GO DEEP: Strong & Weak Ties – Your Genuine Challenge?

Strong Ties and Weak Ties

Strong Ties and Weak Ties

Once upon a time, there were “Strong Ties” and “Weak Ties” in business.

Strong Ties existed between you and your best customers. You interacted frequently and knew each other well. The bulk of your business was from and through these Strong Ties. It took some work. Maintaining them required a big investment of time and effort, but the benefits of business, the sharing of high-quality information, and the transfer of complex or “hidden” industry knowledge was well worth the effort.

Weak Ties were…well…weak. However, over time there was a declining ROI of time and effort in a network based on mostly Strong Ties. Weak Ties exposed you (and the Ties) to a broader span of knowledge, expertise and opportunity. Exposure to more diverse information and resources has been shown to drive higher rates of radical innovation, and be especially useful when you have a tough problem to crack.

How things stand today?
It’s complicated…
First, there are roughly 2 billion social media users in the world.

Billion…..with a B.

Second, according to McKinsey Global Institute, at least 70% of companies are using some form of social media. Online search and social media sites have increasingly become the primary, if not sole, source of information for individuals and businesses alike.  These have largely displaced traditional sources such as printed company literature, the Yellow Pages and business directories. Organizations no longer have control over what is disseminated about them. As one publication states, “most of what is said about the company will not be said by the company” (AT&T, 2011). In a recent global consumer survey by BrightLocal, 88% of respondents said that they place greater trust in other people’s online recommendations for products and services than in other sources. The significance of this is reflected in the growing popularity of consumer websites based almost entirely on personal reviews, such as TripAdvisor and Yelp, and the dominant role of consumer reviews on leading e-commerce sites such as Amazon, eBay, and Facebook Business pages.

OK, so Weak Ties are becoming more important, Strong Ties are evolving, and you have a business to run. What does this mean that you do?

  • You need to develop new relationship-based associations with your customers and other social media participants (All Ties…), especially to build and maintain brand loyalty and to manage or at least influence what is being said about you online. Instead of just disseminating information about the organization and its products, you need to actively participate in the discussions on social media sites and develop other methods to engage Internet users. Most people deal with information overload when surfing the Web or visiting social media sites, so you need to design and implement content and initiatives that are interesting, entertaining or thought-provoking, to capture and hold their attention.
  • You will also be judged by the way in which you respond to online customer feedback, especially negative comments or complaints. Your reputation is on the line here, since everyone on the Internet can observe the interaction and judge accordingly. You need to develop and maintain not just a brand but an online personality which is likeable and well-respected and with which individuals can develop a real sense of familiarity and emotional connection. It is now often argued that ROI on marketing should now be measured not in traditional sales terms, but in terms of “return on engagement”. What is important is a measurement of engagement or emotional investment in the brand, such as active participation on the company website or favorable references to it in blog posts. These not only translate into longer-term individual loyalty but also help to attract additional followers who may become fans and customers.
  • Key in both the B2B and the B2C social media contexts is the ability to identify and build relationships with “key influencers” in the business network or target market. Jay Baer writes about this topic regularly with keen insight. This observation returns us neatly to the concept of social networks and the concept of weak and strong ties. In order to achieve the desired business objectives, there is a need to plumb the mass of online users and identify those likely to have the greatest impact. Within social networks, for example, there are usually key individuals or “trusted experts” who have established a strong reputation in their field. You need to make positive connections with a few key influencers who will transmit positive information about you. This is likely to be much more effective a strategy, and much less resource-intensive, than direct relationship-building with large numbers of people in the target market. Similarly, when a business partner or expert is needed, it can be invaluable to locate and build a relationship first with a “critical enabler” or “trusted advisor” who can offer not only detailed knowledge of the relevant industry niche and its participants, but who also knows the key decision makers personally and can help arrange an introduction or advise on the best approach to them. The old saying, “It’s not what you know but who you know” applies.
  • Curtis & Lewis (2010) argue that in order to develop effective relationships with key enablers or other stakeholders, the principle of progressive reciprocity should be followed, in which something of value is offered to the other party at the outset, not just after an offer of help is secured. You might benefit from developing and maintaining strong ties with key influencers or critical enablers who are likely to provide ongoing value and benefits in return. At the same time, you should maintain a wider network of weak ties with other stakeholders who hold relevant knowledge, expertise or market influence. One strategy that is likely to be effective across the board is to establish the your company itself, or individuals within it, as trusted experts in a particular subject area, for example by publishing well-researched, informative articles or blog posts on relevant topics.
Business relationships in the early 21st century have become much less binary and much more fuzzy. Your opportunity here is to establish a bit of order out of the seeming chaos online, think differently about relationship-building and your VACC (Visitors/Audience/Customers/Community), and realize the untapped potential for explosive business growth this presents to you.

