Social media influence; the harsh reality is that you either have it or you don’t. I’m going to tell you the cold hard truth about social media…what you need to know that most people won’t tell you. While anyone can have a social media presence, not everyone possesses social media influence. It’s clear to those in the know that social media is a universe of the haves and have nots. It’s the difference between relevance and irrelevance, visibility and anonymity. You might have something to say, but without influence, nobody will be listening. Put simply, having a social media presence without influence is little more than an exercise in frivolity. In today’s post I’ll share some thoughts on the importance of social media influence in the building of personal and corporate brand equity.
Before we go any further, I think it’s important to address social media critics and the naysayers by answering the questions: Does social media work? Is social media right for business? Can you generate an increase in revenue and brand equity with social media? How does social media compare with other mediums? If you’re still asking these questions WAKE-UP – get your head out of the sand, and stop broadcasting your ignorance. Validating proof of concept around social media ROI is a discussion that may have had a bit of relevance 24 months ago, but unless you’ve been stranded on a desert island for the last couple of years you know that numerous case studies abound which validate social media beyond any reasonable doubt.
If you think you don’t have time to Tweet or Blog, the reality is that you don’t have time not to. Here’s the bottom line: How can you possibly justify not communicating with your key constituents, stakeholders, and influencers in an environment of their choosing, where they are actively having conversations in real time? News Flash: you can’t. That said, if you’re still a social media basher, watch the following video we put together and judge for yourself:
Okay, it should be clear after watching our video that social media can produce huge ROI, but here’s the real story line: only if you know what you’re doing. The one thing that each of the personal and corporate brands profiled in the video all had in common is that they leveraged social media influence to accomplish their objectives. If you choose to dive into the social media world without a strategy, without understanding how to create social media influence, you will not be pleased with your results. Like anything in life, if you’re going to do something, you’re better off to do it right or not to do it at all.
There’s nary a week that passes where I don’t have a conversation with somebody who proudly proclaims that they created a Twitter page, to which I usually respond; “that’s great, but why?” Don’t get me wrong, recognizing the value of participating in the most powerful medium on the planet by getting in the game is a good thing, but it’s an even better thing when coupled with a plan. Let me say this as clearly as I can…a ready, fire, aim approach will rarely find the target.
For all you well intended ad agencies, consultants, marketing managers, brand managers, entrepreneurs, and professionals ready to dip your toe, or your clients toe in the water that is social media, keep in mind that it does no good whatsoever to have a blog that only has one published post in the last 6 months, a Twitter page with 4 followers, a LinkedIn profile with 18 connections, a Facebook account with 7 friends, etc. It’s like flashing a neon sign that says I’m irrelevant and nobody cares. It won’t do anything to help you, it will only hurt you. In today’s world no one wants to do business with a company that’s not connected, has no influence, isn’t engaged, and that doesn’t get it.
While having little or no online following can easily brand you as being without influence, having legions of followers solely for the sake of amassing large numbers doesn’t necessarily mean you have any real influence either. Anybody can amass tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of followers just by following as many people as they can and waiting for them to reciprocate. The important thing to understand is whether or not anything of substance or value underpins the numbers? Think about it for a moment…almost nothing can hurt a brand faster than constantly messaging irrelevance to a large constituency. Not a good move…
Who you choose to follow on Twitter, which blogs you read and comment on, who you add as a friend to your Facebook account, or which invitations you accept on LinkedIn speaks volumes about what you’re attempting to accomplish online. Like most things, building and maintaining your social media footprint should be engineered by design, but the truth is that most people allow it to be constructed by default. In a perfect world you would build relationships with the largest possible universe of targeted constituents where you can productively engage and contribute. Just as you don’t want to add to the noise, nor do you want to remain part of the silence. Having a relevant, highly engaged social media following means you have influence and can create action. Here’s a simple formula to ponder as you create your social media framework:
Social Media Influence = engagement+relevancy+knowledge+trust+presence+value+time
So, how do you start to build social media influence? The best way is to start off on the right foot by not tainting your brand or reputation. Don’t begin by trying to sell something, but rather by listening, engaging in conversations, building trust, and adding value. Contribute knowledge and information to the constituencies that you want to build influence with. Become a part of them as opposed to a vendor to them…This is a difficult concept for old-school marketers to get their arms around, but a critical one nonetheless. I would strongly suggest reading two previous posts: “Shut-up and Listen” and “Stop Selling and Add Value“ as support for these positions. Following are a few tips to help you build influence online:
- Have a Strategy - If you want to create success and influence using social media you better have a plan. This sounds reasonable enough, but here’s where it gets a bit tougher – the plan isn’t about you. To be successful in creating social media influence your efforts need to be centered around others. It’s not how well you sell, it’s about how well you listen, add value and build meaningful relationships. Remember that connections are not the same thing as relationships, but that connections can develop into relationships with the proper effort on your part.
- Commitment- While technology is a natural accelerant helping to catalyze new opportunities and extend relationships, creating trust and influence will still take time. While there are exceptions to every rule, don’t expect overnight success. Regardless of the medium, you’ll rarely find influential people who don’t recognize the value of staying the course.
- Don’t breach trust- you work far too hard to create a trust bond with your followers, so don’t blow it by not following through on your commitments. I would also suggest resisting the temptation to have all your communications be self-serving. Do this and you’ll be viewed as just another sales broadcast. When you do sell, do it properly, and for the right reasons.
- Don’t be a jerk, hater or taker - People don’t want to hear from those they don’t like. If you want to build lasting social media influence you must be seen as valuable resource and not a taker of other’s time, resources or ideas. Take a sincere interest in others – help them become successful – give more than you take.
- Have command over your subject matter – If you don’t know what you’re talking about, remain silent. Voicing your opinion isn’t nearly as important as helping someone else refine their thinking with wise counsel. The easy rule is to stay out of conversations where you don’t add value.
- Listen and respond- If you’re forcing an agenda rather than responding to the needs of your followers you’ll lose any chance at creating influence. Remember that most people will go to great lengths to help someone who has been of assistance to them.
- Publish quality content that adds value – what you produce in terms of content will be become synonymous with your online reputation. It will either serve you well, or be your undoing. Frequency is important but only to the extent that qualitative considerations are not sacrificed.
As I’ve espoused before, I’m not a huge fan of one-size-fits-all strategies, and this opinion holds true in regard to building your network as well. Despite countless opinions to the contrary, I’ve come to the conclusion that while no single ”right” methodology exists for building your online network, I regularly observe many “wrong” approaches…
The conclusion here should be obvious - you’ll be successful in creating real social media influence when you take the time to seek out wise counsel, and implement an authentic approach to a well crafted social media strategy. If you don’t, while you might not fail, you certainly won’t maximize the potential that exists for you. I would love to hear your thoughts on what I’ve put forth above – Please leave a comment and let me know whether you agree, disagree, or have a different take altogether…