The Automobile Industry – An Influence Study (2014)

Who are the influential people and companies in the automotive industry? Which issues are getting the most attention and reaction in automotive discussions? What do the trends tell us about the future of the people, companies, and business?

These are just a few of the questions we help answer in our latest report – The 2014 Automotive Industry Influence Study. Timed to coincide with the New York Auto Show, this report follows up on last year’s version – which focused on the impact of new connectivity technology – with a broad look at the market and it’s players, and deep dives into the key trends and companies.

The 2014 Automotive Industry Influence Study is free and now available for online viewing or download.

The Huge Impact of The Auto Recalls

There is no bigger recent story in the auto industry than the GM and Toyota recalls, and the impact can be clearly seen in terms of who’s opinions are generating reactions. Mary Barra, the new CEO of GM who has been in the hot seat as their recall story has unfolded, shoots the #1 position in our ’20 Most Influential Executives in Automotive’ list, surpassing Elon Musk who lands in the #2 position.


General Motors itself takes the top spot in the ’20 Most Influential Companies in Automotive’ list with and Influence Score 23% higher than Ford and 86% higher than #3 ranked Toyota.

The recalls drove a huge amount of the opinions and reactions related to Ms. Barra and GM, and the study shows that over 40% of all influential conversations about General Motors in early April were relating to the recall issue.

The recall conversation is also distracting attention from GM in other areas, as their ranking in Fuel Economy fell from #6 to #8, and in Technology they fell from #3 to #11.

Key Themes The Influencers Are Talking About

Auto_Report_FuelTheme350Safety was the topic for the most influential conversations this year, jumping from the #5 position in our 2013 study to #1 in 2014. Within the safety theme, GM and Toyota were responsible for just over 50% of all opinions and reactions.

Automotive Technology, the subject of last year’s study, remained the 2nd most influential topic, with Apple and Google also garnering the lion’s share of the conversation with a combined 62% share of the influential opinions and reactions.

Fuel Economy was the 3rd most influential theme, with new fuel options of electric and hybrid driving almost 68% of the conversation. Tesla became the most influential company in the Fuel Economy category this year, surpassing last year’s leader Ford who fell to #3 position. Tesla’s Elon Musk ranked over 4X more influential than Nissan/Renault Alliance CEO Carlos Ghosen who was the 2nd most influential in that category.

How Appinions Measures Influence

This report was the result of reviewing over 200 million opinions from within over 2 billion documents between January 10, 2014 and April 8, 2014. Appinions reviews full-text from online, offline, and social sources, and calculates individual influence scores for each person or company who shared an opinion which generated a meaningful reaction. Scores are calculated independently for each topic, based on a specific topic definition which includes keywords, key phrases, and negatives.

It’s also important to note that all scores exist on a single scale, so you can compare the relative value of any two scores, even on different topics or from different time frames.
The score considers: 1) Which people or entities reacted to an opinion, weighted by their respective influence on that topic; 2) What is the credibility of the outlet where the reaction was published or consumed; and 3) What volume of reactions were generated based on the opinions attributed to that influencer over the past 60 days. Reviewing all opinions from everyone who comments on a given topic, identifying all of the reactions, and completing this calculation, results in a ranked list of influencers for any given topic or theme.

Download the Study Now

You can now view or download the full 32-page 2014 Automotive Influence Study.


Our Digital Mobile Payments Influence Study

The way we pay for goods and services is changing, as the world migrates from cash and credit cards to apps we run on our smartphones. It’s an evolution made possible by ubiquitous mobile platforms and always-on Internet connections, fueled by upstarts like Square and Stripe, and propelled by industry veterans like MasterCard who don’t want to be left behind.

The market has been filled in recent months with product announcements, launches, investments, and acquisitions. The promise is new convenience, lower fees, and in some cases increased privacy and security.

Given all this discussion and activity, it seemed like a great time for us to look at the people and companies that are exerting influence over the digital mobile payment ecosystem. So we’re pleased to announce the release of our Digital Mobile Payments Influence Study.


