The Influencers Have Arrived

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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.

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8 thoughts on “The Influencers Have Arrived

  1. Seb

    This is the kind of site that I usually love as an influencer but unfortunately, when I started signing-in, I was turned off by the quantity of information I needed to provide.

  2. Bill Sweetman

    This might be a worthy initiative were it not for the fact I found out about it by being spammed by its creators. Not cool and, ironically, not a good way to generate positive word of mouth.

  3. Ken Schafer - One Degree

    Ouch. Two strikes against them in the first two comments.
    FYI, we were tipped to the launch when Adam Eisner let me know he’d seen an ad for the site on toronto.com Monday AM. FWIW Adam didn’t complete the application either because the questions got too invasive.
    I wonder if the quality of the information they DO collect will be suspect given these reactions. Would you trust the accuracy of the data collected by a process you find too long or intrusive to complete?

  4. James

    And would a website that people will find helpful and trustworthy and want to belong to (a) need to advertise and (b) have an interest in acquiring all that personal information?
    Not so much, in this geek’s opinion. Feels astroturfy.

  5. Ken Schafer - One Degree

    At the risk of appearing to gang up on them, I’d also note that we haven’t seen Agent Wildfire in the comments here or any of their “influencers” decending on us to defend the service. Generally when you poke at something with passionate users you get a BIG pushback from the faith.
    Try writing something negative about Apple! (Not that you possibly could)

  6. Sean Moffitt

    Ken apparently beat me to the punch here…. sorry we just saw the conversation at One Degree, as many of you are aware, startup mode has many distractions including fixing some of the things mentioned in the comments above.
    As Kate references above, ny name is Sean Moffitt, founder of, slave to, figurehead of, The Influencers.
    A lot of meaningful points have been brought up here, let me see if I can work through them in the comment space I have:
    1) Kate provides a better summary than I probably could have provided on what we are and do (in full disclosure, I’m a frequent visitor of her blog and love her posts – sorry about the public love Kate) – we’ve taken what we believe are the best aspects of word of mouth and put them into one piece – the separation of “marketing church” and “editorial/opinion state” is a delicate one. Our principles hopefully go to some length to prevent this:
    a) there is no false incentive to provide overly positive feedback or referral in our system — we hope to invite products that match an Influencer’s high expectations and get their buzz to spread and insightful feedback played back but there is no incentive for “shilling” thankfully,
    b) if it was only about “the stuff” it might be considered a marketer-driven enterprise, a big part of the reason we are crafting blogs dedicated to passion areas, beyond the fact we think it’s fun and interesting, is to hopefully provide content that is appealing to our community and encourage exchange of opinion – we hope it provides a good counterbalance and creates a “conversation cafe not a subway station”
    c) our blog writers can write about anything they want within guidelines designed for consistency and to create the start of word of mouth conversations. Will I ask them to intentionally go out of the way and diss our clients? No. Might they? We’ll see.
    d) Yes, there will be advertorial. It won’t be disguised and personally, I’d rather be communicated to in an approachable, relevant conversational language. I’m big fans of sites like Daily Candy and Sweetspot for this reason.
    e) In response to James’ post above, yes people really do enjoy reading sites that have paid advertising – it’s a virtuous circle, revenue brings in better writers, better coverage, better value adds – I just visited one of my fave blogs Boing Boing and it has about 20 advertisers
    f) although our intro tactics can be questioned, whether its the principles of WOMMA, AIMS, Web 2.0 – our motives for an authentic exchange of opinion and the need for marketers to work with customers not at them is something we embrace. We’re hoperfully an open book – feel free to read about my musings about the WOM space at Buzz canuck.
    2) Seb, Lex and Ken all raise good points about the signup process. We messed up – in our overzealousness in
    getting information for interesting clients and also for the sake of matching a member’s interests to programs we run, we asked for too much.
    With sober second thought, some optional questions were also invasive. If you check back online, you will see a streamlined survey that has more reasonability built in. Mea culpa however the only cavaet I would add here is that there is an exchange that should be valued here – marketers crave insights from the right opinion leading and connected people and Influencers crave new, remarkable stuff and content — in order to enable that, you need to ensure you’re getting the most involved, interested people that want to chime in with their opinions and not the professional promotion hunters. Contrary to Ken’s point, at least with our community where the quality of our members are paramount, I would worry about the value of information that has a lack of depth – based on our experience, if we made it alarmingly easy to be or perform as an Influencer, the community would populate quickly with “free riders” – worthy of a debate i’m sure.
    3) Ken’s right about the defenders, this post is a couple days old and no defence ,what gives? Passionate defenders take time to build, trust grows with familiarity – although we’ve built a core of zealots and a database of thousands that tip us off to things …we’ve really only launched a couple of campaigns and haven’t launched our blogs yet, the bulk of our community is not yet ready to throw itself in defence mode (given the feedback we received from some members on the signup process, they might even concur with your points). Apple has has 25 years, some pretty good product and a bit of good press, given time and good practice on our parts, in a few months, I would presume we’ll see the defenders of the Influencers flag.
    I’ve already taken up too much real estate here for a comment area but would welcome your thoughts on making The Influencers excel or at minimum, engage in conversation, debate or harangues about WOM. Give me shout or drop a line at smoofitt@agentwildfire.com and let’s grab a cup of java.

  7. Kate

    Great comments, Sean! Appreciate the clarification around advertorial, etc. Recent post on One Degree about astroturfing is quite relevant to this conversation.
    And to lob in my defense of The Influencers (disclosure … Sean and I are apparently each president’s of the others fan club – I think he writes some of the best pieces on WOM over at his blog, Buzz Canuck), as one of the folkks who wasn’t able to make it all they way thru the registration process, I received an email from The Influencers (actually from Sean himself) written with self-effacing humour, that apologized about the painful signup, reminded readers about what is cool about The Influencers (trying to win back anybody who had written them off), included a link for people who had abandonned their signup to continue and promoted their latest WOM campaign (the Global TV promo). So kudos to The Influencers for addressing the issue in just the right tone and in pretty rapid time.

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