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Social Influence is the Holy Grail of Social Marketing

Author: Steve Welsh, Social Champion

In my previous posts we have discussed 3 out of 4 of the important phases involved in social media marketing.

This post is about every social media and digital marketers’ holy grail - “influence.”

Social influence, or social proof, is earned by demonstrating your expertise through connecting, engaging and giving value to the people who matter to your business.

An excerpt from Wikipedia on social influence says: “experts exert social influence as a result of their perceived expertise. This involves credibility, a tool of social influence from which one draws upon the notion of trust”.

In my opinion, social influence is earned through:

  • Credibility = expertise.
  • Your expertise and knowledge on a specific subject.
  • Reach = audience.
  • Your ability to transmit your expert knowledge through the correct social media and online channels.
  • Relevance = information.
  • If the information provided by the influencer is not relevant then it is just spam and will be ignored.
  • Timing = Deliverability.
  • The ability of the influencer to deliver his expert knowledge to the target audience at the time when that audience needs it most.
  • Alignment = Value
  • Actively aligning with your target market and topic, identifying the correct audience on the correct platforms.
  • Confidence = Know, like and trust
  • Even if the influencer is credible, the target market must have confidence in them. Without trust, any information from the influencer will be viewed with suspicion and get downgraded by the user.

Here is an example of social influence:

Richard Branson was a pioneer of social influence way before social media was ever thought about. He is highly regarded as a thought leader in business, and completely engaged with his audience. When this man speaks, governments, corporations and business leaders listen.

As an avid believer in human to human marketing, Mr. Branson has positioned himself using his own voice on social media and actively engages with his audience.

Is social influence new?

No, it all began with the cavemen. One of the earliest influences on human development is something we have all experienced…“peer pressure.” When one person within your group of likeminded people pressures you into doing something, you’re not so likely to do it.

When many people within your peer group are pressuring you to do something, you’re much more likely to do it, and this will escalate as more people join in.

The world of social media is the same as the offline world. In a social media context, social influence comes into play when users see that a large number of people have already followed, liked, shared, or commented on a piece of content. The increased activity is seen as something desirable to join in on.

Examples of social influence

There are so many examples today of social influence in the social media spectrum, here are but a few.

  • A key guest blog on a relevant website can increase influence more than an article in the Times, or a spot on the BBC. The key takeaway here is relevance, and the right audience.
  • Yelp’s entire design is centred around social proof, the higher the star ratings and better comments are social proof. The key takeaway is you’re more likely to be influenced by the crowd, just like peer pressure.
  • Bloggers have been promoting their number of subscribers for years. The key takeaway is more subscribers = more trustworthy = more influence.
  • Endorsements on your website from major news outlets is HUGE social proof. If your blog says “appeared on BBC, CNN, Huffington Post” along the bottom, expect your social proof to increase dramatically.
  • Customer testimonials have been used in commercials for years. Some are real, some not so real, both examples of social proof.

Money is less persuasive than social proof

A study in the Wall Street Journal showed that consumers were more likely to make decisions based on social proof than the potential of saving money.

In the study “Your neighbours are already doing it,” was more persuasive than “you’ll save £54 a month” when it came to influencing consumer behaviour!

You accept social influence without thinking

You probably spend a great deal of time researching the products and services you’re interested in online before making a purchase decision. And why wouldn’t you? With a world of information at your fingertips, it would be foolish to not research purchases online, read reviews, look up prices, get a sense for who you will be working with, determine how products are supported and serviced and more.

So how do I get there?

You have to make sure that your website and social media properties are up-to-date and providing the information your current and prospective consumers are looking for. If they can’t find the pertinent information that will sway their purchase decisions, they’ll buy from a company that does.

89% of consumers conduct their research using search engines.

What ranks incredibly well in search engines?

Well, social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and of course, Google+ and YouTube do.

Social media properties often land on the first page of search results for businesses and brands of all sizes.

You have a tremendous opportunity to impress information seeking consumers on your social media properties when they are conducting research for a purchase, so take advantage of this and ensure you have all the fundamental elements in place to give the user a great experience.

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

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