Maybe it’s more a paradigm shift than a paradox, but scarcity as a persuasion technique seems to have lost some of its luster in our social networking age.
At least where exclusivity in wielding social influence is concerned.
This observation began with something I experienced on Twitter the other day.
I was checking out new followers to decide if I should follow back. I was pleased to see one of them is a former associate who I haven’t heard from in a long time. What a great opportunity to reconnect!
That opportunity was thwarted when I tried to follow back. I was notified that the account is locked, the tweets are protected, and my follow is pending approval. I’ll take a pass.
It seems to me this approach is anti-social. It runs counter to the fundamental idea behind social networking. The message it sends is “I don’t trust you and what I have to share is so awesome, you have to qualify to see it.”
That might work for selling luxury items, but it doesn’t make sense on social networks.
What does work on social media is accessibility, sharing, connecting and responding. Trust and generosity are the underlying values enabling that.
The paradox of scarcity is that its power lies in limiting those things in order to create desire for them.
I have an ongoing story arc in my own home that illustrates this paradox.
A tale of two kitties and social influence
I have two feline housemates that allow me to share living space with them. If you are a cat owner, you know what I mean.
One is a Russian Blue named Bela. A characteristic of that breed is they are very shy, untrusting and only bond with one human. I didn’t learn this until I brought him home.
I’ve had him more than 10 years and most of my friends and family have never seen him. At the first sign of a stranger he hides in the basement. My mom refers to him as my imaginary cat, since she’s come to doubt his existence.
Because of his limited access, he has succeeded in generating curiosity and desire to see him and experience his presence. He is anti-social, but esteemed from a distance.
My other cat is a Siamese named Uma. A characteristic of that breed is they are very talkative and social. She makes her presence known in every situation, constantly underfoot, demanding attention and engaging in every conversation despite the language barrier.
Because she has greater trust, she is accessible to everybody. She connects with a wide variety of people in far greater numbers than Bela.
Social success belongs to connectors
Connectors are critical to spreading word-of-mouth epidemics on social networks. Malcolm Gladwell describes them as:
- Gregarious and intensely social with a knack for making friends
- Knowing a lot of people
- Knowing a variety of people from different worlds and subcultures
Bela, with his limited access, will never have the social influence or reach Uma does.
Another example of this is Amanda Palmer, performance artist, musician and social media innovator. In a recent TED Talk she told her story of building a tribe through connection and extraordinary trust. It’s a great message. What do you think?
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One of the most basic ways to get attention is to break a pattern, creating the unexpected.
Consumers in this age of online marketing and social media see staggering amounts of digital information every day, so what is more unexpected than receiving a piece of direct mail? That’s breaking a pattern.
Direct mail marketing has been out of vogue long enough to be a novelty again. In fact, some B2B prognosticators predict a return of direct mail in the coming year as a multichannel differentiator used by savvy marketers.
In concert with your online marketing strategy, direct mail still offers solid advantages:
- You can control the message
- You can reach your target audience directly
- You can drive a response from your target audience
- There is less competition for mindshare in the mail box now
With renewed interest in integrating direct mail into multichannel marketing, it’s a good time for a direct mail refresher. Here are slides from a presentation I gave at the University of Minnesota College for Continuing Education on direct mail strategy and execution.
Integrating direct mail and social media
Done right, you can combine outbound targeting with inbound engagement to create a dynamic interactive experience. The key is to align your direct mail objectives with your online marketing objectives. This alignment gives a powerful one-two punch to:
- Grow your social networks with incentivized calls-to-action offering discount coupons
- Drive deeper engagement with a promotion by leading a prospect online
- Expand the reach of a direct mail offer via social sharing
How is this being done today?