Using the Appinions platform, we’ve examined data from over 2 billion documents covering news, blogs, forums, and social media collected in the time frame between December 7, 2013 and March 6, 2014. Within that data, approximately 225 million opinions garnered enough reactions to be deemed influential. Influence Scores were then calculated for the people and entities who originated these opinions.

The study documents these influence scores, presenting the top 10 executives, top 10 companies, and comparison charts for a variety of related markets including mobile technology, banking, wireless device manufacturers, and others.


Our analysis confirmed that there has been a significant increase in the volume of influential conversations relating to mobile payments thus far in 2014. Kicked off by the Wall Street Journal report quoting Apple CEO Tim Cook’s announcement about the tech giant’s interest in mobile payment, there has been a sustained level of reactions at almost 2x the levels we saw before Mr. Cook spoke.


One unique attribute of the mobile payments market is the fact that six different industries are actively exerting influence over the discussion. This is a very different dynamic than we’ve seen in any previous industry or sector that we’ve examined. Financial institutions, retailers, wireless, traditional and mobile payment services, and device makers are all in the mix of startups and established firms who have shared influential opinions over the past three months.

DigitalPayments_Players2014The full report includes a ranked list of key influencers in each of the six industries that are driving this important category. Within each of these industries, there are surprises in terms of which firms have demonstrated influence, and which have not.

For example, MasterCard’s announcement in February regarding its plans to acquire digital wallet provider C-SAM, received a great deal of attention from influencers in the mobile payment space, but competitor American Express has (at least recently) demonstrated no measurable influence on the topic of mobile payments.

Note: The first version of our study mis-reported the influence score of Visa Inc. as zero due to the ‘coincidental alignment’ of their company name with a generic term on our exclusion list. Their correct score has been included in an updated version of the study. We regret the error and apologize to Visa Inc.

They’re not the only quiet one. While a wide range of banks around the world, including the Bank of Beijing and Royal Bank of Canada, are influential, not a single U.S. bank appears on our sector leader report.

There were also interesting facts in what the data told us about the newer payment tech startups, both the young and those who are reasonably well established.

Square, for example, ranks 7th among influential core mobile payment tech companies showing only about 4% of the influence of Paypal, and yet when we looked at share of the conversation from influencers about mobile payments, Square gets 90% as much attention as Paypal. Clearly they are garnering a lot of attention without themselves sharing opinions that are getting reaction.

Download The Full Study Now

DigitalPaymentsStudyThe full study presents a very interesting view of this dynamic market, and at the role that over 40 companies are currently playing in influencing it’s evolution.

You can view the study, or download a copy here.

Or read the press release about it.

We’d love to hear your thoughts about influence in the mobile payments marketplace in the comments below.


Appinions March 2014 Release Now Live

Appinions is excited to announce several new features in our March platform release. We have been listening to your feedback and we are addressing two common user requests.

Enhanced Profile Data

Obama ProfileFor clients who are looking to evaluate influencers for social media heavy campaigns, we now include a much richer profile of our influencers. This simplifies the process of finding and separating influencers who are influential on social media. Facebook, Google Plus, and Twitter popularity statistics are now included by default and shown prominently on the profile.

For users of our Content Marketing module, this give you a more holistic picture of an influencer and helps you better evaluate candidates for an outreach program. As an example, if you want to seed messages from your company Twitter account, you can find influencers who are active on Twitter and have a large following. You already know they are influential because there were identified by our platform. The result is a comprehensive tool that further supports your content marketing efforts.

Executive Influence module users benefit as well. We can show you whom to follow and with whom to interact. For modules with a large social component, we have given you an even more powerful tool for finding your key targets.

Theme Visualization

Creating content for a marketing program or trying to understand the dynamic of an unfamiliar landscape just became easy. Imagine being able to read thousands of documents from leading influencers and get the Cliff’s Notes version. This is our Theme Map tool.


