Influencer Marketing: How Google Will Change The Game

I hear a lot of buzz about influencer marketing — how it has evolved, how it comes in different flavors and how brands are using it — but I never hear anyone talk about Google’s plans to change it… dramatically!

An Emerging Channel

When brands first began to capitalize on the power of influencer marketing, they tried to do so with casual and subtle efforts that often included complimentary products or other perks. Moreover, they usually kept their efforts “under the radar.” Traditional blogger outreach programs are a good example of this, where brands would give product samples to bloggers in exchange for a blog post or two.

But traditional blogger outreach has changed considerably. Large blogger communities like Triberr, Sverve and TapInfluence have evolved into transparent marketplaces where influencers and brands can collaborate to develop content and get the word out. Such marketplaces allow influencers to post their offerings, audiences and pricing so that brands can select the profiles that best align with their needs.

(Full disclosure: Seeing the early shift from blogger outreach to influencer marketing a few years ago, I helped Triberr migrate the platform in that direction.)

$285 Bid

Despite the evolution of influencer marketing thus far, it’s still an emerging channel. We’re just starting to recognize its full potential impact. Today, many brands use it for micro-campaigns here and there; but, I believe influencer marketing will evolve into a core digital marketing channel for content creation and distribution. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see its evolution follow the same trajectory that search marketing did.

Why will this happen? Two reasons:

Reason #1: The Playing Field Is Ready

Influencer marketing will evolve into a core marketing channel in part because of existing market conditions.

First off, the social web is on fire! Millions of people participate in online communities, and their numbers continue to grow. As members of different online communities, many individuals cultivate a personal following online. Today, someone could easily have 100,000 followers on Twitter, or receive 200,000 views a month on their food blog. These are the new celebrities that brands want to work with. This massive and rapidly growing talent pool will help fuel the growth of influencer marketing.

At the same time, we live in a world where influence is constantly being measured online. In fact, at this very moment, companies like Klout, Kred and PeerIndex are sorting through millions of social actions, scoring people on how influential they are. These scores will help influencer marketing evolve by making the channel more scalable. In some ways, influencer marketing is really the next phase of social.

Granted, most people don’t care what their influence score is, but brands do — or at least they should, as consumers are losing trust in brands. According to a study done by Nielsen that measures consumer trust by marketing channel, 53% of all consumers do not trust TV advertisements.

Yet, as you can see in the Nielsen Global Trust Survey below, 70% of consumers trust other consumer opinions posted online, and 92% trust recommendations from people they know. These friends and fellow consumers are influencers who are changing purchase behavior.

Given that, every brand manager reading this article should be asking themselves, “How do I get these influencers to talk about my product more online?”

Clearly, the lack of consumer trust in brands is another market condition that will help drive the growth of influencer marketing into a core channel.


Reason #2: Google’s Debut Of A New Player — Influencer Ads

The growth and adoption of influencer marketing will also be driven by Google and their plans to roll out advertising based on Google+. I think this could dramatically escalate the evolution of this channel into a core discipline.

In a patent entitled, “AdHeat Advertisement Model for Social Network,” Google reveals that their new advertising model won’t be based on keywords and the same old sidebar ads we’ve grown to hate on sites like Facebook, etc. Instead, the new model will capitalize on influencers.

Filed in 2009, and updated in 2012, the patent indicates that the new model will enable brands to target influential people on Google+, offering them a revenue share in return for advertising/pushing content to their followers on behalf of a brand.

In other words, while Facebook continues to display ads onto smaller screens, Google is connecting brands with influencers who will be paid to distribute brand content. This is the very heart of influencer marketing, and is probably the biggest marketing opportunity of this decade.

On the organic side, influence has already begun to erode long-standing SEO practices. Today, there is a growing importance on “who” is sharing you content, while on-page keyword optimization and in-bound links take a back seat to social sharing.

What’s old is new, as SEOs will need to dust off their old relationship management skills to find and work with these social influencers at scale.

Are You Ready?