The integration possibilities are limited only to your imagination. Many of the multichannel approaches used today center on QR (quick response) codes and personal URLs (PURLs). Including a scannable QR code on the mailing piece allows you to interact with prospects at the moment of interest by:
- Taking them to a microsite or personal landing page with custom content that guides them through the decision process
- Giving more information via video demos or online catalogs
- Offering discounts and the ability to order online
- Taking them to a social media page to view testimonials and interact with your brand
Post card delivers
One case study using these tactics tells a compelling story of how well multichannel marketing can work.
A new restaurant franchisee used integrated direct mail and social media to bring traffic to the new store. They mailed 5,000 targeted post cards printed with PURLs that contained the customer’s name in the domain.
Customers were instructed to go to the microsite to activate a discount coupon. The microsite contained more coupons for additional discounts as an added reward for participating.
The customers were incented to share the offer with friends on social media. By sharing, they were entered into a sweepstakes to win free chicken meals for a year.
The campaign resulted in more than 14,000 visits to the microsite. That’s a 280 percent response from the original mailing of 5,000.
As you can see, there is great potential for leveraging direct mail with digital marketing channels. And, the prevalence of digital marketing makes direct mail seem new again. Unexpected, even.
What are your plans for direct mail this year?
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One of the most valuable lessons I relearned this past year is this: adversity is inevitable, but misery is a choice.
This is the story of how I recovered from adversity with a renewed mindset and the help of social media.
I entered last year with a formidable laundry list of personal and professional setbacks, which provided many reasons to be miserable. If anybody had earned the right to be despondent, bitter, anxious and depressed it was me. The ledger read like an excerpt from the book of Job:
Job loss. Over the previous six years, I got caught in corporate downsizing crosshairs four separate times.
Job search rejections. I ran through a steady stream of interview gauntlets, reaching the final round only to get passed over each time.
Relationship train wreck. Self-explanatory, but awful timing.
Financial depletion. After going through my savings, I was forced to tap into my retirement account to keep the lights on. Twenty years of saving wiped away in 24 months.
Health crash. The cumulative effects of stress combined with a concussion and a knee injury took its toll on my body. I had gone from earning a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and being in the best physical condition of my adult life, to being unable to walk across the room. And no health insurance.
What thoughts can do
There was a battle taking place in my mind. Mulling over my circumstances led to a series of self-defeating thoughts:
Why should I lose my job while other less talented and less accomplished people hold on to theirs?
Where are all those I have helped to advance in their career? Why can’t one of them open an opportunity for me when I really need it?
This economy keeps getting worse. How can I possibly hold on until it turns around?
I can’t believe how unfair it is to have to use up my retirement savings to make ends meet. How will I ever make up for that loss?
I should be in my peak earning years right now, instead of struggling to find work.
Maybe I’m too old to be a desirable candidate.
All those years I paid into health insurance and never needed to use it. Now when I do need it, I don’t have it.
This is destructive self-talk. It’s natural for the rational brain to get highjacked by emotions. That is how we are hardwired. But focusing on the problem only enlarges it. The key to winning the battle for your mind, and rising above your circumstances, is to shift the focus to your desired outcome.
That is the daily battle, the principle I had to relearn during my time in the valley. There is a verse in the Bible that says, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2) It’s a very practical summation of what I experienced. The word “renewing” suggests an ongoing process, not a one-time event. With regular thoughts focused on what I could do and where I wanted to be, I began moving toward it.
Social media therapy
I refocused my thinking on three things I could do: network, learn and write. I decided to create a high profile digital footprint.
I already had a good profile on LinkedIn, but I wanted to make it ridiculously awesome. I studied and took webinars on how to optimize my presence and expand my network. I grew my connections from 400 to more than 5,000 in eight months. I optimized my profile to where I show up in search results 50-70 times a day, and my profile is viewed an average of five times a day.
I did the same on Twitter. Starting from ground zero, I built a solid following and a consistent content sharing plan. In eight months I made many great connections with marketers all over the world that I can interact and network with.
Then I put my writing and publishing experience to work by launching this blog. Initially my plan was for it to be a platform to show what I know to recruiters and hiring managers. However, through social sharing and search optimization my audience grew to include other bloggers and marketers. I began to think more like a publisher than a job seeker.
