The Whole Fuss About “Influencer Marketing”

Sand Art at Port Aransas

When I write a post like yesterday’s about my experience staying at The Port Royal Resort, there are invariably some people who voice concern and dismay. Some rattle their swords and say that I’ve sold out. Others say that I’m disingenuous (a word I evidently can’t spell, so thanks squiggly line gods). Still others just don’t know what to think, because it’s not a straightforward post about business or marketing. It’s what amounted to a trip report on a few days away from such matters.

There’s a whole “to do” about what is or isn’t okay with “influencer marketing.” In a nutshell, the concept behind this type of marketing is that if you (the company) give your product or service to someone who has an audience of some size and value, that you’ll stand to benefit from the association. But that’s the straightforward intent. I’ll get back to that in a moment. Let me talk about how it gets tricky quickly.

Blogs and Social Networks are the Battleground of This Mess

One challenge is that blogs and social networks have no implied or explicit rules about how such interactions should be handled, and people are forced to presume and assume far more often than not. In the US, the Federal Trade Commission published guidelines around this kind of interaction, but they’re dodgy and people interpret them differently.

The way I’ve handled such matters here on [chrisbrogan.com] has been relatively consistent over time. If there’s a reason why I might be biased or otherwise have some explicit and obvious reason to express something, I disclose it. If I sell something, for instance, I put (affiliate) or (affiliate link) after the link where I’m selling. (Sometimes, if I have lots of affiliate links in the same post, I might blanket explain that.) I also have a very robust about page that explains my potential biases even more.

But sometimes, people don’t go to that effort. Sometimes, they just promote a product or a service or something where they have the chance to directly gain from an interaction, and they choose not to disclose (or they omit) that relationship.

And at other times, people don’t see a disclosure, but still worry that a piece of writing or a tweet or whatever might be biased, and so they don’t take any action for fear that they’re being sold, but without any disclosure. Still another whole chunk of the web has no idea any of this is going on and they just click through because others haven’t explained that these kinds of relationships could exist.

Me? I’m a big fan of disclosure. In yesterday’s post, for example, I wrote this:

(For those who ask such things: we received free lodging, and Cheryl in the gift shop gave us both a nice hat, but otherwise, this isn’t a paid piece. I’m just writing about a very nice stay.)

Danny Brown and I have talked about disclosure in the past (not so much directly, but in dueling posts and tweets and the likes. ( Here’s a sample of such.)

Danny’s more stringent about disclosure than me, even, and I applaud that. I believe that comes from a PR and journalistic background, though I’m not sure. I just know that he feels strongly about it, and if ever I seem to be out of alignment with his perspective, he lets me know. That’s why I figured I’d write this post, to refresh my thoughts, and/or to hear what else Danny and you have to say.

Disclosure and Influencer Marketing

I’ve written about disclosure at least a few times in the past few years. I think that if we’re going to honor our community and create material that is of value, we must be clear in explaining when we want to express any material reasons to knock a few points off our stated experience.

What’s In It For the Company Who Engages in Influencer Marketing?

A few years ago, I was part of a paid post experience led by IZEA in support of KMART. It was met with some very harsh views by my fellow bloggers and media makers. People were decrying my end, the fall of me as a “brand,” and that I had sold out.

Meanwhile, from the perspective of KMART and IZEA, the project was a success. Sales went up. The brand got a second look from a bunch of people, and except for people who continued to think I was now the anti-Chris for having conducted an experiment in marketing on a – gasp – marketing blog, life went on. By the way, here’s how I responded to the pitchforks back then.

But again, this segment of this blog post is asking what the company gets from influencer marketing. Most times, they are seeking two rewards: some attention from the “influencer’s” audience, and some brand-sharing from the person’s endorsement of their product or service. It’s a challenging territory for companies to explore, and it’s also a bit complex to manage for those people who choose to associate themselves with a brand. I wrote about it in the February 2012 SUCCESS Magazine cover article about celebrity marketing.

But Who Are the Influencers, Anyway?

