This story starts with Paolo. Not the retired Italian football legend. But Paolo the persona representing one of Intel’s target audiences in 2013.
In 2013 Jamshed Wadia reached out to our team then at STATSIT, with a seemingly simple request to “build a dashboard of Paolo segment influencers”. And this might seem silly now, but we had no clue if finding the target audience and then the influencers, was even tried before. Since we started working in Social in 2009, influencers were identified by the number of followers, topics and bios.
Jamshed wasn’t happy with that though. Even though he had been in Intel for 10y by then, digital marketing was relatively new for Intel in APAC. He was all alone managing 11 different agencies simultaneously covering the whole region (no joke). I still have no idea how he managed that. Obviously, Jamshed knew what marketing needs, but the Social media analytics industry was in its infancy.
I ended up working with Intel for years to come. We did influencers of Paolos, content prediction based on supply/demand, a custom Intel Influence Score for scoring brand advocates, measuring emotional arousal and more. Many features would be novel even today, and much of the visionary build was due to Mikko Kotila. The Founder of the agency, my friend and mentor.
I recently caught up with Jamshed again to talk about influencer marketing today.
Q: What got you started with Social?
A: I’m quite utilitarian by nature, I like when power is distributed. What inspired me about Social Media back in the early days was how equal it made people.
It did not matter if you were born in a remote corner of the world, you could still have a voice. It didn’t even matter how many followers you have, but your skills and the message.
Q: What is your opinion of influencer marketing today?
A: I’m somewhat saddened, to be honest. I don’t feel like we are there.
We’ve changed Social media to a predominantly paid channel. It’s not about communities anymore or engaging with people and really talking to each other. You have big organizations coming in and it has just become a paycheck for many influencers. To me, this is a dilution of what the whole thing was supposed to be about — a community.
Q: Do you feel like you have contributed to this problem?
A: Yes, as industry practitioners we have because this space has moved so fast, that it has been hard to shape it and keep it authentic.
What excited me about Social was the power to reach many people organically with good content that provided excitement. Today it’s definitely evolved to be more of a paid channel. Gaining organic reach and traction has become harder so most marketers are choosing the paid route. Even though you may have great content it’s becoming harder to breakthrough. But you definitely have fewer media friction and cost efficiency even in paid if the content is good.
Those were better times when great content and stories broke through and the advocates who authentically loved the brand carried the message across to the larger audiences.
Q: What would you suggest to other brands?
A: I think you have to find people that have a passion for the brand and the right values that match your brand. Like your own friends. It all starts with what the product or brand enables in people’s lives.
You should also have a long-term commitment and authentic brand relationship with influencers. If you keep hiring new influencers for every new campaign, it won’t work in the long run as it will be a transaction and not a relationship. We have to nurture them and it might take months if not years.
And sometimes you appreciate them for the honesty of telling you something is wrong with the product or there are missing features. Two-way accountability shows to me there is a great relationship that can last.