Blogging and social networking quickly became a passion. Social media became my therapy for personal development in a number of ways:
- It gave me a sense of purpose. Each day of creating and curating content for the Web gave me an opportunity grow my network and engage with others.
- It gave me motivation for learning. Every activity around researching, writing and discovering social platforms ignited my passion to learn more.
- It gave me a path to develop my skills. The discipline of publishing a new blog post every week forced me to develop my writing skills and adapt them for online readers.
You could say social media helped restore my sanity. But it couldn’t happen until I took the focus off of what I didn’t have and put it on what I could do to improve my circumstances. My most important development goal for this year is to master my thought life.
How about you?
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“The best strategy for obtaining a high Klout score is to simply create great content that your network wants to share and engage with.”
That’s a direct quote from the Klout website. It pretty much sums up all you need to know to increase your score.
SIMPLY create great content. SIMPLY engage your network.
The irony, of course, is that those things are not simple to do. Nor are they simple to measure.
Measuring your influence
In fact, Klout has a complex formula for measuring influence based on calculating 400 social signals across seven different networks for each individual each day. Most signals are derived from activities that rank influence attributes such as:
- The ratio of reactions you generate compared to the content you share
- The selectivity of those who share your content
- Your engagement levels with a wide range of individuals
Attempts to crack the code for Klout’s algorithm are futile. It is refined daily.
However, Klout does offer insights into the core concepts behind its social scoring. Those guiding principles give you an idea which activities affect your score.
Connecting to multiple networks can help your score. It gives a bigger picture of your potential reach.
Influence is built over time. Scores are based on a 90-day window of activity to arrive at a more consistent measurement.
Influence is the ability to drive action. Engagement is more important than the size of your network.
Activity is not the same as influence. Beyond engagement metrics like retweets and likes, how much content you create is also an important factor.
In a nutshell, this boils down to three primary scoring factors: true reach, amplification probability and network influence.
The key to improving your Klout score comes down to focusing your social media activities on those three scoring factors. In the excellent book on influence marketing, Return on Influence, Mark Schaefer outlines a practical three step process for accomplishing this.
1. BUILD A RELEVANT NETWORK
For optimum amplification, your personal network needs a balance of size and quality. Of the three scoring factors, this is the most manageable. Some tips for building an engaged network include:
- Create a benefit for those in your network
- Seek out others with an affinity for topics you discuss
- Weed out inactive connections that don’t move your content or provide value
2. DELIVER COMPELLING CONTENT
You need a focused strategy for both curating and creating content on the social Web. To achieve the kind of influence measured by Klout, your content must be helpful, informative, interesting and entertaining. This is what will drive engagement and sharing.
When it comes to social scoring, Klout rewards consistency. You need to blog, link, post, tweet or comment regularly and consistently to elevate your influence rating.
3. SYSTEMATICALLY ENGAGE INFLUENCERS
Your Klout score also depends on how often you engage, and with whom. When other influencers move your content or otherwise engage with you, your personal influence goes up. So it is beneficial to interact with people who have a higher Klout score than you. Some ways to spark engagement:
- Ask earnest questions
- Show appreciation individually
- Be witty and fun
- Participate in Twitter chats
- Keep tweets brief to enable sharing
The true benefit of raising your score
By following these three steps, you can make your Klout score go up. This content and network strategy is simple, but not easy. There are no shortcuts, tricks or black hat techniques to game the scoring system. It takes time and consistent effort.
But in the process of working these steps, you will not only see your score increase, you will also see your level of influence increase. Isn’t that all you really need to know?
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Have you considered creating a video introduction for your personal brand? It could be a difference-maker in your career advancement or job search.
Anyone who has had the experience of seeking a job in the past four years already knows it is tough terrain.
Aside from the difficult economic times, the job search game has changed dramatically. Applications are only accepted online, where they are deposited into a database of potentially thousands of candidates.
