This is a transcript of the Podcast – Ethical Influencer Marketing with Melanie Mohr – You can listen the audio here
N: What’s going on everybody it’s your boy Nye and welcome to another episode of the Evolvement podcast where we talk about Bitcoin, cryptocurrency and the future of our financial systems. I’m really excited to have Melanie Mohr on the show today, Melanie is a good friend of mine she’s the creator of WOM protocol and she’s got a really big background in advertising, marketing she’s got a lot of experience in influencer marketing and things like that. And today we’re going to sit down because there’s been a lot of stuff going around on Twitter about influencer marketing, whether it’s good weather it’s bad, whether or not it’s necessary for companies to be doing that, or if you can even trust companies that are doing that. So we’re going to sit down, we’re going to have a conversation about this and dive into it so, Melanie welcome how are you?
M: Thank you, very happy to be with you here and share a little bit about what we are doing with WOM Protocol and my expertise, thanks for having me.
N: Yeah glad to have you on as well. Can you just start off by giving the audience a little quick introduction of yourself, like who you are, what’s your background and how you got started in crypto.
M: Yeah sure, so I’m a serial entrepreneur based in Berlin and I have over 20 years of experience in producing videos, in creating content, marketing and mobile applications. So turned from being a film producer into a tech entrepreneur around 8 years ago, and founded a mobile app platform for a Gen C community to share honest recommendations and videos, and to share their product love with their peers. And this platform is called Yeay. And last year I became the founder and CEO of the WOM Protocol.
It’s a blockchain project helping projects tap into peer-to-peer product recommendations, and also helping digital platforms, digital publishers to monetize in a new way through word of mouth content instead of advertising.
And well, I had an entry into crypto, I would rather say blockchain caught my interest. The underlying technology more than crypto itself and I got properly into this early 2017, kind of became obsessed and started reading about it every day and began to see the power of the underlying software and the beauty of decentralized concepts.
And this was what really hooked me, and then I dived more and more into it and while at the same time having all these teenagers on this new product recommendation platform. And the teenagers also advising us in our products strategy. I even appointed a young entrepreneur as an advisory board for Yeay, and they guided us in the product development and actually they were the ones who said we should explore crypto on our platform. And that was the beginning of thinking about how we could potentially help this young crowd monetize on their honest product recommendations.
But while working and diving deeper into word-of-mouth marketing on our own platform, we saw that we could create an industry solution, so rather than tokenizing our own platform, that we could develop a protocol that could help all sorts of social platforms and digital publishers to monetize with word-of-mouth marketing, and with word-of-mouth recommendations.
And yeah that’s how I got into it and that’s where we are now with the WOM Protocol and our first early adopter Yeay.
N: That’s interesting, that’s really interesting. So you and I were discussing a little bit before we started recording here about how about advertising and old forms of marketing are starting to die, and I a hundred percent agree with you, as I said earlier when I get to YouTube what I do immediately is click a video and skip the ad, and if I can’t skip the ad, if I can’t skip the ad then I mute it you know. And the same with my family when they’re watching television as soon as the advertisements come on he mutes them and he pulls out his IPad and he starts reading an article or doing something else.
So it seems like one of the things that you’re really focused on is seeing how the old way has been dying, and building a new way. It seems like you’ve begun to tap into it in the age group with these teenagers you are beginning to learn from the future of the world, and how they’re going to consume content.
I guess my first question is does this apply to influencer marketing, and do you believe that influencer marketing is going to die off or is already dying off, and also what do you see the future to even look like, what do you think it’s going to be?
M: So again you know, we learn now from these young users using our platform and how they behave in creating content and consuming content, and what we have clearly seen is that they sense dishonest and inauthentic posts miles away, I mean if you think about teenagers they have no memory of the pre mobile, pre social world, they have seen and consumed so much content already in their young lives, and when they are on Instagram they have on the one hand, all of these ads popping up here and there and at the same time now all these influencers posting about brands. And you see already in the post it’s a sponsored post and you can sense sometimes, that this is a prepaid post from a brand. And if someone then says oh this is my new XYZ jacket and posts about this jacket, then they already sense ‘oh well she got probably 5K on her account to tell the jacket is cool’ and they just swipe. So what happened to ads like you said, you know on YouTube you’re skipping the ad, everyone is waiting you know for 54321 to skip the ad.
