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Best practices in social media: Earning influence.

September 3rd, 2008
By: adrian

2056699240 947d8bf921 o Best practices in social media: Earning influence.

From the Flickr of mondale

I got tagged earlier by Gavin on a new blog meme started by Mitch Joel around best practices in social media. A bunch of other folks have donated some great advice including:

And while I’m usually not big on these sorts of things, I think this is a subject that benefits greatly from  different points of view and advice. Just in the last week, I’ve had dozens of conversations with clients about “how to do social media” and ironically was just interrupted mid-sentence by a call from the AMA asking if we’d be willing to speak about this at an upcoming conference (checking into it).

My best practice is around the need for companies to realize that influence offline does not translate to influence online and influence online needs to be earned.

You can participate in social media and generate lots of goodwill and great interactions with your customers, but ultimately your ability to use social media as a really powerful marketing tool is directly correlated to the amount of influence you have. Whether it’s the number of followers on Twitter, Friends on Facebook or readers/subscribers to your blog, your social media initiatives are ultimately only as big as your social media influence.

I think it is exactly this point that flummoxes so many companies. Influence can’t be bought – it really doesn’t matter how much money you throw at it (and in fact throwing money at it can do more damage to your influence than good). Nor can really meaningful influence be built overnight, it takes a long, consistent history of contributing and participating meaningfully and helpfully to create influence online (just as it does offline). This is why people like Robert Scoble who got in early are now the people who wield the most influence online. (I also wrote about this a while ago – there’s a double jeopardy effect in social media where the big get bigger.)

The idea that social media is a marketing tool that’s only useful if you really work at it for a long period of time sends some marketing people running for the hills. Others stare at you blankly as if you’ve just told them that the USA has adopted French as its official language. I think this is why there are precious few, and will continue to be few examples of companies doing social media really well.

What are your best practices? I tag: Dino, Faris, Gareth, Helge and Ed.

  • Gavin Heaton

    This is turning into a great meme with insight at every corner! Looking forward to seeing where it goes next.

  • Adrian Ho

    Agreed, there’s some really good stuff here (and well needed). Thanks again for the tag Gavin, glad I can be part of this.

  • dominic

    Great points.

    When you say … “doesn’t matter how much money you through”, I’m not so sure. It really depends on what you do with the money.

    Imagine you’re a big brand about to launch a new product that is highly differentiated on customer pain point A and B. ( i.e you’ve done it the Seth Godin’s way).

    You could build a strategy to make your points in social media and line up your PR, marketing teams along this objective.

    This means figuring where your purple cows are hanging out in social media, capturing each and every conversation related to the pain point you just brilliantly solved and empower your people to collectively join the conversation and make yout company point.

    Not thru “spam like” or irrelevant sales pitch but just participating to the conversations with strategic intent, metrics, listening to potential objections and learning along the process.

    This makes a difference and the ability of Large companies to line up 10’s of highly skilled people to do that would make that difference.

    One of the pb (which I think is a maturity pb) is that, as you said, many marketing teams have the mindset of influencing in one click, and they then leave it to few early adopters in their team (like R Scoble) to fill the void.

    No wonder all the discussions about personal branding versus employer branding that we see growing these recent weeks.

    By the way, what’s this rumor about the US adopting French as its official language ?

  • Adrian Ho

    Hi Dominic,

    Absolutely agree that big companies can throw more people at something but I think there’s a real danger of it feeling too slick and too coordinated. I think it’s a turnoff to people because it feels manipulative all over again – rather than conversational and helpful. Of course it’s possible to do this well. Zappos has almost 500 employees Twittering but they aren’t part of a campaign, they care about their company and their company’s customers.

  • Faris

    Cool man – will have a crack at this when I’m back.

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  • Helge Tennø

    Hi Adrian, thanks for the challenge. :o)

    I’ve finally picked up the pen and published my best practice suggestion:


  • dominic

    @ Adrian,

    Fully agreed. I think much more value in people empowered to deliver value add messages, like the Zappos example you mentioned rather than “spamming campaigns”.

    I just think it cannot be chaos.

    Take the example of customer support, a company can empower its employees to help consumer and to engage in conversations. But this requires a lot of education on what to say to whom, when . Let’s imagine a Microsoft employee telling my mum how to patch her OS :-), this could be something !

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