Friday, March 27, 2009

Understanding Influence - Part II: Seven Beliefs

Yesterday we blogged that social media has fundamentally changed the world of marketing. Marketers can no longer consider that they are the exclusive owners of their brand—because brands exist in the minds of their consumers. While social media empowers those consumers and enables them to actively participate in the conversations that define their brands.

To grasp the scale of this monumental change, “Understanding Influence – Part I” offered a brief historical perspective on marketing influence. Part II picks up with the brand conversations that social media bring. And how, by participating in the dialog, you can influence it.

1. Influence begins with listening, really listening.

Put yourself in a social situation. A group you’d like join is conversing. What do you do? First, you listen. Why? To get a feel for the tone of the conversation and see where you fit in. It’s the same in social media marketing.

Your first order of business should be to see who is talking about your brand and what your audience is saying. Identify the followers and the influencers—who, by the way, will not all be customers. These free tools will help you automate the listening process.

  • Google Reader – Tracking all the people who are talking about you is easier if you aggregate them into a few places. Use Google Reader to search for anyone talking about your brands and gather their RSS feeds.
  • Google Blogsearch – Use Google Blogsearch to take snapshots of brands and subjects of interest. Say your business is solar energy. Blogsearch can show you not only who's talking solar, but who else is talking about helping customers go renewable through the same method--power purchase agreements--as you.
  • Google Alerts – After you've found the people who are talking use Google Alerts to automatically email you updates of the latest results.
  • Twitter Search – Keep track of relevant Tweets. Who's talking about Velveeta, right now?
  • Delicious – Use Delicious save all your bookmarks online, share them and see what other people are bookmarking. The site’s search and tagging tools let you see the most popular bookmarks being saved across your areas of interest.
  • Feedburner and Feedcompare.com – By sending your RSS feeds through Feedburner you can easily track your blog subscribers. Use Feedcompare to graphically contrast your Feedburner subscriber numbers with others.
  • Technorati – The self-proclaimed, “most comprehensive source of information on the blogosphere,” Technorati indexes more than 1.5 million new blog posts in real time. It also ranks them by “authority,” the number of blogs linking to a website over the last six months.

If you need more detailed metrics and reporting, several services can take your listening to a professional level. Their websites will do a far better job of explaining what they do.

2. Influence is not control

As tempting as it may be to jump right in and control a conversation, especially if it’s not going your way, attempting control is not the best strategy. Social media has customs. You have to be willing to give up the illusion of control left over from Mass Market era-thinking.

A funny thing happens when you surrender control. You actually become more powerful. Athletes will tell you that their best performances come when they “let go,” and get, “in the zone.”

Think what happens in a conversation when someone monopolizes it or makes it all about themselves. If you’re like me, you duck out as quickly as you can. If you want to be around to influence the conversation, you need folks to stick around.

3. Influence is built on authority

Want to have greater authority? Write greater content. It’s that simple—and difficult.

Worry less about chasing authority rankings. Worry more about posting unique and relevant content that reflects your brand and builds the brand experience. That’s what’ll keep your audience interested. And bring them back again and again.

Need help with your writing? Check out “How to Write Great Blog Content” by ProBlogger and follow Copyblogger whose blog focuses on writing great content.

4. Influence is built on relationships and sense of community

Say you’re looking for a restaurant. Who are you more likely to be influenced by: A close friend? Or, a complete stranger? The answer is obvious.

A recent Harvard Business Review study, “The Dynamics of Personal Influence” by Nichlas A. Christakis, finds that “although a person may be connected to other people by six degrees of separation, he or she is influenced only by those up to three degrees away.”

The more people talking about your brand, the more first, second and third-degree relationships you have. And the greater your potential influence. Creating a sense of community—a place—for your customers to gather and talk about your brand allows you to extend those close relationships.

Fan pages can create a hub for brand conversations. You’ll quickly learn what your customers love. And what they hate. You’ll also empower your customers to advocate for your brand.

5. Influence is built on honesty and trust

Trust is incredibly valuable—and fragile. Relationships are built on trust. So it follows that the more trusted you are, the greater your potential influence. Consistency is important. Read, “When Trust Breaks” by Amber Naslund of Altitude Branding.

If you want to have an influence, strive for honesty, humanity and humility in your all your social media communications because they build confidence—and trust—in you and your message.

6. Influence means being responsive.

Bad word of mouth can go viral almost instantly. You need to stop rumors and news about poor product performance or service before they spread.

When you blow it. Admit you’re wrong, apologize and fix the problem. Here, your actions will speak louder than words. And help regain lost trust.

Social media gives you the tools to listen, build positive relationships and a sense of community and provide trust-building opportunities that can help carry you through and resolve the inevitable trouble spots.

7. Influence is more powerful when it’s fully integrated

Those who say, “advertising is dead,” are just as off base as those who ignore social media. It’s not the medium. It’s the brand message and experience. Consistently delivered. At all points of brand contact.

Go and influence better

The aim of this two part series was to provide a perspective for understanding the value of social media in a marketing context. And to help you understand the components of influence. Effective influence—and marketing success—depends on going where your consumers are and joining them in the brand conversation.


Blog content: ©2009 Paul J. Hydzik. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Paul Hydzik grows brand value. As a brand marketer and award-winning creative leader, Paul has more than 15 years of experience driving business success from start-ups to blue chips. His strategic resume covers all aspects of B2B and B2C branding from go-to-market to consumer insight to identity development and all forms of marketing communication.

4 comments:

  1. Paul,

    Really enjoyed this post. I think one of the more important points you made is up near the start; sometimes, the people you are reaching out to aren't ever going to be your customers.

    In today's business world, your customers aren't the only ones that influence your brand. Sometimes, creating fans of your business *practices* can be as powerful as any other kind of endorsement, and the best way to empower those evangelists is to let them know you're paying attention.

    You're right, too, that it's not the medium that's completely flawed. Our delivery system - and the intent behind it - is what's changing today.

    Cheers, and thanks again.

    Amber Naslund
    Director of Community | Radian6
    @AmberCadabra

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