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Three Truths About Social Media

Kirk L. Wakefield's picture

What do we really know about how people respond to social media? Based on research, here are three truths you can bank on.

Followers = Brand Advocates

Brand advocates are your most loyal, engaged, enthusiastic, and valuable fans. The number of Facebook or Twitter followers of a team or a player is a measure of brand advocacy. Over 60% of Facebook fans and nearly 80% of Twitter followers are likely to recommend and the majority of these are likely to buy from those they like on Facebook (50%) or follow on Twitter (67%).

Don't confuse Facebook likes or Twitter followers with a direct impact on sales, however. Fans follow via social media as a consequence of their identification with the team. People are willing to follow a team, player or celebrity on Twitter after they've already become an advocate (or fan), not before.

So, we are interested in driving up the numbers of followers on social media through our marketing campaigns. But, we must give the target audience a reason-why to follow us. Ultimately it comes down to finding a way to reinforce or reflect a positive self-concept in our fans. What will make them feel better about themselves? We connect ourselves with brands and properties via social media to say something positive about ourselves to others. That's why it's called social media. When I advocate that my sons should purchase Dunder Mifflin shirts, I am already a fan of The Office and I'm trying to communicate to them and others that I am interesting and clever.Dunder Mifflin Shirt

If teams have lame Facebook pages and boring Tweets, the audience will interpret that as a lack of interest or concern for its fans. Older fans expect some form of digital face (website and social media presence) and younger fans infer a poor social media interface as an unwillingness to communicate and being out of tune with fans. This is bad.

Listening is Learning

Teams have no control over what people say about them via social media and these conversations can occur in many places besides their owned digital spaces. But since one of the most important aspects of selling is listening (to understand needs and respond), teams must pay attention to what people are saying about them.

A quick, free way to do this is to set up a Google Alert ( for mentions of the property. The reality is properties of any size following need to make an investment in social media listening. In the past we didn't necessarily know if fans left an event complaining about the sound. But now, with a problem of any magnitude, some fan will post something about it and we need to know so we can provide excellent customer service.Three good tools that help monitor online conversations start as low as $29/month include Sprout Social, Inside View, and Sysomos.

BLOGS = Influence

Four of the top 10 global entertainment sites are blogs (OMG, TMZ, Asylum and PerezHilton). Blog writers are more influential than marketer-controlled sources. For the same reason brand advocates are influential, blog writers hold sway to the extent readers trust them.

Given identical information, blogs generate significantly higher attitudes and purchase intentions toward the team than when placing the same information in popular online magazines

Fans will believe bloggers if they are seen as unbiased and credible sources of information. Regular readers of blogs engage in para-social interaction, which is the illusion of a face-to-face relationship with a performer. Readers of Bill Simmons' Grantland feel as if they have a personal relationship with Bill and are apt to believe or agree with his opinions. If Bill Simmons sees the latest sports-related movie and endorses it, we can expect the majority of his regular readers to follow suit.

From a social media strategy perspective, an important element of the publicity plan is to target information to key bloggers who speak to the appropriate target audiences. Mommy bloggers, for instance, reach the largest target audience in the world::

• 75% of women are active social media users
• 92% of mommy bloggers want companies to seek product review on their blogs.
• 96% of moms value recommendations on mommy blogs.
• 94% of moms rely on other moms to make purchase decisions.

Given that a primary target market of every team is families, considering how to collaborate with Mommy bloggers would go a long ways toward being in favor with a key decision-maker in households.

Fugetta, Rob (2012):
Renfrow, Jacqueline (2010), "Facebook, Twitter Make Consumers More Likely To Buy, Recommend." Response 18, no. 7 (April), 9
Colliander, Jonas and Michael Dahlen (2011), "Following the fashionable friend: The power of social media," Journal of Advertising Research, March, 313-320.
Foshee, Emily, (2010), "Navigating the mommy blogosphere: Reach the world's largest target market." Public Relations Tactics 17 (May 1), 10

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