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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.

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