Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Commitment- Turning Followers Into Fans

The last three posts I wrote all had to do with influence- what it is, why it's important, and how to achieve it.  These posts were very focused on the functional and interactive aspects of influence through the use of social media sites for marketing campaigns.  There is another aspect of social media marketing that you should not forget about, one tied to influence- the psychology of marketing.

I am currently reading Influence: Science and Practice, 5th edition, by Robert B. Cialdini which talks about how compliance tactics are used to get us to say "yes" and how we can use these methods to persuade others.

I've been reading this while keeping myself focused on how psychology can be used in social media to help increase influence.  One idea that struck me, mainly because I've been seeing extremely poor use of this tactic by many businesses who are delving into social media marketing, is that of commitment.

In the last year, I have seen a lot of businesses try to build their social media followings by offering a potential reward, the most popular being a free iPad, for doing nothing more than clicking the "like" button, becoming a follower or fan, or by subscribing to a blog or email list.  What this tends to generate is an increase in the number of followers, most of whom see the action as a way to win an iPad, rather than increasing the number of fans who are following the business because they have real interest in what the business provides.  You've gained numbers, but, little to no influence.

Cialdini states:
Social scientists have determined that we accept inner responsibility for a behavior when we think we have chosen to perform it in the absence of strong outside pressures.  A large reward is one such external pressure.  It may get us to perform a certain action, but it won't get us to accept inner responsibility for the act.  Consequently, we won't feel committed to it.  The same is true of a strong threat; it may motivate immediate compliance, but it is unlikely to produce long-term commitment.
In other words, if your new follower only has to click on the "like" button in order to be entered into a drawing for the iPad, there is no inner responsibility for the act.  They haven't had to show any commitment to you or your business in order to be entered to win.  They are now free to move on and never pay attention to you again, unless they win the iPad.  Then the reciprocity rule may take hold, but that is a different blog post for a different day- or you can read what Cialdini has to say about it.

Cialdini then goes on to point out that by making people work for something creates a larger sense of commitment.  It is internalized.  What was even more interesting was the fact that the reward for the commitment doesn't need to be very big, it just needs to be there.

Translating this to a social media marketing campaign- it is okay to give something away, but make the potential follower do some work to get them to internalize the commitment to you.  For example, have them write a 100 word essay on what they would do with the iPad, as it relates to your business, and post it on your Facebook page.  Or, give away a sweatshirt with your company logo if they post a picture of themselves with one of your products in the most exotic location (e.g. standing on the Rock of Gibraltar).  Sure, they still have to "like" or follow you in order to participate, but they are being required to do some work, to internalize the commitment.  These are the followers that become fans, those who are more likely to follow you with purpose, to respond to your marketing efforts online.  The others?  Well, if they are only willing to click to win, you'll probably not convince most of them to buy anything from you anyway.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Increasing Your Online Influence

