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?