Just as the above picture demonstrated–of course it’s just part of my social network–this week’s subject is about the nature of network influence. It gives me the opportunity to clarify this fundamental concept in Social Media Marketing.
First of all, what is influence? According to Lee Rainie, Director of Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, the word is rooted in astrology by some long-ago Gauls, describing the strange behaviors our ancestors acted in the stars. Now, we use the word to describe the ability of a person or a group of person to affect the way other people to think and behave. Furthermore, Lee says, influencers are not necessary to be a human being, they can be a machine algorithms that sort through all the digital content to try to make sense of it, like Google’s PageRank. In 1958, Harvard psychologist, Herbert Kelman identified three broad varieties of social influence: Compliance, Identification and Internalization, according to the extent of trust between influencers and followers. For social media marketers, the most important function of influence or influencer are “The ability to cause desirable and measurable actions and outcomes”, said by Brian Solis, principal of FutureWorks. Knowing the difference between popularity and influence are also important, unlike the former meaning being widely known, the latter are actually defined the ability to inspire action. That’s why some popular folk, with a significant number of followers who follow him just becasue his famous name or entertaining words and photos, can not bring the desired outcomes or actions, their networks are just comprised largly of weak ties.
The next question is how the emerging of social media network change the way that influence is applied in marketing and brand communication.According to Olivier Blanchard, the Arthur of Social Media ROI, there are two kind of influence between organization and consumers, Vertical Engagement and Lateral Engagement. Before the era of social media, the B2C communication are basically vertical: the organization packaged the message and pushed it to the target audiences through the TV,Radio and Internet; the consumers didn’t have much effective way to talk back to organization, besides comment cards, customer service lines and emails, or well-controlled online forum, and the lateral communication, or word of mouth, between consumers also did not scale well, just a few of your friends or co-workers, that’s the extent of it. But, with the massive use of social media tools, like facebook, tweeter, the situation have changed permanently in two ways: scope and convenience. According to a report, Social networking sites and our lives, published on http://www.pewinternet.org/ in JUNE 16, 2011, the average number of social ties of USA Facebook users was 648, twitter users was 838, and off-line people was 506. In addition to the ability of talking to your friends instantly and simultaneously, social media tools allow you to add a photo or video to the message, which increase the appeal and credibility of the recommendation or complaint greatly. So, sooner or later, every organization, profit or non-profit, should find out how to integrate social media tools into their business model, or they will find that they lost the way to communicate with their users someday.
How do you think about this topic, share with me!