The Social Contact Centre

to a social networking way of working through the eyes of a Contact Centre manager

Posts Tagged ‘influence

SM Influence – myth or reality?


So the focus of social networking for business is influence: to move The Pile. Defining influence, if it even exists, is harder. Celebrities clearly have influence. In early 2011, 50 Cent allegedly made $10m when he suggested followers should buy into a stock that he had a holding in. Even outside the social world an endorsement from celebrities can drive up sales of products -whether its Delia Smith using a kitchen device or books featured on daytime TV. All well and good but these are individuals wielding their power, not companies. Some celebrities’ presence on social media is now being controlled by management companies purely for this reason.

Lets assume we don’t have a celebrity on hand – what does influence look like from a business perspective? There are tools available which attempt to measure social influence – PeerIndex and Klout are the two main ones currently. They analyse the social footprint (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, LastFM, Foursquare etc) and attempt to give a weighted scorecard and a profile to users. In Klout’s case it equates influence with the reaction of your audience – how many of your tweets are retweeted but also attempts to gauge the reaction of the most influential people by the same terms. Realistically, this isn’t a meaningful measure – it begs the question “influentual in what?”. My personal Klout score is 42 and Klout believes I’m influential, believe it or not, about Jewellery, BP and sausage. I pray that no-one associated with any of those is reliant on me to spread the word.

The connection between social media content and influence is tenuous and research results vary. Knowledge Networks The Faces Of Social Media found that social media users are 15% more likely to purchase from companies that advertise on social media. The research also showed a wide variance of impact across different categories. Other research suggests that the response rate to direct advertising is less effective than traditional direct marketing methods.

Influence is controllable by us – we can control who we follow and therefore who is likely to follow us back. We can create a target list of who we would like to be our friends and followers and create content which is likely to interest them. Influencers of us are likely to be potentially the influencers of our target audiences – journalists, local information providers, industry bodies, competitors, suppliers etc. One thing which is easy to lose track of in the virtual world is geography – in the search for numbers you end up with an audience across the world and realistically, no matter how “on topic” some of these are – they are not going to be able to help you in your objectives (they may be a gateway to others who are however). The unique nature of social media is that once the relationships are established you have a vehicle for communication several times every day. You can’t do anything until you have a network and understand it well.

How you establish relationships is a whole different subject and requires openness, creativity and eloquence.

Written by greencontact

April 5, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Posted in Opinion

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Return on Influence: Preparing the Ground

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Courtesy harmonyinspirations.com.au

You are a small business. You don’t have the advantage of an internationally recognised brand but you want to get your message out there to the people that really matter. What do you do? And can Social Media help?

There’s no doubt that momentum in the Social world can be enormously powerful but the effort needs to be very reactive and sensitive. I recently received a request from a local business to retweet a link to their latest video. Ordinarily I would show support and do so but when I checked the tweet stream of the business I found that they had less than 50 tweets in total and almost all of them were blatant advertising. Worse still, the rest of their morning was spent sending out duplicate emails to individuals asking them to retweet the same video. I didn’t retweet and they will shortly be blocked if the same approach carries on.

Social Media doesn’t behave in the same way as advertising. Advertising has a return on investment which is associated with hard measures – how often will the advertisement be seen and what percentage of viewers will respond to it? Increasingly the measure of Social Media success is Return On Influence. This is frustrating because the concept is challenging to grasp and there is a leap of faith that the return in sales is there. An Excellent Blog on this is http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/09/return_on_influence_the_new_ro.html by Amy Jo Martin in the Harvard Business Review. It’s controversial and there are some great comments below. One I particularly like is ” If we redefine influence as the ability to convert people from a spectator stance to favorable actions – you have the major component to the value of a social media resource.  Then you have to measure the cost of the resource against the value of the actions.”

