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How to influence your audience

Author: Lilach Bullock, Social Champion

The words “social influence” sum up many connotations. Simply typing them into Google will bring up many psychological definitions and meanings, with the top ones being “changing minds” and “persuasion.” Let’s park the psychological descriptions for now… for me, personally, it turns me off and doesn’t resonate well.

Before we get into it, here’s our definition of the purpose of social media and marketing:
“To gain trust, understanding and support, with the end goal of influencing opinion and behavior across various publics.”
In other words: influence your target audience’s purchasing decisions and endorsements.

But what about your customers and prospects? They are much more savvy now – the old approach of trying to shout the loudest about your product no longer works. Businesses need to be much more consumer orientated and realise that every customer can also exert some influence in their own right.

Word-of-mouth has never been more important, particularly the power of digital word of mouth. Social media has completely changed the playing field and has led to democracy on the internet – the consumer calls the shots now.

Think about it. It’s rare to purchase something without reviewing it online, asking peers, friends, family and colleagues what they think, or reading the multitude of comments that people will readily share about it via social media.

Everyone has an opinion and everyone can be heard. The trick is influencing them to be positive about your brand.

How do you turn your customers into advocates?
It may sound obvious but the familiar saying of “people buy from those they like and trust” rings true. And if you want to have advocates then you have to re-think your customer journey strategy…it certainly doesn’t end at the point of purchase. That’s just the beginning of getting them to trust your brand and endorse your products or services.

Show that you care and that you’re human. It’s often the little things that make the biggest difference and impact. Listening is crucial – I wrote about the importance of listening in my first post “stop, look, listen…the first #socialmedia code.

Respond quickly. This is the biggest mistake brands make online. By not responding in real time to a negative situation or critical feedback, you can cause a backlash and often make the situation worse. Likewise, not responding to positive feedback or a general question will mean a great opportunity to engage and build trust will be missed.

Create quality content that provides value. There is nothing more frustrating for the reader than to be enticed to a blog post that doesn’t deliver what it says it will. Similarly, we are inundated with content and a lot of it is very samey or has no real value. In my second post in this series for Oracle, I wrote how to create engaging content that gets shared. It’s all very well creating content, but if you’re not measuring and monitoring your content then you won’t know what is (or isn’t) working, or how to improve.

How do you know your social media content is effective?
There are many ways to learn about your content’s effectiveness. These are my three most important:


  • It’s important that you understand and measure where your traffic is coming from. Don’t be fooled by the numbers, make sure you take the time to dig deeper into them.
  • If your visitors are bouncing off your website quickly (i.e. your bounce rate is high), then either the quality of the visitors is low or the content you are creating isn’t resonating with them or adding value.
  • Take the time to look at stats like time on site – this will help you to see if visitors are actually reading your content, which pages they dwell on most, and so on. The longer they are on your website the better!
  • Leverage analytical tools like Google Analytics where you can look at pages and content individually rather than the whole website. This will allow you to far better understand what your visitors are doing and which content to create more (or less!) of.
Social shares.
  • It’s useful to measure the amount of social interactions you’re having for each post. You can calculate this by the amount of shares, retweets, likes, mentions, etc.
  • Similarly, by analysing your social activity you will be able to see which are your top performing social networks and identify where your content is best received.
  • It’s also a good idea to change your status updates for each of your posts across social media – this will help you learn which headlines lead to more shares and likes.

Are people leaving comments on your post? How is the engagement across social media? Are people talking about your content and joining in the conversation?

The key thing here is to analyse both your website and social networks together so you can correlate results and identify trends.

Can you prove ROI from social media engagement?

A common question we hear at Comms Axis is can you (and how can you!) prove ROI from social media engagement? The truth is that whilst you can, there are many variables attributed to this and it ultimately goes back to the planning, goals and strategy you have in place. ROI means different things for different brands. And it totally depends on what outcomes you were striving to achieve and what metrics you want to measure to justify the investment. It’s a common misperception to think ROI is purely about generating sales. It’s much more than this and certainly not about the number of likes or RTs a piece of content receives; nor about the percentage increase in followers.

Take a holistic approach to your measurement to help justify and prove your ROI. Tools can help you analyse and monitor what people are saying about your brand, but you really need to apply human intelligence to make sense of the numbers. In particular, pay attention to:
  • Engagement – how many people are engaging with your brand? Are more engaging now than a month or three months ago?
  • Traffic – how much traffic now comes to your site from social networks? What causes the spikes or increases – your engagement?
  • Shares – beyond people simply RT-ing your social posts and updates, how many people are sharing your content off their own backs? This is a KPI to take note of.
  • Sentiment – is your online brand reputation better this quarter than last quarter? Are you being talked about more positively?
In summary, social influence plays a huge role online. Brands are desperate to influence their audience into becoming customers and, in turn, encourage their customers to become repeat customers…and then the ultimate of customers into brand ambassadors!

However, it’s time brands learnt that actually it’s the customers who play the influential role and that rather than trying to explicitly influence, they should do it implicitly by building trust, respect and loyalty, therefore turning their customers into advocates. This is where brands will see the value.

Did you enjoy Lilach’s blog? Vote for Lilach Bullock as your favourite Social Champion here!

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