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A fine tune in a multi-megaphone content cacophony: Social influencers and brands

Imagine a megaphone…designed to blast sound indiscriminately into all ears within earshot with the expectation for everyone to find a tune or, at minimum, a beat. Imagine that going on all day and all night at high volume. Ouch! We’d all develop tinnitus.

Now imagine the megaphone of the future. Instead of painful noise, it amplifies comprehensible, sensible data only to those who actually want it, need it, appreciate it and are inspired by it. What about if this data were curated knowledge with built-in ethos, pathos, trust and intelligence! This clearly cannot be a device, technology, platform, software or artificial intelligence but, you guessed it, a human with lots of expertise and the hard earned ability to inspire others to believe, trust and act. Let’s imagine that this human also had a vast social network of interested audience members… Yes, this human exists. We have recently grown accustomed to call this person a social influencer. I don’t like that term, it gets the squiggly red line every time I type it and, to me, it doesn’t denote the right vibe. I prefer “intelligent insights curator” but I don’t expect it to catch on.

While we all know which one of our friends and family members influences us before making decisions (different people for different decisions), brands are also beginning to figure out that their customers have that very same need – to find an independent voice – online – they can consult and trust before making any purchasing decision or which brand they should trust in the first place. Brands, of course, have long known that independent experts are really, really important that’s why they have, for example, analyst relations teams. Now, we are in the ‘social influencer darling’ phase and are building programs that focus on creating long term, trusted partnerships with influencers who are social media rock stars with deep expertise and the ability to inspire action among their followers. We understand that this must be based on mutual value creation and we are seeing great successes when done right. Let’s be clear, this is very different from campaign marketing or celebrity endorsements.

Being in the shoes of figuring this out for my brand, it has become clear to me that social influencers can help a brand to expand thought leadership and trust only when there are common goals, philosophies and mutual trust nurtured over time into deep, long term relationships. When that happens, the outcome can be a beautiful thing: A harmonious tune in the ears of customers emerging from a loud, multi-megaphone cacophony.

This is exactly what happened recently when we brought in four social influencers to participate in a mini #Social360 Unconference during SXSW. They each gave a 10 minute micro keynote illustrating four different angles of the same topic: the social business of the future. The keynotes served as discussion starters for the online and onsite audiences who determined the topics for the following breakout sessions. If there were a ‘new idea smell’ you could have smelled it at the #DellLounge. We were able to amplify and extend the conversation with the help of our owned social channels and to a large extent via our social influencers who assured me that the experience was just as valuable to them as it was to us. This combination of influencer thought leadership in an audience driven Unconference setting led by an innovative social business leader proved successful in a trending, #social360 kind of way.

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Influence WHAT?

I wrote the following post for Mark Schaefer’s Grow blog:

It’s not a pitch, it’s a person. The super powers of influence marketing

I’m going to tell you a story about food but make a point about content, influence and service. Ready?

In theory, I love Whole Foods. I love the vision, the philosophy and the concept, and I love getting really good food. So far so good, but there is one thing that I don’t love: The vast amount of choices I have to make at every stop.

I get lost in Whole Foods, I feel overwhelmed, I come out with more than I intended to buy and, most often, with more than my family can eat before the expiration date.

I need a personal shopper! I need a place where someone has made this selection for me. I needed a personal relationship, not another aisle of food displays.

It was a dilemma for me … until I found Trader Joe’s. I became an instant fan of this specialty food shop. Sure they have great food, but Trader Joe’s also has something else – a distinctly human experience at the checkout – every single time. Without fail, I come out feeling amazing! This place has earned my trust and tickles my endorphins. Read more…

Got Social Capital?

I wrote the following post for Mark Schaefer’s Grow blog:

The Un-Tapped Value of Employee Social Capital

Why should any business owner like social media? Because social media connects people – employees to other employees, employees to customers, business and IT decision makers and vice versa, customers to customers, and so on.

Let’s forget the public giants, Facebook and Twitter, for a moment and focus on the social media technologies that connect employees of large companies to each other, inside the company. In this scenario, social paradise is when your social technologies (think company blog and micro-blog), are adopted by your employees and help form social capital among 10s or 100s of thousands of them on a global scale, like at my company, Dell.

Why should you care? Social capital (really not an oxymoron!) is a critical fuel for corporate knowledge sharing, innovation and growth. What company does not want that? Read more…