Trust me, influencer marketing will continue to evolve into a core marketing channel — and sooner than you think. But you don’t have to wait for it to arrive; you can start preparing for it today. Below are a few tips to help you get ready:

1. Build Your Foundation With Customer Profiles

Remember, influence is relative — Oprah may be highly influential to middle-aged women, but not so much to young men. To understand the type of influencers you need to rank for your desired keyword or to make your content go viral, you first need to know your customer — what they like, who they know and where they spend time online.

Fortunately, the social networks and data aggregators have already compiled this type of information for you. All you need to do is give consumers a reason to log in to your site with their Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn profile, and you’ll have access to much of their profile information. Once you start building customer profiles, you can begin to mine them for common interests, likes, and behaviors. Your findings will help you identify the attributes of those who are most relevant and influential to your target demographic.

2. Strengthen Your Content Marketing Team

While it is essential to target the right influencers for your campaign, your effort won’t get very far without great content. Keep in mind that your targeted influencers are people who make a living off their reputation and earned trust.

They won’t endorse content that is low budget, low quality or churned out by an intern or meme-generator. Given that, you should work to improve your content marketing program now. This will help you produce great material your influencers will want to share with their following. Alternatively, you can have the influencer create the content. But either way, you need a solid content strategy. Below is the framework I use:

  • Ideation: research, planning and storytelling
  • Development: brand created- or influencer-created content
  • Optimization: ensure content sees maximum reach and engagement
  • Distribution: share and syndicate
  • Reporting: track engagement and performance

The sooner you have the tools and processes in place to execute a successful content marketing campaign, the better positioned you’ll be when you start to integrate influencer support into each step of your effort.

3. Don’t Be Shallow — Pick Quality Talent

The deepest relationships are often the best, and this holds true for influencer marketing. Strive to foster a deeper level of engagement with your influencers. The best type of influencer is the brand ambassador — someone who fully represents your brand to their audience. Think of how Rackspace partnered with Robert Scoble to be their Startup Liaison Officer. You will gain a lot more value from having a team of bloggers, YouTubers or G+ers who are proud to represent your brand to their audience than you would from buying a few likes on Fiverr.

Influencer marketing is more than a hot topic — it’s is an important and emerging channel. And now that Google is getting into the game, you can bet it will evolve rapidly. Soon, it will touch everything! But are you ready to talk to influencers? More importantly, are you ready for influencers to talk about you? Follow the above tips and start getting ready today.

How are you using influencer marketing today? Have any influencer marketing tips? Share them here!

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Strategy | Content Marketing | Google | Marketing Strategies Column | Social Media Marketing | Social Media Marketing: Advertising


About The Author: is the director of SEO Innovation at Catalyst, a thought leader in the organic, paid and social space. Dan has been doing SEO since 2002. An avid programmer and entrepreneur, Dan co-founded Triberr, an Influencer Marketing platform


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  • SEO Expert Steve Wiideman

    We knew this would happen eventually. I wonder how Google feels about “buying relationships to build links and increase sharing behavior”?

  • Dino Dogan

    Im pretty sure they’re ok with it as long as you do it through them lol

    Snark aside, this is an old model, scaled out.

    Brands have been hiring influencers/advocate/ambassadors/ forever. Michael Jordan for Nike is my favorite example. They’ve been doing it because it works. Air Jordans are the best selling Nike show even to this day.

    The question we’re (Triberr) is trying to answer is, how do you hire 100s of influencers at a time, whilst managing them as a singular unit? And we’ve come up with some pretty good solutions for that, if I may say so myself :-)

    So it will be interesting to see how this shakes out.

    Founder of Triberr

  • Dino Dogan

    yo Dan,

    Monster post, brosef. Im sharing this EVERYWHERE.

  • Jim Kukral

    The same rules apply to targeting and reaching influencers. You MUST create content that is remarkable and wows them. The don’t want pitches and partnerships. They want to share awesome stuff. And therein lies the hard part; the vast majority of people don’t want to work hard enough to create content that is outstanding enough to be noticed by an influencer.

    This article suggests that influencers will “sell out” to get paid by recommending things. Some will, but most won’t, and here’s why.

    Most influencers are in the position they are in because they are busy building their own businesses and brands and their own influence. They are simply not motivated by the “get paid to promote” concept. They share because they found the content remarkable in some way.

