Organizing Influencers

originally posted on Concept Hub

Social Media uh-huh, yeah What is it Good For? Absolutely Everything! Say it again y’all!

Alright, that was a really bad parody of a song, but it is one of the most asked questions I hear as well as the answer I usually give. An ever-increasing number of brand managers, sales executives, and customer relationship managers are recognizing that the Internet continues to evolve into a series of communities where networks of peers are sharing opinions, collaborating on projects, and influencing decisions. However, the question that lingers is how can an organization participate within online communities in such a way to successfully meet their goals? The answer depends on what your goals are and the steps you are willing to take to achieve them. For too long organizations have seen their “target audience” as decision-makers who have a need, search for information, and then take an action.

Our corporate communications have continued to cater to this mindset with messages that include  “act now,”  “buy now,” or “for a limited time only.” Advertisers have tried to leverage peer influence by showing actors or models that represent the target audience enhancing their life, their looks, their careers and so forth because of the product or service that is being advertised. However, these types of messages are no longer a trusted source of information by the majority. More and more people are looking to their communities of influence for information. According to the research report, “Engaging Advocates through Search and Social Media,” released in December 2006 by Yahoo! and comScore Networks, not only is social networking’s influence on marketing growing, but particularly vocal individuals are having more of an effect than ever. Dubbed “Brand Advocates,” these are consumers who spread opinions via word of mouth, as well as over social networks, instant messaging, chat, photo sites and blogging. Such advocates have at least at least a two-to-one rate of converting an actual friend or family member to buy the same exact product or brand they support, according to the report The goals of a successful online communication strategy are changing.

 

Know Your Key Performance Indicators It is no longer efficient or effective to try to get your audience to your site. The best way to measure success is to measure how far your content has traveled to other communities and how others are using such content.  This peer-to-peer endorsement of your content will increase the relevant traffic to your site exponentially.

Today’s Key Performance indicators include:

Landing Site Visits/Time per Site Visit – If your site has content that keeps your audience engaged and coming back for more you will increase your

Total Online Brand Mentions – by giving communities something to talk about, which will lead to…

Web Links to the Landing Site thus increasing your…

Search Positioning through the nature of social media which increases organic search positioning through fresh content, rss, and link exchanges.

Content Downloads are the best way to get people to spread your brand message to their peer networks. Give them content that they can and want to download which will increase the amount of

Attention you are getting and enable you to become…

Part of the Community which would enhance your…

Market Intelligence which will enable your organization to better serve the needs of your market thus increasing your…

Reputation Management which by extension will increase…

Trust What’s In It For Me? To reach these new Key Performance Indicators an organization has to understand the cultures of the different online communities. Marketing messages and corporate communications need to resonate on many different levels. However, participating in the unruly world of online communities is not without risk. An organization has to prepare for success. They need to understand where their opportunities are and where the vulnerabilities are. The best way is to analyze the moods and drivers of each community.

Divide and Conquer Not every member in an online network is going to “act now” or “buy now.” However what they may do is pass on your message, provide feedback, or become your best advocate. Many people have many different motives. Some of the people who have become raving fans of your product or service could become organizers to create branded communities and online forums while others would simply become participants. By identifying what Malcolm Gladwell calls the “connectors” in his book The Tipping Point an organization can begin to build critical mass. Even community members who are simply vocal advocates or the “me too” crowd can be of benefit by extending the organization’s brand and message.

Release Your Attachments to the Outcome One of the biggest shifts from creating a traditional corporate message to influencing or participating in online communities is that an organization can not, nor should they control the message. By releasing your attachment to the outcome you will gain insights into what the community wants or needs and how they are influenced. These insights can lead to improved products and services as well as to improve messaging. As your message is released into the wilderness of the peer to peer networks, make sure that you do not lose sight of your goals. If you were trying to increase sales or get some PR attention, continuously ask yourself if the online community is helping you to achieve those goals, not if you agree with how they remixed your marketing campaign. Stay focused on your objectives and allow the community to continuously teach you how you can work with them to meet those objectives.