The fake news and fake influencers crisis have left social media and giant tech companies under scrutiny. Actions have been taken to tackle authenticity issues with organisations attempting to monitor, measure and clean content from our digital platforms. Influencer marketing and advertising continue to fuel debates about digital integrity and online trust.
Meanwhile, the influencer relationship management (IRM) market value is soaring, projected to grow to $5-20 billion by 2020. To discuss those changes, I caught up with Nicholas Evans, consultant focused on managing innovation and disruptive technology.
Nicholas has written over 10 books on business and technology strategy including titles from the British Computer Society, Financial Times Prentice Hall, Tech TV, Microsoft Press, and Powersoft Press. More recently, he has founded Thinkers360, a new platform for thought leaders – including academics, analysts, authors, consultants, influencers and speakers – to curate and share their thought leadership content on social media.
What is the challenge in tackling the fake follower crisis and why is it relevant to us?
The challenge is that the current influencer market is premised on the wrong measurements. It’s focused primarily on social media influence which can be purchased, gamed and manipulated to increase follower counts. Influencers can buy fake followers and can game the system by pushing out a large volume of posts via automated systems. In addition, some influencers are simply pushing out third-party content as opposed to having their own unique content and perspectives.
The second challenge is that the industry is currently trying to solve this problem by eliminating fake accounts from their systems and by preventing spamming by influencers to increase their scores. This is a positive move by the industry, but we really need to get to a better system of measurement for influence in the first place rather than putting “band-aids” on a broken system.
We need more robust ways to measure thought leadership and influence in much the same way as the academic world has solved this issue with their h-index and other such measures.
How are you trying to tackle the issue? What factors does Thinkers360’s algorithm take into account?
One of the key objectives in founding Thinkers360 was to help solve the fake follower crisis. We wanted to take a more holistic view across a thought leader’s collected works – across their articles, blogs, books, keynotes, media interviews, panels, podcasts, social media, speaking, videos, webinars and whitepapers – and across the various hats they may wear as an academic, author, entrepreneur/inventor, influencer and/or speaker.
The Thinkers360 patent-pending algorithm helps to produce ratings and rankings – including various leaderboards – that look across all thought leader roles and across the quantity and quality of their thought leadership. We believe it provides a better measure of thought leadership, encourages genuine content creation, incorporates social media influence as one of the measures, and encourages richer profiles and portfolios through gamification.
How do you define authentic influencers and authentic thought leaders? How do you define their role?
This is a great question and the two roles overlap considerably, but also have their differences. Firstly, an authentic influencer or thought leader is someone who has an authentic audience and impact. They’ve built this credibility with original thought leadership content, insights and perspectives that enable their audiences to solve real-world business opportunities and challenges.
We typically see emerging influencers as having a large audience, but perhaps limited original content and emerging thought leaders as having the opposite. Of course, the world’s foremost influencers and thought leaders have both – they have a large base of their own thought leadership content, in a variety of formats, with a correspondingly large audience and level of impact.
In identifying and working with authentic experts in the future, organisations will need tools and techniques to help them understand not only who the authentic experts are, but the kind of hats they wear as a thought leader – i.e. are they primarily an academic, an author, an influencer, or a speaker, for example, or perhaps a unique combination of some of the above?
So, once you find your authentic experts, it’s also important to determine the kind of experts you’re after in terms of pure influencers and/or those with additional thought leadership and expertise that they bring to the table as part of their influence.
How do you see the future of influencer relationship management?
The “hunt for authenticity” was the Churchill Club’s winning trend out of their Top 10 Tech Trends for 2018. The social media “fake follower” crisis has created a compelling need to find authentic influencers as well as authentic thought leaders who are experts in their fields. For this reason, I believe that the future of influencer relationship management as a discipline will expand and diversify to include a focus on expert relationship management.
Of course, no measurement system related to influence or to thought leadership can be anywhere near perfect, but we believe that the thought leadership scoring and ranking system within Thinkers360 can be a useful complement to existing IRM programs and platforms and help marketers prepare for the road ahead.
I also believe that corporate influencer relations teams can remove some of the stove-pipes, not only by focusing more holistically on thought leaders as opposed to social media influencers, but by connecting more closely with their counterparts across the marketing organisation. When they connect and collaborate with product marketing, brand eminence, thought leadership and corporate communications teams, for example, it can help everyone see the forest for the trees and the broader objectives and possibilities for the CMO’s marketing agenda.