Another reality of the modern job search is most jobs – as many as 80 percent – are never posted. Advertising open positions on websites and job boards is the last resort for recruiters looking to fill a position. Their preference is to search candidates from within their network before looking outside it. In this environment, getting on the radar of recruiters and hiring managers requires a new approach.
We are all marketers now
The cold-blooded irony of today’s job market is that the most-prized candidates aren’t actively searching for a new job. They are pursued. Job seekers need to become the pursued. They need to think like a marketer, specifically like an inbound marketer in the digital world.
The inbound marketer focuses on creating content that is found and valued by desired customers. For job seekers, I would break it down to two imperatives: be found and be awesome. Develop a personal brand identity that distinguishes you from the masses and build a digital footprint that demonstrates your value. Here is how I have built my digital footprint:
My blog is the content hub for sharing information and showing my expertise and thinking about marketing strategy.
My weekly e-news digest extends my digital publishing profile and demonstrates knowledge of business technology trends affecting the marketing industry.
My personal website is where I have dedicated pages focused on accomplishments that reinforce my personal brand identity.
My LinkedIn profile is search optimized to be found by recruiters for the skills I want to be known for. It is also the primary platform I have for sharing content and engaging with my network of influencers.
My Twitter account is exclusively used for engaging with professionals in my industry. I approach tweeting as a publishing platform, with consistent topics balanced with regular engagement. Anyone looking at my Twitter stream will get a good idea how I use social media as a marketing channel.
My Facebook profile is primarily for personal use. But it is open for the public to see and many of my friends are past colleagues. I consider it a part of my professional digital footprint.
Most recently I have added YouTube video to my footprint. Here is my video resume.
What video can do for your personal brand
Inbound marketers know the power video and images have to persuade and engage users. Ninety percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text. When you are found by a recruiter, a video can break through the clutter and quickly convey your personal brand message. Here are the primary objectives for my video.
BRINGING THE BRAND TO LIFE
It tells my story in a unique, engaging way. In it, I can include aspects of my life experiences and work history that a hiring manager cannot discern from a resume. The use of images humanizes the storyline of my career path and reinforces the unique traits I have that comprise my personal brand:
- Learning. My lifelong passion for continuous learning, inside and outside my profession
- Creating. My creativity in developing strategy and producing marketing communications
- Leading. My history of effective teamwork and serving as a leader
- Achieving. My record of accomplishing objectives and striving for improvement
According to flip.net, videos have a 400 percent higher engagement than static content. My objective is to get attention, build interest and push recruiters deeper into my digital footprint to learn more. The call-to-action is to discover the details of my accomplishments and contact me to talk further.
Uploading video to YouTube with the proper tags and keywords increases the likelihood of being found on search engines. According to MarketingWeek, video results appear in 70 percent of the top 100 search listings. YouTube is the second-most used search engine after Google.
A video gives me one more way to spread the word through social sharing. Besides embedding it in my LinkedIn profile, the video can be shared via this blog post, on Facebook, Google+ and other social networks like Twitter. YouTube reports that 700 videos are shared on Twitter every minute. With some luck, mine – and yours – will be one of them!
Technology has enabled video creation to be within reach of anybody with a laptop, smartphone or digital camera. Content marketers and brand managers leverage its power to engage, enchant and influence customers online. Job seekers can do the same.
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For marketers, consistency has been a simple rule to follow for communicating across channels and optimizing customer experience.
However, it’s not always easy to achieve consistency. Let me illustrate with a story.
One of my favorite vacation spots is Mexico. Years ago I discovered Cozumel, and became infatuated by its charm. It offers all the things I enjoy in a getaway: tropical weather, beautiful beaches, authentic food and interesting tourist attractions like Mayan ruins.
Wandering around the port district is an escape into old town Mexico, where roving Mariachi bands and bazaar merchants are framed by colorful, historic architecture. It is an atmosphere that takes you into a different world.
