Why Does Social Media Work?

by | May 30, 2013 | Book Marketing Basics, Social Media for Authors

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Remember being in high school and wanting to hang with the cool kids? Well, maybe you were one of them. If you were, lucky you. But if you are like most of us, you weren’t in the popular clique. These days marketing is sort of like being back in high school, but it’s a popularity contest that’s skewed a bit differently. Marketing, to a large degree, is about social proof. What is social proof? It’s a sort of social influence where you assume the behavior of others is appropriate given a certain situation. Long waiting lines are a great example.

Have you ever observed a long line that spilled out the front door, even winding around the building? You probably wondered what was going on, didn’t you? You may even have stood in line with them for a time to find out what all the excitement was about. Social proof is partially driven by numbers. Let’s say you’re looking at a particular group of organizations, all catering to the same area of expertise. You look at their Facebook Pages and discover that one organization has 50,000 likes, while the others have less than 200. Which page are you most likely to join?

social media word stack

Social proof is also driven by consumer endorsements. People like what other people like, and word can spread about a new car, soft drink or TV show in almost the blink of an eye. Clever marketers can use this to their advantage with tricks such as the velvet rope in front of a club. Put one up and people stop to find out what’s so important that a rope is needed to hold patrons back. Soon a crowd forms. The crowd draws more passersby as everyone wants to know what’s going on and if they can get in. If they can, they may not even question the huge cover fee, assuming that it will all be worth it.

Another example of social proof is Chuck, a guy I knew in high school. Chuck was smart and spent a lot of time researching home stereo systems. He read all the Consumer Reports, reviews and shopped around for the best price. When Chuck pulled the trigger and bought a system many others followed suit, assuming he knew what he was doing. Chuck became an influencer.

These techniques are how social media works. When Chuck posts a product he likes on Facebook, his friends purchase it because they trust Chuck. Ashley is the restaurant expert and her reviews influence many of her friends to select or avoid a particular restaurant. Influencers can drive a large amount of business towards you, or away from you. And the velvet rope trick? Google launched Gmail as an invite-only service, making many of us wonder how we could score an invite. Nice!

Another reason social media works is because people like to share information.

People share online:

  • To bring value
  • To entertain
  • To define themselves
  • For self-expression and self-fulfillment
  • To market their causes or brands

I know you have received a humorous email and passed it on because you just knew others would love it, too. In that case you shared to entertain your friends. It’s also interesting to note that humor is one of the biggest factors in sharing.

How Can You Find an Influencer or Expert?

I’ve had folks in the media tell me that they prefer to have people on their show or in their publication who have a lot of fans, friends or followers on one or more of the major social media sites. In other words, you could have a fantastic message, a great product or fantastic business, but you still might face an uphill climb if your social media numbers are low. It’s a sad but true statement in our society, and everyone’s marketing plan should include increasing your social proof. One of the best ways to gain access to influencers is to network with them on Facebook.

Here’s a quick tip to start building that synergy with big names: friend them or “Like” their Page and then send them a quick note, thanking them for their information or whatever it is they are contributing. Additionally, I always recommend doing an outreach to two Facebook friends or fans at least once a month—you can do more if you have the time. Send them a private message or post something appropriate on their Page. Yes, it’s a lot of work but it’s worth its weight in networking gold.

How Can You Use the Velvet Rope Trick to Create Exclusivity?

Make your Facebook Page invite only, or require approved access to a Group. I only recommend this if you have a big following or a super popular topic— in my view, you need momentum to start something like this. Yes, exclusivity rocks but you need the numbers to drive the interest and intrigue. Pinterest, for example, did this in order to get invited. They gave you a “wait time,” but if you knew someone, you could get in right away. Because the site was getting a lot of buzz, this trick worked.

How Can You Get More Shares for Your Message?

We’re going to dig into each of the social media platforms separately, but overall the goal is to be relevant, interesting and insightful. Don’t just copy what everyone else is doing. Be unique. That’s easy to say and hard to do, I know. But let’s face it, the numbers never lie. When you put an article or blog post out there that gets a lot of buzz, you know you’ve hit your mark. In order to define how to make your content more relevant, try asking yourself the following questions:

  • What does my audience really need?
  • What’s the biggest challenge my market faces right now?
  • What’s the biggest hot button my audience has?
  • What’s next in my market?

The above questions may or may not work for you, but it should give you some general guidance on where your content needs to be focused. It should be extremely audience-driven. In other words, it doesn’t matter what you think, it only matters what your consumer wants. That’s the key.

What Is a Social Network?

Social networks, also referred to as social media, are places where people can join and become members of an online community. These networks provide tools that enable members to configure a customized version of a user page; create profiles and bios; manage invites and contact lists; upload photos, video and music files; and interact with each other via multiple channels.

People join social networks for a variety of reasons: to socialize, share and/ or self-promote. The one caveat to this is that social networks are not receptive to marketing messages or sales hype, but users on these sites are looking for answers and advice. So your presence on a social networking site should be about 80% education and 20% sales. Users on social networking sites are seeking friends, mentors, experts and guidance. If you can offer one or all of these things, you can certainly grow your list.

RHIPExcerpt from Red Hot Internet Publicity: An Insider’s Guide to Marketing Online by Penny Sansevieri, available now on Amazon.com:http://www.amazon.com/Red-Hot-Internet-Publicity-Marketing/dp/1480224952/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1367371151&sr=1-1&keywords=Red+Hot+Internet+Publicity


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  1. Ester Benjamin Shifren

    As usual, this article is full of important tips and information. Many people are scared of social media because they simply don’t know how to use it effectively. I’m learning all the time, but am very aware of how little I know—far less than all the kids I know, yet, as an author, I prbably need it more than they do. Thanks for sharing.

    • Paula

      Thanks Ester – we’re so glad you found the post useful!


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