Traditional influence has followed a systematic top-down process of developing and pushing “controlled” messages to audiences for decades, rooted in one-to-many, faceless broadcast campaigns.
Personality wasn’t absent in certain mediums, it was missing from day-to-day communications.
For the most part, this pattern seemingly served its purposes, fueling the belief that brands were in control of their messages, from delivery to dissemination, among the demographics to which they were targeted.
It scaled very well over the years, until it didn’t…
Unbeknown to many companies, a quiet revolution was amassing over the last two decades. And, slowly but surely, the whispers eventually intensified into roars.
The socialization of the Web and content publishing disrupted the balance and is now forcing a media renaissance that is transforming information distribution, human interaction and everything that orbits this nascent ecosystem.
It is the dawn of a democratized information economy, which is engendering the emergence of champions and visionaries who endeavor to manifest a more media literate society while transforming the way we publish and share relevant content.
The Social Web heralded the arrival of mainstream consumer influence and a global ecosystem that supports and extends their observations, complaints, opinions, and recommendations.
It served as a great equalizer, capsizing the existing balance and redistributing influence.
Not only is it changing how we create, decipher, and share information, but also it is forever reshaping how brands and content publishers think about their markets and the people who define them.
We are Media
We the people demanded personalization in engagement, improved services that put the customer back into the spotlight, and acknowledgment that our feedback would incite a more value-added circle of overall communications and product adaptation.
Although there were numerous, sensational attempts to silence us through the misdirection and suppression of critical yet ignored or unheard experiences, insights and feedback, we have emerged influential and consequential to the bottom lines of businesses all over the world. As consumers, we fervently stormed these new platforms and staged a social revolution that forced the attention of those who so readily dismissed us – silence was no longer golden.
Social networks and platforms have transcended the role of the consumer from customer to authority, ambassador and critic. Those who master their domains are developing persuasive and important communities around their areas of expertise, interests and passions and now possess the prowess and authority to direct, instruct, and steer decision makers and referrers.
Aside from the disciplines and behavior our profession dictates, we are far more than communicators, marketers, publishers or chroniclers of life events. We are also knowledgeable people with ideas, opinions, observations, and experiences that cannot be discounted. We bring opinions, experiences, rapture, and frustrations to each conversation as a consumer. But when its time to reach our peers and colleagues, we regress to broadcasters and purveyors of information and lose site of how what we represent truly impacts those we’re trying to reach.
We essentially lose perspective and personification.
In the end, we earn the influence that our activities and shared experiences justify and warrant. Our presence and participation impacts the decisions and impressions of those around us. We connect people to products and services and ultimately assist in the governance of future actions among those within our immediate social graph as well as the graphs that link our friends, their friends and also the friends of friends (FoFs) network.
As a brand manager and also as someone who’s responsible for extending the company’s products and value propositions to the marketplace and building meaningful communities and relationships, I personally welcome you to a new genre of distributed influence, one where we must earn authority on both sides of the conversation – as representatives and consumers.
We are the people we’re trying to reach.
Building a Bridge Between Brand and Markets
We’re paying attention to a-list bloggers, from technologists to moms to lifestyle to politics and everything in between and forgetting or ignoring the magic middle, those bloggers who actually inform and interact prospective customers.
We’re blindly jumping into social networks and engaging with the “avatars” tied to keywords instead of identifying and recruiting those who can help us create valuable, thriving communities that support the exchange of pertinent information.
Tastemakers and trendsetters are the new influencers, but their roles in affecting consumer behavior are not derivative of the Social Web. Instead, these tastemakers and trendsetters who individually contribute to a more influential public are now readily discoverable courtesy of the search boxes and APIs that facilitate their recognition within the communities of consequence. Social Networks, blogs, microblogs, and all other forms of people-powered platforms provide a looking glass into the interaction between consumers and also the ability to discern the level of authority each one possesses.
You’ve heard it time and time again; “People do business with people they like.”
While that’s true, they also spend money on products that help them do something that they couldn’t do before based on existing needs and desires or frustrations with current experiences. Therefore people are looking for answers, not necessarily friends. They’re seeking societies where they can learn, share, and contribute. And they’re using the tools, channels, and networks to connect with one another.
Listening counts for everything nowadays and it’s by and far the easiest step in embracing and ultimately leading the transition from an introverted organization into an extroverted, community-focused human network.
It sets the foundation to not only listen and respond on the front lines, but also it necessitates the modification of the entire infrastructure to adapt to the real world needs of customers and the insights they choose to share.
This is a privilege and an opportunity.
It’s the shift from top > down broadcasting to a more holistic methodology that embraces consumers directly using the tools and channels they use to communicate. In order to build a bridge between brand and markets requires the personification of the company and it’s ability to not only humanize its story, but also listen and respond to input and dialogue through words and the adaptation of products and services.
Print this out. Memorise it. Live it.