One year I planned a return trip, but all the hotels were booked solid. The alternative was to go to Cancun instead. It was nice, but not the same experience I had in Cozumel. In particular, the shops did not have the same native charm. In fact, they weren’t shops at all. They were strip malls with all the slick stores and merchandise you’d find in any city in the U.S.
The contrast was striking. It set my marketing brain to reeling. Logically it makes sense for retail chains to create a consistent shopping experience for customers wherever in the world they may be. But the context didn’t fit my expectations. This consistency seemed, well, inconsistent. Does consistency matter as much as we have assumed?
The case for marketing consistency
Consistency is a key ingredient for social influence, brand loyalty, customer satisfaction and integrated marketing communications success. Consistent actions and messages deliver many positive benefits.
Consistency builds trust and integrity. In Return on Influence, Mark Schaefer’s book on influence marketing, he notes “a high degree of consistency is normally associated with intellectual strength, logic, rationality and honesty.”
Consistency establishes authority. This year Altimeter Group published a report on digital influence identifying topical relevance as a pillar of influence. When an individual or brand invests in a topic of interest, they earn authority and expertise from a community of focus.
Consistency builds confidence. Successful relationships thrive on predictable actions and messages. When others know what to expect of you, they are comfortable in knowing you will deliver on promises.
Consistency strengthens your message. “People cannot focus on two conversations at once,” says Harry Beckwith in Selling the Invisible. A focused message repeated over time has power to influence and persuade.
Consistency sells. “Would you like fries with that?” There is a reason fast food cashiers are trained to ask you that. Joseph Sugarman, author of Triggers, says once a purchase commitment is made, a buyer tends to act consistently with the decision and is more agreeable to buy more.
Challenges to consistent messaging
The “always-on” nature of new media puts demands on business communications that make it difficult to maintain marketing consistency. In an environment of rapid change, it can even render consistency moot. Consider:
Information overload. With the sheer volume of information on the Web, social media messages can evaporate soon after they are published. One recent study found the median lifespan of a tweet to be 18 minutes. You have to question the real impact of consistent messaging in that environment.
Real-time communications. Being able to respond to events as they unfold on social media is a powerful marketing opportunity. In the heat of real-time marketing it is also an opportunity to veer off-message and off-brand.
The attention economy. Because of information overload, we are increasingly challenged to find ways to make ideas stick. In Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath note one characteristic of a sticky idea is that it is unexpected. One way to get someone’s attention is to break a pattern. They explain, “Humans adapt incredibly quickly to consistent patterns. Consistent sensory stimulation makes us tune out.”
Putting it in context
Are we witnessing the end of consistency as a marketing maxim? I don’t think so. It’s more of an evolution pushing content marketing toward a higher degree of context. It’s a call to a deeper understanding of customer and prospect personas to reach them where and how they are consuming our message. And of course, this has a shiny new name: context marketing. One of the better explanations I’ve seen describes it as using known qualities of prospects to present content in a frame of reference that is natural or noteworthy.
I’d like to hear your thoughts. Has marketing consistency become irrelevant?
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The Klout phenomenon escaped me for a while. It seemed to divide people into two camps: those who object to the principle of saddling individuals with a rating score; and those who obsess over gaming social media activity to elevate their score and lead them to glory. Much of the dialog felt like the jocks versus the nerds during homecoming week.
Now I realize both sides are missing the big picture. I finally got it when I read Mark Schaefer’s book Return on Influence. It was an eye-opener, which I can only describe in two words. Awe. Some. I knew I was in for an interesting read when I came across this passage in the introduction:
We are at the dawn of the creation of a new social media caste system determined by how and when you tweet, connect, share and comment. The haves may score better jobs, higher social status, even better luck on the dating scene. The rules of personal power in our world have been changed forever. And there’s no turning back.
The new rules of online influence
The book lays a solid foundation for understanding online influence from its historical applications in marketing, to its basic elements, its role in content marketing, scoring processes, and current and future applications. It covers a lot of ground and is a compelling read for today’s online marketer.
