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The Power of Social Networks

A quick look at my social network on July 4, 2011. Via Mention Map.

Over the past couple of weeks, there’s been a discussion going on about the power of social networks and changes in marketing due to this power.  I got involved in the conversation when I read and commented on Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu‘s blog about “a different kind of Social Media – finding a language”.  The discussion continued with Ric Dragon‘s post about “The Power of Small Groups in Online Marketing“.  As the conversation continues, I thought I’d add some of my thoughts and experiences with this power.

Marketing isn’t just for marketers.

In the age of social media, everyone becomes a marketer.  Companies need to realize that their employees are on Facebook and Twitter and are leaving impressions of their brand, however positive they may be.  I think some form of social media marketing training and standards will be important for all, even it it’s as simple as ensuring that everyone understands your vision.  It is a balancing act for organizations as they need to allow employees to be themselves and honest, while protecting their brand.

Traditional marketing needs to adapt.

I’m not a marketer and won’t pretend to be an expert, but I know how I make decisions on what company I want to do business with.  I rely on the referrals of “real” people.  I think a lot of others do as well, if the popularity and growth of sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor are any indication.  People can also ask hundreds (or thousands) of friends or followers on FB or Twitter for real-time recommendations before they buy.  Marketers need to find a way to interact in a “real”, genuine way with potential clients online.  Companies like Best Buy and Zappos, who allow their employees to blog and answer customer questions online may have some great best practices to follow.

Quality is more important than Quantity.

A lot of people seem consumed by getting more followers or more hits to their blog.  If there’s not value in the numbers, though, they’re only numbers.  What I mean is it doesn’t matter how many followers you have if they aren’t adding value to your purpose or you to theirs.  It doesn’t matter how many people click to your blog if they aren’t reading it, engaging or remembering it.  I have found in my brief time in social media that the most value I get is from engaging in conversations with others – not the masses, but a few intelligent people who challenge my thinking with different views or agree and add to my own thoughts.  This engagement with others is where the rubber really hits the road with social media.  And it’s also why corporate blogs written without an opportunity for genuine 2-way communication may do more harm than good.

A small network of the right people can make a big difference.

In his book “The Tipping Point”, Malcolm Gladwell writes about the “Law of the Few”. He says “The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts.”  There are three types of “socially gifted” people Gladwell describes: Connectors, Mavens, and Salespeople.  In my short time blogging and being actively engaged in Twitter, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet amazing people with these gifts.

Connectors are the people who seem to know everyone. They have a knack for making friends and acquaintances, and they are especially gifted at bringing people together.  Mavens.  These are the “information specialists”.  They have and continue to gain vast knowledge and they share it with others.  Finally, Salesmen are persuaders.  Something about how they say things makes you want to agree with them.

A few of the Socially Gifted people I’ve met on Twitter:

Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu encompasses all of these traits.  He is happy to introduce people with like interests, he’s a brilliant social media expert who’s happy to share insights and knowledge, and his thought-provoking blog not only forces you to think, but makes you want to agree with him.

Josepf Haslam is a social media maven.  He knows SEO and how to use it strategically to drive the right traffic to your blog.  And the best part is he’s open to teaching you how to do it.  As I write this, his recent tweaks to Peggy Fitzpatrick‘s (an amazing Connector, by the way) blog are likely driving more traffic to her site.

Finally, a big shout out to Connector-extraordinaire Michele Price.  I’ve personally seen the impact this powerful communicator has.  While I’ve been blogging for several months now, I was averaging 15-25 hits on my blog per day.  One day in June, Michele tweeted that she was looking for a new blog to read, and I sent her a post I had just written, about how to deal with people you don’t like.  Michele read the post, commented on it, and tweeted it to her followers.  That day, I had almost a hundred hits on my blog, and several comments. (This may not be a lot to you mega-bloggers, but for me it felt like a tipping point!).  Not only does Michele have a large network, her opinion is trusted, so they agreed when she said my post was worth reading.

Wondering if you’re a connector?  Take Gladwell’s quick test here.

I am still learning a ton about social networking, and enjoying the journey.  I anticipate changes and am excited about what opportunity they will bring for those who embrace and engage with their network.

What do you think about the power of social networks?

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Posted by on July 4, 2011 in Social Media

 

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