Can We Be Friends? Delivering Active and Authentic Audiences Through Social Sharing

Written on
Apr 24, 2012 
Rob Jewell  |

ADOTAS – Social networks, by design, are an extension of a person’s interests. People often use these networks for voyeuristic reasons. People are also drawn to networks that allow them to get back as much as or more than they give. The idea of reciprocity drives these networks, too. Once people are there, they find sub‐networks of people who work in the same place, went to the same school, like the same causes, follow the same music and read the same books, among many other things.

No matter the age, users maintain connections through sharing information and experiences with their peers and also as a networking tactic to discover similar interests, school affiliations and business connections. Users are in control of who they are friends with, who they interact with, what conversations they join and what information they want displayed. They are the drivers of their profiles and their information.

Facebook’s unique position as the largest social network also provides rare insights from the “who” to the “what” to the “where” that marketers use for more accurate targeting, making the social network a truly unique and highly effective advertising opportunity. In fact, Facebook’s engagement is triple that of other portals, and visitors spend more than eight hours a month there, on average. When users share content, your customers spread the word for you — it’s word-of-mouth marketing at scale. The implication for marketers is huge — if executed correctly. Statistics show that peer referrals are trusted by 90 percent of consumers, whereas paid advertising is trusted by 14 percent of users. The stats speak for themselves — word-of-mouth marketing at scale drives significantly more effective results than traditional paid advertisers. Facebook is onto a powerful concept of fans sharing peer referrals.

Social networks like Facebook that have strong, well‐defined community interests, concerns and needs provide the audience and structure for this to occur time and again into the foreseeable future. And, when coupled with location‐based services, user‐generated content, seamless on‐demand functionality, successful media and marketing opportunities will undoubtedly transpire.

Breaking through the clutter and into the community requires that you demonstrate how your offer strengthens and efficiently enables the interactions with those within the community. Competing for time and attention means relevance is now the name of the game. People are increasingly turning to their networks before turning to traditional search engines for advice on everything from jobs to cars to relationships. Users need a return on the investment of the time they spend on the web in the same way that marketers need ROI on their marketing dollars. They want to find more accurate information faster and more easily. Offers that do not measure up won’t break through the clutter — rather,they will become part of the clutter.

Good marketing has always been about building a relationship with the customer. In many ways, social networks as marketing channels are the opportunity marketers have been dreaming of for decades — an opportunity to access a ready‐made community of people who are open about who they are and what they like, and who – unprompted – share those likes and dislikes with the members of their network.

But it’s precisely this aspect of social networks that give them a very sharp edge. As marketers, social networks aren’t yours to control. And neither is your message. The network will decide how they view you and what they say about you. Ceding control is necessary to building the credibility and proving the authenticity that is so critical to being “friended” by these strong communities. Marketers must keep in mind that these communities are already vibrant ecosystems that haven’t invited you in and will ignore you — or worse — if you barge in uninvited or don’t add any real value.

Accessing consumers through social networks, therefore, requires a keen understanding of what drives these complex ecosystems and triggers the actions of their members. Leveraging the power of social networks and social sharing is much more than devising a well-crafted marketing campaign — it’s about engaging the community and strengthening the relationships among the friends who are part of that community.

Achieving this begins with stepping back and developing strategies that truly add value to the friendships that define that network. Earning trust and building relationships must come before the sales pitch. Heed that advice, and you’ll find that in the end that both your company and your bottom line will be “friended” by them even more.

Rob Jewell is known as one of the early pioneers of the incentive marketing industry. The first company he founded in 2000 reached #18 on the Inc 500. In early 2008 Rob shifted focus to monetization of social networks and launched an ad network for Facebook apps called SocialCash. After becoming one of the largest ad networks on Facebook Apps, Rob sold off the SocialCash line of business, re-branded and re-launched the company as Spruce Media.

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