Simply put, it distills all of the influential conversation around a topic and graphs the most salient themes. We show you the most common themes and what other subjects people talk about at the same time. This allows you to draw non-obvious insights from the data to create compelling content.

For clients using our Content Marketing module, they can see both topics that are upcoming and topics that should be covered concurrently. You can objectively see what is popular and what secondary topics should be included to ensure the maximum distribution of your work. Themes are updated every ensuring that you always have relevant information to pull from.

Event Marketing module clients benefit as well. As an example, if Oracle wants to host an event on Cloud Computing and Clean Energy, we can map out which other themes people talk about related to these topics. This ensures that your event is timely and relevant.

Influencer Theme Map

You now have a powerful new weapon for finding the most influential people on given topic.

In the Theme Map we answer the question “What is important in a topic?” With the Influencer Theme Map, we answer the question “Who is important in that subset of the topic?”


This new view is universally beneficial to all of our modules. As an example, a Content Marketing user will use this to find not only the narrowly focused set of influencers they care about, but also the exact opinions that they have that are driving a conversation. A Launch Marketing user will use this tool to help identify a seed audience for the product launch.

One exciting use of this tool is in the context of an Executive Influence team. Let’s say that your company wants to become more influential on Energy Efficiency in the context of Big Data. Using this tool, you can drill down to the exact subset of influencers who are important in this space. We provide you with the exact list of what people are saying so your executive team knows what messaging has been successful. The list of influencers is also useful in understanding who you should engage to raise your Executive’s profile in the designated topic.

We hope these new features are useful. Let us know if we can help or if you have any questions. Contact us via or by contacting your account manager directly.

Powerful Appinions Dashboards Provide Influence Analytics at a Glance

New platform features simplify influence measurement: What Forrester calls “the new black for b2b brands”

Influence changes every day with the natural ebb and flow of conversations and content that is meaningful enough to capture the attention of an audience. We set out to provide marketers with an easy way to assess three things:

1. How well are they influencing the influencer at a given moment in time
2. What has changed in the influencer landscape; and
3. What should the brand do next to either course correct or optimize a successful tactic.

That is why Appinions is introducing a new feature to the platform – Dashboards.

Dashboards presents influencer insights at-a-glance, which appear in various Tiles for existing topics, programs or Gap reports. The Dashboard is a living canvas, which will evolve with the changing needs of marketers.

The various types of Tiles are pictured below.

Full Page Shot ALTERNATE

Tiles available at launch:

1. Topic Tiles: Shows the “who” and “why” that drive changes in influence.

Topic Tiles (as pictured below) provide three key pieces of data that reveal the individuals and opinions that drive influence at a given moment in time.

1.Topic Tiles display the change in Net Influence Score, opinion volume and sentiment over a seven-day moving average.
2.These Tiles also call attention to bursting influencers who have achieved a sudden bump in influence.
3.Last, Topic Tiles show the most “actioned” opinions, which are those opinions that have been published or referenced most frequently across networks or media more than any others in the past two weeks.

Drawer View

2. Program Tiles: How are key influencers performing?

Appinions allows users to set up programs to select influencers for closer monitoring. Program Tiles provide insights that show to what degree these select individuals are driving influence within the program.

3. Influence Gap and Overlap Tiles: Measure Success in an instant!

The Influence Gap Tiles provide a short-cut view of the comparative influence between two topics or entities by showing a widening gap or increasing overlap. Clicking on the various areas of our signature Venn diagram reveals why the program is trending in either direction.

Our goal was to distill our complex, rich influencer insights into snapshots that show progress and inform action. The Dashboard allows users to get a quick status of key influence metrics related to their brand or a topic of interest.

Gap Widget

Appinions plans to roll out additional Tiles over time that reflect richer insights that keep our clients better informed as to how they are doing, what changed and what actions they should consider.