In previous posts, I've pointed out that influence within social media does not equal the raw number of followers that you have.  I've also shown why influence is more important to your online marketing strategy than simply trying to reach a huge number of people.  In this post on influence, I'll show you how you gain influence, which will help you increase the right kind of followers.
  1. Be Knowledgable-  In social media marketing, knowledge is key.  On Twitter, I posed the question, "Who influences you online?"  The best, most succinct answer I received was from @mikecane, when he said, "Those who know wtf they're talking about." No one will want to follow you for advice about cars if you are an expert on clothing and know very little about cars other than about the one you drive.  Know your topic, know your business, know what you are talking about.
  2. Be an expert-  This is an extension of being knowledgable.  Pick a niche within your knowledge area and know more about that area than anyone else.  Be THE person that people will want to go to about that particular subject.  Do you own an art supplies shop?  Talk about art supplies, but be an expert on watercolor supplies and techniques.  It doesn't mean that this is the only part of your business you should talk about, but, when people think of watercolor supplies, be sure that they think of you first.
  3. Be generous-  Knowledge and information are just as much a commodity these days as shoes or computers.  When you share knowledge with your followers, you are giving them something valuable, especially when it is something they need or want.  By giving knowledge generously, you create a relationship in which your followers want to reimburse you- with information you may find valuable (such as what your customers really want) or purchases from your business.
  4. Spread your knowledge- find other blogs that are talking about what you are talking about.  Read the posts and comment on them.  Leaving comments is a great way to get other readers to know who you are and to see your expertise.  Most blogs, when you leave a comment, create a link (usually by allowing people to click on your name) that can take them to your blog.  When readers find your comments to be thoughtful and incisive they may click through to your blog.
  5. Connect with people- This is the heart and soul of social media and is the part that many businesses forget about.  Building a list of followers and fans to just push links to take them to your website is the fastest way to lose them again.  Since you've spent the time to be an expert, share your knowledge, and leave comments elsewhere, take the time to talk with people.  Have conversations.  Answer questions.  It doesn't all have to be about your business or what you want to sell them.  Creating genuine connections, responding to those who make the effort to talk to you, being involved in ongoing conversations will humanize your business to your followers and will increase your influence.
It takes time to build an audience.  Don't expect to have a loyal following overnight or see an immediate impact on the bottom line.  The payoff will come.  Be patient, be real, and take the time to be influential. 

    Wednesday, December 22, 2010

    Who Is Following You?

    In the last post, Influence is More Than Numbers, I talked about the measures of influence within social media, and how influence should be evaluated with more than just a superficial look at the numbers of people who are following you.

    Why then, is influence more important than a large number of followers?

    While having a lot of followers may seem a good way to get your message out there, it only works if the people who follow you are paying attention to what you have to say.  For example, a recent study by the Pew Research Center shows that half of Twitter users aren't listening to what is being said.  Another study shows that only about 27% of Twitter users login on a daily basis.  On Facebook this increases to a 41% daily login.  This means that you are taking a shotgun approach, while firing blindfolded, if you are simply hoping that large numbers of followers will see, pay attention to, and help spread your message.

    A better approach is to have followers who 1) are interested in what you are saying, and 2) followers who help you spread your message.

    Knowledge of your business or product, innovative thinking, humor, and responsiveness helps you gather these types of followers around you and encourages them to spread your message to their friends and followers.  Since social media marketing is really a high tech form of word of mouth marketing, it is important that you are surrounded by people who are motivated by your message, whatever that message may be.

    If your business is selling books, surrounding yourself by people who are NASCAR enthusiasts doesn't do much for either them or you.  You may be extremely knowledgable in your field, but you will lack any kind of influence when you have the wrong kind of audience.  When you have yourself surrounded by followers who are interested in the message (in this case, books) you will find that it is much more likely they will respond to the message through interactions with you and spreading the information to those who follow them.

    Though you may not have tens of thousands of followers, your message can still potentially resonate with tens of thousand of people, getting many to respond.  Imagine what that kind of influence could do for your business.

    Monday, December 20, 2010

    Influence Is More Than Numbers

    This week on the "Get Social" blog, we will be discussing online influence: what it is, why it is important to your social media strategy, and how to increase it.

    What is influence?
       Dictionary.com defines influence as "the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others."  In other words, when it comes to a social media strategy for business, you would ultimately like to compel or convince people to turn to your business website or brick and mortar location(s) to purchase products or services.

    If you were to take a superficial look at social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter, you would notice that many individuals equate influence with followers.  It is relatively easy to find individuals and businesses with ten thousand followers or more.  But, does this really indicate how influential these people are?  I would argue while having many  followers may increase your reach, it is only a very small variable of the influence equation.


    The Harvard Business Review posted a story titled, "On Twitter, Followers Don't Equal Influence," which is an interview with Meeyoung Cha from the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems in Germany.  She argues, quite convincingly in her paper, "The Million Follower Fallacy," that simply having a lot of followers on Twitter doesn't make a person or business influential.  I would say that also applies to Facebook, and any other social media website.