In inviting me down to their resort and paying my lodging for my stay (I paid for airfare, food, etc), the Port Royal Resort was dipping their toe into the water of seeing what comes of inviting bloggers and the new media publishers of this world into their fold. They picked me, I would imagine, the way others have: they know that I reach a bunch of intelligent people, and they know that I value my reputation. The two together means that if I’m to say something nice about their organization (and the general Texas Gulf area), then I probably mean it.

More accurately, I’m sure they’d love it if my post tips someone’s interest from “hadn’t even considered it” to “I’d seriously put this place in my potential categories for my next trip or event or whatever.”

Who are the influencers? Is it me? Sometimes. Is it you? Often. It’s fluid. For instance, anything Dave Thomas likes in music on Spotify, I’m bound to check out and eventually purchase. Likewise, if Steve Garfield or C.C. Chapman blog about some new photography product a company’s given them to try, I’m going to give it consideration.

I’m asked all the time why I don’t much like Klout. It’s because I think the platform is flawed in how they determine influence. They measure chatter. If I tweet a link about some product in a category, and a lot of people retweet it or the like, it counts as influence. (This is the least accurate portrayal of Klout ever. Read Return On Influence (amazon affiliate link) by Mark Schaefer for a much better one).

Instead, I think you determine who’s influential. You’re going to read my post about Port Royal and think one of several things:

  • I’m not interested in where Chris and Jacq took a few days off.
  • I like Chris, but I could care less. In fact, I live in India.
  • I was thinking about a place for next month’s vacation, so maybe I’ll look.
  • I’m a rabid Chris Brogan fan and even have his action figure, and I’m buying a condo there tomorrow.
  • Whatever. How do I get more followers on Twitter?

But you determine that. No level of my chit chat will somehow mind-meld you into my slave. And even if it did, I don’t stand to gain anything if you visit that resort. Though my opinion on some products or services might grant you a favorable consideration, you still make the ultimate decision, don’t you?

Just because I was invited to check out the Disney Dream a while back, it didn’t mean that people rushed the ships and booked them solid for years to come. Because you decide what you want to do with influence.

I Will Continue to Accept and Appreciate Interesting Experiences

In the past, my relationship with you and with companies has come together to let me enjoy some really interesting experiences. I toured Maker’s Mark headquarters with Jason Falls. I have spent time learning about USA Today and got to drive a bunch of cool cars at GM Headquarters (which led ME to buy a 2010 Chevy Camaro SS, so maybe GM was the influencer).

I have dozens more experiences like this. My last handful of years have been filled with exciting chances to go behind the scenes somewhere and enjoy sharing them with you. That won’t be stopping any time soon. Whenever I’m invited to explore something interesting, I’ll share it with you.

I’ll let you decide whether or not you want to be influenced by it.

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  • thomsinger

    Chris… I think you are upfront about what is given to you when you blog about such perks. I do not have a blog following that warrants much free stuff tossed my way….. but as long as it is disclosed, I do not see the problem. There are lots of people out there who do not disclose and that is problematic.

    I see a blog as place where the blogger shares their experiences and points of view. It is not really journalism. I have never seen you pretend here to be a journalist in the form of one who writes for major media.

    I think most who complain would love to have the level of “fame” that brings the opportunities. I talk to a lot of bloggers who want what you have, but they do not understand what comes with fame (I don’t either because I have not lived it).
    Yes, yes, I know …. here is where you self-deprecate that you are not “famous” …. but you are (or who would toss you free stuff?). But a following is not bad, but it certainly brings critics. I find it interesting that you have to write justification posts like this often. It shows in your heart you care, but I think you need not justify.
    And thanks for the positive review of Texas. We welcome all those curious visitors who want to bring their money into our economy!!!

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Thanks, Thom. I think I write posts like this to provide larger liner notes to the work I do. Because sometimes, when I take a certain direction, people don’t immediately see the path I’m taking, and they get twisted up. At moments like that, I go back and make sure I’m explaining in some level of depth.

      But yes, it’s unfortunate that I feel this urge to address the critics. Few spend their time doing so.