Same thing is happening now with influencer posts, we already know there are many many steps around that, I think Nielsen did a survey and 92% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know, and influencer marketing is having evolving trust issues.
And so that’s how we looked into this space, you know what happens if no one is watching ads anymore, what happens is everyone is swiping when there’s a sponsored post from an influencer, how can brands in the future bring their brand messages across. And the solution, we see is, it’s giving marketing into the hands of your honest brand fans and allowing influencers that are amazing content creators to create recommendations about products they really love, instead of waiting for brands to offer them deals.
N: Interesting, Ok this touches on a few things, I really like what you’re bringing up here specifically because in the cryptocurrency realm it’s very interesting, it’s very different, and I think it’s maybe not different but it’s interesting because it’s a brand new industry.
In the cryptocurrency realm people are still discovering how to properly build a brand, how brands are actually going to even play a role, in terms of different projects, in terms of bringing things to light, in terms of bringing information to the public, things like that. And beyond that most of the companies in the cryptocurrency realm are built by developers, so these developers they don’t understand Marketing at all, they don’t understand exposure at all. And I want to make something really clear to the audience here is like, there’s a difference between marketing and there’s a difference between exposure, in my opinion. I think there’s a lot of marketing that can go on behind the scenes that are building different structures, things like that. And then there’s also exposure which is maybe when you pay an influencer to talk about your project, or talk about your product online.
Now that being said we see a lot of scammy behaviour Melanie, going on in the crypto space, I’m sure you’re aware of it. We see these brands paying influencers to talk about their coin online, and it’s a delicate situation because there’s a lot of beginners, I mean the majority of people right now are beginners, there’s a lot of beginners. And when a brand or when a company pays a person with 50-60 70,000 followers to specifically only talk about their coin, and say that their coin is a good investment, it leads people to believe that they should invest in that coin and they’re putting their financial resources and their financial health at risk, because a lot of these influencers are doing scammy and sketchy and basically unethical and immoral things, for these companies.
10:52 | 37:18
And I guess where I’m leading with this is, your kind of saying that this method is going to die off, I think it is already is dying off. We are seeing people become more aware of this happening in the space, we see people more, becoming more aware that there are unethical things, but there is also people that are doing it in an ethical way that are getting tied in and blamed for doing it in an unethical way, even though they may or may not be. So I don’t really know where I’m leading with this, but I kind of wanted to discuss this a little bit and dive a little deeper into this topic what are your thoughts on that?
M: Well I mean the ideal version, you know of an influencer is always that he or she is a great storyteller, content creator and have something to tell, has an opinion and therefore ideally in the crypto influencer space an influencer would look into certain projects, analyse them, and after analysing them saying wow this is really amazing, the team behind this project is great, the product they have created so far makes me believe that they are capable to continue building a great product, and make it strive and the investors who are already backing it are solid, legit investors. So after you know you do all of your analysis you would say hey this is a project, I think it’s worth having a deeper look or a conversation around, and you would start promoting the project. And think of an influencer who would do so, and who would be valued, and rewarded immediately after a system has validated that this influencer truly believes in this project. And this is the current, this is what we are aiming for with WOM Protocol, but this is not what is currently happening.
I mean as an influencer you have created a following, then of course with a few thousand people following your channels, you still cannot make a living out of this.
This is the biggest problem so far, and then you’re of course asking brands, and in this case projects who were issuing in the future a token, are paying the bill.
And you need to pay your rent and some expenses for some travels, to build your network. And these projects came and said ok I’m willing to pay if you promote my project.
And I think it was for now the crypto space, a little bit of difficulty that these influencers were not yet influencers with multi-million reach, but you know with a few thousands and a few thousands on YouTube you know with that you can’t make a living that I would say is a very specific problem in the crypto influencer space. And therefore they had to here and there to take some money.
And now it’s coming and haunting them, because a lot of projects they might not have deeply into that, not read all the white papers and analysed the teams, and just just thought it might be something useful and promoted it, now a lot of investors who believed in their this promotion invested. And were very unlucky with tokens worth nothing, and projects not delivering the products that they have promised to deliver.