    So what, besides sheer numbers of followers, measures your social media influence?

    1.  Connections with the right people.  Following or being followed by anyone and everyone simply increases numbers, but not influence.  Connecting with people who are actively looking for information and contributing to the conversation is a far better measure of influence than being followed by a bunch or spambots or lurkers.

    2.  Intelligent comments, responses and conversations.  When your comments and posts are receiving "likes," retweets, mentions and comments by a larger and larger group of people, this is reflective of your growing influence.

    3.  Clicks on the links that you are providing.  If you use a link shortener, such as bit.ly, you can track the number of times that people are clicking on links you provide, even when they are going to blogs and website that are not yours.  When people are clicking on links that you are suggesting, it is an indication of your influence.

    4.  People who come to you with questions.  As your influence grows, you will see people who post questions addressed to you, expecting you to have an intelligent answer.

    5.  Of course, followers who become ultimately become customers.

    While measuring influence is far from an exact science, there are more elements to it than simply looking at the total number of followers and fans.  One website I use that indicates the level of influence that you carry on Facebook or Twitter is Klout.com.  Even Klout's numbers aren't a perfect measure of influence, but their rating can give you a good indication where you stand, and even break down some of the individual components of their measure of influence to let you know where you excel and where you need to improve.

    In the next post, I will be discussing why being concerned with influence should, in part, guide your social media business strategy.  In the meantime, what do you think are additional indications of your measure of influence in social media?






    Tuesday, December 14, 2010

    I'm Not Oprah, and That's Okay

    Let’s face it.  I am not, nor will I ever be, Oprah Winfrey.  Or Ashton Kutcher.  Or another celebrity with a reach of a million Twitter followers or more.  And that’s okay.

    If you are promoting your business via Twitter, it can be frustrating to only have several hundred or even a thousand followers.  You want to extend your sphere of influence as far as possible, to get your message, whatever it may be, to the largest possible audience.  When you look at some of the celebrities who have Twitter accounts, who say the most mundane things, yet their followers hang on every word, you may ask yourself, “Why?” 

    That’s easy- they’re celebrities, you’re not.  But, it doesn’t mean you can’t build a following of several thousand followers or more.  You’ve just got to use the right tools.

    A couple of years ago, my Twitter following was fairly small (by some standards, it still is).  I attended a book selling conference and I tweeted the keynote presentations and breakout sessions, using a hashtag (the # symbol, followed by a word or phrase, in this case #WI4) that had been loosely agreed upon as the conference hashtag.

    During the first presentation, my number of followers doubled, from about three hundred to close to six hundred.  These were people who were interested in the book industry, who couldn’t attend the conference, yet wanted to know what was being said.  By the end of the three day conference, my number of followers had increased by about six hundred.  These people followed the hashtag, which in turn, allowed them to see what I was saying, and then follow me.

    The hashtag can be a particularly powerful method that can help you gain followers, but it must be used properly.  Abuse it and you will lose followers.

    Are you attending a conference or meeting that may hold some interest for the people who follow you, as well as for people who don’t yet follow you?  Tweet what is being said and add a hashtag.

    Look at the trending topics or do a search and find discussions taking place on Twitter that have particular relevance to your business or area of expertise.  Join the conversation and if a hashtag is being used, attach it to each of your tweets.  Or, create one that is appropriate. 

    Is there a topic you would like to discuss?  Get a conversation started among the followers you have and create a hashtag.  The more interesting, relevant, or even provocative your tweets are within these conversations, the more potential you have to increase your following.

    Do NOT find a trending topic that is using a hashtag and tweet comments that are irrelevant to the conversation.  That will get you unfollowed or even blocked.

    Will using a hashtag make you as popular as Oprah?  Probably not.  But, it can help you increase your followership, and that’s okay.

