Have you heard? TheInfluencers.ca has arrived.
“Agent Wildfire”:http://www.agentwildfire.com/, lead by Sean Moffitt, has launched “TheInfluencers.ca”:http://www.theinfluencers.ca/ – Canada’s first (and only) WOM network. The goal? To tap into interesting products and ideas across Canada. A way to get a heads up on what will be the next big thing. TheInfluencers.ca is “the online hub that provides member Influencers access to insider content and exclusive opportunities, helping you stay up to speed with word of mouth discoveries well before the mainstream.” It reminds me a bit of a “mashup”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mashup_(web_application_hybrid) between “Sweetspot.ca”:http://sweetspot.ca/, “Hotspex”:http://www.hotspex.com/ and “IpsosReid”:http://www.ipsos.ca/ with a little “MySpace”:http://www.myspace.com/ thrown in for good measure.
My question… is this for consumers, or is it *really* for marketers?
Here are the basics: You self-identify as an influencer, someone who sets trends for your social group or is the expert on all things SLORG (where “slorg” can be fashion, food, tech or travel, or one of 14 other topics). The only current restriction is that to be an influencer you must be over 14. Now for some specifics promotions, like the Global Influencers Club (sneak previews of two of Global’s fall lineup: Shark and Brothers & Sisters), you might have to meet certain geographical or age requirements.
What do influencers get out of it? A little prestige. A chance at some sneak peeks. A chance to be heard.
What do marketers get out of it? Well, marketers have the potential to get way more out of this than consumers.
As a marketer, reaching out to a self-identified group of influencers is far less risky than trying to reach out to bloggers or other social media networkers on my own. If TheInfluencers.ca grows, there will be a ready-made set of people who are willing to give their opinion, particularly in a social networking kind of way. Why social network? Because in conjunction with their WOM(Word of Mouth) network, TheInfluencers.ca is also starting (what I would call) a blog network. By the end of 2007, a plan is in place to create 18 “influencer” blogs, including blogs on entertainment, fashion, food and drink, active lifestyle, books, and business. You can see “the full list online”:http://www.theinfluencers.ca/images/know.pdf (links to a PDF). The Influencer blogs promise to be a place where Canadians can seek new experiences and cool stuff in their particular area of interest. Agent Wildfire has also put out the call for writers for some of these blogs.
So, there will be a database of people I can survey and I will have focused, niche-oriented blogs that I can take advantage of to get my message out. Agent Wildfire highlights several opportunities for marketers and PR firms:
* PR Firms – launching and seeding awareness of new launches
* Buzz/word of mouth-driven companies – any client interested in creating targeted word of mouth exposure
* Niche Products and Retailers – well-targeted online media opportunities
* New or undiscovered brands/products – acts as an announcement board for newsworthy initiatives
* Not-for-Profits – free exposure and fund raising opportunities for buzzworthy charities, causes and inspired non-profit ideas
The initiative is already getting some WOM of its own, both from consumers and marketers. Sites like “PriceNetwork.ca”:http://www.pricenetwork.ca/ are seeing mentions of it. And it’s generating some buzz on marketing blogs, notably Tara Hunt’s “Pinko Marketing group.”:http://groups.google.com/group/pinkomarketing/browse_thread/thread/ec45fe09700cf77a/c9f388fcf076ca38#c9f388fcf076ca38
In order for Agent Wildfire to make TheInfluencers.ca successful, a clearer line is going to need to be drawn in the sand. The website itself is great for me as a marketer. As a consumer and someone who wants to participate in the network, I find myself wading through pages and pages of material. There are two distinct audiences here, with different needs and different expectations. Agent WIldfire needs to address each a little more specifically.
I believe that there *can* be sufficient transparency as information moves between marketer and consumer to make TheInfluencers.ca successful, but Agent WIldfire will need to be diligent (perhaps overly so) in ensuring that this transparency actually happens, particularly when marketers start wanting to feed advertorial content into the Influencer blogs.