Wednesday, December 8, 2010

HOW TO Build Influence in Social Media


by Rick Bakas
reposted from Bakas Media

One of the best perks of my job is getting to speak at conferences all over the country (and soon the world) about social media and how it applies to business—more specifically how it applies to the wine and food industry.  Over the past two years I’ve been able to speak at conferences like TWTRCON DC, #140conf in LA, SMASH in SF, TWTRCON SF, Unified in Sacramento and various other social media events.  My shtick usually has to do with branding, or “social branding”.

Each time I go to one of these, I come away thinking the same thing—out of all the important strategies to focus on in social media, building influence might be #1.  The social media conferences are a great place to hear the latest case studies from thought leaders, and they’re a great place to hob nob with new friends in the lobby.  Moreover, social media conferences are a good place to determine who is building influence online and offline.

It’s Not About Followers

When I sit down to coach someone on social media, we don’t talk about how to use Twitter or how to set up a Facebook page, we talk about how to position their brand (personal or corporate) for online synergy.  I’m not as concerned with which tools someone uses, I just want them to use the social tools they feel comfortable with to build influence.  We begin to translate influence to ROI over time.

Number of followers have very little to do with influence.  A better barometer is and your klout score.  Klout uses granular data from your online interactions to determine how engaged your online audience is.  The more engaged your audience, the more of their attention you can capture.  That’s really what building influence is about…it’s not just social currency, it’s attention currency.  Klout will help you determine where your brand is strong and where it needs attention.  The whole of your Klout score is a sum of the parts of ALL the things you do on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube (coming soon).  Your Klout score starts at zero and goes up from there, it’s not like grades in school.  The higher the score, the more you are able to capture attention.  And in the world of social media, attention span comes at a premium.  Where attention goes, money follows.


The Importance of Reach

In my book, Quick Bites, I have a chapter about building influence using this formula:

Getting back to the idea of number of followers.  While it’s true the number isn’t important, it is important to know your reach.  Klout tells you your ‘true reach’ or the size of your engaged audience.  The reach is multiplied by a mix of brand positioning, subject expertise and trust.  Since my background is brand management from eight years at NIKE, I fully geek out on getting a brand positioned correctly.  I’m amazed at how many personal and corporate brands I see online that aren’t positioned correctly because they use different avatars on different social sites.  The question people ask me the most is, “what’s the most important tip in Quick Bites?”  Answer: be consistent.  For brands online, be consistent with the image you use for the avatar.  An avatar is your online “logo”.  Use the same one everywhere like a NIKE swoosh.

Expertise comes through online conversation.  I suggest a brand “own” five subjects or less.  For me, everyone knows I’m going to talk online about wine, food, bacon or social media geekery.  There’s a level of expectation.  Because my audience knows what I’m going to talk about, and I do it they trust me.  I’ve delivered what was expected.  A brand can be defined as a promise to deliver.   Trust is earned through consistently delivering on what’s anticipated, that’s why quality content is king.

In the wine industry, patience is part of the business.  Waiting for grapes to grow on the vine, then age in the barrel can take years before the product is actually enjoyed.  When the bottle is opened, the vintage might be from 15 year ago, but when the wine delivers on the promise and expectation, that’s a quality brand experience.  Patience is also part of the online business.  It takes time for the influence formula to show results, but consistent application of that formula over time will help a brand grow their online influence.

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