    Monday, December 13, 2010

    More About Connection Points

    Connection points are what I term those places that you are connecting with your followers, customers and fans.  They are what drive your interaction through social media.  They have to be real, solid and consistent.  Let's look at three types of connection points.

    Interaction-  At the hub of connection point marketing is your business and the person or people who are driving your social media outreach.  That may be you, it may be someone else, but realize that whomever it is, they are the "face" of your company.  From the hub, there are spokes reaching out to connect with other points.  These other points are your followers.  Each spoke reaches out to one, and only one, customer.  These are the direct connections you make with your customers; the questions, responses, and conversations you are having with individuals.

    Location-  These are the connection points that reside on different social media networks.  These are the accounts you have on Facebook, Twitter, a blog, Foursquare, etc. that reach out to individuals on those networks.  While you may have crossover between networks, the same person connecting with you on multiple networks, you may be reaching an individual on Twitter that does not follow you on Facebook.  This is why it is important to have multiple location connection points.

    Cross Location- These are the connection points that you create between the accounts you have on multiple social media networks.  For example, creating a link on your blog that allows your readers to easily connect with you on Facebook and Twitter.  This is designed to help drive followers to multiple channels of communication, and therefore, to different types of conversations that are taking place on your networks.  While they might like reading your blog, they may feel more comfortable communicating with you on Twitter.  Every social network that you use MUST have cross location connections to the other social networks you are using.

    When you create multiple connection points, multiple places for your followers to gather and talk with you, the more opportunities you are going to get to interact with them, to listen to them and to spread your message.

    Friday, December 10, 2010

    Connection Point Marketing Is About, Well, Connections

    Human beings crave connections with other human beings.  It is one of the primary reasons Web 2.0 has been so successful.  It offers to facilitate connections between people who would otherwise probably never meet.  Where it once may have been difficult to connect people who had common, but very narrow interests, social media has allowed widespread groups to coalesce to discuss their commonalities.  In other words, if you collect evil lawn gnomes, you can now easily find other people around the world who also collect them.

    When it comes to business, these connection points are vital.  When I go shopping for groceries, I highly prefer to go to a locally owned, small chain of stores, rather than go to Walmart, even though the prices for core items are a bit higher.  Why?  Harmon's offers me a connection point.  Their employees are very friendly and will go out of their way to serve you.  They offer specialty items (breads, cheeses, cooking oils, etc.) and have the knowledge to talk about and recommend these items.  I know some of the cashiers by name and they know me.  I don't get that kind of connection at Walmart.  Harmon's has won and retains my business because of this connection.

    Does your business maintain this kind of connection point online?  Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream does.  That reveals that even large companies, with millions of customers can maintain a personal connections by using social media.  What are you doing to create those connection points?

    Thursday, December 9, 2010

    Jumping In Headfirst

    There are millions of discussions taking place all over the Internet.  It's likely there are discussions already going on that deal with your kind business; how to be better, what directions to move in, what the future holds.

    When I'm interacting with people online, within social media, I'm not only talking about how to use social media effectively for business.  I like to talk about books (since I manage a bookstore) and the discussions that are swirling around book selling, publishing, ebooks, etc.  I occasionally like to talk about food or movies or other things that interest me.  Those conversations can be separate from the subject of social media, but occasionally lead me back to talking about it.  For example, social media marketing often crops up in my conversations with other booksellers about bookstores.

    While listening is important, so is being part of the conversation.  When we talk with others, we see different points of view and new ideas, which can coalesce into all new thoughts that can help our own businesses take new directions, introduce new products, or offer new services.

    Find those conversations that you want to be a part of, take time to listen, and then jump in headfirst.  You never know how they may lead back to talking about your business.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010

    You Gotta Live in the Real World

    There is a lot of talk about business and social media marketing.  I spend a lot of time talking about social media to businesses, associations, individuals and on this blog.  While I specialize in teaching about social media, that doesn't mean that social media marketing is the only place you should be spending you marketing dollars.

