One of the key components in successful social media marketing implementation is building “social authority”. Social authority is developed when an individual or organization establishes themselves as an “expert” in their given field or area, thereby becoming an “influencer” in that field or area.
It is through this process of “building social authority” that social media becomes effective. That is why one of the foundational concepts in social media has become that you cannot completely control your message through social media but rather you can simply begin to participate in the “conversation” in the hopes that you can become a relevant influence in that conversation.
However, this conversation participation must be cleverly executed because while people are resistant to marketing in general, they are even more resistant to direct or overt marketing through social media platforms. This may seem counter-intuitive but is the main reason building social authority with credibility is so important. A marketer can generally not expect people to be receptive to a marketing message in and of itself. In the Edleman Trust Barometer report in 2008, the majority (58%) of the respondents reported they most trusted company or product information coming from “people like me” inferred to be information from someone they trusted. In the 2010 Trust Report, the majority switched to 64% preferring their information from industry experts and academics. According to Inc. Technology’s Brent Leary, “This loss of trust, and the accompanying turn towards experts and authorities, seems to be coinciding with the rise of social media and networks.”
Thus, using social media as a form of marketing has taken on whole new challenges. As the 2010 Trust Study indicates, it is most effective if marketing efforts through social media revolve around the genuine building of authority. Someone performing a “marketing” role within a company must honestly convince people of their genuine intentions, knowledge, and expertise in a specific area or industry through providing valuable and accurate information on an ongoing basis without a marketing angle overtly associated. If this can be done, trust with, and of, the recipient of that information – and that message itself – begins to develop naturally. This person or organization becomes a thought leader and value provider – setting themselves up as a trusted “advisor” instead of marketer. “Top of mind awareness” develops and the consumer naturally begins to gravitate to the products and/or offerings of the authority/influencer.
Of course, there are many ways authority can be created – and influence can be accomplished – including: participation in Wikipedia which actually verifies user-generated content and information more than most people may realize; providing valuable content through social networks on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter; article writing and distribution through sites such as Ezine Articles and Scribd; and providing fact-based answers on “social question and answer sites” such as EHow and Yahoo! Answers.
As a result of social media – and the direct or indirect influence of social media marketers – today, consumers are as likely – or more likely – to make buying decisions based on what they read and see in platforms we call “social” but only if presented by someone they have come to trust. That is why a purposeful and carefully designed social media strategy has become an integral part of any complete and directed marketing plan but must also be designed using newer “authority building” techniques.
Online Social Networking
A social network service is an online service, platform, or site that focuses on building and reflecting of social networks or social relations among people, e.g., who share interests and/or activities. A social network service essentially consists of a representation of each user (often a profile), his/her social links, and a variety of additional services. Most social network services are web based and provide means for users to interact over the internet, such as e-mail and instant messaging. Although online community services are sometimes considered as a social network service. In a broader sense, social network service usually means an individual-centered service whereas online community services are group-centered. Social networking sites allow users to share ideas, activities, events, and interests within their individual networks.
The main types of social networking services are those which contain category places (such as former school-year or classmates), means to connect with friends (usually with self-description pages) and a recommendation system linked to trust. Popular methods now combine many of these, with Facebook and Twitter widely used worldwide; MySpace and LinkedIn being the most widely used in North America;[Nexopia (mostly in Canada); Bebo, Hi5, Hyves (mostly in The Netherlands), StudiVZ (mostly in Germany), iWiW (mostly in Hungary), Tuenti (mostly in Spain), Nasza-Klasa (mostly in Poland), Decayenne, Tagged, XING, Badoo and Skyrock in parts of Europe; Orkut and Hi5 in South America, India and Central America; and Friendster, Mixi, Multiply, Orkut, Wretch, renren and Cyworld in Asia and the Pacific Islands and Twitter, Orkut and Facebook in India.
There have been attempts to standardize these services to avoid the need to duplicate entries of friends and interests (see the FOAF standard and the Open Source Initiative).
Although some of the largest social networks were founded on the notion of digitizing real world connections, many networks focus on categories from books and music to non-profit business to motherhood as ways to provide both services and community to individuals with shared interests.