      And Texas and the other states hit by the BP spill deserve a little extra yellow highlighter on the fact that they’re back in business. : )

      • http://twitter.com/CarbonviewRes Carbonview Research

        Yea, and Michael Phelps is being badgered by the media and his public for not training hard enough over the last four years. Meanwhile the guy can’t stand up straight from all the gold medals hanging around his neck. Chris, would the public rather believe a commercial on TV that X resort is the greatest place ever or would they rather see it through the eyes of a human? My guess, in most cases is that even if you were being paid for your time in being some place that you’d give a pretty accurate portrayal of your experience including photos and maybe some video. You can’t manufacture that. Its a different perspective that goes beyond the 30 second spot and that is valuable. I saw the post the other day, had really no intentions in going so I skimmed over it. Others can do that too. Keep it up brother! Been a long time since I’ve commented and we don’t chat as much as we used to but that is how life evolves. You blog has evolved and I bet the vast majority don’t mind a post like that every now and again. Keep up the good work! -Keith

        • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

          Always thrilled when you say howdy. And I was like… “Carbonview Research?” But then saw YOU. : )

          • http://twitter.com/CarbonviewRes Carbonview Research

            Yea, that was an accident. I was logged into Twitter and used Twitter to log into the comment system.

  • dianebrogan

    You are doing a great job son. Keep up the good work.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steviebrogan Stephen Brogan

    When you get a free trip to the moon, I’m in!

    • http://www.joemanna.com/blog/ Joseph Manna

      I hear Richard Branson does that now.

  • http://www.jeffpersch.com JPersch

    I come to your blog not to read all of the marketing tips, but to see where life has taken someone that I have respect for and I like to say “I knew Chris when…..”.

    I take a look at one thing and that one thing is what I believe is what might tick you off more than anything. Integrity! It is my belief that if you had a bad experience at the resort that you would have also written a post on how the company could have done bette in their efforts. People wouldn’t have questioned you if the post was negative! And I think the people that did question it don’t believe in your integrity and that adds the question, why are they coming to read your posts! Just my penny of thoughts.

    • http://milaspage.com/ Mila Araujo

      Very good point, no one would have commented if the review was negative. I think it’s because negative seeks negative – I think it’s very kind of Chris to always respond to these people- and on the process actually continues in his marketing lessons to us the readers. Chris you’re an incredibly patient teacher in an unruly classroom of the world :)

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      That’s the heart of the matter, Jeff. People have said it before. They don’t trust me when I report positively. They are just CERTAIN that there are negatives waiting to be hatched. Jason Falls said that to me once a long while back, too.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/dave.bowland Dave Bowland

    It’s bizzare that people complain about this, and the fact that you write posts like this and don’t apologize for it is a big part of why I like your blog and admire your work. You very clearly have integrity and I am ALWAYS interested in what other people such as yourself recommend so I can avoid testing new things myself. Keep it up. I recommend YOU to people all the time for that very reason. You stand out in your willingness to stand up to the nay-sayers who seem to want to tear down more than contribute something positive.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      It’s all good, Dave. I appreciate the support. I also appreciate the dissent, because I have to test myself sometimes. Wouldn’t want to ever lose my edge (though every few weeks, someone tells me I’ve jumped their personal shark).

      • http://www.facebook.com/dave.bowland Dave Bowland

        yes good point. good to have people give you a reality check once in a while. Keep up the good work!

  • http://newraycom.com Ray Hiltz

    Chris, I don’t think you can be any clearer in acknowledging your affiliations. In fact, I find you very generous in giving attribution to whatever source you refer to in your posts.
    Your position as a top “influencer” is earned through your hard work and authenticity online and IRL. We trust that you stand by what you say – whether we agree with you or not; whether positive or negative.
    As you say, we’re all influencers. We just differ in the size of the circle we influence.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      It happens. Disappointment comes when I don’t follow the script others write for me.

  • Canadian Yankee

    Those complaining are just envious of your success. Ignore them.

  • http://twitter.com/MaureenB2B Maureen Blandford

    What the broader community needs to understand is that you are an outlier. As long as any of us take whatever learnings we need to from this and other outlier examples (Apple, IBM) and keep the broader context in mind, this is all grand.

