You talk about a fairly recent phenomenon in social: “What’s changing is the abundance of weak ties, driven by context and interest. This is also a reflection of the intermingling of our personal and professional contacts.” Are we seeing a similar “intermingling” of people and brands? For example, I’m more comfortable now replying as Bazaarvoice to a wall comment than I was a year ago—is this a sign of the times?
Ian, it’s part sign of the times and also the ongoing struggle of balance between personal and professional relations and who are online. In Engage, I talked about the concept of Multiple Personality in Order. Essentially I advised people and businesses to draw a line between personal and professional interaction to help employees feel comfortable about engaging without affecting their personal social graphs.
The real opportunity however is to rethink the brand presence for a new era in connected consumerism. For example, do businesses know what customers expect online? Do they know what it is they value? Knowing these answers allows a brand to refine or define its voice and persona to humanize the approach. Nowadays, people are becoming brands and brands are becoming people, but that’s not enough. Brands are social objects. They’re epicenters of interests and affinity. So it’s not enough to just humanize the brand. This is the time to rethink the mission, vision and value to mean something more to connected customers and customers overall.
Do you think brands pay enough attention to the interest graph? It seems like you’ll see things like “what your friends bought” way more often than “what people like you bought.”
The interest graph is incredibly revealing and introduces businesses how to incorporate psychographics into the mix. Whereas demographics unites people around age, gender, income, education, etc., psychographics ties people together based on interest or behavior. Aside from what people buy, it’s also what people share, what grabs their attention, what causes interaction. People are learning how to expand their social graphs to now include interest graphs because of the value of the network and what’s shared in the stream.
You write, “Influence is not popularity and popularity is not influence.” What’s the biggest mistake companies make when trying to determine true influence?
The biggest mistake companies, and honestly everyone, is making today with influence is the value placed on the score. A score doesn’t represent influence nor does it represent the capacity to influence. Just so we’re clear up front, influence is defined as the ability to cause effect or change behavior. That is accepted definition long before social media. Influence therefore isn’t measured by a score, it is measured by whether or not someone caused effect or changed behavior. However, scores do visualize one’s standing within digital networks, call it social capital if you will. People earn social capital based on their activities within networks and they also spend it when they need people to take action.
For brands, the best advice I can offer here is to think about the effect or behavior you wish to cause or change. What is the state today so that you have a benchmark to measure against. Then identify the best people who will help you reach the people you need to reach. Introduce value to the influencer and to the people to whom they’re connected. Monitor and improve in real time.
In your book, you describe the way “philanthropic capitalist” shoe company TOMS “focused its marketing and sales investments on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and its blogs to recruit customers and affiliates,” and how this is such a huge part of their success. It got me wondering: would a philanthropic capitalist company starting today be able to survive without such a heavy emphasis on social?
Social networks are emotional landscapes. Many people want to see that the businesses they support also share their values. Again, social media only works if it is designed to engage consumers because 1) that’s where a notable population of consumers are connected and 2) because you’ve identified what they’re seeking or missing and use social networks to deliver against them. Marketing is not enough. Anyone can do that.
Philanthropic capitalism has nothing to do with social media. It has everything to do with causes. TOMS sells shoes to people who in turn are stakeholders who in their purchase donate a pair of shoes to a child in need. It’s a movement. It aligns with consumer values. It’s rewarding. Social media only brings these stories and emotions to life for people to experience and share.
I recently Tweeted, “A smart business doesn’t pursue social, it pursues results, which requires customer engagement, which leads to social.”