The Truth About Influencers – Spotlight #319

Good Monday morning. It’s December 2nd. The UN’s Convention on Climate Change begins today in Madrid. Visit Moms Clean Air Force’s state directory pages to learn about ways you can help restore Earth’s equilibrium.  We’ve been proud to work with them for more than eight years.

Today’s Spotlight takes about 5 minutes to read. Want to chat about something you see here? Here is a contact form.

1. News To Know Now

1. NYC tells FedEx to get their delivery robots ‘off our streets’ reads the New York Post’s headline. The article has video of the Roxos bot in SoHo. Apparently it can’t be on the sidewalk and it’s not street legal. But FedEx says it has “stair-climbing wheels” which suggests to me that our robot overlords will not be deterred if we hide in the guest room. Completely unrelated but interesting is news that Walmart’s Jet subsidiary is halting grocery delivery in New York City. Maybe the FedEx bots were blocking the streets.

2. Threatpost reports that more than 100,000 scam domains have names that look like trusted retail names and have registered https certificates in those fraudulent names. Please make sure that you are using the correct website this holiday season.

3. Ransomware incidents are also increasing, reports Bleeding Computer citing a confidential report in the Netherlands. Three types of ransomware have infected 1,800 businesses, including a New Mexico school district and a cloud computer company servicing 110 nursing homes. This is an issue that sounds far-fetched until it happens to your organization.

2. The Truth About Influencers

Marketers have long used celebrities in advertising, but lately seem to have conflated celebrity with notoriety. The idea of being famous for being famous isn’t new but monetizing that noteworthiness for advertising has brought society to the profession of social media influencer. 

There are social media celebrities with millions of subscribers following their video or other channels. This is about the next level down, the people who have tens of thousands of likes, followers, or other vanity metrics and relatively few subscribers. Influencers use the platform’s notoriety, especially Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter, to blast their followers with a commercial.

The engagement metrics for the messages they promote are poor. Learning that a brand scrapped its influencer program after failing to achieve its goals is now common. And the sad truth is that most influencers sell their promotions using the same vanity metrics of impressions and followers that by themselves create no profit.

Those vanity metrics are also often inflated, making them even more suspect. Data from Google’s Avinash Kaushik tells a cautionary tale of average prices ranging from $200 to $4,000 for a single Instagram post from “micro influencers” who have 10,000 to 50,000 followers. Avinash also discloses rates for fake Instagram followers that are only $16 per thousand.

Paying a higher $50 rate will get you bots that share and amplify your messages. This combination of inflated follower counts and declining engagement combine to make influencer campaigns problematic for any advertising efforts.

Disclosure is also a problem. The FTC has chased this issue for more than a decade and continues posting rules for compliance that extend to anyone promoting a product or service online. The FTC has also made selling likes and similar engagement illegal although its quiet on how it plans to enforce those rules. 

Brand managers claim that there’s too much money in digital advertising for big brands to do anything more than accept losses on low quality influencers to ensure that they don’t miss out on the next trend. That’s passionate consumer thinking, not data-driven analysis, and a big part of the problem. 

Instagram is luring real celebrities instead of influencers by offsetting video production costs of up to $250,000 for multiple posts by a celebrity. Bloomberg found and confirmed the presence of these contracts. The IGTV deal requires that stars do not post about politics, elections, or social issues.

Our take remains as simple and unchanged from when George first placed an online ad in the pre-Google days: be diligent in tracking all the data and only continue advertising that is proven profitable. We’ve gone into large and small organizations where the first way we’ve provided value is to show that current ads are costing more than they’re bringing in.  And if you’ve hired influencers already then be extra-diligent about breaking out all their costs and assigning revenue to them.

3. Google Search Updates

  • Google now allows its My Business service customers to provide custom lists of what they offer customers. For example, a plumber can specify what appliances they work on or an exterminator can specify if they exterminate rodents. Search Engine Journal has more.
  • Google is also testing a small blue arrow icon next to titles in search results. As those search results begin including more maps, videos, and other content, the user interface will undoubtedly be changed often. Search Engine Roundtable has screenshots.

4. Debugged: Bride Keeping Donated Wedding Costs Isn’t Real

The alleged bride wrote that after reflection and tear-filled conversations with close family members, she has decided to cancel her wedding. The good news is that the $30,000 donated for the ceremony won’t be spent in vain but used for a honeymoon-ish trip in the future.

Yeah, not really though. 

It was a ruse designed to build traffic to a website.

5. Also in the Spotlight: Sacha Baron Cohen

The comedian behind Borat, Ali G, and Who is America made headlines for castigating Facebook and other online platforms in a speech at the Anti-Defamation League in New York on November 20. 

Cambridge-educated Sacha Baron-Cohen spoke after being presented with the ADL’s international leadership award. He described Facebook as “the greatest propaganda machine in history,” said that the company would have allowed Hitler to run propaganda, and quoted a headline, “Just Think What Goebbels Could Have Done with Facebook.”

The speech is thoughtful, passionate, and a withering criticism of Facebook, YouTube, Google, and Twitter.

Read the remarks or watch the video here.

6. Great Data: Social Media Use by Generation and Location

Now that you’ve read or watched Cohen’s rebuke, let’s set the context with this data-packed infographic showing how social media influences society using brand discovery, product research, and yes, influencer marketing. I learn something more every time I look at this. Consider: 73% of Boomers used Facebook in the last month, but only 28% of them used Instagram. That makes my head hurt.

Visualizing Social Media Use

7. Protip: Your Tattletale Web Browser

When you realize how much information your web browser shares with the world, you will never again wonder how multibillion dollar ad companies posing as tech companies know everything about you. Go ahead and click. It’s safe, and you should know these things.

Signed into Spotify? I don’t even use Spotify any more!

8. Bizarre Bazaar (strange stuff for sale online)

With snow on the ground in much of the country, this is the perfect time to tell you about Animal Tracks, the sandals that make animal prints in snow, sand, or dirt. 

The T-Rex might be pushing it, but see what happens with the wolf.

9. ICYMI – Top links from the past 30 days

100,000 Stars – an awesome visualization

Animated charts showing best selling musicians – on Youtube

Record calls with your smartphone – at Wired

10. Coffee Break:  Street View Fun

There really is a website for everything. This one features the greatest images caught by those Google cars that traverse every road adding to the company’s street view feature in Google Maps. 

Check out the daily photo, the best month, or the top 100 of all time.

When you’re done, click here for a free Spotlight subscription.

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