JournalismSocial Media

“Influencers” Conversation Indicates Social Media’s Maturation

If 2009 was the year of social media experimentation, 2010 is marking a year of maturation.  This is becoming increasingly evident in the collective conversation around “influencers.”  Industry questions have shifted from the novice, “Should my organization be on Twitter or Facebook?” to the more strategic such as, “Who should I engage, how do I engage, and how do I measure outcomes?”

It’s a very natural progression and in hindsight, quite predictable.  For example, in a Vocus survey of ~1,800 PR professionals in November of 2009, 80% of PR professionals said they would focus more on social media.  Indeed it appears they are.

Nowhere is this more evident than at industry conferences, like PRNews’ PR Measurement Conference held in March 2010.  Almost every presentation at the conference focused on the concept of influencers. In particular, Jennifer Scott, managing director of research and insights at Ogilvy PR, had some very interesting things to say on the topic – here are three things I took away:

  • Putting “relationships” back in PR. Social media has been lauded for its transparency, and part of transparency is relationship-building.  Want an influencer’s attention?  You’ve got to follow, engage them in discussion, and demonstrate you’re genuinely interested in the conversations to which they contribute…before making an “ask.”
  • Social media gives PR pros more to work with. Can you really get to know someone if you’ve never met them IRL?   With social media, it’s quite possible.  Even while people are communicating more often and on a wider range of platforms – profiles, background and the discussion gives PR pros more to work with – sales people call this building rapport.  It’s finding out what you have in common; perhaps they are an aviation enthusiast, or have an affinity for Apple’s new products.  Whatever their passion it’s important for the PR pro to find common ground that facilitates relationship building.  It’s the reason why good PR is often compared with dating.
  • You’re biggest advocates may not have the biggest names. Lance Armstrong’s battle, and subsequent victory, over cancer make him a natural influencer for any charitable organization joining the fight for a cure.  Even so, he is just one person, cannot possibly lend his voice to every effort, no matter how charitable he is with his time or how well intentioned the organization.  Consequently, organizations can spend a lot of time and money pursuing his attention and influence that might be better spent identifying smaller, but equally passionate voices.  For example while Lance has national, even global name recognition, there are a number of cancer survivors with very compelling stories, that would be more than happy to lend their support to a philanthropic organization mounting an effort to beat the disease. This is similar to the line of thinking in a traditional media sense:  Would you rather target a large newspaper that reaches a broad public audience, or a trade magazine that reaches a refined audience of likely customers, prospects and advocates?

It is clear that social media continues to mature. How is your organization leveraging social media today? How has this changed from last year? Let me know.

About Kye Strance

Kye Strance is responsible for the overall product strategy and roadmap of Vocus’ on-demand public relations software. Additionally, he heads the company’s industry research, providing both the analysis of the competitive landscape and identifying strategic opportunities for the company.

Strance often moderates Vocus’ monthly webinar series on the latest industry trends and has appeared in leading industry publications including PRWeek and eContent Magazine. Prior to joining Vocus, Strange was with Sharp Ideas where he was responsible for helping establish the organization’s new IT division including the development and design of multimedia, database, and computer-based training programs. Strange holds a B.S. in Economics from George Mason University.

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