“A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies.” The Cluetrain Manifesto
Public Relations practitioners are familiar with the concept of identifying and building relationships with stakeholders. (Anyone who might have a material impact on your business.) Social media has extended the reach and influence of your stakeholders – they’re on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and they’re connecting to each other.
The Social Graph is the representation of our relationships. In present day context, these graphs define our personal, family, or business communities on social networking websites – Jeremiah Owyang, Industry Analyst, The Altimeter Group.
Your stakeholders are sharing information and having conversations about you. Vendors are talking to customers and customers are talking to bloggers and one another. Journalists have Twitter feeds and Facebook pages where they ask questions openly and directly. And they’re getting answers.
Although the Edelman Trust Barometer, a global survey of who people trust and whose opinion they value, has shown that people worldwide once again trust executives and experts as the official corporate spokespeople, dependence on peer opinions when making decisions is still high.
The Value of a Fan, Friend or Follower
As people become more connected and able to share information easily, reliance on friend’s opinion has only increased. We’re social creatures. We like to share and discuss our ideas and get feedback from people “just like us.”
The graph allows us to create a social context for our actions. What are my friends ‘liking’? Who went to this movie? What did they think?
This is, of course, not a new phenomenon. What is new is how connected we are and how fast the information moves along the social graph. When a new movie comes out those at the first screening are texting their opinions before the movie is even over. The tastemakers give it up a thumbs up or down.
Fashion houses are making it possible for a much wider audience to see their collections online and, in the six months between runway show and availability in stores, they tap into the social graph and adapt their offering based on how their followers respond.
Some companies have put a monetary value on their fans and followers:
McDonald’s fans spend $159.79 more per year than non-fans. Nokia fans spend $107.32 more than non fans. For Coca Cola it’s $69.50 and for Oreos just $28. Across the board companies that have ‘done the math’ know that fans are spending more with them than non- fans do. (Source : Syncapse 2010)
The 800-pound Gorilla – Facebook
The peer influence trend is dominated by Facebook. On average, each of your Facebook fans has 130 friends and when they click that “Like” button your content shows up in their news stream and is visible to their friends.
Here are some recent Facebook stats:
- More than 250 million people engage with Facebook each month across more than 2.5 million external websites via social plug-ins such as the ‘Like’ button or the Facebook Connect login.
- Media sites that adopt the ‘Like’ button average a greater than 300% increase in referral traffic from Facebook. (Source: Facebook, April 2011)
- Three quarters of Facebook users have ‘Liked’ a brand. (Source: AdAge/ Ipsos, February 2011)
- Over 50 million users ‘Like’ brands every day (Source: BrandRepublic, May 2011)
If you click the ‘show faces’ option when you add the plug in, they immediately see their friends who also liked that page. Using the like button with ‘show faces” option, like the one above, typically has a 2 to 3-times higher click through rate than the simple like button with no faces. They also convert at a higher rate when they come to the landing page in Facebook. (Source : Hubspot Facebook Marketing Update Spring 2011)
Don’t discount Twitter – a recent Forrester study challenged the conventional view by stating that Twitter followers may have the potential to be more valuable than Facebook fans in the future. The study confirmed that Twitter followers are more likely to buy from brands they follow (37% vs. 21%), and recommend brands to friends (33% vs. 21%). These two factors are the yardsticks by which many social media branding campaigns are measured.
How does all this sharing and conversation affect your business?
It’s quite likely that your content is filtering into the social graph across many platforms and nodes. One customer likes a video you post and adds it to their Facebook page. One of her friends tweets the link. A colleague of his sees it and adds your video to StumbleUpon and a follower there posts it to Digg. As it travels across the graph people add comments. Later it gets seen by a journalist researching a story or someone searching for a solution to a problem.
Juicy Couture reports that their product purchase conversion rate increased by 160% after installing social sharing features (Source: CreateTheGroup, February 2011)
Incipio Technologies, a gadget accessory retailer, found that referrals from Facebook had a conversion rate of double their average visitor. (Source: Business Insider, March 2011)
Invest the time to map your social graph. Locate and build relationships with your brand advocates and online influencers. Respond to your detractors and convert them to fans.
There is real ROI in mapping your social graph and making it possible for your stakeholders to share your content .