Whenever I find a concept I am struggling with I always try to look backwards. Very little is truly new and human nature changes little. Networking has gone on for years and if a friend , acquaintance or business colleague asked for some advice or a favour I’d be inclined to help. We’ve built up trust over a common cause and they’ve earned the right to ask. I’d even go so far as to help them because I would trust their judgement that I would want to be involved. If I got a call out of the blue from a stranger asking me for the same I’d be inclined to be suspicious – Why are you asking me? What are you trying to sell me? Do I know you? I’d be concerned that my endorsement would reflect on me and so I would be cautious. And this is the reason that the request for help from the local business backfired…they were a stranger to me.

The right approach is to enter the Social Media room and introduce yourself gently and then listen to the conversation. Make friends with the kind of people you could find common cause with. There is no point chasing after the celebrities and industry gurus – they get this treatment all the time and can spot it easily. Relax and just participate. Remember the rule of thirds: a third original content, a third engagement and a third promotion. If anything, initially concentrate on engagement and content until you know your audience. The current term for the role is Community Management – participating in and growing an audience of people talking about the topics you want to talk about. This is achieved through:

1. Targeted following and friending (people that in your industry, your area, your customers, important prospects and your competitors)

2. Converting – when you meet someone new at a conference for example – add them to your community not just your address book

3. Attracting – try blogging as a good way to draw in followers and commenters. Tell people what you are passionate about, what you feel and inform them about important issues. Use appropriate hashtags, topics and categories to get noticed

4. Hunting – regularly search the hashtags, topics and categories to find new people

5. Engaging – listen regularly to the conversations and add your thoughts. Retweet, like and comment in a constructive way (not everything indiscriminately). Contribute regularly and at different times of day. Check the timeline thoroughly.

Now all of this takes time but there really are no short cuts. Of course anything which takes time or is uncomfortable eliminates the lazy and uncommitted and strengthens your position. I come from a town which plays street football (more like rugby, sumo and occasional boxing than anything else). At the start of the game there are hundreds of players but the seasoned  participants try and get the ball in the river quickly because they know that only the diehards will stay involved. Its worth doing because, when you do have something to say, influence and engagement are the most powerful forces of all.

Written by greencontact

March 22, 2012 at 9:57 am

Real Twitter reach and influence

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Most social media comment is abstract and this is the weakness in the argument so far. For the sceptics, an argument based purely on numbers of users doesn’t wash because the newspapers are full of negative comment. It can all be too easily dismissed as a fad. A very small number of articles attempt to get into the numbers and playing Devil’s Advocate is never a bad thing. Here’s my analysis of my own Twitter account @greencontact.

I have 564 followers for @greencontact and I follow about 1100 other accounts. Its objective is to gather contact centre and social media followers so that I can learn, share and influence on a personal level. My ideal goal would be thousands of followers including authors, journalists, suppliers and bloggers. On Klout my score is currently only 13 against an average for Klout of 20, and a score for my personal Twitter account of 38. My @greencontact account score is on a real recent slide from around 19. I do think it is harder to get leverage with a business account with a tight focus than it is for a personal usage where you have more “freedom to roam”. Klout thinks I am “influential” on Social Media and Business which is encouraging because on my personal account it thinks I am influential on Sausages and Jewellery (really). I am classified as an Observer – “You don’t share very much, but you follow the social web more than you let on. You may just enjoy observing more than sharing or you’re checking this stuff out before jumping in full-force”. I feel a bit aggrieved about this bit if I’m honest – like most business users it is hard to find the time to up the activity levels and it is harder to find something to say.

Over the last 90 days I have sent 79 messages, had 16 mentions, been sent 21 messages (almost all “thanks for following”), and had 18 retweets.

