To understand what’s at stake when considering the influence of social media, companies and organizations must first try to understand user motivation. In the era of social networks and mobile communications, new Internet users are taking the reins of a new economic power; this power belongs to Generation C.
This new generation isn’t delineated by age or demographic evolution. Rather, as Trendwatching magazine (who launched the concept of Generation C in 2004) defines it, it’s a new generation of social network and mobile technology users – connected consumers – who benefit from on-line tools in order to demand a more active role in the purchasing chain.
Although mostly represented by digital natives (those born after 1994), Generation C groups all of the generations together. A large number of users belong to Generation Y (born between 1979 and 1994) and Generation X (born between 1963 and 1979). Baby boomers, (born between 1945 and 1963) constitute the age group that has the highest number of users adopting social media within recent years (on this, please refer to my post on @Locita: Génération C : Le moteur d’une nouvelle société).
These effective consumers expect more than ever from their shopping experience. They now demand to be heard and they won’t hesitate to share their advice and /or recommendations, whether they’re positive or negative, in order to express themselves. In 2012, it’s no longer the company who controls the projected brand image, but rather the tremendous power the viral recommendations of peer-to-peer (P2P) users wield.
The user therefore becomes the influencer by influencing the company to make decisions they no longer influence themselves. Taking advantage of this newfound influence, users take a greater role in the process. Now, the privilege of deciding the level of commitment comes back to the user.
Further reading includes :
Brian Solis : Meet Generation C : The Connected Consumer.
Mark McCrindle : The ABC of XYZ : Understanding the Global Generations
Influencers of Social Media: Ambassadors or Sponsors?
Today, brands therefore need to solicit user engagement so they may become their ambassadors. In an article published last autumn in Windmill Networking, Social Media Influencer Outreach Brand Ambassador : Case Study All Nippon Airways #Analax, Neal Schaffer presented his own case which proved to be a very good example. Rather than settling for a formula that included perks or sponsorship, the Japanese airline company offered him a higher level of commitment. This approach was more satisfactory to Neal, who preferred becoming an ambassador to the company.
The notion social media’s influence continues to raise a lot of controversy. The definition of user influence in the context of social networking is not that of someone using influence to cause discomfort. Rather, it is a concept that exists only in terms of the confidence and commitment given to the influencer. Influence in social media will always remain relative and in accordance with the topic and the channels of distribution that are being used. We must therefore go beyond the “social score” to understand how someone with user influence wins the trust of his or her followers.
With the new Generation C consumers, the conversation must be honest and transparent. In order to be influenced, the user must be open and be able to allow him or herself to communicate passionately and this, in turn, must lead the influencer thereby transforming the user into an ambassador. User trust must already be established by the influencer along with recognition of credibility and authority.
When choosing sponsorship or program perks offered by brands, both parties agree on a purely professional level of commitment. The influencer accepts a role like that of a spokesman and message amplifier. This role is a departure from the role of user, and followers must be duly notified – otherwise, he or she runs the risk of becoming influenced!
(Read also Michael Brito in a recent article on Edelman Digital: Shifting The Conversation From Influence to Advocacy)
Social Influence Marketing, just like in the days of silent movies
I often refer to this metaphor from Mark Schaefer because I fully agree with this idea: at the present time, we can only see how influence is of paramount significance on the social media scene. One cannot help but be fascinated at what can be discovered and to get excited about what the future holds.
However, the scope and understanding of the new Web science is still in its infancy. By measuring only the amplification and resonance of the messages of an influencer, the measurement tools available on the ‘Net only assess certain aspects of social capital.
However, as I wrote in a recent post on Virage 2.0: “As it is when learning the best practices, it’s not so much the value of the metric (measurement) that is lacking. At this level, everything remains to be done.” As in the days of silent movies, the best (and the worst) is yet to come!
What do you think of the future of social influence marketing?