Recently I have been doing a significant amount of research on consumer advocacy. Through my late night Google search binges, I stumbled upon this insightful video on advocacy featuring Associate Arts Professor at NIU, Clay Shirky. His video really resonated with me on the sheer power advocates have as influencers over how others perceive brands.
Shirky teaches a class on the Theory and Practice of Social Media, which to my amazement is also now an actual subject available to students at many major Universities. I’m wishing something as applicable as this was available for students even just a few years ago. However that was well before the social media boom and before companies actually adopted the use of social technologies to improve how they connected with customers, created internal efficiencies, and increased profitability. To be honest, this is something that I feel should even be brought into the educational system at an even earlier point, as having a skill set relatable to a social business is an invaluable asset to those joining the workforce in today’s connected world.
Within Shirky’s video he highlights the differences present between implicit and explicit consumer advocacy, along with the relationship between the two. There is a clear halo effect that exists as more people implement a brand as part of their lifestyle (explicit), which then yields higher social proof that people are in fact actually using that product or service (implicit). This connection between implicit and explicit advocacy will only continue to rise as people’s use of new and existing social networks continue on the upward trend. The sheer size of people’s individual networks and overall reach also continues to exponentially grow. In today’s connected world just one individual can have significant influence on the purchasing decisions of thousands based on how socially connected they are, something brands in years past never had to overcome.
After thinking about Shirky’s message in the video, it also re-affirmed a theme many social business thought leaders bring up; that brands are no longer in control. At one point not to long ago, brands had the ability to control the message within the market place. Yet in the current environment, where everyone has a voice by way of various social media channels, brands can only really influence that message. Organizations that realize this by dialing up their social engagement, becoming more transparent, and leveraging their advocates will find themselves in a stronger position. In parallel, brands that uncover how to truly empower their greatest consumer advocates will find an advantage.
I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on advocacy. Is there a particular brand you advocate for and why? How frequently does someone in your social circle influence one of your purchasing decisions?
Last year brought many new experiences my way, several of which consumed my attention and threw me off the content creation course (writing). I can think of two things that have significantly impacted my life for the better even though my goal of being a more proactive writer became distant. For starters, I’ve been really enjoying being a father. You’d be surprised just how much time it takes, but every minute of it worth it. This year my wife and I celebrated our daughters first birthday; and have witnessed so many more of her milestones. All this as she grows into her larger than life personality, what a ride it’s been thus far. We’re also excited to welcome a second Renno baby into the world this June. Excited for what the addition to the family will bring but now the parents team and kids team will be at equal strength. Only time will tell who has practiced more.
Second I had the opportunity to take on new roles within my career journey this year. This summer I took on a role in Chicago, kick starting the organization’s first official social media department and helping to develop and implement several social business ideas across the enterprise. I wanted to pause a moment and recognize all of you that helped me to achieve this opportunity. There are far to are too many to call out individually; but confident in the fact that the tremendous support shown by the Milwaukee Twitter community and significant increase in local brand recognition they helped me to achieve, aided in paving the way. Later in the year as our organization’s social efforts grew, so did the need for additional headcount. It was during this period of departmental growth, I was afforded the opportunity to lead the social media team and program for the business. I am grateful for this new team and tremendously excited for the skill sets they bring to the table, as together we’ll be able to accomplish so much more.
As we move into the New Year I feel more grounded, more thoughtful, and more open minded to new ideas than ever before. I am continuously learning both personally and professionally from those around me and through the relationships I have made with all of you. For this I am forever grateful. Twenty Twelve brings about another change, made possible by a good friend of mine Phil Gerbyshak. His thought leadership and digital experience has helped me to expand the way I think about the social / digital space, as well as helped to breathe new life into my own little corner of the web. Thank you for taking the time, sharing your knowledge, and above all being a good friend.
This year I am looking forward to sharing new thoughts and ideas with all of you. I am looking forward to asking more questions, seeking different opinions and challenging the status quo. I look forward to learning more and perhaps even teaching at times. I look forward to making the time to connect with more people and build new relationships. I look forward to giving more time to my growing family. Along the way, I look forward to sharing my reflections with you.