Who do people trust on social media?

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content marketing survey resultsSteven Van Belleghem recently posted in Content Marketing Research results of research showing where content marketers should focus their energies in the upcoming year. He wrote

Research agency InSites Consulting, data and sampling partner SSI, and translation agency No Problem! recently conducted a global consumer survey to better understand the consumer. Based on this research, we were able to draw five key conclusions that content marketers should take into account as they start to plan for 2013.

The data that intrigued me the most related to this survey question: “ “In your opinion, how reliable is the information posted on social media by each of the following persons?””

People we know personally” received the highest score by far. In other words: The most important “influencers” are those closest to us, regardless of the number of followers they have. This means that instead of “influencers,” we should be looking at “influence,” and that is something everyone can have.

What really struck me was the extremely low influence of “brand fans” (“politicians” was the only category to do worse). Information presented by staff, or even the company CEO, is seen as more reliable than information coming from a fan. Remarkable, isn’t it? An “ordinary” customer and his feedback and conversations, therefore, have more influence than feedback from a brand fan.

In general, this may be because consumers view brand fans as biased, so their recommendations may have a limited impact. This implies that our content should reach out to the average consumer, as well — not just those that have identified themselves as fans.

 Van Belleghem still sees value in encouraging “fans” through your marketing initaitives.

Yet, targeting fans is still ideal for kick-starting your content and getting it to spread to other consumers. The quality of the content will determine to what extent the second layer (after the fans) will share it as well. This concept of “layer sharing” is becoming more and more important as a content KPI. Further, brand fans can be “used” by companies in different ways.

For example, I still see a number of aspects where a fan represents an added value for a brand:

  • A fan is quick to share content: By sharing brand content, the brand’s reach expands. Once “ordinary” consumers also start sharing that content, its impact increases significantly.
  • A fan is usually also of financial importance to a company: It’s wonderful to have a place (e.g., Facebook) where you can strengthen the relationship you’ve built with your fans on an ongoing basis. This makes them more likely to stay and, therefore, more likely to keep buying.
  • Fans are clamoring to be involved in co-creation projects: Non-fans may consider them to be unreliable, but they are often intimately familiar with the company’s range of products and services. By using their knowledge and fandom to improve existing products and services, companies can make the most of excellent content opportunities.

social media book coverPoints taken — but I think we should also consider the data’s importance at its face value.

Word-of-mouth is still related most closely to our friends, network, and people we know personally.  Good news can spread quickly, and bad news can spread even more rapidly, if your joyous (or highly dissatisfied former) clients spread the word about their personal experience through social media.  All the wonderful “content marketing” you attempt won’t do much good if you have an under-swell of angry clients or (worse) one bad apple who really wants to spread damaging stuff about your business.

What should you do?  Well, you should monitor social media and build in systems for quick response when anything seems wrong. You’ll want to resolve complaints, show empathy to problems and generally be quick on the mark in a conciliatory and respectful manner when people start talking about you.  Consider nimble.com or hootsuite.com or other social media observation services to keep track on trends.

Take this stuff seriously, but don’t worry too much about how many “fans” you have. (See my social media marketing book for more insights.)

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