If businesses consider creating social media or using the methods of social networking, Professor Piskorski’s research suggests that a good social strategy uses what drives online social networks in the first place, that is: “solving social failures in the offline world”. Helping “people fulfill their social needs online” is at the core of all successful social media sites.
Social failure doesn’t mean being socially inept in the real world – it means that a forum or vehicle for one’s social needs is not readily met in the off-line world. People use linkedin because they are successful and want to find other successful associates, for future work contacts or business development that may not be possible in their off-line work environment.
As we know though, most people just want to market on social networks. Sunil Gupta, the Edward W. Carter Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School has insight into this: “By understanding the social network of users, firms can better understand and influence consumers’ behavior.”
He adds, “studies show that the click-through rate of ads on social networking sites is extremely low—simply because people don’t go to these sites to seek information about specific products. Therefore, the advertising-based business model has had only limited success on social networking sites. “
Instead, Professor Gupta says viral marketing has the most promise on social networking because “viral campaigns truly leverage the network aspect of these social networking sites.”
What happens when you have a unique service or business that can’t compete with the large viral campaigns or even unlimited banner ad budgets?
Start where the professors suggest: Examine the social network you want to market to. Who are the users and why were they drawn there in first place? Are they who you want to reach? What consumer needs do these users have? What consumer decisions do these users make?
And examine your strengths as it relates to social media sites: What are you known for? Are your current clients edgy? Conservative? Risk-takers? How did you speak to them to attract their business? What do they value about your business?
In other words, what is your story, your “profile”. What makes your company compelling to the users of social networks? Do you have a funny IT department? Could one of them be informative but entertaining tweeter? Viral marketing can be simple funny tweets. What are tweets, after all, but very short reflections on the moment. The very best tweets are, in effect, quips.
A few months ago, the internet was abuzz about weirdly funny tweets from Christopher Walken (you know, the character actor from Pulp Fiction, Batman Returns and Balls of Fury). Walken’s 140 character musings on Twitter were like a direct window into his strange world. Turns out, they weren’t Walken’s tweets at all, but the musings of someone who wasn’t trying to be Christopher Walken to the world, but was just playing a private joke on a few colleagues by imitating Walken (like Rich Little imitating Johnny Carson or Frank Caliendo’s spot-on John Madden).
The Walken Twitter page was taken down, but if anything, those few tweets added to Walken’s notoriety.
The point is that Twitter is a place people go to be amused and feel like they are only one degree of separation from people they know, like or respect. Coming next time: A bona fide example of how Twitter can work.