    My space is B2B – so where I continue to cringe is when B2B HQ folks read a column like this (Highly valued and trusted source) and then add this type of influencer marketing to the mix – Gah! so short-sighted!

    And who gives a hooey if you’re being 100% honest and there are folks that are suspicious. Whatevs, eh?

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Poor B2B. Always forced to extrapolate. I wish I could write more for that space, but in my perspective, the big difference is just in who needs convincing and how to bring about that success. I say that like it’s a trivial thing, but hey.

      • http://twitter.com/MaureenB2B Maureen Blandford

        word

  • http://twitter.com/ron_sparks Ron Sparks

    Not really being deep in this community the most interesting thing I learn from this was in the comments.

    Where @Milaspage:disqus pointed out that if the review was negative people how have trusted it more. It does seem it is harder to get noticed for the good. But I personal like hearing whats good, and your posts on positive examples of customer experiences etc.

  • http://CreativeJourneyman.com Nando

    I think there’s an underlying hang-up about money for a lot of people. I think the line between work and non-work life are blurring for all non-employees. The ol’ “it’s not personal, it’s business” will probably die with it. This is definitely going to piss off our employed friends, but to the business owners, the entrepreneurs, freelancers, I’ll say get used to it, this is what social media does. It’s small-town dynamics without geographical concerns.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Money is, indeed, often the trickiest part of it all. I have many posts that substantiate that.

  • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

    Hey Chris, I would love to understand where you think the line is when it comes to a paid piece. It’s one of the challenges we’ve always had with influencer outreach (especially when it comes to giving away product with the hope of garnering reviews). I doubt the cost of lodging covers what it would cost to run a straightforward “ad” post here and have no doubt that you mean every word of what you wrote. So I’d appreciate any insight as to where the line is when it comes to a paid post (to a lesser extent, I also wonder about this for myself as I’m occasionally offered free versions of certain software).

    So I guess what I’d really like to know is:

    Do you think that there’s a difference between giving money in exchange for a review vs. giving some measure of product or service?

    Does it matter if you are required vs. requested to write something about the experience?

    Does the extent of the product or service factor in to if the spot is “paid” or not. For example, would it have been different if food and flight had been covered?

    Hope it’s clear I’m not calling out, hating or anything along those lines. I’d sure as hell take the trip and if the experience lived up (as it clearly did in this case), I’d want to write something nice about it :) I’m just genuinely confused by the line of paid and not paid. We just have a lot of internal confusion as to what constitutes a paid vs. outreach and I have a little of it personally when it comes to my own site.

    • http://www.joemanna.com/blog/ Joseph Manna

      There are a few thoughts I’ve had on this:

      The FTC requires that any material connection a company has to a given publisher, must be disclosed. A material connection can be financial, free product/service or simply corporate relationships. And the body of that relationship should be disclosed, like an affiliate, a free stay, a discount, etc.

      However, doing what the law says is just the minimum. Marketers and especially those with some semblance of credibility, should always be sure to filter unfit sponsorships/relationships from their brand.

      To me there’s a big difference in a free product/service over simply a check. It’s an experience and that’s what marketers should be aiming for when working with influencers. Iit’s what you do with that relationship that makes the difference and larger impact from merely being a transaction.

      I’d say if you are compensating in any way for any person in the form of free products or services, or covering expenses… it is paid.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Hi Michael–

      I took all your questions and comments as thoughtful.

      So here’s where Danny Brown and I see this differently. I’ll try to explain my version and perception.

      * When I say “paid,” I mean that I received a check from a company for some service rendered.

      * The cost of lodging at the place was equivalent to a nice hotel room, so a few hundred a day, I suspect (I honestly have no clue what precisely the dollar value is). The cost for an ad on my site is $5000 US at the time of this writing. So, one isn’t equivalent.

      * Where Danny (and others) and I differ is that I don’t consider my experience with the resort as “paid.” I consider it as an influencer program. As such, I disclose that they paid my lodging and gave Jacq and I a nice hat. The hat part is just being cheeky.

