Who influences you, and whom do you influence? For years there’s been talk about creating “brand advocates” with social media. Everybody wants thousands of followers talking about them on social channels, but if you want that kind of advocacy, it takes more than just accumulating an audience—it takes relationship building. You can throw lots of money at creating a great looking social profile and advertising to get more fans, and still be wondering in a few months why your not getting much return.
More and more brands are finding out that social media is more about building influence than harvesting leads. So how do you develop social influence? Well, there’s no one-size-fits-all blueprint. It’s relationships that matter most, and those take some work. If you Google the word “Influence,” this information pops up:
We all influence someone in one way or another. Everything we do or say has an impact whether we realize it or not. So when thinking about the influence your brand has in the marketplace, it may help to do a little self-evaluation first.
Analyze Your Own Brand Experiences
Do you have enough influence on social channels that people want to share your content (and eventually buy from you)? Ask yourself the same question about brands that influence you; the ones love to buy from and share with your friends. What brought that about? Most likely, it was your experience with that particular brand—how they treated you and how responsive they were to you—not just the fact that they had a social profile and shared content.
That’s not to say that content isn’t important, but it doesn’t do the job of attracting people unless it piques the interest of the intended audience. So when analyzing your own experience, start by asking yourself some content questions: What kind of information from your favorite brand caught your eye? How did you respond to it? Were you compelled to buy, or did it lead you deeper into more of their content? What ancillary information was also out there that had an influence on your decision? Did you find case studies or look for reviews?
Secondly, if you contacted the brand via social channels, what was your experience like? Did someone answer your questions promptly? Did they treat you like they valued your business? Did they listen to what you had to say? How did they resolve your problem? And most importantly, how did you FEEL about the brand afterward?
Forget ROI for a Moment—Focus on the Human Factor
Most marketers focus on assigning a dollar value to social connections. However, what they’re missing is the fact that true value is built with the human work that goes into relationship building on social channels. We tend to forget that people make buying decisions on emotion, rather than logic. The customer’s experience with you, from first exposure to your content through interactions with you along the buying cycle, is built on emotional response. That’s what influences them. And sometimes that influence is a winding road without a clear connection between a social action and revenue.
Building influence is really all about nurturing your customers’ relationships and experiences with your brand, and being consistent in your actions. Whether you have 500 or 50,000 followers, without providing those people with a grounded human experience—without constantly trying to engage them in conversation and providing them with something they truly value, how can you expect them to take action in your favor?
Build Emotional Connections
It’s up to you to provide something more compelling than a corporate Facebook page or Twitter profile and throwing up a few posts. People seek emotional connections on social. They want to be helped, inspired or entertained. They want to talk and interact with real people—not logos. Don’t disappoint them!
Building an emotional connection means—well, being human. Respond promptly to their messages. Reach out and thank individuals for comments and for sharing. Ask questions and take every possible opportunity to “be human” and deepen the relationship. It also means thinking about their journey ahead of yours, so there are two things that must be kept paramount when communicating on social channels:
- Don’t pitch them at the first connection: Don’t you hate those pitchy emails from someone you just met on LinkedIn? Don’t make that mistake with your connections/followers. Get to know them. Look at their profiles for commonalities and make conversation. If you’ve got a social team, make sure they take the time to do this and re-learn the art of conversation. There’s no substitute for one-to-one interaction in driving an emotional connection.
- Make sure that every customer-facing employee is on the same page: Handoffs from one person to the next along the sales journey must be seamless. Whether they call you on the phone or connect with you on a social channel, they shouldn’t have to keep repeating their story to someone else a little further down the line. Everyone who touches a customer should know his or her story, understand their pain and make solving it their highest priority. It’s what CRMs were built for (if we’ll only use them!).
To Influence is Human
Social influence grows out of developing a company culture dedicated to delivering extraordinary customer experience and nurturing relationships in every channel. That’s not something you can automate. However, you can scale it, because each person you influence has influence on others in his or her network. If they’ve been attracted to you by content that’s relevant to their particular circumstances, that’s the first step. If they have had a great experience with your brand, and they’ve had conversations with you that cement a positive emotional connection—that’s when the magic of influence happens, and you have an opportunity to grow that experience to a broader network.
Influence is the byproduct of building great relationships. It’s not something you can buy in a box; there are no shortcuts, and no magic formulas. It’s closely tied to customer experience. Remember that everything you do, from content development through social communication, customer service and after-the-sale communication, will influence your next customer. Make sure their interactions with you influence them in the right direction.
Need some help developing social influence? NuSpark offers free social media assessments.