 What our clients are saying about Dashboards:

                  • “This is great, I really like this because all of the important data is right there, but simplified so it’s easy to interpret.” – Saikat Saha, Simon & Schuster
                  • “This will be very helpful for me as a power user, especially for managing the topics I’m keeping track of. I especially like the drawer view so I can see the Net Influence Score, opinion volume and sentiment together in a short amount of time.” – Leading enterprise technology company

The Gift of Influence

If you’re thinking about influence as a mere commodity, then it’s time to think again. An influence marketing campaign is not just a question of plunking down your dollars for an influencer to deliver an audience. Successful influence marketing is all about values like trust, honesty and integrity. And those values, in an ideal world, can’t be bought.

A couple of months ago, the New York Times published a story about 19 companies that had been using employees or paying people to leave positive reviews of their services. Once the story broke, it undermined the perception of those companies and of the people who consented to write fraudulent reviews. It’s not a big stretch to say that treating influence as a commodity could lead to the same kind of backlash, both for brands and the influencers they work with.

That’s why if you’re running an influence marketing campaign, you have to move away from the commodity mindset and see influence – and your key influencers – as a gift to be nurtured.

Think about it. A major reason why influencers are effective is because of trust. Their audiences have the perception that those influencers’ integrity can’t be bought and that they will give their honest opinion at all times. Sometimes they may receive some sort of compensation for the efforts they expend on a brand’s behalf, but that’s not their primary motivation. And some influencers refuse to take money at all.

So how do you work with people when there is no overt financial relationship involved? One important factor is accepting that they won’t like everything you do and will be free to tell their audiences about it. Less than stellar feedback isn’t always a bad thing. After all, when you look at a product and the reviews are all positive, don’t you sometimes wonder if they are for real? When your influencers give their honest opinions they reinforce the trust they have earned from the target audience you are trying to reach.

It’s also important to nurture the relationship by giving them the access they need to your products and services – and the people who produce them – so they can give a balanced viewpoint. That’s how they deliver value both to you and their audience.

Rather than being a simple buying and selling transaction, influence marketing is about the value exchange. Brand owners create an emotional connection with their influencers through access and they can give something back by helping to promote those influencers in turn. It’s a fair exchange, with no loss of integrity on either side.

To paraphrase an old MasterCard ad: an influencer who can’t be bought – priceless!

Image credit: Mulberry24

Leveraging Employee Influence

Most employees don’t think of themselves as influencers. Come to think of it, in any company with a traditional hierarchical structure, their bosses don’t think so either.

But they’re both wrong.

Employees are experts in their particular sphere, whether it’s crunching the numbers or packaging products for shipment. Within every team, there’s always someone who’s the go-to person, who truly has an integral understanding of the factors that affect how they do their jobs. They are in charge of delivering your strategic plan and are the people most likely to have contact with the end customer – the people whom your influencers are trying to reach. So why would you (or your bosses) ignore them?

In our eBook on Executive Influence we shared a key statistic from Edelman’s Trust Barometer that shows the importance of leveraging the influence of your employees and executives in your influence marketing campaigns. It’s because more people trust employees and executives than trust CEOs (by a 50% to 43% margin). So businesses that don’t act on the potential employees offer for influencing others, both internally and externally, risk losing out.

This means a cultural change for many businesses to become more socially minded and internally connected. Although Chris Heuer argues that “Social Business,” the term, is dead, he does acknowledge that “[w]hat really matters is freeing every human asset to be free of fear, uncertainty and doubt so they may achieve their greatest potential in life and in work.”

We believe that using influence marketing to create employee influence is one way to help employees fulfill their potential. As we’ve long advocated, creating influence within the company, and leveraging influencers outside the company, creates trust for a company, product or service.

If we had to choose one word to describe the changes in how people do business in the 21st century, it would be “empowerment.” Some businesses are using company-wide analytics to enable everyone in the company to contribute to better decisions. Others have borrowed agile methodology from the software world to create a more flexible, less hierarchical approach to developing products and services. Empowering employees to identify and wield influence is another aspect of this.

