I did something tonight that I rarely do – jump into a Twitter #chat. I've participated in a few #scriptchats recently, and observe other #chats from a distance – soaking in what I can use and leaving the rest. But tonight I dove into #blogchat, and I'm sure there are more than a few people who thought, 'Who the hell is this guy?' From what I can discern, most #blogchat people are either in public relations or have some type of journalism background. Like I said, I usually keep my distance. But tonight I was following their topic of 'influencers and control' with an eye on a prospective client strategy. The conversation shifted a bit to whether you have any control of dialogue in Social Media. Yes, this directly pertained more to bloggers and commenters, but I believe you definitely have the opportunity to control dialogue in Social Media so I decided to contribute to the #chat. In 140 characters, however, I'm pretty sure my position looked something like lunacy. So consider this post my explanation.
First, you don't control everything. Obviously. People aren't robots. So, when I say control – I don't mean *total* control. That doesn't exist.
Second, because people aren't robots, the best way to build an audience in Social Media in any capacity is authentic, transparent and open dialogue with people. Real people. Not just demographics. That in itself is a foreign concept for most companies.
Third, because it's a dialogue (i.e. a 2-way conversation), it requires a well-conceived strategy to guide how it progresses. Remember, people are people – not robots. Every dialogue is as unique as the people engaging in it.
As an advertising guy, I've spent my career inside of the heads of people discovering the precise tone and message necessary for communications to act like internal conversations to the people reading it. The overall goal of every project I've ever worked on has been to get someone to act or think favorably. The only way to reach specific goals is to have a sound strategy in place. A strategy requires thinking through every possible contingency to ensure that no matter what someone might think going into the conversation, you're prepared to overcome any objection and ultimately influence (control) the outcome. Based on the strategy, you engage the mind of a reader in a meaningful dialogue. The moment the reader engages with the communications – you own control. Even if it's for :15 seconds on the radio, :30 on the telly or 140 characters on Twitter. What you say counts. Say it well, and with sincere respect to your audience, and you're on your way to controlling the dialogue. The only difference in Social Media is that you must be prepared for reciprocal communications (which makes it a true dialogue.) If you've done your homework, and you have a solid strategy in place – almost nothing can throw you off.
Understand this – you no more control how people think and what they say any more than you control the weather. Likewise, if you think BUY MY PRODUCT will work on everyone who comes into contact with this command, you're delusional. My point is not that you control what everyone does, thinks, says or writes – but rather that you control what *you* do and say. Preparation means you're more likely to influence people to get them to do whatever it is you want them to do (based on specific goals within a strategy.)
I have to tell you, writing this post is not what I expected to be doing at 1:00 a.m. on a Monday. But sometimes you've just got to think things through. Thanks for that, #blogchat.
[Note: Because of its exclusive 1-way nature, traditional advertising is a lot like smoking in a restaurant to the Social Media crowd. But what you might not know is that for us to get to the point where the messages we create have an impact on an audience requires a lot of 2-way conversations that take place only in the minds of the people creating the communications. Which makes traditional communications problem solving a lot more relevant to Social Media than you probably realized.]
Jim is a father, husband, copywriter and founder of the virtual advertising agency smashcommunications. You can find him on Twitter at @smashadv.
14 CommentsLEAVE A COMMENT
Dec 21, 2009
Jim, now I can say…we agree. As I suspected, your use of “control” caught most off-guard. My take-away from your post is influence is a better term in conjunction with your position rather than “control,” but then again, that’s semantics. 😉
Dec 21, 2009
Kim – the fact is, I don’t control what I have for dinner, much less what I can compel thousands of people to do. The best you can ever do in ANY kind of communications is push a dialogue in the most favorable direction (based on goals.)
Dec 21, 2009
I so agree with you here (must be the advertising part in us). Earlier in the year the buzz was that the consumer will control the brand with social media. Control? How? Your brand is your message and the message is not created by consumers. Yeah, they can influence it by not buying it and telling people why but they cannot control it. Thankfully, that died quickly as people realized that you control what you say in SM and in trad adv.
Influence and control are different and it was hard for you to get that across in blogchat in 140 characters. Influence is not always based upon trust as I am a diet pepsi drinker. Coke can send me free stuff and I will pass it along to someone else. It is not that I do not trust coke, I do not like the flavor. On the flip side, I do not drink diet pepsi b.c I trust them, I like the flavor. There are instances where influence is based on trust though.
Where we have control: We are influenced by people/companies we allow in. We do not control what they are saying to us but we control what we let in and how we react to it. That is the same across the board in social med and in trad adv. Now some can argue that if you have on X channel and a spot for X company comes on that you do not control that spot coming on your television, but you control if you are paying attention.
Well done good to see I was not alone.
Dec 21, 2009
I definitely think it’s the advertising part in us Suzanne. You see, we’re raised on the notion that with the right message, crafted expertly for a target ‘person’ we help influence decision making. In most cases this means helping people think a new way about a thing. As always, the product or service is King. All we do is help mobilize people to consider the product or service in a new way. The same is true for bloggers. Assuming bloggers really help push tons of product (which is still a bit suspect if you ask me), the work we’ve done in influencing people during in our careers is perfectly relevant in SM as it is in any other traditional medium. The most important thing is the product. As you mention above, you can’t make people loyal to a brand because you tell them to – it happens because you like the brand. Period.