It’s a little bit different than in the current bigger, broader influencer space because here we can already see influencers who over years, gained some following and created a lot of good content and brands we’re getting excited about them and offered them deals. But they might have already made some money with, you know when you have a million, two million, 3 million YouTube followers that you can already start maybe making a living out of that. But it’s a little bit different in the crypto space, but it’s also at the same time way more dangerous because these influencers were definitely promoting projects and potentially even cost losses for investors by promoting them.
N: I agree, I agree. And I think that brings up the main topic of our conversation today which is ethical influencer marketing, and I think it’s a major major issue in the space Melanie, I mean for me personally I have done promos in the past, and I stick by a very strict rule. First off I never promote a token, if I talk about a project I’m talking about the project itself, I’m talking about the idea behind it, the concept, the fundamentals, what I like, what I don’t like.
I think that’s really important for me, besides that I also make sure that I’m 100% honest and open with my audience that I have been paid for promotion, and I think that’s where a lot of things became grey area, and into the negative realm probably in 2017, early 2018 is that we have these people with a few, ten thousand, a few hundred thousand followers on YouTube, on Twitter and things like that. And they’re discussing for example vechain, I don’t know if that’s true or not but we’ll just give an example, like they’re discussing a specific coin, and they didn’t say that they’ve been paid to discuss that coin, they didn’t say that they’ve been compensated either in tokens, or in in fiat or in in some sort of monetary way to discuss that coin.
17:13 | 37:18
And I think that’s really really important for the ecosystem of cryptocurrency that we have that transparency, and we have that honesty because without that the community becomes separated, the community becomes divided because they don’t know who to trust, and who not to trust. What’s your thoughts on that?
M: I would say really the crypto space is so specific, and so many things went wrong. It’s not only the influencers space where things went wrong, it’s from the conferences you know all these paid sponsor slots to get speakers slots, and all of the little startups that paid the bills you know for a lot of other people partying around conferences. To all of this paid media, you kind of, couldn’t really get into any kind of crypto media as a project if you haven’t paid upfront. I mean it’s really, I would say a lot of things in this space have to change. Thankfully due to the bear market now many, let’s say bad players and bad behaviours are wiped out, and things can start from scratch again.
And hopefully in a more healthy way, I would say in the crypto space it really did not only hit the influencers, and influencer marketing, or some unethical influencer marketing tactics. It was it was unethical in many, many ways.
N: Interesting, interesting. So you’re not just saying, I read this article the other day by you and you’re not just saying that like you should hate the influencer, but it’s kind of more of the game itself, the system, the game itself exactly, can you share like a little bit more about that?
M: The thing is what would be ethical influencer marketing now?
N: Yeah I think that’s a big question.
M: I would say that ethical influencer marketing isn’t anything radical, it simply means acting transparently and respectfully to the audience, and to the brands being promoted.
And so for in its broadest sense, so not just looking at crypto influencers, it means no faking the numbers, letting communities grow organically, and not putting pressure on influencers to get followers and reach targets, and valuing their impact in a more qualitative way.
So the sentiment around an influencer Post, the comments it receives for instance, will tell you far more about the impact the post had than it’s apparent reach, and so yeah I think no faking in its promotion is a very very important step, and of course being very transparent when something got prepaid is very important.
I don’t know, we’ve seen some disasters for example by influencers using trending keywords to promote brand partnerships, I don’t know, do you remember this the California wildfires?
N: Yeah of course I was in California at the time.
M: You know like influencers that used the hashtag wildfires because they know they are trending keywords. These are all these unethical behaviours that evolved, using click farms, you know when a mobile phones playing the same video on repeat and creating fake engagement.
And I think these are all these types of unethical behaviours, and ethical influencer marketing means acting accountable and responsible. And at the end I would say it’s the game like you said, that you know make things turn out wrong. And not the influencers itself, influences are just wonderful creative people who are able to tell stories and create amazing content around these stories, and therefore gain following. But then of course after awhile when you create a lot of content you also need to think, how can I pay my rent, and how can I make a living. And if you’re not having a second job and you really would like to focus on that, then things need to work financially for you.
