Influencing Marketers

Yesterday’s inaugural #ITPLiveSummit event here in Dubai tackled one of the core reasons why ITP Live has come to exist – influencer marketing. The business unit was borne from the longstanding ITP Media Group, until the end of 2016 known as ITP Publishing Group, in order to capitalise on perceived digital growth areas of video content creation, digital sales representation, ecommerce, live events and training, and also launching the region’s largest social media influencers’ agency.

ITP already publishes 85 titles, or brands as the official communication now refers to them, and the Live element is intended to augment these and also usher in a richer experience through enhanced content and data. I have yet to examine the set-up properly but, at risk of already sounding like an old dog faced with the new tricks of objective editorial and branded marketing content from the same entity, have to assume that commercial gain trumps ethics once more.

I “attended” the ITP Influencer Marketing Summit via Twitter, following and engaging with the hashtag as unfortunately could not easily find a live stream of the keynotes and panel discussions. One of the reasons I still adore Twitter as a media platform is its immediacy and transparency, where I was able to engage with various attendees and swap ideas and opinions from the comfort of my home office. I also managed to grow my network a little, too, with likeminded Twitterati from the UAE and beyond.

The main topics that seemed to crop up throughout were measurement, transparency and branding, areas that crop up in all marketing discussions where ROI and efficacy are important. We all know how easy it can be to grow a social media account with empty followers, ensuring massive reach on every post, but if no-one engages or buys the end product what is the point? I imagine the intention of yesterday’s summit was to announce the new kings of organised influencing but as far as I am concerned it is still Wild West Country crying out for a standard measurement of influence as opposed to a shiny socialite with a smart phone and a rate card.

Print PR for years has had Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE, sometimes AEV or similar), where we have the standard value of the column inches of an article mentioning our client and the price we migh thave been charged by the outlet if we put the same size advert. This, most PR practitioners agree, is an utterly outdated measure today but has provided something of a benchmark to work from. Digital and social channels cannot be measured the same way and the speed and importance of new media shouldn’t have but it seems to have caught us out, allowing various players to shout about their proprietary measurement as the best:

  1. Social Media Channels – with nearly 2 billion users on his channel, whatever Mr Zuckerberg decides will have a huge impact invariably will. Facebook adjusted algorithms to organically promote video content across Facebook in recent years and encouraged advertisers to produce moving images to take advantage of this, claiming incredible engagement figures that were exposed as lies in 2016. In an ongoing battle with YouTube, it brought up a valid discussion: what is classed as a view? According to Facebook and Instagram it was 3 seconds, YouTube around 30 seconds and Twitter was when the user clicked on the video to play it… further discussion on the confusion here, albeit from 2015. This debacle rolled on into 2016 and incurred Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP’s wrath. Still not 100% fixed, but Facebook are now focusing more on Live Video and Fake News… Don’t misunderstand me, channel-specific analytics do have their purpose but cannot be held up as an objective metric of influence alone.
  2. Klout – announced as the measure of your online influence in the Early Noughties, but riddled with issues ranging from the blackbox secret algorithms to privacy concerns over aggregating all your social media accounts into one place, Klout never quite made it as outlined in this article from 2014. My Klout profile is still active, however, and to this day I say anyone working in marketing or communications with a score under 30 needs to make more effort (I’m currently at 59, at one point Justin Bieber was more popular than Barack Obama, to give you some context). Not being considered anymore as a measurement tool, but at least they tried.
  3. Sysomos – a power player across social media managment, reputation assessment and almost every area of digital interaction, I used this tool on a daily basis whislt at Edelman Dubai. They offer their own take on influencer power and provide an unquantified authority ranking from 1 to 10 based on frequency of posting on keywords and other metrics. Unexplained, reliable, expensive solution not open to all. What about the likes of Meltwater and other monitoring tools? What standards can you offer up? And they are unlikely to be free for all to access, so why would you bother? Clients and brands switch platforms every few years so this solution might not be workable either.
  4. Agencies – whether PR, marketing, creative or media, we all need to justify our spend to clients. Long gone are the days when success of a Facebook brand page was gauged by follower numbers alone. Well, 6 years ago feels like an eon, doesn’t it? Who will pick up this mighty gauntlet and save the day? Media agencies tend to hold the bigger client budgets so their interest is clear in terms of reporting ROI, but influencer relations in my opinion sits firmly with PR agencies. In which case, is there a standard measurement for influencers already in place, produced by the likes of MEPRA or the PRCA?