    Real world marketing should still have a strong position in your overall marketing plans.  That means if you use television, radio, magazines, newspapers, mailers, flyers, posters, bookmarks, business cards, pens, tchotchke's, etc. you should you continue using them.  You need to constantly evaluate how much should be spent on your real world marketing, but you shouldn't abandon it in favor of solely using social media.

    What you should be doing is combining real world and social media marketing strategy so that when your followers, customers and fans see one, they should be instantly reminded of the other.  When you create a poster or flyer for a sale, you should also post it to Facebook or Tumblr.  Anything you print, such as a bookmark or magazine ad, should also include references to your social media sites.  Tell them where and how to find you online.  Don't just tell them you're on Twitter, tell them your Twitter handle.  Make it easy to find you.

    You gotta live in the real world.  You gotta spend time online.  Just don't do one to the exclusion of the other.

    Tuesday, December 7, 2010

    New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

    Currently, Facebook is the King of All Social Media (my apologies to Howard Stern- this is one realm where he has been deposed).  Everyone is jumping into Twitter.  Foursquare is catching on and growing rapidly.  And, in professional networking, LinkedIn keeps getting bigger and bigger.  These are just a few of the social media sites businesses are using to spread their messages.

    Recently, a New York Times article warned of another internet bubble, this time involving many of the social media companies and startups.  Now, while they weren't warning of an immediate crash of all things social, and the word of warning was mainly to investors, businesses who have a social media strategy should stay aware of the changes that are taking place.

    While it's unlikely that Facebook will be deposed in a coup anytime soon, or Twitter will be overthrown tomorrow, it's important to remember, everything changes.  Just as Walmart replaced Sears as the most successful retailer in the world, and Apple is breathing down Microsoft's neck, eventually something will challenge Facebook.  Is social media going to go away?  I don't think so.  But, we always need to keep an eye out for the new, new thing.  Eventually your social media strategy will need to change, based on a newer, shinier, more robust social networking site.  That doesn't mean you need to jump into every network that comes along.  It just means keep your head up, your eyes open, and be aware of the shifting nature of the social media marketplace.

    Two great sites to help you keep up with all the changes are:  Mashable and ReadWriteWeb.

    Just remember, the current king may go away, but the new boss is the same as the old boss- just shinier, faster, cooler, hipper, more interesting...

    Monday, December 6, 2010

    Don't Always Try to Teach, Try and Learn Too

    Businesses tend to make mistakes when they jump into social media.  Many mistakes.  But, that's okay.  That's okay.  Mistakes are how we learn.

    Let me help you avoid a couple of those social gaffes.

    Sell, sell, sell.  While you would like to leverage social media to help you do this, it takes a much longer time frame to sell goods and services through social media than through traditional media.  That's not a bad thing, just a different thing.

    Let me tell you a thing or two...   You have knowledge that you want to share, knowledge that you eventually hope will help you sell goods or services to your followers.  Don't make the assumption that you know more than those who are listening to you.

    Rather than attempting so get out there and teach and sell, listen and learn.

    Your followers, who may eventually be your customers, can teach YOU a thing or two.  Are you trying to tell them why they must have your services or products?  Maybe you should listen to what they want, what they are looking for.  It may give you an idea of what they want to buy and what you could sell them.  You may think you know what they want, but, guess what?  They DO know what they want.

    Friday, December 3, 2010

    Find the Positive, Not Just the Negative

    I worked for a man who never could seem to see the positive in the store he managed.  Everyone was a thief, everyone was lazy, everyone would take a day off when he was on vacation.  True?  No, but he saw things that way.  Once, during a very busy time in the store, I saw him walking around the store with a notebook in hand, occasionally taking notes.  I asked him what he was doing.  "I'm writing down everything I see that is going wrong so I can talk with everyone about it later!"  The joke behind his back in the store was, "If he [the manager] tells you 'thank you' or 'good job,' be sure to write it down, 'cause you may never hear it again."