Go on……we’re waiting to hear from you!

The 5 Top Tested and Approved Posts for June!

 Kicking off the summer months with some TERRIFIC material covering ROI, opportunity discovery and various views on reaching the right Visitors/Audience/Customers/Community (VACC) for your business.

Who's your audience?

Do you know your Audience?

 
Growing on Social Media doesn’t mean quadrupling the number of times you post. It requires study, research, strategy and an understanding of the important metrics that drive your business online. That’s a lot to ask of a small business owner….this article by Jay Shemenski outlines 5 steps toward identifying the opportunities for your company. If this looks like something you need help, give us a call.

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They’re Here!! 5 Outstanding Social Media Posts for May

 This month we’re treated to a nice mix of articles covering How-Tos, new research studies and a bit of crystal ball gazing for future trends.

Measuring Social Media

KPIs for Social Media

Measurement is the crucial component to understanding if you’re meeting your goals, right? Yet many small-to-medium sized businesses charge into the land of social media without considering what their goals are and what to measure. This article by Dara Fontein outlines some metrics you might consider, and WHY you might consider them.

With a flurry of articles earlier this year like “Is Google+ Dead?”, you might wonder just what is going on. While not dead, it is not what it was, and Google, which has a track record for altering, spinning off and dropping products at a seeming whim, is still tweaking the channel. This article by Martin Shervington goes over the list of what the current release of Google+ looks like, changes that impact you and your business if you’re investing resources there, and a some tips on how to approach it today.

Long content vs short content

Pew Research graph: Long vs. short form content on mobile

This article by Andrew Hutchinson takes a deep look at new research by Pew Research that tries to answer this question: One research study last year showed that long-form content (defined as posts of over 1,000 words) consistently got more shares and links than shorter form content; another study found that the average human attention span had dropped by 33% since 2000, largely attributed to mobile phone use, and, given the increase in mobile media consumption, would seem to suggest that people want shorter content…..sooooooo, which one’s better?

Teens Most Important Social Network Snapchat

TEENS: Most Important Social NetworkSnapchat

This great synopsis of statistics and charts covers a number of areas beyond the fact that Snapchat overcame Instagram in the perceptions of teenagers with an average age of 17 as their “most important” social network. This is critical information if your business has this demographic as a key audience. Very few marketers use Snapchat today, so the opportunity is huge.

Facebook Logo

Get Better Performance on Facebook!

Another top article by Andrew Hutchinson with the goal of helping you boost your posts’ performance on Facebook. Take note that, early in the article he writes, “So how do you maximize your performance on Facebook? The basic answer is ‘listen to your audience’.” If you haven’t done the work around discovering and understanding your Visitors/Audience/Customers/Community (VACC), tactical efforts will be ineffective.

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What Is The Secret Truth About Your Marketing Plan?

Digital Marketing Strategy

So you have a strategy for your digital marketing?

Working with the swirling realities of digital and social media marketing can feel like trying to quietly tread water in a really nasty river rapids that never ends….and then there are the rocks to avoid. As a business owner it’s hard enough. As a marketing professional, it is mind-numbing at times….still, that’s part of what I do and I confess to a kind of the same excitement as that metaphoric water-treader.

I have recently started working with a client who floored me by having something I have not seen in a long time at similarly-sized businesses: an actual Marketing Plan.
Really.
The business owner pulled it up on her laptop and I wanted to hug her…

This isn’t to say that other business owners haven’t spent time thinking about their marketing, but this owner had taken the next step and mapped it out for the next year….and even looked beyond. I identified a number places in the plan where I can add tremendous value (hence our starting to work together…), and we began to discuss the goals, measures and value we can bring to the business. I am totally psyched to begin this project!

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GO DEEP: Can You See Your Genuine Story?

Photographer against a sunset

Photographer against a sunset

You already know about the requirement of posting Top Flight, Relevant, and Shareable content. You may even be working to make sure that you attach a photo or graphic to your posts, since people are attracted to pictures and tend to gloss over text-only posts.

Photos are even more important than you think!

In a recent article, Mark Schaefer listed out 15 Amazing ways social media is changing the world and the one that jumps out at me is that we now “talk” through photos. A photo or stream of photos is becoming an important mode of communication at the expense of text and voice. This assists those who are not sure of their communication skills, and takes advantage of the complex processing our brain goes through to interpret pictures.

