Are brands wielding more influence in Social Media than we thought?

As one who has read, dissected and written about many a study regarding social media, brands and consumers, I can tell you I for one was quite surprised to see read the findings of a survey recently conducted by Market Force – a worldwide leader in customer intelligence solutions.

In querying more than 12,000 consumers in the US and UK, they wanted to see how consumers engaged with varying industries – retail, restaurant, travel, entertainment and financial businesses to be specific, via the big dogs of social media: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

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The Gamification of Social Media

Empire Avenue is the new game in town. It sits squarely in the social networking space, but it has a different twist – one from which I think businesses may be able to gain valuable insights, all while allowing people to enjoy themselves.

What is it?

Essentially, it is a rewards system that makes what we already do on the web   – create and share content – fun by making it a stock market-like atmosphere. You can earn money (their currency is “Eaves”) by buying other people and you can see your own worth rise by getting other people to invest in you. When tied to other accounts such as Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, LinkedIn and blogs, your net worth rises based on the content you either create or share. But like the other sites, it’s also a social network itself. It’s a chance to connect and brainstorm with others by finding affinity groups (“Communities”) within Empire Avenue.

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Facebook: The Social Accelerator?

image by @EricaGlasier 

We live in a world of accelerating change. As our communication technologies evolve, it becomes easier to connect more and more of us around the planet to each other. The web collapses space and time, dissolves geographic boundaries, and gives us windows into each other’s worlds.This is causing shifts in the way individuals perceive themselves, their immediate relationships with friends and communities, and the context of how they relate to society at large. 

David Kirkpatrick, author of The Facebook Effect, prognosticates, “Just by increasing the efficiency of communication and reducing friction in relationships between people, particularly on a global basis, it will lead to a more integrated sense of humanity.”

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What type of social network influences behaviour?

Yesterday we looked at the motivations for why people engage in different social venues; this morning I came across an interesting new study looking at what type of social network best influences behaviour.

Because it’s all very well if a network spreads information like wildfire, but if that information doesn’t prompt users to do something – buy the product, sign up for the event, stop smoking, change the way they talk about the brand – it’s all so much worthless WOM.

Didn’t I hear something about this? via Lab2112@Flickr

The study, from MIT assistant professor of system dynamics and economic sociology Damon Centola, looked at the spread of health-related behaviour in two different types of social networks – one based around ‘long ties’, or many distant connections, and one based on denser clusters of more closely connected people.

Sociologists have traditionally believed that long ties are the key to the rapid and broad spread of word of mouth, an insight reinforced by a Guardian study presented at a WOMMA UK briefing last year. However, Centola found that to change behaviour, you’re much better off focusing on clustered networks.

It makes human common sense. It’s easy for us to quickly pass on a piece of content via a loosely connected contact; but to understand something more complex, or change ingrained behaviour, we’ll need exposure more than once, and from trusted and emotionally impactful sources. There is more work to be done, but as Centola says,

“For about 35 years, wisdom in the social sciences has been that the more long ties there are in a network, the faster a thing will spread. It’s startling to see that this is not always the case.”

The study is intended to help improve the design of effective health networks, but it has obvious implications for marketing. We’ve always emphasised the need for multiple entry points with a word of mouth campaign, in order to foster both deep and broad engagement. This ensures rapid visibility but also concrete behaviour change, leading to sales, subscriptions and changing attitudes.

This kind of insight is invaluable in tailoring engagement, according to both the brand’s priority and the nature of the community. Great stuff.

Molly Flatt

An Idea Worth Spreading: The Future is Networks

This weekend I experienced a snowcrash; a moment where the seemingly disparate pieces of information floating in my head came together. A synapse fired, a new connection was made, and I was brought to a new level of consciousness, a new way of seeing the world. In reading this over, it almost sounds obvious, but it took me a while to get here. I hope that by sharing with you, it’ll help you “get it” too. So let me take you on my thinking trail.

Insight #1: The Overview

The Future is Networks.

This idea has been buzzing in my head for a long time. The first time I wrote it down was over a year ago, not really understanding what that meant, but it was an “intuition.” As time has gone by, this has seemed more and more probable, but I wasn’t sure how it fit together.

The buzzing has been growing louder, and my mind was saying, ‘The future of Social Business is networks,’ ‘The future of education is networks,’ ‘The future of society is networks.’

What the hell did this mean?

I know everyone is busy. Everyone is looking for some solution to how to make their situation better. If you will just bear with me, I’m going to expose you to what I found to be an incredibly powerful idea.

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