Everything you've learned about social media is incorrect... Is it part of your strategy to target folks with thousands of Twitter followers while you're planning your next social media campaign or to try to make your product "go viral"?
We've all had many misunderstandings about how people share online and how ideas propagate, it turns out.
Fortunately for us, Paul Adams has begun to clear the air with his book "Grouped," in which he explains how people share online and what you, as a company owner, can do about it.
Adams, by the way, is the head of Facebook and Google's social operations, so he has unrivaled access to data on the subject.
His most important realization is that there is a significant difference between strong and weak connections.
At the conclusion of this overview, you'll know the difference between the two and how to focus your campaigns on strong links to ensure that your social efforts succeed.
When we glance at someone's Facebook profile and see that they have hundreds of friends, it's tempting to assume that they must have a lot of online clout.
However, even the finest social media tools that show us who is "influential" online don't tell us much about who inspires other people to buy products or services. We want to know as company owners.
There's a big difference between strong bonds and loose ties, as Adams points out. Let's look at how human connections are constructed, followed by a discussion of the differences between strong and weak links.
We regard five persons in our "inner circle" at the heart of our relationship structure. These are the folks with whom you have really deep relationships and with whom you contact regularly.
The next ring out would be made up of people you are really close to, usually about 15 people.
The next ring comprises the 50 individuals you contact on a semi-regular basis so that you are aware of what is happening in their lives.
Here, casual acquaintances and pals might suffice.
The 150 persons with whom you can establish a healthy social interaction are in the next ring out.
Stanley Milgram is well-known for his studies on the maximum number of individuals with whom we may sustain a connection before things start to fall apart. That was expected to change with social media, but it hasn't.
Finally, we have 500 weak relationships, or individuals you just vaguely know but recognize.
Strong Ties, Weak Ties
Your tight ties and loose ties are defined by the circles in which you operate. Let's look at what they're called and what they represent for your company.
Most of our strong relationships were with our family members, friends, coworkers, and neighbors before the social media revolution. That seems logical, given the individuals we encounter and engage with daily.
We trust the individuals we know best. Therefore we go to them for suggestions most of the time.
With the introduction of social media, this was meant to change. We could now connect with anybody, anywhere, and we'd undoubtedly begin to form greater bonds with those with whom we had the same interests.
Consider this: the average Facebook user has 160 friends (at the time of Adams' book) but only communicates with 4-6 of them every month.
The surprising conclusion is that we mainly utilize social media to improve our connections with those with whom we already have strong ties.
Although we connect with our strong relationships most of the time, we also communicate with our weak ties on occasion.
We generally do so because we share the same interest. Weak connections might be helpful in some situations.
Weak relationships, for example, are frequently a better source of information than strong ties and can lead to insights or discoveries that we would not have made otherwise.
The disadvantage of using weak relationships as a source of information is that we have no way of knowing whether or not we can trust them or the information they provide.
We just don't know them well enough to trust them blindly. Therefore we need to know that they can speak on certain issues to act on their knowledge.
Conclusion - Market To Strong Ties
All of the studies on decision-making speaks to the notion that the individuals we are emotionally closest to have a disproportionate impact on us.
According to independent studies, individuals are three to four times more inclined to believe a friend or acquaintance for product purchasing recommendations than a blogger or expert.
It boils down to that when individuals seek information and views from others, they will turn to their close friends and family first. Even though there are weak ties with more expertise on the subject, they trust their strong ties and follow their advice.
As a result, you should structure your campaigns around strong relationships rather than weak ties as a corporation.
This implies your campaign can't be powered by a few hand-picked social media super users. You need your message to go from one strong tie to another. This usually involves examining your message and product and determining how to encourage it to spread among friends and family members.
If you do it well, people will naturally share the information through their social media profiles.