Employees can influence others both internally and externally by contributing to company events and promotions, taking part in content marketing, making in-house presentations and connecting with your external influencers on social media. That last method is a win-win. As we’ve said before, giving external influencers access to what’s going on inside the company is part of the value exchange. Not only does this approach free up the CEO, but by leveraging employees as influencers you can build trust among external influencers.

Photo Credit Altaher Altabet

Imaging Influence

As a B2B marketer, there are likely two questions that come to mind when you think about Pinterest and Instagram.
1. Do these visual platforms represent an opportunity to influence the people you are trying to reach?
2. Do you still need influence marketing now that Pinterest has sponsored pins and Instagram has ads?
The answer to the first question is a resounding yes. Many B2B companies are already using Pinterest and Instagram to extend their reach. It’s easy to see why, because Kissmetrics research shows visual content is among the most shared content on social media, rapidly multiplying the number of views, comments and click-throughs over text based content. It’s an opportunity no business can afford to pass up.

Think Different, Think Visual

But it also means thinking differently about how to connect with your influencees on these platforms. You hopefully already know a lot about what interests them; use this information to reinforce that connection. Here are some examples of how B2B companies are using Pinterest:

  • Give an insiders’ view of life at the company, helping to forge an emotional connection, as Constant Contact does with its “Life at Constant Contact” Pinterest board.
  • Share data of interest to the businesses they are trying to reach, as Silicon Halton does.
  • Highlight promotions, as FedEx does.
  • Show off promotional items available to influencers, as in Hubspot’s goodies and swag board.
  • Give their brand a personality and reach, as General Electric does.

Many companies are doing the same on Instagram and on Vine. Examples include Cisco, Oracle and Maersk Shipping.

These examples show that B2B companies who really get the platforms and know how to use them (being visual, creative with descriptions and using appropriate hashtags) have an unparalleled opportunity to influence the people they are trying to reach. Visual media can help you demonstrate technical aspects of your business to the influencers who need to explain them to others and gives them something they can easily share with their key audiences, extending the reach of your brand.

Influence Marketing is Also Visual

Does the presence of advertising on visual platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram negate the value of influence marketing?

Not at all.
Some Instagram influencers with large followings are already posting doing their own product placements and they are likely to get attention. However, a recent Adobe study showed that only 8% of people pay attention to online ads. The other 92% – don’t. That 8% may be enough to give those sites revenue, but is it enough to give your brand the reach it needs? Probably not.

That’s why there’s value in using both strategies. Advertise to get the attention of some of the people you haven’t reached; use visual media on Instagram, Pinterest and Vine to connect with them more deeply.

Image credit bloodybee

Finding Influencers: They’re Not Necessarily Like Us

The other day a member of our client services team was helping a client identify influencers for a social marketing campaign for a line of tech products. The client wanted to target working mothers; by searching the Women in Business topic, the team member found a lot of inspirational and influential women who seemed to fit the bill. But the client was concerned about them because all of those women were seemingly older than the women that client was trying to reach. Was this a good decision?

One of the myths in influence marketing is that we’re all influenced by “people like us.” Which would mean that our target customers are influenced by people like them. We therefore often assume that the best people to choose to reach our chosen influencees will be people who match their demographic as closely as possible. That’s just plain wrong. The people who influence our customers aren’t one homogenous group, and they may not always be the same types of people as our end customers.

As young children, we look to our parents for advice. When we get older, we also turn to our peers. But they aren’t the only people we listen to. There are always a few others who are in a mentorship role, like our football coach or our first boss. Even though these people are not the same age or gender, they serve as trust points when we make decisions about our lives, whether these are big or small. They are role models – and that’s something we need to think about in influence marketing.

Here’s an example: Say you are trying to launch a new technology product. When making a decision to buy, the people you want to reach will certainly listen to their friends who are always testing the latest gadgets, but you’d better believe they will also be listening to the latest pronouncements from the top analysts covering Google, Apple and Microsoft, because they trust their opinion as people with wide experience in the tech space. They are role models and mentors rather than peers. Does it matter what age the analysts are? Or what location they’re in? Most likely, no. But they may be examples or models for the final influencees all the same.

