All this talk about tools is a major distraction from the conversation about influence. Because while tools can track what someone does, they most certainly cannot tell you why — and why is a fundamental piece of information you need to have to understand what moves people to act.
Influence is a very situational concept, an imprecise term, a two-way understanding and opt-in mechanism, and it does mostly reside with the influenced. Plus, people lie about what they're going to do, there is a gap between intention and intent, the first being intellectual, the second being how we show up, when we do, and so on.
So I thought now would be a good time to take a step back and instead of trying to unpack what influence is and where it's going and why scores by tools are out of whack, look at what doesn't work.
The 5 "influence traps" you must avoid
This is a quick blog version. I will expand and demonstrate it live during SxSW
(1.) Ego vs. system — you go just to influentials vs. the people who care
This trap is even harder to resist because of the multitude of voices clamoring for the right answer on which scores matter, which key performance indicators should be taken into consideration. I'd like you to consider for a moment that whatever people put their attention and focus to do, generally has outcomes.
If you wanted to, you could spend your time growing the right interactions in the right public places — and frankly increased the noise level when volume means more than the appropriate content — and get yourself higher scores. Or, you could flatter people left and right, quid pro quo yourself into notoriety.
Another option is to be really controversial, get everyone fired up and lots of comments, the point people there. Then point out how famous you are and enlighten everyone else with "the Word". This was a bit cheeky, I admit.
The people who make a difference with your customers are those who care. Sincerity is hard to fabricate, for one. Common interests bubble up, even at gut level.
(2.) If you build it, they will come — what spreads online is not same as what resonates offline
While so many marketers are still pointing to the Old Spice ad as an example of what they'd like in social, and buzz can be fun indeed, what spreads online doesn't necessarily work wonders offline. Maybe that campaign was a first step in moving the brand from "old guys' cologne".
There are several other examples of fun and entertaining online characters in ad campaigns that have great recall. Yet, they have sold little product. People do not associate the company to the character is one reason. The entertainment was great, but they have no compelling reason to buy, is another.
The answer is not do more of the same or best what others are doing. And, let's face it, brands still by and large talk about themselves and have not found a way to be interested and truly interesting to the people they want to attract.
(3.) You go with generic, broad appeal — rather than take a high-impact position
It's very tempting to try to be all things to all people. If you've ever been in a meeting with an agency and the executive in the room is insisting that the ad copy, or the communication include ten benefits or worse features, you know what I'm talking about.
There was this funny video circulating that showed what would happen to the box if Microsoft marketed the iPod… and it would happen, you know it.
Instead, communicating deeper meaning that goes beyond your product or service that people want to opt into or, even better, co-opt as theirs is the way to go. Are you thinking about why you favor certain brands over others?
Because they make it about you, or connect with you by taking a stand.
(4.) Having a short term / campaign-driven approach — over sustainable marketing
The sustainable part in this phrase is the effort, care, and time you put into building something worthy of attention. Is attention the right metric and focus? Not entirely. There is one more important element to sustainable, and it's commitment and desire to make it work.
Ironically, the short term bursts of campaigns have achieved exactly what they were designed to do — get spikes in novelty, get noticed quickly. It's ironic because they also got people used to seeking novelty constantly, jumping from one thing to another, and then, when enough new stuff is coming at them, ignore the whole lot.
Sustained growth comes with sustained support and relationship.
(5.) Benefit/feature-driven — when the conversation is about demand
Just when marketing and product teams were learning to lead messaging with benefits and follow with features, this puts a bit of crimp in their style. The conversation is about demand, which increasingly means the effect that what you offer has on people's state of mind.
Your customers expect the product to have a high level of functional excellence. It's not, of course, about price and value anymore. And we have gone beyond the simple emotional benefit. What influences people now is the question of how you're going to address their most pressing agenda.
If people are going to invest time, money, energy, and emotion into something, it will be because you are making their experience much better not in terms of material gains, but in terms of internal well being.
We are each the product of our own surrounding, that's why company culture and the culture of the company you keep end up determining how you're going to behave. Which of course matters in matters of influence.
Next week, we'll talk about why everything you know about influence is wrong and what you should do about it.