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By Angela Haggerty, Reporter

April 29, 2013 | 4 min read

Interview by Stephen Lepitak

Marketers can expect to see a "seismic shift" online as the social internet gets to grip with influence, data and the effect of communications between social networks on channels between brand and consumer, according to founder of PeerIndex, Azeem Azhar.

Azhar spoke of the importance of marketing influence at a recent Empty13 event, which aims to bring brands and creatives together to explore the challenges and opportunities in a year with no major UK sporting or Royal events.

"I think 2013 has a huge seismic shift going on and we don't know how it's going to play out," said Azhar. "It's what we call the balkanisation of the internet; the idea that Facebook is locking its data and its activity and access to your audience within its walls and perhaps it doesn't want to play with Twitter or LinkedIn, and vice versa.

"It's going to be a very interesting year and it'll be very challenging for marketers to think about the investments they've made in these platforms and figure out how they get a single view of their customer if the platforms don't talk to each other.

"I don't have the answer to that," he continued. "I don't know whether the social internet with inter-operate better at the end of 2013 or worse. It sort of augurs that it's going to be worse."

Azhar founded social media analytics firm PeerIndex in 2009 and he continues to invest and advise in a number of tech and internet start ups. Before he pursued his business career he had stints as a journalist at the Guardian and The Economist before taking up a role as strategy manager at the BBC.

"This year we expect to see a bigger shift towards using influence in advertising and marketing campaigns," he explained. "The data shows that last year about six per cent of digital went on influence-orientated campaigns; we think that number's really going to increase over the next five years to about six per cent of all advertising spending and the reason is that the right way to do social is to influence, because that's that way you get to magnify your campaigns.

"As companies spend more and more on social they will be more strategic about how they do it. Inevitably, influence will play a key part in that."

Azhar predicts that they way marketers interpret social media will change as more data becomes available and enables them to channel their resources more effectively.

"When we say companies will be more strategic we mean that you will not solely look out for a single top line indicator, like the total number of likes, you'll start to look at testing which type of seeding gets you more clicks through to the goal page, what drives more revenue, what drives a better NPS.

"As you start to do that you'll segment the audience that you're dealing with more and more and that's where influence data will come in; it will come into the segmentation piece to help people achieve their goals more specifically.

"We're so much at the test and learn phase right now that people are just happy they managed to get a social media campaign out, then they're delighted if they got something they can measure at the end of it," he added.

The next event from the initiative - created by Bite Communications - takes place in London on 15 May, with speakers including Philippa Snare, CMO at Microsoft UK and John Bartleson, director of marketing, D2C at Telefonica.


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