An agency’s ability to manage and work effectively with the right influencer for your brand should be how you judge and select your communications partner. A PR agency unable to cover this only-slightly-broader-remit-than-before, when the work was predominantly media relations, is possibly not the right agency for your brand in the current communications landscape. I’m not talking about Instagrammers who attend launch parties, but authorities who will shift your products and offer a real rate of return. Choose wisely.

Featured image of striking a match in the darkness kindly taken by Jamie Street and taken from http://www.stocksnap.io

CEOs and online profiles in the Middle East – Chapter 3

Our exploratory journey through the top 100 CEOs in the Middle East, as defined by Trends Magazine and Insead in their Top CEO awards of 2016, continues apace as we step into the digital estate of 3rd place Mr Nasser Abdulrahman Rafi, CEO of Emaar Malls Group. Mr Nasser, welcome, we’ve been expecting you.

Without further ado let’s step into page one of a Google search for his name, and here it is:

Ashton and Ashton Mr Nasser Abdulrahman Rafi Emaar Malls Group CEO blog and online profile

I find particularly striking that the most popular/ relevant piece of content as deemed by Google (get in touch if you need more of an idea of how their algorithm works, as this whole exercise of reputation building and blogging is based upon Google’s selection) is a video from 2015, by Trends Magazine themselves no less. We are told repeatedly by the experts that video content is much more important than mere text, something I do agree with if done well. Where a content strategy anchored around video tends to fall down is due to investment (of time and budget), and the ability of a company to identify useful and insightful content that can be turned around in a timeframe that means the video is still relevant. In other words: is it evergreen?

There will be many factors at play as to why this ranks top out of everything Google can find on Mr Rafi, including:

  1. Content type – it is video and every channel, such sa Facebook, pushes video content to the top of feeds because people stay with it longer which means they can charge more in terms of advertising around it; Google also likes to include a content mix in search results wherever possible, such as images, videos, news, blog posts, social media chunks – bear this in mind when planning your content to dominate page one of Google and control your own brand.
  2. Author – the video was posted by Trends Magazine, an authority as a media outlet and an authority in the business world due to its annual CEO awards and relationship with Insead.
  3. Keywords and tags – clearly labelled with Mr Rafi’s name and title, making it easy to find and share.

Although it doesn’t have rthat many views, all the above elements add up to something Google has deemed useful to us as we search for “Nasser Abdulrahman Rafi”. And, to be fair, although it isn’t a recent video it is of interest in my humble opinion. It shows he is a human being and can talk to the camera without any issues.

Beyond the first result, we have a collection of images and media interviews. Unfortunately, as for our CEO in Chapter 2, we also have a LinkedIn result which links to the wrong man. A little more detective work into LinkedIn, by far my personal favourite after blogging for boosting your online reputation, and we find a basic profile but a profile nonetheless. I am not surprised Google didn’t pick up on it as it did not include the middle search term “Abdulrahman”. It lists an impressive series of leadership roles but is lacking a photograph which to me means literally it is a faceless profile. One reason for my undertaking this survey is to discover how many leading CEOs are in fact showing their real face in public.

There are many other great profile pieces in the media on the rest of page one of Google, even some social media links to the top-listed video, but we are lacking a couple of paragraphs from the CEO himself, an insight into what challenges make him get out of bed every day. A small ask and for something that many communicators would deem too trivial for a leading regional CEO. But an ask nonetheless.

 

Digital audits are sexy

I think everyone in communications probably had a double-take when they read this headline and are now shaking their head in disbelief. But, like many other things in life, a digital audit is a necessary process to carry out in order to progress to greater things. Like doing your laundry and cleaning your fingernails. From a brand perspective, it is an essential way to keep your online reputation in check and forms the foundation for a forward-looking strategy.

Ideally carried out in-depth on a quarterly basis, but usually undertaken by a new agency to provide clear starting points for all parties to work from, an proper dig should inform a company exactly where they stand in terms of efficacy of message but also what people are saying about them. Are they having any influence on their target market, and if not what/who is? A decent audit often throws up relevant competition as well as examples of effective campaigns that have “moved the needle”.

A great article I just read on the topic, courtesy of Econsultancy, covers off most of the key points here, but perhaps the most important thing to note is this: audits aren’t really sexy at all, that’s why you need a third party to do your dirty work and tell you what needs fixing, conveniently removed from any potential internal politics.