Notes on Influence, or Making Social Media Matter

Try as I might to focus, I admit, my email and the ongoing pings from others manage to draw my attention to articles or topics they want me to read.  Obviously not all  sources of email have the same effect, some warrant an immediate click, others are often passed over initially and others altogether ignored and/or deleted.  On days, when I have a deadline, email gets less of my attention.

Similarly, it explains why I don’t launch Tweetdeck daily;  and conversely why, when I do launch the application, I end up with over a dozen windows open.  My attention divides between my own best laid plans and the topics now unfolded on my desktop.  Inevitably I can’t ignore the onslaught. I’m always needing to catch up, especially for a reality check on what others are thinking.  In spite of doing my best to read the NY Times daily, or listen to a full cycle of the news on public radio, I don’t have time to check all the blogs I know and like.  I am either selective, or  end up as I did today, devoting a significant block of time to just “catch up.”

Today, I followed a Tweet referring to Gary Vaynerchuk’s passion and containing a link to Fast Company video excerpts of a  feature panel.  Cheeky Geeky’s tweet premise?

Metrics? “I care more” is the @garyvee game plan for businesses. Great video – http://is.gd/ggrkZ

Did I buy the premise that by caring more, Gary is far more effective in the social media space than others? Upon viewing the video I had to add my two cents, excerpted here:

Customers have always been choosing, limited choice meant they either sat out or  settled for less than they wanted. With the increased number of competitors and the overwhelming array of choices now instantly available, social media has become a vital force. Consumers are always looking for signals, signs that reassure them they are making the right choice and so it is no longer the medium per se, but the voice of influence utilizing the medium that matters. The array of vehicles that enable customers to share their enthusiasm or disappointments, provide authentic signals that differentiate what’s out there and worthwhile.

But a later email  that referenced Turning Customers into Creators. This New York Times piece upped my desire to ante up and blog already. Particularly, this excerpt:

PlumWillow doesn’t want to wait until it hears — positively or negatively — from its customer. It wants customers in-house so it can always be ahead of the curve.

For PlumWillow, however, the trick is to find a balance between its own strategic direction and fickle consumer feedback.

For every brand,  less certain about how to use social media, why would they willingly turn over their strategic direction to an ongoing focus group of savvy teens? My eyes were rolling as I read in one sentence this brand’s wish to place itself at the front of the curve; and in the next,  that the ticket was having customers in-house opinions lead them. Not sure they have it straight. Merely building something, or even building it “right” will not make customers follow, let alone find you.  If leading opinion and closing sales were that simple  fewer firms would keep creating  purchase opportunities and consumers choices that much more limited.   Consumers are not just fickle, they honestly don’t know what works or what they want anymore than the producers do.  They only know whether what they have ,or seen, suits them or not.  What Social media has done is allow them the means to share this news more widely and effortlessly.  Sending direct signals to producers has managed to alter their footing from sheep to equal partners.   Re-reading Albert Hirshman’s Exit, Voice and Loyalty helped me to revisit the connection between true economic choice and  consumer actions. The elasticity of demand makes a large difference as to the willingness of suppliers to enter the market and compete.

Everyone who does participate  in using social media tools aid everyone else to figure it out.  If I’m sharing my reaction or preferences with one friend, why not let the world know too…maybe I can interest other people too. Did Facebook have a business model when they launched?  NO, but they seem to have captured if not kindled  people of all ages and geographies imaginings as well as  much revenue along the way too.  Strategic direction in the social media space is about leveraging influence to positive returns for both parties, buyers and sellers.  It’s not about what if?  but what Is or isn’t working and then responding in kind.

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