Technorati Media recently came out with its 2013 Digital Influencer Report, covering the latest insights of brand marketers, influencers, and consumers when its comes to social media and digital marketing. Sixty percent of brand marketers predict an average increase of 40 percent in social spending this year, but that spending isn't aligned with how consumers view social media and how their purchasing decisions are influenced. Blogs aren't getting much attention despite they rank high with consumers for trust, popularity and influence. Here are the most interesting things I found in the 2013 Digital Influencer Report:
Blogs are the Third-Most Influential Digital Resource
Right behind retail sites and brand sites, blogs are considered the most influential digital resource when making a purchase. They are actually more influential than social media sites! On top of that, blogs are also the fifth-most trustworthy source overall for information, behind news sites, Facebook, retail sites, and Google+ (in that order). What's particularly neat about this is that only two of the top five sources are places that you own (the retail site and the blog), and that the three most influential are all owned media. This means that businesses are missing out on a huge opportunity to influence purchases when they aren't blogging or when they aren't blogging enough. It also means that by emphasizing social media, they aren't fully capitalizing on the media they own and the flexibility and power that comes with owned media.
19% of Influencers Make Money from Posting Brand Content
This is a really interesting statistic because search engines penalize content and businesses that pay for links, and if you're paying someone to publish your post and to include a few links back to your site, you could end up in some trouble. Since almost one in five influencers are making some money this way, there are a lot of brands that could be in trouble because they are willing to pay.
What bothers me most about this situation is that influencers don't get punished for charging for these links. It's always the brand who paid for the link that gets punished. Sometimes, the influencer doesn't reveal there is a charge until the post is finished an ready to go, which is something that I ran into about a year ago. The influencer wanted $150 at the last minute to publish a post because it had a link in it. The link wasn't even a backlink, but a link to a cite a statistic we mentioned, but that didn't matter to the influencer.
Therefore, I advise that brands avoid paying to get your post published at all costs. Work around it by trying to forge some sort of partnership instead, or even by removing the links from the sponsored content. I've asked Matt Cutts about this situation, and hopefully he takes the time to answer in an upcoming video.
19% of Influencers Also Get Paid to Produce Brand-Sponsored Product Reviews
This one isn't a no-no yet, but brand-sponsored product reviews (especially positive ones about their own product or service) are receiving increased skepticism and discredit. This is partly because more and more brands are paying for positive reviews, so its getting harder to tell which reviews have been paid for and which are genuine reviews from happy customers. It's already predicted that 10% of social media reviews will be fake and paid for by 2014, and blogs might not be much different. Distinguishing the two is also getting difficult because brand-sponsored product reviews aren't being disclosed as such, as the Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on fake reviews and reviews that aren't disclosed as paid for.
If you are practicing this, or did practice this, then make sure these reviews are disclosed or are deleted. If not, then it's best that you don't start. Get reviews the right way by writing a case study to highlight a successful customer, or by taking ownership or your Yelp or Angie's List or fill-in-the-blank review page. That way, you can then encourage customers to visit these sites and to write reviews. Also, with ownership, you can appropriately respond to any negative reviews.