      * I prefer the word paid to mean that I got a check or cash or gold ingots.

      —-

      With regards to YOUR program or YOUR company (and we don’t have to mean you, but let’s include you), the way one might set up a program is like this:

      * Set aside some $ of product or services and discount them as marketing and not sales for your accounting purposes.
      * Determine influencers (the hardest part).
      * Invite the influencers to the program.
      * In the program, define how one must disclose per your requests.
      * Monitor for those disclosures.
      …blah blah blah.

      In so doing, be VERY aware that you might have some “influencers” who don’t do something with what they received. I do this sometimes. Sometimes, something falls through the cracks (but rarely). Other times, something isn’t particularly good, and I choose not to write negative posts about a product (though after reading SGregory57 ‘s comments above, I might have to think about that more). But you have to accept that you can’t strong-arm people into doing their part of the deal. But that said, it’s a matter of hoping for the best when it comes to influencer marketing.

      Whew. I could write a lot more about this, evidently. : )

      • http://dannybrown.me/ Danny Brown

        @MSchechter:disqus I think that’s where the guidelines (FTC or otherwise) really need to stand up and be prominent. While I understand the “no money so not paid” angle, it’s still a marketing campaign (by definition) on the part of the resort. They stand to benefit by your approval – otherwise, you wouldn’t have been invited.

        No dollars upfront doesn’t mean no dollar benefit – this grey area is the part that’s making it tough for advocates/influencers to work with.

        Nice debate going here. :)

        • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

          Agreed that it’s an interesting debate. I commented up above, just to keep it in one place.

      • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

        Thanks for the thoughtful response. That gray area between paid and influencer programs is one of the things that has caused us to shy away to date. The steps above are really helpful, although there’s still some series hesitation on the part of our senior management.

        As for last bit, that was never our concern (that we’d give product and not receive anything in return). The real fear is more in line with what @ebaefa76f3974f133030a7a62a8b5bfd:disqus mentioned. We have so many reviews from paying customers in certain venues reviews that we worry about watering down their legitimacy with paid/influencer outreach in others. Not because we doubt the words of the influencers we would work with, but because they tend to be so overwhelmingly positive (especially in jewelry where it’s usually one for the blogger and one for a giveaway). it’s been our experience that the occasional negative review (or even honest negative aspects to a generally positive review) lends quite a bit of credence to the positive. Especially with our customers who focus on after-sale reviews.

        Regardless, it’s an interesting topic, especially as influencer outreach grows and I appreciate you answering my litany of questions.

  • http://www.joemanna.com/blog/ Joseph Manna

    I think the premise behind influencer marketing is about intention. If a brand merely uses an influencer as a puppet to induce more sales, that will fail. Their audience knowns their interests quite well and can quickly spot others who infiltrate their community.

    Instead, the brand should approach who is influential among customers, analysts and prospects and build a relationship that is legitimately beneficial for both parties. And by benefits, I mean that the brand solves problems that an influencer actually has which might coincide with their audience. It’s also more than marketing, it’s about listening, too.

    Otherwise, the brand is simply giving ice away to the coolest Eskimo in Antartica. ;-)

    [F/D: We're working with Chris behind the scenes at Human Business Works and the feedback has been great with even more awesomeness to come.]

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      That’s because InfusionSoft is a nifty company and because DJ dared to use his influence over me to get me to try it out, and I was influenced by the fact that cool people like you work there. : )

      • http://www.joemanna.com/blog/ Joseph Manna

        Awesome. Thanks, Chris. That means a lot. I’m always around if you need me. DJ and I knew that you’d be a great fit — glad to hear that our service is not only “neato,” but also “nifty.” ;-)

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  • http://www.attorney2pointoh.com/ Tracy Thrower Conyers

    I ready

  • sgregory57

    Influencers do stand to gain something if more people choose whatever they write positive reviews about.

    If business success is attributed to a blogger’s positive review, then other businesses will provide the blogger with even more free stuff because there is proof that it works. Maybe part of the reason why critics are suspicious about great reviews in blogs?

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Interesting. I hadn’t thought much about that angle. So, I have to write angry or negative comments if I’m to be seen as legitimately reviewing an experience?

