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We are all continuously being influenced and we are all influencing continuously. We are the voice of marketing and the receivers of marketing. We are employees and customers. We are real people.
We all know this to be true and yet we seem to rarely act on it. Whether it’s email, social, programmatic or influencer marketing, the default strategy is all too often spray and pray. Send enough crap and some eventually sticks.
That’s why I loved the opening keynote to Wave 2017 conference last week. The conference was kicked off by Brian Solis, laying out why Influencer Marketing 1.0 was dead.
Checklist influence has led to influence diffidence and, as Brian argued, “it simply wasn’t working any more. Behind every screen, every expression and impression, is a human being . . . not a consumer . . . and, as marketers, we need to understand this truth.”
“If you judge influence as the ability to cause effect or change behaviour, then we’re simply not scoring a ‘home run’ often enough. Customers are smarter; they understand the difference between the authentic and the fake and they understand that they are now the influencers.”
“This means we are now in the age of Influence 2.0, one where we are all trying to reach audiences who have audiences of their own. We can no longer rely on Influence 1.0 and buy our way into an ecosystem that has become, and will increasingly become more so, cynical.”
A perspective on influence and Influencer Marketing 2.0
Instead of Influence 1.0, we have to earn social capital by being social (rather than doing social) and provide real utility and real value. Only when you have enough can you afford to start spending it. Screw up and abuse your customers and a large withdrawal will be taken from your social bank account – no questions asked.
The question therefore is how do we ‘earn’ social capital. There is, of course no one answer, but however we approach it we must be true to both our brand and the community we’re serving. Think in terms of authority, consistency, relevancy and reciprocity, rather than broadcast messaging. Work hard at utility, after all we all like people or brands that go out of their way to help us.
Real engagement then becomes a form of currency which Influentials (notice the different terminology) can choose to spend on your brand. As Joe Weston – We are Social’s Group account director, Adidas – said at Wave (see video below) this is about the ‘redefinition of influence’. He added: “What we are increasingly seeing is people moving away from the large-scale celebrity influence down the chain to the more everyday or proximity influence.”
Motivating your people channel to care
Even with social capital in play it’s not a given that people will actually advocate for your brand. This is where we can learn from gamification, argued Pete Jenkins from Gamification+ Ltd whose company looks at how to motivate employees through gamification: “Reward is a powerful motivator, but not financial reward. Instead, marketers and experience designers need to understand brain chemistry and how we can activate core purpose to drive innate behaviours.”
The example he used was gamification consultant Andrzej Marczewski’s model of motivation which argues that if we could understand and satisfy the emotional layer for people we will get much better long-term results. Badges, points and prizes are short-term fixes; they tend to wear off if you don’t also have an emotional connection.
There is a different path from the ‘addictive liking’ of Facebook and its ilk which have been deliberately designed to hook our brains on trivial reward mechanisms and are likely to have long-term effects on our children.
While using the same model but focusing on the emotional layer and assisting people to master skills and discover purpose, we create personal value and, through that, advocates. As an example, should a photographer just post his pictures online so that people will like and share them? Or would he be better, in terms of building a network of true advocates, to offer a free online course that explains some of the inspiration behind his finest works. You decide.
Making utility content work
Being true to Influence 2.0 doesn’t mean doing nothing. It means finding authentic connections and communities and nudging them. It means finding real fans, not fake followers.
One example shared last week was Air Mauritius. Qubist, the online advocacy and influencer platform, worked with them to create a genuine connection with Asian golfers to promote the Afrasia golf championships happening in Mauritius.
Live reporting and photography captured key moments on the ground, which were quickly edited into shareable media that could be shared by a chosen group of golf influencers through the Qubist platform. The aim: to put Mauritius on the map as a golfing destination by providing unique content that couldn’t be found elsewhere. The result: a reach of more than 12million in just 12 days.
Influence (and advocacy) starts at home
The more we know someone, the more we trust them. As we move further away from the centre of our own universe the less we trust and the less we listen.
And this applies to our work environment. Research shows that companies that get their culture right get major benefits from employee advocacy. Yet, according to Gallup, ‘74% of employees feel that they’re missing out on company information and news’ never mind having access to an established, considered program.
However, the same research does point out that only 13% of employees are actively engaged (on average) and therefore likely to advocate for their companies. Worryingly, 24% are actively disengaged (that means they would happily do harm to the business if the opportunity arose). The message is clear – yes, have an advocacy program, but make sure the housekeeping is in place first and you have an environment, a product or service and a culture that people believe in.
Best practice employee advocacy, in action, with GE
GE, with its 350,000 employees, understands that employee advocacy matters. Famous for its digital transformation efforts, GE has included employee branding and employee advocacy as an important piece of the puzzle.
Just four years ago, there was just one person in Employee Branding, today there is a team and an infrastructure that delivers value across GE, such as their Digital Industrial Brand Ambassador which encourages thousands of GE employees to engage online and ‘tell their stories’.
Today, there are thousands of active brand advocates for GE sharing stories, engaging with customers and making sure that the GE brand is authentic, believable and available across every social channel.
The ‘people channel’
The single biggest takeaway I had from last week’s conference is just how important influence and advocacy are, yet most companies are doing very little to seize the opportunity – and plenty of those are stuck in Influence 1.0 thinking, which is no longer fit for purpose.
Inevitably, the marketing landscape of the future will see the growing power of influence and advocacy. They offer a true representation of a company’s values, services and culture and they can’t be gamed very easily. Customers know this and will increasingly reply on this unofficial network to get the answers they want about the companies they want to do business with.
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