And our bet is that word-of-mouth marketing has such a huge value if you honestly love a product, that it’s the best marketing a product, a brand could ever receive. I mean it’s the oldest marketing on planet Earth, and the most successful one.
And converting into sales and also into brand awareness, and any kind of key performance indicator, a brand could ever wish for to rise, is happening when when people are making recommendations about products they love. And that’s you know for crypto influencers as for any influencer out there.
N: And I think that’s one thing that really needs to be highlighted and really pushed out there Melanie, is the fact that it has to be about something you love right, so when I’m working with a company whether it’s either A, for exposure through my channels. Or even B, with my marketing company which is me actually just working completely behind the scenes with people, it’s me if anything not talking about them at all, maybe once or twice on my channel.
It has to be with a company I love, so every single company that I’ve sat down with and I’ve worked with, I either love their team, I love their product, I love their ideas or I love the way they’re behaving in the space or a combination of those things. And I think that’s what’s really being missed here is, I think a lot of people, a lot of influences may or may not have, I won’t speak for other people but I think a lot of influences may or may not have have been working with projects in the past that they actually believed in.
But they were just approached with a paycheck and they said ‘hey if you want to send 5 tweets for x amount of money we’ll pay you that to talk about our project online’
I mean I get request like that in my direct messages all the time, multiple times a week and I turn 99 if not more percent down because it’s just unethical to me, but would you agree with that ? would you agree you have to have a belief system in the project, behind the project?
M: Yes absolutely, I think I mean that’s how it should be yeah, that you really believe in something. Of course the great thing is when you really love a project, when you really love a product you immediately create quality content around it, because you love it so much, like you put effort into it into recommending or telling the story about this product to someone, and so in this authenticity, this honesty and this effort you’re putting into this piece of content that shines through. And that makes it so valuable for an audience, and at the end, if you’re an influencer that’s why the people are following you, they are not following the brands you are promoting, they are following your lifestyle and they love to hear what you love, and what you’re passionate about.
And then see if that applicable for them, if they could also fall in love with it.
And so that’s why we believe that this kind of word of mouth content built into the other content that an influencer is creating is the best authentic forum an influencer could use, and hopefully in the future can directly monetize on, that’s what we’re trying to build.
26:38 | 38:18
N: I love that, I love that. And I want to get into WOM Protocol a little bit, but before I do there’s one more question that I have.
You know we see a lot of people especially in cryptocurrency and even outside of cryptocurrency, if you go over to Instagram and you look at makeup models, or the travel bloggers, we see a lot of people with hundreds and thousands of followers or 50,000 followers but they get low levels of engagement, a lot of them a fake, a lot of them are Bots, how can we combat against this? I think this is like one of the biggest issues that I have inside the cryptocurrency space as well as outside in the whole realm of influencer marketing, is I see this as a major problem it’s deception, it’s lying to your audience about how much reach you might have, it’s lying to your audience about a lot of things, what do you think about the whole metric system behind influencer branding and things like that?
M: Well I mean it already came out with ads, and advertising that they weren’t working anymore and all these click farms were evolving, and brands were paying for all this fake engagement on their ads, and after a while there were, on all this digital marketing conferences, the ad fraud protection software systems coming out, and so brands were paying for content creation, for content distribution, and at the end for protection.
And same as now with influencer marketing, that the click farms made it into the influencer marketing space, and yeah how to monitor this, and how to understand what’s real and what’s fake. Again with WOM Protocol were starting with validating, and curating and validating honest product recommendations. So there needs to be a system implemented before a post is able to monetize, is this piece of content valid, is it genuine, is it authentic, is it credible, is it creative, has it a certain quality, and is it able to create desire. And we created this validation system and implemented it in our protocol to validate word-of-mouth recommendations, before they are even able to monetize.
And I think that’s the way to go, and not after a post made already some money. To say oh oh oh here went something wrong, give me my money back that’s not how it should work.
29:35 | 37:18
N: 100% agree, how do you validate something like that? how do you differentiate between maybe a bot, and a person that is actually sincere about their opinion on a product, and someone who may have gotten paid to give their opinion on a product?
