Tom Webster posted on his blog an interesting experience with a highly personal “Influencer Outreach Program“. In short: He tried to give the quake victims in New Zealand moral support by asking his social graph and tapping into the sphere of influencers to record a short message of support. He asked people like Chris Brogan and Oliver Blanchard to spread the word for him, extending his reach dramatically. (So far, so good. Solid outreach program.)

As he writes:

“You see, how this story is supposed to end is this: hundreds of thousands of people heard my plea for help, and overwhelmed my server with messages of hope. The number of messages and the outpouring of passion and love for this cause brought the Interwebs to its knees. The people of New Zealand clung to those messages of hope – and another social media legend was born.”

Well, the results were abysmal (read his post for more details):

  • 410,00+ impressions
  • 389 clicks
  • CTR of below 0.01%
  • 10 submissions (0.0025 action rate)

And you thought your display ad performance blows.

A few thoughts:

First and foremost, I would like to commend Tom for posting these results. I love the honesty of bare numbers and his lack of trying to explain it away. We need more of this.
His experiment doesn’t mean an Influencer Outreach Program on Twitter makes no sense. However it tells us that an Influencer Outreach program on Twitter based on reach will most likely fail.
As Matt Ridings points out, the effort wasn’t designed well enough. “Instead, he notes that “people need to a) see that the influencer took the action (the influencer truly believes) b) be presented with an action simple enough for them to easily participate and allow competition to take hold (“I can make a better audio clip than you did,”) and c) see results made public to allow a & b to occur in such a way that they believe the influencer will actually see that they did it for *them* vs. the cause, thus garnering attention for themselves.”
I would add to this: People are lazy. Tom asked too much from them. Audio message, downloading, sending. When people are asked to do anything more than to click a link, you’ll have problems converting them. That’s the genius of Foursquare: You have nothing to do, waiting for your drink, standing around and you push 2 buttons. Done. The Haiti mobile giving campaign of $10 worked so well because it took me no effort to do it.
People are trained in certain behavior. We do click on links when on Twitter but do we want to take real action? I would argue not. An idea like this might spread better on Facebook where people are used to do more than just click.
While some people rely on Oliver Blanchard to get his take on Social Media ROI and Chris Brogan to get insights into Social Media, their influence out of their field of expertise is very limited. They might be able to shill a suitcase or a book that is closely associated to their expertise but how many people would buy pants because Chris Brogan wears them? Or record a call? I know, this was for a good cause – still.
It clearly shows that you need to connect with the small pools of influencers that create behavior change. It’s more important to have avid fans than amass fans. Think Howard Stern. He’s the ultimate influencer.
Last but not least: Asking people for favors on social platforms is the new spam: Put this in your status. Copy that. Color your avatar green. RT this. Share that. Help here. Donate there. It’s tough to break through that clutter and get meaningful responses.