In the first section he talks about the evolution of earned authority on the Internet. The glut of information available to users renders choice irrelevant. So we have a natural inclination to seek out authorities as a filter. Authorities earn trust by an online presence characterized by consistency, commitment and affinity.
Scarcity also plays a role for online influencers. While content is free, the real commodity is time, attention and reach. Influencers serve as brokers or gatekeepers to move content. The real power on the social Web is in reciprocity, the subtle indebtedness of exchanging favors for the distribution of ideas and content. These new rules are a dramatic change from traditional marketing. And they are being incorporated by marketers in new ways.
Influence marketing in practice
In another section, Schaefer outlines several case studies of companies using social scoring as a driver of marketing strategy. It is a powerful testimony of the potential for leveraging influencers to create buzz that achieves business objectives.
APPLYING SOCIAL PROOF TO TRADITIONAL MARKETING
An online merchant that matches buyers with trustworthy sellers added Klout scores to seller listings and saw likelihood of sales increase by 500 percent. Social proof gave juice to the purchase decision. The scores gave buyers added comfort in purchasing when they could see how long sellers have been online and how active they were.
ENGAGING INFLUENTIAL FANS
Auto manufacturer Audi used Klout to engage technology influencers outside of traditional trade press to nurture brand advocates on the social Web. They also used Klout scores to interact with millions of Facebook fans, employing targeted content. It enabled a more meaningful engagement. The outreach resulted in the buzz and reach they were seeking over and above traditional marketing.
A consumer packaged goods marketer devised a conquest strategy by combining social listening and Klout data to identify unhappy competitor customers and targeting them with coupon promotions. It is part of an overall strategy to move from expensive coupon blasts inserted in newspapers to more organic advocacy and pass-along activity online.
MANAGING ONLINE SENTIMENT
One company CEO interviewed is integrating influence scores into customer service to craft rapid responses to customers with the most potential for spreading negative word-of-mouth online.
PUBLIC RELATIONS AND CRISIS MANAGEMENT
A corporate director shared how he used social scoring to manage a potential PR disaster that could have affected company stock prices. A blogger posted that a key client might be going bankrupt, an assertion based on faulty data. After reviewing the influence scores of tweeters sharing the information, he concluded the misinformation was unlikely to spread enough to have an impact. The data gave the management team confidence to watch and wait. The meme quickly died.
These are a few brief examples of how businesses are currently using social scoring outlined in Schaefer’s book. Beyond the applications of early adopters, he concludes with a look to the not-to-distant future.
The future of social scoring
In researching the book, Schaefer interviewed 70 prominent thought leaders on social scoring and influence. Here are some of the developments they foresee for influence marketing.
1. The social scoring trend will help people reclaim their data and the value of that data.
2. Scoring algorithms will advance to measuring the dollar value of probable referral sales from the individual.
3. Technology will enable the understanding of network structures and influence of interactions in the network. Scores will be more about subjects of influence and the impact on the network.
4. Social scores will integrate into other key business metrics such as customer loyalty, satisfaction, retention, attrition, CRM.
5. Marketers will look to combine influence scores with location-based data.
6. Technology will seek to connect online conversations with offline behaviors.
7. Social scores will evolve into a form of social currency, where services are customized to individual levels of influence.
In this video, Mark Schaefer talks about the ideas behind influence and social media marketing discussed in his book.
‘We are numbers now’
It should come as no surprise we have arrived at a time when we can put a score to our individual influence. Google and Facebook keep track of massive amounts of data about our activities, habits and preferences. We are scored for our creditworthiness. Database marketers score us for propensity to buy. The natural progression leads to scoring our influence on social media. It has gone mainstream and has led us to new opportunities.
For those who struggle with the humanity of being rated for social influence, Schaefer offers this concluding thought: “Yes, we are numbers now. Unavoidably, we will be known for our Klout scores and followers and badges of social proof. But the smartest marketers will always remember that we are people too.”
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