One of the things I do is to assign followers to lists so that I can understand geographically and by subject matter what my real audience is so that I can tailor my tweets and be more targeted. I only follow people that I would like to follow me back – no celebrities, sports stars etc – all on topic. Of my followers I know that 144 are in the UK which is not as high as I would like it to be. This is one of the challenges of Twitter profiles – I am looking for people who tweet on contact centres or social media enough to declare it as their interest in their Twitter profile AND state they are in the UK. Sometimes you have to dig through the tweets to understand what their background is. There are also 31 journalists or authors from around the world which is good – these are the pros I want to learn from. As you may expect there are around 110 suppliers or competitors (I work for an outsourcer) also. Some of these are included in the UK total figures. Overall then I am looking to grow the number of UK-based commenters on contact centres or social media who are not competitors or purely suppliers as well as journalists and authors from anywhere. I don’t want to discourage other followers but I think it is important to have a direction and measures for what you are doing in any sphere of life.

One thing is obvious – the more you put into Social Media the more you get back – I don’t tweet often enough to attract the followers and get noticed. Assuming other people use Twitter like I do i.e. they dip in and out, then typically they view maybe 200 Tweets at a time depending on the level of activity. This is one full load and maybe two or three “mores” going backwards in time on either the PC application or the iPhone app. This may be roughly an hour’s worth of tweets. Just checking the stats at the moment (8.30am in the morning), my follows have tweeted approximately 150 times in the last hour. Now bear in mind this automatically may mean I never see tweets from some parts of the world or only see North American tweets in the afternoon or if I browse the North America list – lists can really help out with this. OK, so 150 tweets in the last hour may equate to 1500 over the full day from people I follow. I am tweeting just over once every business day and so the odds are that other Twitterers like me may only actually see 10% of all tweets through their viewing habits and my tweet may not actually be in their viewing window. The chances are that only one in 7 of my tweets in the UK gets noticed by each of my followers. Of course, the most influential Twitterers may have thousands more follows and so a much smaller proportion have a chance of “connecting” with the target audience. Its worth bearing these raw stats in mind when creating posts in a business environment – they have to be effective almost like direct mail. One good point about this is that these are actually pretty good statistics – the reach of social media amongst social media users is very cost-effective. Looking on the positive side I am having something I have written read by my target audience possibly once a fortnight. This kind of analysis is vital I think. The vast numbers of social media reach come down to actually quite small figures when we begin to look at influence. One final point is that the chances of success can be improved by publishing tweets in other places. I post my tweets through my LinkedIn account and my blog.

So the next question is influence. We have already whittled down large numbers to quite small ones and this then puts the figures for retweets and mentions in the spotlight. Depending on the nature of these tweets they are the nearest approximation to influence you can get. Of course a mention may just be a “thanks for the #ff” which is courtesy rather than influence. For me retweets are the real benchmark and indicate that you are “moving the pile”. To get retweeted you must publish tweets which make sense, have immediate impact (use those characters wisely), and you need to be one of:

  • Topical – ideally news
  • Funny – again originality is key
  • A gatherer – if you find good stuff and share it you may be retweeted as the middle man
  • Hit a personal button for one Twitterer. This can be enormously effective but sometimes you write a tweet and can almost predict who will latch on to it. This comes down to knowing your audience – again the lists become increasingly important as the scale of your Twitter presence grows.

So you need to be a journalist, comedian, librarian or really skilled on a one-to-one basis. What you can’t be is bland. This is one of the criticisms from the sceptics; the “what I had for breakfast” brigade. The point is that if you tweet on that basis you may have a few conversations in your personal account but it won’t cut it in business social media.

And what if you are successful in getting retweets? What’s the prize? Its unlikely you’re going to sell anything as a result but you will attract more followers and speak to more people. Imagine you attended a trade show or conference. You will get a lot from the presentations and demonstrations but you also benefit from networking. Networks mean that you can always find something out when you need to – I discovered an excellent collaborative innovation tool through conversations on Twitter, you build your brand which in turn increases the chances of your brand being front of mind when tenders come around, you also will be in a position to hear about new opportunities sooner and get a feel for future threats or problems sooner. The big benefits are below the line, maybe not as sexy as direct marketing but full of long term benefit.

Written by greencontact

January 24, 2012 at 9:25 am