Ashton Kutcher was famous for being the first celebrity to exceed 1 million followers on Twitter (now 5.8m), the famous Zuck has over 850,000 friends on his Facebook fan page, but this is not your average social media profile. The profile of your average Facebook user shows typically some 130 friends (source:Facebook), and the average Twitter user has 126 followers. To exceed say 1,000 or 5,000 friends an individual normally has to have something special. It may be the fact that they were amongst the earliest adopters and have been active since day one, it may be that they are super-connected individuals in real-life, or it may be that they have a following due to some celebrity or claim to fame. The thing is, in marketing terms, friends and followers mean reach. So, is there a way to connect social media 'credit' in terms of following, and reward an individual for it?
Some people in this concept have a special power or capability, as Gladwell characterized in his book The Tipping Point, connectors have a unique reach across diverse populations. These connectors know lots of people and seem to have an extraordinary knack for making friends and acquaintances, and they have the ability to span many different worlds or are connected to many different types of people. Kevin Bacon, for example, is known as one of the most "connected" actors in Hollywood because he's played roles in many different movies that span a variety of genres, working with other actors from multiple age groups and backgrounds. This means Kevin has unique reach to a diverse community.
In social media terms, the super-connected individual with lots of friends is the digital equivalent of Kevin Bacon or Gladwell's "connector". If we want lots of people to hear about how great our brand is, in social media we ideally want to target these key influencers and make them advocates in the hope that they will spread the word about us.
Every time one of these super-connected individuals mentions our brand positively, in theory it has the ability to influence the group or individuals within the network. So an event might trigger a mention, but if it is a passive mention, it's not necessarily going to influence my friends or followers to flock to your brand. What we need to work on is getting these connected individuals to sing our praises, or to refer our brand or product to their friends. It won't be long before networking merges with customer analytics to enable marketers to target key influencers with viral messages that can flow out to their tribes or networks.
We could give the connector tangible rewards for every positive mention at the time of check-in at one of our 4sq or Gowalla locations, here's a few possible examples based on actual tweets:
Airline miles for positive check-ins/mentions
"Well, not complaining. Got an upgrade! Thank you #Qantas- I love you!"
Voucher for positive mention at a Starbuck's location
"Pumpkin spice latte why are you so delicious? Love @starbucks Minneapolis, MN"
Waiving account keeping fees for a positive mention of your bank
"Props to Chase for their great customer service"
For a mention, the reward needs to be commensurate with the following. For example, the user above who checked in @Starbucks, why not give him an SMS-voucher based on his social 'credit'. Something like this:
In this way you reward advocates with the largest following so that their role as key influencers or connectors can be leveraged effectively.
The objective is to get a key influencer or connector to advocate our brand, but in a way that benefits him, and if possible, his followers. So the first objective beyond advocacy is to create an offer that can be directed at his 'tribe' that gives that collective some benefit. Say a viral offer involving discounts or coupons to the tribe. If you are a bank, for example, a free $50 pre-paid debit card for successful member-get-member efforts for a new personal loan, credit card or account opening might work.
Build advocacy programs that recognize key influencers, their reach or social 'credit' and the value of their tribe as a whole. Reward the connector first and foremost, but think about viral offers to the tribe that feed off positive advocacy.
This is how loyalty should work in the social media universe.
Follow Brett King on Twitter: www.twitter.com/brettking