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FOCUS: Aren’t You Easily Worth More Than FREE?

English: Graph of social media activities

English: Graph of social media activities (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

OF COURSE you’re using social media to market your business! It’s 2016! NOT having a Facebook Business page is like not having a logo or a business card…..unthinkable!
So how’s that going?
It seemed so straight-forward when you worked through that online wizard: uploaded a few photos (they didn’t quite fit the alloted space, but you just needed to get SOMETHING in there…), banged out a short description, added a link to your web site, made a post or two, invited all your friends and family, and hit the PUBLISH button. Easy Peasy…

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FOCUS: Can You Measure the Hard Things?

English: Red button.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We all want things to be easy. And it’s not just business, American or Western Society that defaults to easy. While I still worked at Microsoft, one of my managers got our entire team “Easy Buttons.” You pressed the Big Red Button and a voice said, “That Was Easy!”
If only….
We have a few things working against us:

  • The problems and challenges we face today (business, societal and personal) are complex with no simple answers. The kind of effort required to tackle them can’t be splintered into micro-moments of attention (better known as “multi-tasking”…). We need big blocks of time, and lots of them, to work through these things.
  • Our culture prizes Fast, Immediate, Responsive, 24/7/365 over taking the time to gain the ability to learn hard things more quickly and produce at an elite level (so we move past “good enough” to “WOW!”).
  • The difficulty of measuring the complex over the simple (an example – “audience engagement” versus a Facebook page “Like”).
  • The tendency to answer a simpler question when confronted with a difficult one (more on that shortly…).
 As business owners and entrepreneurs, what does this mean?

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March: It’s Here with Spring, Brackets and Expert Info!

Another bumper crop of great information published by a number of sites this month, so let’s dig in!

1 billion posts!

1 billion posts!

  • How To Improve Facebook Engagement: Insights From 1bn Posts :: This set of data, inhaled and analyzed by the good folks at BuzzSumo, provides some head-scratching information around what you may have thought was THE way to engage on Facebook.  While correlation is not causation, and they even wonder why some of the data shows what they show, it can provide you with some things to try. Remember, though, your audience may not act like others, so test these things out before gluing them into your plan.

Facebook Content Discovery...

  • Facebook Vs. Google: Is Facebook Winning The Content Discovery War?  :: Another great data-driven post from BuzzSumo! This one focuses on how Internet users (and Facebook users in particular) are finding the interesting stuff they want to consume…..and Facebook is coming out ahead! So should you publish on your blog and web site and SEO the daylights out of it ($$$?), or post to your Facebook Business Page? Your mileage may vary, but the data are showing that you may be discovered more readily on Facebook.

Fifty Features for Small Business Web Sites

  • 50 Features Every Small Business Website Must Have [Infographic] :: The 3 primary issues I come across with my customers when it comes to their web sites are: (1) They don’t have one, (2) They have one they built themselves, and it REALLY looks like it….., and (3) They have a web site that was last touched about 2009! This infographic gives you a high-level snapshot of what you need at a very base level for your small business site. I always recommend that you engage a web designer who understands current design trends and technologies, works with your business’ requirements BUT doesn’t skimp, and can point you to partners who can do basic SEO and social media integration (not to mention point you to a seasoned social media and digital strategy resource, too….without a plan, this is much less likely to work).

Twitter is Important!

  • Here’s Why Twitter is so Important, to Everyone  :: Facebook seems to be in everyone’s faces all of the time. To many of my clients, Twitter appears either irrelevant, inappropriate or just plain scary (the fire-hose effect can seem intimidating…). But the thing that drives that fire-hose is the real-time feed, and therein lies the value of this channel. In this article Andrew Hutchinson (someone well worth following online, by the way…), he outlines why you might want to pay closer attention to what Twitter can do for you.
Successful Brands on Social Media

Successful Brands on Social Media

  • What Makes Brands Really Successful on Social Media  :: So, who DOESN’T want to be a successful brand on Social Media? In this article you can find out how some of the most successful brands do it, then figure out how that can be re-purposed for your business. Learn from the best, but don’t just do something because someone else does…..test it, measure it and make sure it works for your business and your audience!
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Across My Desk: The Best of the Month of Love & Presidents

There are a LOT of great articles published this past month. Vetting them for you is a pleasure by which I learn more AND glean the “wheat from the chaff”, so to speak.

