How do you define influence in the Social Age?
This is one of the most important questions any leader needs to ask herself – and, for those leaders not officially in marketing and sales but who are – yes – absolutely responsible for it (the CEO comes to mind here), this question is especially important.
After all, not all influencers are created equal, are they? Aren’t some a little more relevant to your target audience than others?
As with so many things in business, you already know this from your own experience:
- When you’re picking a new car, who do you look to for advice?
- And when you’re picking a baby seat for that car, whose advice do you seek?
For one, you’re going to look to your business peers, to your friends with similar taste, and then, once you’ve narrowed it down some, to Car and Driver, Edmunds, Consumer Reports – you get the drift: car experts.
But for that baby seat? My guess is the friends you ask won’t be your boardroom peers or golf buddies. They’ll be the folks you know with young children. Mommy bloggers. The crash-safety expert at your local police department. And then, finally, maybe you’ll also go to Consumer Reports – but you’d never think of asking MotorTrend for baby-car-seat advice. Would you?
Now take your real-life wisdom, born of real-life experience, and apply it to social media influence when looking to make an impact for your company. That’s right:
Social Media is no different from Real Life. The same rules apply.
I can name one enterprise CEO, not at all social himself, who swears by “impressions” – which, if you aren’t a marketer, is just a number that marketers assign to how many people they think might be exposed to your message.
Let’s break that last part down before we continue:
People. What people? Middle schoolers? Professional bass fishermen? Or decision makers out to buy what your company sells?
Might be. Yeah, that’s it. Remember, impressions are an Industrial Age metric. They were invented back when marketers had to rely on billboards and the magazines in doctor’s waiting rooms.
Exposed to. Not interested in, necessarily. Not “tuned in to,” or “actively looking for advice from.” Impressions don’t measure that stuff. By definition, they can’t. But more importantly, their aficionados don’t want to. Because these more-precise numbers, though infinitely more valuable, are also naturally smaller and thus less sexy and compelling to a CEO who is behind the times.
All of which brings us back to the CEO we were talking about six paragraphs ago.
This leader, not social himself, is all about the impressions: “We need more of those!” he says. His frontline staff knows full well that impressions are too crude a tool to give a second’s thought this deep into the Social Age, with all the sophisticated big-data-sifting analytics available to us, but they don’t tell him any of that (although they certainly snicker behind his back).
This is The Emperor’s New Clothes for the modern day.
It’s exactly what happens when the person in charge of the company does not keep up with the seismic advances in technology and society that effect his business, and when his staffers who do know better see correcting him as possible career suicide. Psychologists call it groupthink, and they teach all about it with case studies like the Bay of Pigs, the Challenger, and Kodak.
So, what’s a leader to do? This particular CEO needs to find someone willing to tell him his baby is ugly – in this case, that relying on something as blunt as impressions in 2015 is like using a hammer to perform brain surgery.
Then, disabused of what not to do, the CEO would be well-served to go social himself, so he can have an informed opinion on the topic.
Next, with an educated CEO looking over the CMO’s shoulder, marketing has to seek out the best analytics tool it can find, something that will help accurately identify those influencers out there who are being followed by companies like theirs: their peers.
We’ll talk about that next time.