Much like a Walkman, AOL or MySpace, the debate over the importance of incorporating a thoughtful social media presence into a marketing plan has become passé. The power of social media for business, both large and small, is no longer theoretical and is now embraced as the relationship building/business growing opportunity that it is. Social media is a game-changer, creating powerful connections and synergies between customers and businesses that never could have existed without this technology.
Many savvy businesses are now looking to take social media to the next level by harnessing its power; reaching out to those individuals who have distinguished themselves as online leaders, that is, people who have gained online “authority” and leveraging this social media know-how to persuade the behavior of others. As a result, “Digital Influence” has become the hottest trend in social media today. By studying, and courting, the people who have become prominent thought-leaders (i.e. those who enjoy a large and devoted virtual following), businesses can capitalize on the “social capital” these individuals provide.
Social capital is defined as “the goodwill available to individuals or groups. Its source lies in the structure and content of the actor’s social relations. Its effects flow from the information, influence, and solidarity it makes available to the actor” (Adler and Kwon 2002, p. 23). In other words, people like to do business with companies that others whom they trust (on or offline) recommend. By indentifying these connected vendors- the theory goes- and plying them with perks, discounts, special events, etc, in recognition of their social stature and support, the company will ultimately benefit from the influence these vendors have over the buying behavior of their followers.
Thus a new industry is born.
Companies like Klout, PeerIndex, Kred and others are investing millions of dollars to understand how our social media activity translates into online influence. The outcome of this hefty investment is software that tracks elements of online “social capital” based on proprietary algorithms of how people engage and connect in various social networks and assign the influencer a score. The problem is, the actual impact that these scores have on the good-ole’ bottom line is yet to be determined. Many companies have taken a “ready-fire-aim” approach to managing their social influencers, before developing a thoughtful, strategic approach to managing this outreach effort and ROI expectations, and are throwing real dollars after virtual dollars.
Like any marketing strategy, businesses must first take the time to learn about digital influence, its benefits, and how to connect with influential consumers. Businesses and brands must resist the urge to dive right in, and instead first develop meaningful engagement strategies and thus gain the greatest value from the identified “influence vendors”.
For more information contact our Marketing Department or call (215) 345-5424.