So here we go!!!!!!

Look at the Stats!

Look at the Stats!

Normally random statistics & numbers flow past my eyes without really catching on anything. These stats are worth looking at because they are recent AND may help you recognize the criticality of have a strategy for your social media marketing, the importance of getting some expert help in this area (that IS what my company does, you know!), and the fact that it likely applies to and impacts your business more than you know.

Facebook flex targeting

Facebook flex targeting

You probably haven’t heard of flex targeting on Facebook. Flex targeting lets you serve Facebook ads to people who share a highly customized combination of interests, behaviors, and demographics. It allows you even more refined and tailored targeting to ensure that your ads get seen by the right folks and don’t get lost in the noise of the other posts and ads.  This is a particularly helpful How-To article.

Keys to Success on Social Media

Keys to Success on Social Media

Major Keys to Success on Social Media

To those of you who have worked with me and with my company, Social Sapiens (or subscribe to my newsletter), the keys listed in this article will sound very familiar. Strategy, intention, discipline, community, #H2H, content…..the building blocks and road to success. If you’d like to check out another solid point of view, read on and enjoy!

Facebook: News Feed Algorithm Now More Influenced By User Feedback & Surveys

Any business that is fully engaged with their visitors, audience, customers and community on Facebook will wish to stay on top of ANYTHING that impacts the news feed. As it states early in the article, “Facebook’s News Feed algorithm is relying more heavily on user feedback and surveys, and not in the form of the traditional signals such as likes, comments and shares.” If you want to find out how this impacts your work on the channel, read on.

Top 10 Social Media Blogs - 2016

Top 10 Social Media Blogs – 2016

Top 10 Social Media Blogs: The 2016 Winners!

One of the biggest challenges of staying on top of what I’ll call “reputable trends” in social media is carefully choosing the voices to listen to. Fortunately, every year Social Media Examiner publishes a list of the top 10 Social Media Blogs from across the industry. The selections are made based upon input from social media professionals and influencers globally. If you wish to add a site or two to your regular “keep the business marketing improving” reading every month (or week), one of these may fit the bill.

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5 Superior Social Media Posts to Drive Your Business!

You want “The Short List.”

This list gives you the best information for your business, and let’s you understand what will make your digital and social media marketing work so you can get back to work. I have collected these 5 articles from around the web as the best of the best for October. Read them all, then figure out how you can execute on them, based on your goals and resources.

Ultimate Blog Post list

Ultimate Blog Post list

You’ve got a blog or intend to start one, but are REALLY intimidated by the idea of having to come up with posts every week (or however frequently you have decided to publish…). I scan this list regularly to jog my creative juices and come up with new ideas. This article is by Russ Henneberry of DigitalMarketer.com.

Social Media Expectations

Social Media Expectations

There are still a lot of entrepreneurs and small businesses that are guilty of “magical thinking” when it comes to what social media can accomplish for their businesses.
When you go searching around the web for ideas to improve your digital and social media marketing, you’re confronted with the same thing I am: a TON of information! You don’t have the time, the patience, or maybe even the depth of expertise or comfort in a lot of these areas to know who’s reliable or who’s just selling something. This article by Carol Stephen helps you stay grounded.

ROI cost-effectiveness

ROI cost-effectiveness

The acronym ROI (Return On Investment) is so easily bandied about that most of the time you think you know what it means, and you’re wrong. I learned so much by reading the works of K.D. Paine that I want you to become acquainted with her and her work. Most of the time, what you really want to know is the CEA (Cost-Effectiveness Analysis), which “compares the relative costs and outcomes (effects) of two or more courses of action.” This article will help you get the difference so you can figure it into your calculations for resources and costs.

Social Media and Competitors

Social Media and Competitors

If there really is “nothing new under the sun,” then it makes particular sense to check out what your competitors are doing (successfully and unsuccessfully…) on social media. This article by Matt Walker, CEO of Main Path Marketing, outlines some great tips and a good starting methodology to figure out how other companies’ social media strategies, altered to fit your business, can help you. Competitor research is something that a lot of small and medium businesses miss, and it can be a real gold mine.

Networks and Communities

Networks and Communities

Networks connect; communities care.” In this Harvard Business Review article, Henry Mintzberg, a professor of management studies at McGill University in Montreal, touches upon the roles of each kind of construct. In my business I work with clients to understand the opportunity and value of each kind of construct (network, audience, and community) and ensure that businesses approach them in ways that drive the greatest value. If you want to get a handle on the differences and challenges, this is a great place to start.

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