M: There’s incentivisation, and there’s also staking implemented in our protocol, so before you’re able to create a piece of content, or before you’re able to monetize on a piece of content that you claim to be word-of-mouth content, you need to stake and kind of with the stake prove your honesty, and that people can really trust you. And then the piece of content goes through a validation system, and these are members of the community who are validating content, and check and rate the content for its honesty and relevancy. And validators themselves are also under check, to make sure they behave in an honest way, and this prevents them from trying to vote up or down content for self game.
And they also have to state tokens upfront to play their part in the system. So the Validators you could ask, who is validator now? it is kind of also influencer, so we are seeing that now everyone, I mean a lot of people want to be an influencer but not everyone is a good content creator. But a lot of people have seen a lot of content already on a daily basis, especially coming back to the teenagers of today or young millennials and generation C, they have seen so much content, they sense honesty and authenticity as I said already miles away, they are so good in validating content and in curating content. And we predict that the influencer itself will kind of split into two, one is the content creating influencer and one is a validating influencer, or curating influencer. Both are equally valuable for the community to understand if this is real word of mouth content.
And so it’s a new, you could say it’s mechanical turk, it’s a new job that is going to be created, but we see it in the behaviour of young people in that daily content consumption that they are already doing this kind of job, they are doing it because they are swiping.
If they see an ad or if they see content marketing where is brand tries to sneak in through journalism or where they see a piece of content to from an influencer that’s a sponsored post, they sense it and they just swipe, so they’re very good in kind of bullshit detecting, if this content is honest, real, genuine and has a certain quality, we bet on this.
N: Interesting, interesting. So you’re pretty much telling me that the detection mechanism isn’t something that’s really external of other people, but it’s actually something that is, it’s internal it’s something of a model, or a mindset that specifically our younger generation has, and the older generations are starting to get, it’s a mindset that these people have that can say that’s bullshit and that’s not bullshit ,and then even if it is bullshit or it isn’t bullshit they can start to make a decisions for themselves, about whether it’s that they want to be involved in, if it’s a product they want to buy, it’s an investment they want to make etc etc.
M: So you have a validation system, and every validator is of course making kind of a very subjective validation of how he reviews this piece of content, but at the end if you have a certain amount of validators, your getting from subjective validation to being objective. Because of, you know thousands of validators look at the piece of content and come to kind of a very similar conclusion, that’s how it works.
So all of the validators have to find a kind of consensus.
And yeah they are fairly, going to be fairly rewarded, and receive WOM tokens for their work, proof of word-of-mouth content.
N: Very interesting, this is super interesting Melanie. I think that really covers a lot of the things that I wanted to talk about and before we get going here, is there anything else that you want to add to this conversation and also besides that, where can people learn more about WOM Protocol?
M: Well of course on our website womprotocol.io We also have a lot of a very good content around word-of-mouth marketing, influencer marketing, the future of advertising and social networks in our medium channel, so we are publishing a lot of content around that there. And of course Twitter or the telegram group, everything that every brand and every product has to have nowadays. You can find us on telegram on Twitter, medium Reddit etc. Yeah, of course also YouTube channel, we post a lot of YouTube videos around word-of-mouth marketing so check it out WOM Protocol on YouTube. And you can always reach me on telegram, ask me personal questions, my team is also available and we are happy to hear from you.
N: Awesome Melanie, thank you so much for joining us I really really appreciate it. As everybody knows who’s listening and who is on crypto Twitter this is been a really big topic, there’s been a lot of attacking of quote in quote ‘influencers’ over the last couple of days. And I’m glad we got to sit down with you Melanie, you’ve got a wealth of knowledge in this area, you’ve got a large amount of expertise and it’s really really interesting to hear the difference between ethical influencer marketing, unethical influencer marketing and really have how this is playing a big role in cryptocurrency in general, like it’s playing a very large role in the way that the space evolves and the way the space grows. And it goes beyond influencers, it goes into conferences, it goes into paid articles, it goes into a lot of these different things.
So again thank you so much for sitting down with this Melanie I really really appreciate it,
M: Thank you so much, have a great one, bye.
N: Of course, and everybody this is been Evolvement the financial podcast, another episode you can check us out at evolvement.io And we’ll catch you next time. Peace.