With social media hording eyeballs in the thousands capable of sending a barrage of traffic on a whim, marketers, business owners and individuals alike are all trying to get their two-cents in and cast a line to lure significant traffic to their website.
Whether that traffic converts or not is another topic in its entirety; however, the power to congregate and share unique ideas, websites, or entertainment is priceless for branding, exposure as well as commerce (under the right conditions).
Social media is taking back the web from segmentation and categorization to predicate a collective community of memes. With passion as the glue that bonds us, the need to oversell is diminished by the notion that these are people who are already interested in what you endorse (since your share their interests).
With social media sites like Twitter creating digital posse’s in the thousands from people from all walks of life, anything you say or do can create a ripple or a rift in the fabric of the web. This hive mentality is nothing new, and unleashing the power of the collective within the dynamism of a meme, individuals can polarize their message to thousands with a simple sentence “like Oprah mentioning a good book and it selling millions”.
Are You Creating Ripples or Waves?
With ability to consolidate interests on a viral scale through affinity and affinity marketing; there is an unparalleled opportunity as an archetype or “thought leader” with a profound following a.k.a your “deep posse of subscribers” to promote or pass on a viral message to others.
This is one reason why Ashton Kutcher on Twitter or other known celebrities can reach subscribers in the hundreds of thousands or over one million in the case of Ashton. One blurb can make or break a business or a website that they mention from either lack of demand or a server taxing instant deluge of traffic.
Based on their social status within the community, that trust “which is based on prior experience and the culmination of their deeds, suggestions or participation”, comes with certain perks. The power to wield traffic means (a) you don’t need a search engine to deliver it and (b) you become less reliant on other sources for communication or commerce.
In one sense this is freedom, in another it is a threat to established forms of media that would prefer to spoon-feed you based on the interests of their advertisers. This is where the fear of net neutrality kicks could rear its ugly head in the future and a battle for the collective interests of the whole “which is self governing” in contention to the masses being governed by ignorance of their free will or power to choose what they wish to watch, surf or indulge.
Before it was strategic alliances with international consortium capable of putting a strangle-hold on virtually any market by way of saturation, branding and promotion. Now, with the social gene which has appeared on the web, a whole new type of collective self-regulating type of intelligence and behavior is emerging and shaping consumer purchasing habits and the channels they use to facilitate mass media or offline products and consumption.
This is good for the little guy, but bad for media conglomerates who once dominated the scene in what Seth Godin refers to as the TV industrial complex. Seeing the shift in the collective, now the scramble is on for such dated groups to “belong” to the new method of reaching the masses or face extinction like the yellow pages, eight tracks and cassette tapes, Myspace or Digg as well as many other things that “once upon a time”, were in like flint…
Where Search Falls Flat
Within the current confines of search engines (which are great as opt in pull-based marketing tools), people are searching for something, they enter a few keywords and voila “a group of relevant documents to select from”.
However, what if you don’t know what you want? Or what if what you want isn’t as exciting as discovering something new and refreshing? This is the quandary of rich media, advertising and traditional search.
Search is limited to finding the apex of a broad topic and parsing anything that “does not make the cut”, social media on the other hand is loose, relaxed, playful and full of persona as well as suggested reading, websites and the like from the constituents who occupy the community.
With search engines and their structure, how that relevance is determined however is still in the hands of programmers and those programmers gather feedback from users for their inspiration and insight to shape the policies that deem a site relevant and / or significant or not relevant and / or insignificant.
With social media on the contrary, it is up to the sphere of influence and the agreed upon layers of interaction that the community votes upon to validate usefulness to the group or to others.
Are You Trying to Sell Ice Cubes to Eskimos?
Rallying back to the point, people who are passionate about a topic do not need to be sold; they just need to be exposed.
Passionate “niche guardians” would prefer to belong to the apex of the conversation which transcends commerce on a topical level and establishes a precedent. This implies that they can share with others who can also appreciate that passion; which is why social media has become so viral.
People buy when they want to, not when you want them to, so, the adage of don’t force, allow, becomes a mode of operation when engaging the collective, rather than just blind promotion.
Marketing has and always will exist in a monetary system where currency changes hands for products or services. The inherent tendency of shameless self promotion should be tempered by tactful suggestion and in this way; those people who are the “guardians of the niche” will become your mouthpiece and “pass it on”…
Similarly, the need to drive traffic in droves will become less of a need, if you understand that through tactful positioning you don’t always need to bring the horse to water, you can just intersect where their path and position a trough.
