The guides

I met last week with this incredibly zany guy named Nick Hayes of Influencer 50. His firm understands influencer marketing at a very deep level and he’s now in the Bay Area establishing a presence here. In doing so, he’s studying the top 50 influencers who influence the influencer marketing field. Trying following that. But anyways, that’s what brought us together.
Do check them out as they totally get this field. They have a background in PR but understand that this is not about the traditional PR field at all.
During our conversation, we talked about his business and mine. And of what is going on… and while I normally don’t do the pontification thing, I just want to step back from the specifics of any marketing initiative and point something out.
We are in a time of great change. I suppose that’s obvious. Post 9/11, there’s been much commentary about these uncertain times. Whatever side of the political aisle you are on, you can likely agree that environmental concerns, “terrorism”, War, and all that are causing us to live in uncertain times. Institutions, much beloved for decades are seen with some distrust and journalism once held up as the “4th arm of government” now ranks as one of the most disliked roles, even below that of a used car sales person.
And, in these times of uncertainty, the technology that is being innovated is largely focused on web or mobile. And it’s that stuff that I’m making a commentary on here. Look at the top 50 products in different lists of innovations and almost all have this as a common theme: connection. It’s the Linked In service that lets me stay in touch with colleagues easier, or Digg where I can know what others care about and not what journalism is pushing, it can be amazon’s service to tell me what other people have actually purchased, or it can be VOX which lets me blog to only a select few. Our society and what we’re creating as tools is focused on creating more connected-ness.
People to people connection, not institution to people connection.
Whenever social change of this magnitude happens we have to rethink what we’re doing. While it can mean how to incorporate new technologies into our marketing portfolio, ie. blogging, I think there’s something bigger here.
And that changes what we do in designing what we create, and how we “go to market”.
In times of uncertainty, people will turn to one another. And in doing, they don’t turn to a mass. They turn to a guide, a trusted friend. Who will lead these people? Will it be the traditional sources of people, ala journalists or a company like your own? Likely not.
I believe we will have a new class of leaders, people who are natural leaders who do research and investigation so they tell the good from the bad, defining by their words and actions the benefits of using something. And whatever they are called: citizen marketers, consumer advocates, key influentials, user enthusiasts or something of the like. The name is not the point. (but I’m sure someone like Nick and his pal Duncan Brown, or someone really well known who is good at making something popular like Seth Godin or Malcolm Galdwell will come up with the perfect term, because that’s what they do so well).
There will be many of these consumer advocates as leaders. For any category or product. It could be yogurt, it could be cars, it could be blogging services. And whether they choose WordPress or VOX as the winning offer will define which product is more successful. And in doing so, these individuals, these people will shape the market view of what your company or product stands for. If you don’t already know your key user influencers, isn’t it time to do so? If you’re not in dialogue with them already, what do you think is at risk?
Uber-trends like this are tough to pick up on, almost because so many people are trying to “name it” and coin a phrase that perfectly captures it. I’m more interested in making sure you’re paying attention so you and not your competitors can figure out what is the right strategy for you to win markets.

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  1. I’m so glad you used the word ‘strategy’. That’s what it’s all about!
    I just commented on Duncan’s blog in response to his “who has time to blog?” post.
    I gave a rather lengthy post there – which I won’t repeat here – but, my comment essentially boils down to the answers to these questions:
    Why is your organization engaging in social media? What is your reason? What is your currency (not money)?
    Do you understand the anatomy of social media well enough to get involved or do you need a guide?
    What can you afford to invest to get a return?
    What combination of team talents is going to get ‘the work’ done? (Social media isn’t just play.)
    How will you know when you ‘get there’? How will you measure? What are your KPI’s?
    It is a lot to think about. This is new. It’s a shift. And, it’s not going away. Forward-thinking businesses would do well to figure out how many loops the social media rollercoaster has before they strap in.

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