Social media seems to be very much focused on reaching the most people, all the time, and spamming as much information and links in front of them - hoping that they'll click on one of the links, follow it, read it, and maybe eventually buy something from it. The idea is that by reaching as many people as possible, you get enormous response, hit a bunch of influencers, and, in theory, get loads of buzz and go viral. However, a recent Ad Age article seems to challenge that idea.
According to the article, "there is little data to support so-called influencer behavior in social marketing. Rather the data suggests that content and ideas online spread through large numbers of people sharing with small groups." It examines a bunch of stories spread through social media, and basically shows that using "normal size[d]" circles of people is much more effective (and these people will share information more personally) than targeting either influencers or large groups of people.
What the article is saying, without saying it, is that targeting niche audiences of circles will always do better. Maybe the author didn't make this conclusion, so I'll happily make it for him. Basically, since most people surround themselves with people of similar interests, and demographics, it would make sense that they would share those things that are more relevant to those demographics.
For example, last week, along with two other members of the industry, I created the Facebook Women Executives in Marketing group. The purpose of the group was to talk about issues facing women in marketing, and also create a social networking group of women. I realize of course that I'm not a woman, but the entire topic and debate interests me, so I thought it would be a really good idea. The group took off within days and over 75 executives in the industry joined it and started talking. Within two days, parts of the industry were chatting about the group, mentioning it on other forums, and questioning its purpose; some guys were making snide and rude comments, but in general people were showing support. The group then grew to almost 150 people by the next day. Within another day, the group had a very positive impact when a professional industry awards show took down its "hottest" contests from its lineup, after the Women Executives in Marketing members emailed the organizers with their concerns.
How did this group have an impact within the industry, even though it was only 150 people in size? Most of these people were members of other groups, and many of them knew each other from other places and the industry in general. However, when they were in a group that identified them and created importance for their specific demographic, they were more likely to share and talk about those things that interested all of them.
The obvious conclusion here is that the best possible social media strategy if you want to target people is to start dividing your audience into more concise demographics. Here are a few brief ideas:
Allow your fans and your base to create their own groups. People know best what they are interested in and how to organize. Providing support for fans to create and organize their own groups will in the long run provide you with customers and fans who are much more loyal than those who are forced to be in a corporate-run fan page
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Pace Lattin has been working in interactive advertising since its inception. From being a co-owner of the company that sold advertising in ClickZ before the turn of the century to founding a major interactive advertising publication, he has been involved with all aspects of the interactive advertising industry. He is currently the executive director of the Executive Council of Performance Marketing, an industry organization that represents over 100 C-level executives.
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