giving it a population larger than most countries. That’s a lot of people talking about a lot of things (including products) to a lot of people! People are making more and more purchasing decisions online every day. It’s as natural to buy a product online as it is to go into a physical store. They buy clothes and shoes online, not to mention high-consideration items such as computers, cars, and jewelry. But that’s not all. Not only are consumers buying online, but thanks to social media, they’re conversing, socializing, and influencing each other online in a scale never seen before.
Call it a shift in Web behavior, but the way people make decisions in the real world is finally moving to the Internet in a big way. The social media platforms such as Facebook (shown in Figure 1-2), MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube are just a few of the places where people are asking each other for advice and guidance as they make purchasing decisions.
Comparing Social Influence Marketing with Other Marketing Efforts
It isn’t enough to deploy social influence marketing (SIM) in isolation of every other marketing effort. If you do, you’re sure to fail. Your customers will notice that you have a disjointed, conflicted story depending on where and how you’re interacting with them. Therefore, it’s important to understand how you can integrate your social influence marketing within your other more traditional marketing direct mail, public relations, display advertising, and promotions.
Among the earliest proponents of social media were digitalsavvy public relations experts. Many of them entered this space by treating social media just as they have treated the mainstream media. These professionals equated buzz (how much people talk about a specific product or brand) in the social media realm with press mentions in the mainstream media.
These PR experts identified the influential (influence defined as those having the most reach) bloggers and tweeters and started showering them with the same kind of attention that they had been bestowing on the mainstream media. They sent them press releases in advance, offered exclusive interviews, invited them to dinners, commented on their blogs, and carefully tracked how often their brands were mentioned and how positively.
For PR professionals, this approach made perfect sense. Arguably, they recognized early on how powerful social media could be and were among the first to track brand mentions and participate in conversations. In fact, many of the social media experts today are former public relations professionals who’ve taken the time to understand how social media works and how they can leverage it to support a company’s or a brand’s objectives. Many PR professionals also understand how bad press and traditional PR disasters can be amplified by social media if not addressed immediately
When it comes to buying display advertising (also referred to as media planning and buying) on Web sites where your customers spend time, social influence marketing plays an important role. Display advertising is about identifying Web sites your target customers visit, buying ad space on those Web sites, and then measuring how much those ads are viewed and clicked upon.
It’s as much an art as it’s a science because knowing which sites your customers visit, where they’re most likely to engage with an advertisement (where on the site as well), whether the site charges the appropriate amount for the advertisement, and how much that advertising affects purchasing is not always easy. Trust me. I work with media buyers all the time, and their jobs are harder than you think.