Blockchain Is Magic for Influencer Marketing, But in a Bad Way

Opinion: Approach these gurus with caution

Blockchain solutions are maddeningly short in detail iLexx/iStock
Headshot of Jody Hart

The blockchain value proposition is that ad fraud and a confused and complicated marketplace prevent brands from running successful influencer marketing campaigns, and that blockchain solves these problems through price transparency and better metrics measurement. However, what blockchain solutions don’t provide are any concrete details about how they solve those problems or how blockchain solutions are different from existing platform technologies. What blockchain definitely provides is a magic buzzword for vendors to convince clients that blockchain will make their troubles disappear.

Does this sound familiar?

So-called blockchain gurus will try to tell you that merging influencer marketing programs with blockchain capabilities will prove to be lucrative. They’ll throw around some other buzzwords like “millennials,” “disruptive platforms” and “brand safety” and tell you how much brands are investing in blockchain to persuade you to do the same.

Don’t let them convince you that you have an influencer marketing problem blockchain can solve—ad fraud, poor metrics measurement, influencer payments—with no facts to back it up.

In reality, blockchain is a data-storage solution that does not directly address ad fraud in any way. The technology underlying ad fraud can produce fraudulent traffic no matter what system is used to store and compare the recorded metrics.

Blockchain is also not a measurement solution. The technology used to measure metrics remains the same, regardless of whether those measurements are stored as they are now or in a blockchain, so why waste money on something that isn’t broken?

And don’t overly complicate the influencer payment system with blockchain. This is a “problem” that is easily solvable with other solutions, like a standard accounts payable function or PayPal payments directly to influencers (which is what many influencer agencies do).

The only thing private blockchain solutions offer, other than Bitcoin, is customer lock-in to one particular platform that’s controlled by one vendor.

Approach these gurus with caution, because they have no experience in influencer marketing and have never run a campaign. Yet, they think they’re the experts of our industry. They’ll tell you that blockchain is magic that pays for itself in blockchain by using the blockchain. None of this is true.

Stop the madness!

Influencer marketing is a marketing strategy used successfully by more and more brands to achieve their sales and marketing goals. As with any marketing strategy, clients are concerned with meeting key performance indicators and return on investment—as they should be.

Influencer marketing is built on the premise that authentic, trusted humans (influencers)—when matched correctly to a brand for which they have an affinity—can affect actions up and down the purchase funnel. It is only natural for clients to want to carefully evaluate and then measure the effectiveness of that authenticity and trust. Influencer marketers are used to having these conversations, and we are used to showing how the results of an influencer marketing program can alleviate any concerns.

Don’t be dazzled by shiny objects

Blockchain solutions are maddeningly short in detail. Solution providers stress the uniqueness of the technology, but they don’t spell out how, for example, that technology actually provides better measurement or prevents click-fraud farms from padding impressions counts.

Gathering all of the data in one place doesn’t make that data any more reliable, regardless of the data store used to house it. The cost of implementing and transitioning to a new and unproven platform is never discussed.

The questions to ask a blockchain solution expert—or any solution provider—are the ones skirted by the sales pitches and blockchain fluff pieces:

  • Have you ever run an influencer marketing campaign?
  • How does your blockchain platform differ from existing influencer marketing platforms?
  • How does blockchain gather metrics more easily?
  • How does blockchain gather metrics more reliably?
  • Does blockchain prevent click fraud or fake followers? If so, how?

The real real

There are many solutions to achieve a scaled, successful influencer marketing program. So far, blockchain isn’t one of them.

What blockchain offers is a poorly understood and overly hyped buzzword that newcomers to our industry use to get their foot in the door, raise venture funding and sell solutions in search of a problem. It doesn’t provide a way for brands to connect with real people telling real stories to an audience that trusts them. It doesn’t magically prevent click fraud. If it makes measuring the impact of programs easier or better, no one has spelled out how that happens.

Technology is an important part of influencer marketing, but if blockchain is going to revolutionize that, we haven’t seen any evidence.

Jody Hart is vice president of technology at influencer marketing agency Clever.

@jody_n_hart Jody Hart is vice president of technology at CLEVER.