    I’m not trying to say this can’t ever happen. I’m just saying that it’s highly unlikely. Go ahead, email someone who’s an influencer in your industry and see if they respond to your email about “sharing revenue”. You’ll never hear back. Of course, maybe if Google was the middleman it’d be an easier pitch, but still…

  • Dino Dogan

    I agree 100%. I think you may have hit on a very big flaw in Google’s implementation. The loss of trust will be too great for influencers to do it the Google way.

    The way we (Triberr) do it is by having the influencers themselves create the content. And the brand is the one that ends up sharing it. do the other influencers who are part of the same campaign, but you get the idea…

    We’ve reversed the implementation exactly to avoid the problem you stated, Jim.

    Will I see you at @NMX this year?

  • Jim Kukral

    Yeah, your idea is much better. If I’m a brand I’m dying to find influencers who I can latch onto to help me make content.

    I won’t be at NMX this time. But I’m in Vegas the week after for affiliate summit.

  • Dino Dogan

    Let’s catch up on skype soon then. Just shoot the breeze, and share a beer :-)

  • Emily Brackett

    I’m pleased with this change and I hope it helps to get the quality content to rise above all the large quantities of garbage.

  • ravivturner

    Wondering how does it all resonate with Google’s no-follow policy on paid links/ content? Is the new AdHeat advertisement model is Google saying: “hey we invented the rules so we can now break them”?

  • dancristo

    Anything that can artificially influence search rankings will eventually be against Google’s webmaster guidelines.

    The real value in Influencer Marketing isn’t in the artificial boost in rankings, it’s in the content distribution capabilities. If you can get quality content in front of more people you’re going to organically get more links and social sharing.

    So the answer is to be transparent about any paid relationships you have, but use Influencer’s network to get your content engaged with.

  • dancristo

    Thank ya kindly

  • dancristo

    I wouldn’t say the article suggest Influencers will sell out. If anything the onus is on the brand to create content an Influencer would want to endorse.

    In many cases Influencers are also content creators. In fact, look at Forbes top 50 social media power users, and you’ll see they’re all ferocius content creators. So it’s highly likely that brands will pay these Influencers to create content on their behalf because they know it’ll be better than if they created it in house and tried to get others to distribute it.

  • Gail Gardner

    Writers and video creators who want to become influencers need to build reputations for creating specific types of exceptional content. Eventually brands will figure out the difference between $18 manually spun content and thought leadership. When they do, they will be seeking those who have original ideas expressed well enough to be shared.

    Sites like Triberr and collaborations built by leaders will assist agencies and brands in finding the right subject matter experts. Those of us who already have a process built to enable fast implementation from strategy through placement and promotion are already positioned to do this today. We’re scaling our teams up to meet the coming demand.

  • dancristo

    Most content sharing is going to need to be disclaimed to keep in line with FTC guidelines. It should be easy for Google to devalue shares with these disclosures. That said, there is no way to devalue a basic +1, so Google will need to come up with a way to flag paid +1′s.

    In terms of the AdHeat advertising… Google is going to know when Influencers are sharing sponsored content through their AdHeat system. It’ll just devalue that share, because it’s sponsored, so it won’t affect their algorithm.

    Bottom line is they’ll need to do a LOT of work to make sure they can devalue paid social signals, but there are some ways they can do it already.

  • dancristo

    You’re exactly right, Gail.
    We all know this is coming. The ones who are able to build their influence today are going to reap the benefits.

    Skate to where the puck is going.

  • Daniel Ruyter

    Another great forward-thinking piece. I was an early adopter on triberr but haven’t been around in a while. Seems like I should revisit it along with a few other tools.

  • Gail Gardner

    Precisely. What really works is personal referrals – and the best way to get those is to be truly excellent at an advanced skill. Marketers who think they can do everything end up only being average and unremarkable. Hard to recommend someone like that as they’re a dime a dozen. But if you’re exceptional at usability and conversion testing or driving conversions using email marketing – that makes you in demand.

  • dancristo

    Triberr is a much different platform than what you likely remember it to be.

    The core still the same; find similar bloggers, engage with their content, they’ll engage with yours, but there are almost 3 years of small, daily improvements driven by user feedback.

    It’s far from perfect, but it’s worthy of a serious reconsideration if it’s been a while since you’ve been on the site.


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