      • http://twitter.com/DZazzy Dianna Antlocer

        I don’t think you have to write angry or negative comments to accomplish this, Chris. While your experience was great overall, isn’t there a least one small thing about your stay the venue could have done “better”? Unless it’s a 5 star resort – and even then there could be one thing. Or – if there was one thing that would have pleased you as an individual in particular more? Even if it’s something like, “It was 100 degrees outside and they didn’t have any drinking water by the pool”, I think that would help. I am all about being positive and not seeking the negative, but when I am paying to vacation I want things to be easy – and it’s rarely a perfect experience. Like if a place needs some updgrading and is looking a tad worn, as long as it’s clean that’s great! But I think mentioning in the review it’s a tad worn – but clean and that didn’t taint the overall experience too much does lend more credibility. (By the way I love the drinking water with slices of fruit or cucumber in the lobbies and by the pools at the Kimpton Hotels – it’s such a nice touch that puts my experience there over the top!)

      • bgavin

        No. If you ran a review site, then yes. But, instead, every so often you share a positive experience…that’s cool. One imagines that you’ve chosen not to write about some less than stellar experiences?

    • http://dannybrown.me/ Danny Brown

      That’s definitely an interesting take – if a review is always the same (always positive or always negative) then the view might be there’s no even voice. Good thoughts.

  • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

    I hope to earn trust every day. If this is one way, I’ll take it. : )

    • http://www.attorney2pointoh.com/ Tracy Thrower Conyers

      It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it!

  • http://www.businessesGROW.com/blog Mark W Schaefer

    Here’s the beauty of this. The free market will sort it out! If businesses benefits from influencer outreach, this activity will escalate. If your blog turns into a continuous advertisement for … oh, I don;t know … let’s say paper shredders … people may get sick of it and leave for other blogs. Each company will have to find that line, each blogger will have to find that balance. Supply and demand will prevail!
    It doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks. As long as we’re honest, people are free to create their own community and their own experience on the social web. I honor your right to do whatever you want with your blog. Thanks for the thought-provoking post Chris.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Of course you’re right. : )

      Know what’s hilarious, in the way that makes we writers sad? My posts about paper shredders get a TON more engagement than my typical post. No kidding.

  • http://www.commun.it SharelOmer

    AMAZING POST! really touching some core issues of social media marketing & how to leverage relationships …

    Sounds easy…find several influencers who are passionate/love what you do… every business/blog/person has them.. “list them” and focus on cultivate them over time to by your advocates…give them a free service/tier/product or even buy their service at a discount…. we hear of many business who do it.. and it works quit well..

    The challenge is to find this people, and passionately recruit them… not trivial.. you need a service that will help you do it..

    Great post Chris… thanks! it makes us think.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      It’s the opposite of easy, but it will definitely give us something to think. : )

  • http://dannybrown.me/ Danny Brown

    Good discussion you’ve started here, mate – always nice to see.

    As i mentioned in my comment to @MSchechter:disqus elsewhere, I completely see where you’re coming from with regards paid/not paid. Perhaps, though, the question we should all be looking at is cause and effect.

    As you mentioned, the cost of the stay was free. Let’s say that equates to $1,000. By definition, that’s a marketing cost being offset by your acceptance of the stay, in the hope you’ll write about it.

    Because you write about it, it becomes an “ad” (paid for service) because you wouldn’t have been aware of the resort otherwise, and they wouldn’t have had the exposure.

    There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this – heck, we sometimes do it ourselves on outreach when looking to raise awareness of what we’re doing over at Jugnoo.

    But if there’s an end goal with benefit (which there invariably always is), then it’s paid media, even if dollars weren’t physically exchanged. And I guess that’s where we need to work out the grey areas and make them clearer.

    Cheers for the convo!

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      I definitely appreciate the perspective. I *think* I found the part that I want to question.

      “…in the hope you’ll write about it.”

      To me, that’s why it’s not paid. It IS a marketing expense on their side, and it does offset my cost of being there, but paid work tends to be exchanged for an expected outcome. I made zero promises nor was I even asked for anything in particular by this organization.

