This morning, Jeff Jarvis has a wonderful post up entitled “the Hunt For The Elusive Influencer” (here) in which he argues that people online who happen to have a ton of followers ( he uses Kim Kardashian as an example) might not be worth the $10,000 per tweet for her 3.27M followers (this is an incredibly low CPM for those speaking old school advertising jargon.) Instead finding fewer people with more engaged followers would produce a far higher ROI for your $10K marketing budget.
Jarvis goes on to say that looking for the big influencer that could make or break your company is effectively the same old lazy advertising concept that worked so well in the 50’s for television advertisers (see Seth Godin here and a lot of other places) but doesn’t work as well today.
This brings up an interesting point in terms of social networks that has recently been debated. Umair Haque (here) argued that most social networks produce what he refers to as “thin relationships” and promotes “relationship inflation”. The point being that it is extremely easy to “friend people” online (see the comment section of Fred Wilson’s A VC this morning here) – but the engagement between friends and their ability to influence each other is extremely weak. Not that it can’t be strong – and that strong relationships built amid the clutter of a lot of “thin relationships” – but in general – it is very difficult to find that one influencer – the accelerant toward a tipping point.
I’ve often wondered how this relates to more traditional media. Television buyers will tell you that network television – despite delivering fewer and fewer eyeballs every year is still the most efficient way of getting a message out and influencing potential buyers. AS audiences shrink and cost for commercials goes up – CPM’s rise dramatically – and yet I would argue that the advertising today is probably less effectual (given all of the clutter out there, on top of DVR’s, multi-tasking, Facebook while you watch etc…) that advertising on traditional media is close to at an all time low efficiency wise. Yet CBS continues to grow its revenues year after year – and politicians continue to pay in front of elections to get on TV.
It would seem logical that rather than just try and reach as many people as possible in the most efficient (that is cost efficient) manner – advertisers and marketers should try and reach the audience that is most engaged in adjacencies to its product or service. So rather than paying Kim Kardashian $10K to tweet about her new car – or whatever she tweets about – pay hard core bloggers who have amassed a tribe of engaged audience members – find a tv show that is micro focused on the issue at hand – find newsletters on the subject etc… rather than take the easy way out by just buying the big audience.
Marketing and advertising is extremely hard – and I don’t envy anyone who is trying to do a great job for their clients right now. So many choices – and each require a good bit of work and understanding to execute properly. Yet without this work the “efficient buy” will be anything but.
What all this means to me is that as a trend media buying and planning will get ever more important for marketers (great of IPG and OMC etc…) but these areas will become lower and lower margin businesses as the complexity of them rises. Someone who can cut across all media forms and slice and dice categories effectively will end up as the winner – and it is likely as not someone who we have not heard of yet.