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Author: Ira Reckenthäler, Social Champion
There has never been a need for virtual town criers in the digital world. Anyone trying to brashly influence customers or blatantly push their own message not only falls short of the mark but is quick to earn scorn on social networks. Both advertising and communication should be subtle and tell a story. It should tell the potential target groups how a product or an idea can enrich their lives. This is no longer achieved with the largest billboard, the loudest TV commercial or the standard press release. Even typical Facebook posts are no longer enough. The main thing that works now is interesting content conveyed by the company using all available channels.
Influence Needs a Community
The communities and potential target groups on networks like Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter are vast and this makes them just as compelling for marketers as for people involved in communication. This is because users who are totally at home on social networks can definitely become the X factor of successful communication. They see through blatant campaigns but are just as quick to be won over by unique items. However, if you want to sort out potential customers from the many possible readers/fans, you must not be overwhelmed by the sheer number. Instead, you should have an exact knowledge of user behavior. And how do most people use their social media channels? Over half of users visit Facebook & Co. every day, some even visit almost every hour.
Thanks to mobile surfing and push messages from various apps, it is almost impossible to miss viral content or other news. Almost? Well, in addition to the essential knowledge of user behavior and possible target group behavior, it is important to know the conditions under which company information is actually passed on from the networks to the users. However, this is straying from the subject but is certainly worth an article in its own right.
Influence on social media is not exerted by only one person, such as a politician or an artist, for example. It is certainly true that top celebrities have several million followers or subscribers, but it is not so easy to actually reach them with a campaign. Another point is that high visibility on social media does not automatically mean that influence can also be exerted, even if people like to try. Credibility is, for example, one of the most important factors when considering influence on social channels.
Interactivity is also a key factor in the success of social media. The Danish advertising expert Jakob Nielsen coined what is known as the 90-9-1 Principle, according to which 90% of social network users are "silent observers" who eagerly read what others have written but do not create anything themselves or interact with others. In comparison, 9% are users who sometimes create content or interact with others about their content, comment on it or share it. The remaining 1% of users are heavy contributors - these are users who create a lot of content and discuss the content created by others. This means the real influencers are the users who are in the minority on social networks, the users who actively contribute. They account for only 1%, but in debates and discussions they are the ones who can influence the 90% silent majority and are responsible for up to 90% of the content. A company has to pay special attention to these few key people.
This means if discussions arise in comments in a blog, on Facebook or Twitter, it is important to react quickly and be actively involved if necessary. This particularly applies to negative criticism which is much more frequent, simply because people are more inclined to say what they don't like than to say if they really like something. However, you can also use negative articles and comments to your advantage. How can you improve in the future, how can you respond to the critics and how quickly could you react? Silent users are waiting for answers to all these questions.
Influence or reach – what does a brand need?
For wildcard communications, as a communications agency, it is the art of recognizing what a campaign actually needs. Is it people with influence in a certain subject area or people who can reach new target groups? It is important to be very familiar with the potential influencers and to be better at assessing them than others. We do this, for example, through our interview series, "Interviews with Bloggers and Decision-Makers". This not only helps to clarify certain questions but also provides a better understanding of bloggers and decision-makers as well as their individual views and opinions. This is valuable when it later comes to using the correct channels, choosing the correct language or finding relevant content. Finding the correct channel for the target group has top priority and this is where influencer relations can help.
The main factors for long-term influence are stamina and persistence. Only those who remain credible for a long time over several campaigns and are always on the ball can count on attracting the long-term attention of bloggers. That includes the Tweeters, YouTubers and other influencers. And this is always such an exciting task for us.
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