    How sad that one person, in charge of a multi-million dollar operation could only see the negative in his store, his employees and his customers, rather than acknowledging the positive.

    As we immerse ourselves in social media, do we end up doing the same?  Smart businesses scan the social media sphere for comments about their companies.  When a negative comment crops up, they jump in, hopefully trying to solve the problem.  Sometimes to do some damage control.  Occasionally to argue.

    But, as we scan social media for comments about our businesses, do we ever look for the positive?  "I love that [brand]!" they might say.  "You've got to try this [brand].  It's the best!" another might share.  Do we see those comments and ignore them BECAUSE they are positive, or do we stop a moment and simply say, "Thank you."

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    Connect Now, Sell Later

    Do you take recommendations for restaurants, or movies, or mechanics more seriously if they come from family or friends?  Most of us do.  Why?

    When we know people, and they know us, they also have a sense of who we are and what we like.  If we know they have had good experiences with an auto mechanic, for example, it is easier to take those recommendations at face value.

    I travel several times a year for business.  Before I head out, I send out a tweet to my Twitter followers asking for restaurant recommendations.  I get quite a few and I've never really gotten a bad one.  These are people with whom I've created a connection.  Maybe it's not as tight a connection as with close friends and family, but I have talked with them enough for them to have a sense of what I might like.  They may have traveled to those same cities or even live there.  They have experience.  Experience I can take advantage of.

    These "connecting points" are vital for social media marketing.  Jumping into a social media site like Twitter and immediately trying to sell people on your goods or services can be obnoxious.  Talk with people, have conversations.  People who have an interest in the things you do (in this case, the goods and services you provide) will congregate around you as you share information and knowledge.  As these connecting points are created, when you do eventually mention your blog or website, they will be more willing to take a look at your recommendations.

    Tuesday, November 30, 2010

    Lead, Follow or Have Something to Say

    When using social media to market the goods or services your business provides, you need to get into the mix of the conversation.

    Lead-  Are you a thought leader?  Get out there and say what is on your mind.  Spread the knowledge.  Share the wealth.  When you are an expert, when you have a new way of looking at things or approaching problems, fans will follow.

    Follow-  Are you gathering ideas?  Do you have input, but don't quite consider yourself an expert?  That's okay.  Get into the mix.  Having conversations with others will spark ideas that you can share.  Listen to what thought leaders have to say, try out new ideas, then come up with variations of your own.  If you consistently participate in the conversation you will still gain followers and may eventually become a thought leader.

    Have Something To Say- Don't get into social media sites and then hide.  That almost guarantees that no one but agressive marketers and spammers will follow you.  Find people to follow.  Read their thoughts on their blogs.  Respond a little.  Those who at least participate gain followers.  Engage, have fun, and learn.  Eventually you can move up the ladder, to positive contributor and then to thought leader.

    Monday, November 29, 2010

    Get Smart, Get Social, Get Seen

    During the last year, as I've been invited to give presentations, both keynote and breakout sessions, on how businesses can use social media to effectively engage their customers, find new followers and interact with fans, it has been interesting to find out how many businesses still do not "get" social media, much less have a social media strategy.

    Folks, if you aren't out there on the social media playing field, you are in trouble.  If you are not talking to your customers, someone else, some other business is.  People may even be talking about you, but if you are't listening, you can't be a part of the conversation.  Don't be afraid to get online and start talking to people.  Who knows, you might like it.

    Get Smart:  Decide to get out there.
    Get Social:  Talk to people, don't be shy.
    Get Seen:  Bring something interesting to the conversation.

    Try this:  If you haven't yet, get on Twitter.  Open an account.  Twitter will give you a number of options to find people who have the same interests you do.  Follow them.  Start talking.  DON'T talk about your business and try selling to those who follow you back.  There is time for that later.  For now, just see what is going on and how you and your business can fit into the conversation.