Dec 21, 2009
Homerun with the right message to the targeted person. I think as more and more non advertising people jump into SM and in 1 day call themselves an expert that they are unable to really get that part. I may be going out on a limb here but if we look at SM in a manner of putting out messages that we want a certain group to be attracted to so that they notice us and converse, is this not a part of the objective of trad adv? Before people shoot me down and say that trad adv is a one way conversation and SM is 2 way – that is not the point. Ad asks you to read it and react, in SM are we not asking people to read our profiles and follow us or become our friends?
We like what we like and if you think I am an idiot, then you will not follow me or read anything that I write. Sames goes for a product.
I have to agree again that SM and trad adv are not that far apart but people want to say that it is. I wrote a piece on this and people thought I was NUTS. When someone big says it, it will be the Ah Ha moment and all will jump to our side of the fence.
Great comment to mine. You got me thinking a lot about this again.
Dec 23, 2009
Brilliant! I wrote something a while back touching on this topic. You call it control I call it influence whatever the term you are correct. Using Social media has made me re-think how I do business. It has made me a better writer, has given me inspiration and forged new relationships. I have been meeting new people not only through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn but, at the various meet-up, webinars, conferences etc. Therefore, picking and choosing who I follow or allow to “control” my decisions or recommend is more than just another reason to engage, but a reason to make recommendations based on value. Now if I can only figure out how to explain social network”relationships” to clients I will retire. Happy Holidays Mr. Ad man 😉
Dec 23, 2009
Oh so true – we control what we do and say and that’s about it. Which means we choose who we allow to influence us. If someone turns out to be insincere, we can turn them off. That doesn’t mean we have any control over these people, but rather we have control of our own decisions. In this way, SM is like a filter. And in the end, brands/people sort themselves out.
Dec 28, 2009
Been watching a lot of Mad Men lately, Jim. So your smoking reference at the end makes sense to me :). I agree with Suzanne, think you ran into obstacles on blogchat because you used the word control. I have definitely been conditioned to form a cross with my fingers and look for the garlic when I hear someone say they can control conversation.
I actually think you have much more control or influence — pick your word — over perception via social media than traditional advertising. Access to information and conversation online is changing the way people think about products and their expectations of brands. Sorry to say, but I can’t think of one ad I heard on the radio or TV recently that by itself got me to buy a product. Always going to ask “someone like me” for a second opinion. Social media is conditioning us to this behavior.
And that’s why, IMO, brands HAVE to be part of the conversation. Spending millions of dollars to just start a conversation you can’t finish makes little sense to me.
Dec 28, 2009
Nice post Jim… funny how everyone is so caught up with “controlling” the message. As if reacting to a consumer generated input (complaint/praise/question or idea) is so scary. A shame really because some of the most important ideas come about when the consumer takes the initiative to speak to or about a brand.
Dec 28, 2009
You want to know something – the smoking thing and Mad Men is a complete coincidence. If you believe in that sort of thing.
You’re right about control. Here’s the thing, we have 3 dogs. I scoop dog dung every day. Why? To lower the potential of having dog dung brought into our house on our kids’ shoes. I do my best. However, that doesn’t mean I’m going to control that this never happens. It just helps ensure it happens less. Of course I could get rid of the dogs and kids to control it happening even less. Hell, I could never go outside again and pretty much guarantee it. But it could *still* happen. For example, if I invite someone over and *they* track it in.
My point is that control is an illusion. Name one thing you really *control?* The fact that i responded to the absolute “Can’t be done” argument in #blogchat with an equally ridiculous “Yes it can” rebuttal was an attempt to illustrate just how little anyone controls anything. In advertising, brands have always believed that they control outcomes through print, radio or tv ads (among others.) But I’ve always felt that this is ridiculous too. Which is why when I write advertising, I always consider the target audience the most important person in the dialogue. More important than the brand. This has gotten me laughed at more than once. Thank God Social Media has come along.
Anyway, yes, the best we can do is control our own actions to positively influence a desired outcome in anything. Unfortunately, shit happens.
Dec 28, 2009
But Tom, most of that reciprocal dialogue has been outsourced in the past. Of course it’s scary – it’s a new concept altogether. Even though I’m sure outsourcing how brands manage in Social Media is a possibility too.
Dec 30, 2009
I think that in today’s society everyone rages against the world “control” because we all want to believe that we are independent thinkers who make decisions on our own accord. That is why many people say that advertisements don’t effect them…even though sales increases can be directly linked to marketing.
I think this post is great because it is not about ‘control’ in the sense of pulling puppet strings, but control in the sense of moderating/guiding/leading. If you are not in SM, then your reputation is simply being batted around by the masses. If you are there, you can be a part of the conversation and have the opportunity to influence the conversation. Soothe dissidents. Promote advocates and all that SM speak.
Dec 30, 2009
Control is an illusion to make us feel comfortable about taking steps forward. But the truth is, I barely control what I have for dinner, much less whether I can write something that totally convinces someone to do what I want them to do.
Dec 31, 2009
You CAN control what you write. Plant the seed and do your best to help it grow…can’t control whether or not it rains though.
My novel – Minor King
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