Whatever your business segment, a good influence marketing campaign cannot ignore the value of influencer examples. When Ben Silbermann launched Pinterest, he saw early members as role models for the rest of the community and built his product for them; look how well that turned out. In the end, connecting with the right influencers is less about demographics than about enabling their function as models and trust points for the audience you are trying to reach by providing the information that their influencees will use to guide their purchasing decisions. Understand who your target audience looks up to, and why; this could be something to ask the next time you do customer research.

Image credit: Sophie ffrench-Constant

Influence Marketing: Beyond the Sale

Influence marketing has been a hot buzzword in 2013. And while most marketers use influence marketing to develop new audiences, generating the audience (what we also call influencees) is only half the battle. What happens after the sale counts. Think of your contact with B2B influencers as a committed relationship rather than a brief encounter.

Here’s how it often goes: You identify influencers, work with them to attract the audiences they motivate and hope that those in their audience will buy your product or service. But what happens after the sale is made? Do your influencers – and their audience – cease to be of interest once money has changed hands? If that’s the case, you’re missing out on the potential that building a relationship brings. After all, no one likes to feel abandoned.

Once the initial phase of your program is over and those first sales come in, that’s the time to cement the budding relationship and turn those influencers into super advocates who serve as trust points for their influencees.

You’re probably familiar with the sales and marketing formula of attract, convert and close. Hubspot recommends adding a fourth phase: delight. We agree; that’s the best way to keep influencers, and their audiences, engaged. It’s about showing them that they still matter to you, even after they have successfully persuaded their followers to make the sale. How do you do this? The answer is to use the same channels you used to attract and communicate with influencers to keep their audiences involved.

Last year, a well-known writers’ organization ran an influencer campaign for one of its events. It identified some popular writers via Twitter and added these writers to a specific list, which it shared with them. The organization then used that list to respond quickly to their influencers’ tweets, whether they were about the brand or not. After the event was over, they continued to interact with those writers via social media, extending communication to other social sites. As a result those influencers have retained a positive view of the brand. That’s just one example of how continuing communication could pay off. You may choose to use forums, discussion groups or email updates, but the principle is the same. (Bonus: For more on how influence marketing can enhance your events, check out our latest eBook on the topic!)

Another way of thinking of this is by moving influencers and their audiences past the point of purchase through what Brian Solis calls the Second Moment of Truth (SMOT) to the Ultimate Moment of Truth (UMOT). The SMOT is when influencers process their emotions about their experience with you and the UMOT is when they share those feelings. Influencers remain connected with the audiences you want to reach, so if you abandon influencers after wooing them and getting the sale, subsequent feedback may not go your way, undoing all the good you have achieved so far.

So remember to go back to the well and keep the relationship going! Keep talking to those influencers so they can guide influencees’ shopping decisions well into the future.

Image Credit: Joan Sorolla

Optimizing Business Events with Influence Marketing {eBook}

Event marketing is a significant part of nearly any B2B marketer’s budget – or any marketer’s budget, for that matter. According to a report from the Association of National Advertisers, media exposure, brand awareness and attitudes towards brand are key measures of an event’s effectiveness; as savvy marketers know, those are also metrics which can be impacted through the use of influence marketing.

Our latest eBook, Optimizing Business Events with Influence Marketing, provides event organizers and event sponsors with a roadmap for how, when and where to use influence marketing to enhance offline and online events. The eBook covers:

  • Event marketing, defined
  • Influence marketing and event optimization
  • Event marketing and Trust Points™
  • Influence marketing for event hosts
  • Influence marketing for event sponsors
  • Case studies: Xerox and Red Consultancy

Our suggestions for using influence marketing pre-event, during the event and post-event will make this an eBook you’ll reference for every event. Download our free eBook today!