      Yes, it’s the hope. Yes, reciprocity is a strongish force. Beyond that, that’s why I have trouble saying it was paid, as such.

      But I think this is semantics, and I recognize your perspective.

      • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

        I don’t know. I think for the sake of your one post, I totally agree that it is. You were very clear about what was covered, but I can just as easily see someone bending the rationale a bit further when it comes something being paid vs. something given.

        If we debate the merits of this post and the one that came before it, there no doubt it’s semantic, but I think the conversation about what this is called and how it should be disclosed as a whole is an important one.
        One of the things that has been bugging us internally about this kind of marketing is that there are great names for a true paid ad, great names for what the brands do (influencer outreach, influencer marketing or probably 10 other variations), but there really isn’t a clear term for what it’s called when someone who receives a product or service with the hope of them writing about it. Or at least if there is, there isn’t the consistent usage of it. And because that lack of a clear term or consistent way, we’ve found people often gloss over it.

        And I second Danny, cheers on a good conversation. This is one of the better one’s I’ve participated in on this subject.

        • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

          You’re right. There’s not a good name for this. That’s a big point, too.

  • Kelly Tirman

    Great call out regarding “information curator” based on some research work we have done lately it is clear that people are looking for curation from people they know and trust.

  • http://twitter.com/DZazzy Dianna Antlocer

    I think the concept of “Influencer Marketing” is interesting. I guess it depends on what the blog post is about versus the audience the blogger serves. I found it interesting that you said “Just because I was invited to check out the Disney Dream a while back, it didn’t mean that people rushed the ships and booked them solid for years to come. Because you decide what you want to do with influence.”
    I think in the case of travel – you are not an influencer per se, as you don’t influence a sale as evidenced by the Disney example, because you don’t run a travel blog (and thus the chance your audience is looking to book a cruise is very small compared to the audience of a travel blogger). I instead I think that you create additional awareness and exposure for a company/brand in this case. I thought a Disney Cruise would be a cheesy not-for-me-ever experience until I read your blog about it. If the opportunity ever arose, I would definitely consider it! You also opened my eyes to The Port Royal Resort. I would have never considered the Texas coast at all, first because it is just not top of mind and second because when I do think of it – I think of San Padre and Spring Break – not my cup of tea these days. So you have exposed me to something new I may (or may not) consider in the future.

    When it comes to what you blog to your core audience of bloggers, internet business folks and small business folks – that is where I see you as an Influencer. That is where your opinion definitely influences my purchase behavior/choice. I want to use something that Chris Brogan uses – because I want to replicate your success in my business and I know you look for superior experiences for your own business. Your vacation destination, not so much (but I appreciate being exposed to new things I would never to have known to consider). :)

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      I appreciate your thoughts on this. Thanks for weighing in. : )

  • http://allmarketingsolutions.co.uk/social-media-marketing-services Ayaz

    Great post Chris and I certainly like the approach of using disclaimer on the site to what you are going to do, for me its really crucial and important to have on the site.

    Thanks for sharing great information

  • http://ceomarketingsummit.com/ Stanley Rao

    Interesting and a good job done…

  • http://www.biznetworkguy.com/ John Davy

    The thing is you are always honest and up front. I don’t think people can really moan about it. You gave a gift in Writing, they gave a gift in their location. All comes up equal in the end. Seems like your mum approves anyway!!

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      I love that my mom weighs in. Makes me smile. : )

  • http://www.ryanhanley.com/ Ryan Hanley

    In regards to the Chris Brogan action figure… Is there a Bobble Head? Because if you did an influencer post selling Chris Brogan bobble heads I would definitely like to become an Affiliate of that program.

    Seriously though anyone who gets all jacked up about you writing about an experience you had after an experience that was given to you is simply jealous of your opportunity because if offended you can always read another blog post…

    That’s the beauty of the internet. If you don’t connect with an article… just move on. It’s no reason to hate.

    And I read that post and didn’t feel like I was being tricked in any way.

