be a good fit. Think of it as an influencer pre-nup.
And to the blogger who was dissed by the brand? Don’t worry- they will regret the decision to leave you for the new shiny blogger who is inflating her numbers, leaving fake comments on her own blog posts and practically begging friends to engage with her content. Before long the brand will understand the value you brought to the social conversation with your integrity and high quality coverage.
In fact-just check your email.
I am sure you will have a better offer, from a better brand by tomorrow.
*There is no technology, software or tool that can show brands the actual page views of any blog. EVER. And if you are a brand who is using ‘Compete.com’ please know that my research has shown these numbers to be off up to 800%. In both directions. Which means you are missing out on very influential people, and working with others who do not reach your thresholds. In order to determine ‘influence’ the entire digital footprint needs to be evaluated and the ratios BETWEEN data points are what matter most. You likely need a professional for this. Hire a smart agency. I happen to know one. Just ask.
The thoughts in this post are mine
alone and do not reflect the beliefs
of my employer.
Disney, Disneyland, Disneyworld, PR, Halloween, Mickey’s Party, blogger,