Let’s face it; most websites are not ready for a number of reasons. They either (a) are targeting too broad an audience (b) lack urgency or the need to engage the product or service or (c) are simply not providing enough value for someone to engage.
Getting more traffic is considered a short-term solution if your conversion is waning. Yet on the contrary, achieving higher conversions from your offers from the same amount or less traffic is the preliminary litmus test.
If you can achieve conversion rates for commerce based products or services above 20% of the traffic that hits the page, then you are ready to attempt marketing with social media “since your offer is strong enough to sell itself”.
Why, you may ask… Because people are multifaceted and do not live to purchase, it is just something they do when the mood hits or something creates enough impact to generate an emotional charge that compels them to “get whatever it is that they want”, right now and at a great price.
Russell Wright from Themezoom, one of the most brilliant marketing minds at the center of the hub summarizes it well in his e-book – The “Four Million Dollar” Market Research Questions. The basis is, if you can answer three out of four of the “Four Million Dollar Questions” presented, then you can virtually position any product under the proper context for mass consumption.
The Value of Viral Affinity
Here is a common scenario. A person is on their computer and logging in to check their email and since most people don’t host their own websites, getting a common account like Hotmail, yahoo mail, Gmail or the like is common.
The thing is, those places are business and businesses sell advertising in order to feed their revenue stream. Since everything leave a trail, search behavior and surfing patterns in the form of cookies, IP tracking and the like are recording your movements as you hop from server to server around the web.
This also means that from the fragments left behind, your preferences are often leaked to those who want nothing more than to sell things to you or have you visit a website that they are in some way profiting from by referring you to them via an affiliate offer or as a result of advertising.
So, it is not uncommon if your interested in getting a daily horoscope that the ads served next to your email as you open it are encouraging you to click and ultimately you end on “through affinity” on a website you had not initially anticipated.
Then from there, you find another link, an offer catches your attention and out of impulse you buy something. This was not your original intent, your intent was to check your email, but before you know it, you’re somewhere else, looking, buying or going on other click or search tangent from there.Then after the intention fizzles out, dozens of browser tabs get closed and we either return to our original intent or simply move on… The point is, its not just about search engines or what we use know to find relevant information.
What was the point behind playing out this common occurrence? The fact that search is not the only way to move about the web and now more than ever, social signals are emerging as the new interface for third party referral, entertainment and creating a buzz for websites that happened to glue someone to their monitor “like a deer stuck in the headlights”. As a result, they pass it on, it is consumed or rather extracted and they pass it on, and so on and so fourth.
This viral behavior is the new frontier, for having or finding the best destinations based on whatever it is you are into. With the time clock ticking on how people spend their time online, the power of social magnetism and cliques has reached an all time high.
What once was only considered a past time, has consumed the time and lives of millions who daily check their Facebook accounts, twit the latest posts they discover on twitter as well as share some of the utterly most mundane aspects of their personal lives with others in a completely transparent fashion. This is the era of social media and the social media posse which is a convergence of user generated content, cliques and people passionate about sharing.
Full Circle: Where the Social Web Got It’s Roots
Looking back, BBS (bulletin board systems) were the first wave of people sharing files with each other which created a since of belonging to a secret and elite group of privileged individuals. Then directories came on the scenes which were based on grouping personal and commercial interests together in an attempt to create order and structure where there was none.
Next on the scene were search engines enabled by crawler technologies, block level analysis and a grading system for relevance and popularity to help those with “commercial intent to purchase” or looking for ways to entertain themselves online through the medium of keywords, categories and tags.
And now, with social media sweeping the nation and the world, the amounts of information flying around from packet to packet and server to server are reaching breakneck speeds.
As a result of containing the various degrees of interest, policing the web to maintain balance was easier when things were simpler. Now, through a type of referential fortitude, social media has its own democracy were it determine which aspects are “good for the group” or just an unsolicited message.
This became evident in social media sites like DIGG.com, where those in the top 100 Digg mafia could promote or bury a story due to the immense size of their posse. With such a following, it was possible to sculpt the ideas of the group or those who stumbled in on a tangent though unintentionally finding a link by affinity from them wanting to fit in or buy in to a group modality from peer pressure.
Ironically this is not always the case, some are meant to lead, others to follow but the trend to watch is to determine how social media can be leveraged for business, aside from just sharing personal interests or letting someone know what “what you are doing, reading or what you had for lunch”…