    Keep killin’ it dude…

    Hanley

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      It’s all good. People can come and go. : )

  • http://twitter.com/JanisPolis Jānis Polis

    Thanks for an excellent article on this matter. Could not find a single point I did not agree with. I also believe that in general as digital citizens we spend way too much time trying to point out to others that this or that piece of content could be paid for. To quote David Ogilvy, “The [fellow] consumer is not a moron, she is your wife.” Readers are [usually] not idiots, they will sniff out not genuine opinions, bought articles and other bullshit soon enough, and they will leave the author hanging by the bell, while it beats the last traces of credibility out of the poor soul with the whole world watching. Content creators are not idiots too, so they know it well enough.
    Plus, in the rare cases when readers or authors are indeed idiots, they don’t care anyway. So there is really no reason at all to have this kind of discussion :)

  • http://www.hairextensionsbymonica.com/ Monica Nielsen

    I like reading your post, every time I do a visual image exist. I visualize me adding another step to my own staircase and journey. I relate to your viewpoint and experiences quite often. I grow as a person professionally as well as personally. It is not wether i agree or disagree. It is about coming from a trusted source I respect. Keep posting, my mind keeps stretching!

  • bgavin

    Clear, honest post. The heck with the whiners.

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  • Chris Vestal

    Wait! You have an action figure!! :-)

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  • http://www.fourthelementcreative.com/ Nick Wright

    I still think you are missing the point. The purpose of influencer marketers (for marketers) is to cultivate relationships with people or groups who have credibility, respect and authority within the communities in which the marketer serves. For it to work, influencer marketing has to follow 4 simple rules:
    1. The content creator must be an authority in the subject and be respected by others who are passionate about that subject.
    2. The content created must deliver significant entertainment, engagement and educational value to the audience it has been created for.
    3. The content creator should not compromise his/her position as a trusted advisor and respected influencer.
    4. The content creator and the content created must be in alignment.

    To sum up the above, you wouldn’t take a well-known auto industry blogger seriously if he suddenly wrote a glowing review of the new Callaway driver just because he received a free $500 club to try. Yes, his audience wants to hear what he has to say, but they don’t want his opinion on golf clubs.

    Chris, your audience is primarily here to discover your unique insights into social media, content marketing and biz dev. When you stray too far off subject, you cheapen that relationship and risk losing your status as a trusted advisor.

    • http://CreativeJourneyman.com Nando

      Yeah, I’m not sure I completely agree with that, Nick.

      Had Mr. Brogan compromised his position, I would agree with you. What we see here is a manifestation of a larger trend toward humanizing business. The transparency of social media makes it almost inevitable that those in this space are exposed as being just plain human beings like you and I, with a normal life, that happen to have an expertise the rest of us look after.

      I’d go as far as to suggest your theoretical auto industry blogger could get away with the theoretical golf club (erm, driver – not a golfer, sorry) review it he:
      1. was transparent about it.
      2. knew his demographic is into golf.

      Now, I’m not suggesting this turn into a personal blog, but I appreciate Chris shows himself as the approachable person he is in real life, who just happens to have a lot to contribute. I study his work because of that. Maybe he knows that about the majority of his readers.

      And he has an action figure. Can’t claim that. Yet.

      • http://www.fourthelementcreative.com/ Nick Wright

        Hi Nando – thanks for the reply. Yes, our theoretical auto industry blogger could “get away” with the golf club review BUT would he really be the best person to deliver that review to the audience? I’m all for humanizing business, but just because you’re transparent in your actions doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right thing to do. And apologies to Chris for talking about this on his blog, but I felt that review was too detailed and too in-depth and too glowing to be viewed as an impartial. If it had been a “Hey guys, I had the chance to stay at this really cool resort last week. Had a great time. Here’s the link…” etc that would have been far more palatable to me and I would probably have taken a look.
        The danger for bloggers is that, as individual content creators, they don’t have the checks and balances that, say, a magazine’s editorial team would provide in preventing irrelevant and inappropriate content from reaching the readership. Therefore, they need to be especially disciplined, prudent and discerning in their content choices.
        And I don’t have an action figure yet, either!

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