The elusive promise of “influencer marketing”

There were few surprises in the 2013 Digital Influence Report (pdf), released in February by Technorati. The main findings were that brands still spend a small fraction of their digital marketing budget on social media – around 10% – of which more than half goes to platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Only another 10% again – just 1% of the total digital marketing budget – goes to blogs and “influencers.”

This is despite, according to Technorati (again, unsurprisingly given they’re a blog directory,) that blogs are among the most trustworthy sources of consumer information, and are more important in shaping opinion and purchase decisions than either Twitter or Facebook.

Influence & blogs - budget and impact mis-aligned - i&i travel media

The report concludes that this amounts to a wasted opportunity for brands and digital marketers, that: “where brands are spending is not fully aligned with how and where consumers are seeing value and being influenced.”

Technorati’s questionable objectivity aside, it’s fairly clear that online influencer marketing is still problematic for many brands, restricted as it is by issues of scalability and reliable analytics. Unlike most digital channels it is still very difficult to predict or calculate ROI from an engagement with an influencer, or even to identify an influencer in the first place.

And in the absence of effective multi-channel attribution (determining which channel or activity contributed to a sale or conversion, and to what extent) it can be difficult for brands to figure out how much of an impact influencers actually make on their bottom line.

In the travel industry we are blessed with very active and diverse communities of digital influencers, media pros and independent bloggers, but for many brands the sheer volume can be overwhelming.

Identifying the right people, engaging them in the right way and monitoring the right outcomes can be such a challenge that many brands prefer to stick with what they know.

But there’s no doubt that those who are able to navigate the minefield and get it right, there is enormous opportunity to be had.


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