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Wednesday, September 30 Front Page >> Random Rants >> Influencing the Influencers

Apr 07, 2003, 4:30pm

The Internet has brought us a lot of things, a lot of new terminology, and a whole new category of experts who influence public buying opinions.

For the last item, a term has been born: "influencers".

I'm an influencer in the coffee and espresso world. So much so that I have to be really careful about what I write on any publicly accessible website (even this one), and when I do write opinions on the subject of coffee and espresso, I have to be damned sure I'm confident in my opinions. One importer of espresso machines I talked to recently told me that my words and opinions were responsible for one specific product going from 75 sales a month to some 450 sales per month, in just one year.

The web is full of influencers. Some do an awesome job, some don't. Some are the most trusted opinions I can value, some I regard with a bit of distrust in all the words they say. Where do I draw the line? Basically it's a feeling about the person or persons running the site. If they make it evident that they understand the power that they wield, the sales they can influence, and they treat that as a heavy responsibility, then I have a lot of trust for them.

I won't mention the influencers that I have trust issues with, but some influencer sites I respect a lot include Digital Photography Review, Howard Chui's Site, and the Norwegian site, InfoSync just to mention a few.

Savvy companies are starting to recognize the role and influence these websites have on the marketplace. And the key word is savvy. I normally don't have much positive stuff to say about Microsoft, but big time kudos to them for organizing the Mobius 2003 event, where they picked up the tab to fly two dozen key Influencer web site owners to Paris, hotel and some expenses included. Microsoft even got non-Mikeysoft cheerleaders to attend.

We're seeing this in the digital camera Influencer market as well - companies like Nikon, Canon and Olympus are picking up the tabs for travel for influencers to go to conferences and trade shows, often with no strings attached. These companies (including Microsoft) realise that they are dealing with a new breed of news and opinion providers that don't have massive expense accounts or huge advertising dollars that can cover expense accounts. What the influencers do have is time, passion, and the effort involved to pump out content to the max, and do what their title says: Influence purchasing decisions.

With few exceptions, I don't think this is going to happen in the world of quality coffee and espresso :). The SCAA flew me out to Boston last fall for a "hi, how are you" meeting, but it looks like that is a one time deal. I'm doing a lot for the SCAA this year, including my committee participation, giving a seminar and chairing a panel, and of course going to Boston to attend the SCAA trade show, but it's almost 100% on my own dime - and that dime looks to be about $3,500 worth of expenses for Jeanette and I.

I've looked over my "CoffeeGeek" travel expenses in the last 12 months (up to the end of April this year). It's a bit scary. Seven trips. Total expenditures: $9,250, give or take a hundred bucks.  You might be saying "oh, but you can write that off". Well, you have to have the income large enough to make it a write-off expense that saves you tax money. I don't, not yet from the CG site.

I did get one break for this year's conference, and it's a huge one. Jim at 1st Line Equipment has graciously ponied up some of his travel miles to get Jeanette and I a hotel room for the duration of my time in Boston. There's no strings attached, but I'm giving mention of it here as a thank you to Jim. I didn't ask for it - he offered it up.

So why am I writing this? Because along with Jim, I wanted to recognize the companies and individuals who have in the past help support the expenses I have when traveling in the name of CoffeeGeek (as well as some future promises).

Past Help

Baratza, LLC, who covered my flight and hotel room expenses for the Anaheim SCAA show. I still can't thank them enough - CG was not making anything at the time, and I couldn't have gone otherwise.

1st Line for their covering of my hotel expenses this year in Boston at the SCAA show.

SCAA for inviting me to Boston last September, and picking up my hotel and flight tabs

Future Help

Both ESI and Elektra SRL have offered to cover my hotel expenses if I go to the Milan Expo in November, this year.

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