Social Influence in B2B Marketing.

There seem to be two notable benefits to growing social influence. People pay you to talk, and they give you free shit.

I seem to have done a lot of talking in the last few years. Talking, writing books, talking about the writing and then talking some more. Maybe creating influence. I’ve talked about Waterloo Bridge and pastries a fair amount in that time, but mainly I’ve been advocating the new social imperative for B2B brands in a rapidly changing digital economy. I’m not the first of course and hopefully won’t be the last. Only recently the very delightful Jo Porritt at Crowd Media drew my attention to The Cluetrain Manifesto which said pretty much everything I believe in – 12 years ago.

Yet while the written word holds meaning, the spoken word appears to hold value. It’s a reflection of our increasing video consumption in the digital age that I’m being asked to wave my arms, shout and stamp my feet in front of a live audience. My ‘performance’ is recorded and distributed to a wider audience internally and/or externally. Some people, including my clients, recoil from video, “Ooooh, no, I’d never do that. I’d be terrified… you never know who might see it… does my bum look big in this…?” etc.

I see it as an opportunity. I can reach many instead of the few. I can communicate the passion and personality of the brand.

Maybe, just maybe, if the message is ‘real’ it won’t feel like I’m banging my head against a brick B2B wall quite so much. Oh, and I get paid, which is nice.

I admit that wearing makeup is still a bit of a challenge…

The free shit is nice too. Because of my growing ‘social influence’, I’m apparently the right kind of guy to talk about stuff. I deliberately avoided the word ‘promote’ there, because I don’t get paid for it. If someone sends me crap, I put it in the trash and tell the world it’s crap. If it’s something relevant to me or my audience and it’s good – I want to tell the world. Some digital ‘gurus’ are constructing a whole career around that very model. In my mind however, it’s just human nature. We talk about stuff – good and bad – and people listen, or don’t.

Someone sent me an email the other day. It might have been relevant, I don’t know because I trashed it. I simply don’t read cold emails anymore. By contrast, someone at Trend Micro visited me to deliver, explain and install a product called SafeSync that he wanted my opinion on. I’m glad he did, because it’s brilliant. SafeSync copies all your computer files to the cloud, automatically distributes them to all your mobile devices, secures them as back-up and keeps them all in Sync. It’s ridiculously easy to use, quicker than Dropbox and cheap as chips. Yes, there’s still iCloud, but maybe Apple shouldn’t rule the world completely. SafeSync is a very good product. There is an SMB offering that suits me just fine so I’ll be rolling it out across the business. The ‘free trial’ model is as old as the hills, but the guy at Trend specifically selected me as an ‘influencer’. He wanted me to write about the product, not simply buy it. Double whammy then – I’m writing about it and buying it.

And that is how business will proliferate in the social economy. People connected to networks and networks connected to other networks. The people make the decisions and their communities hold influence. Businesses can serve up their offerings, but they are no longer the sole authority. Business brands would do well to remember their audience – how to connect to it and how it operates in a connected world. Oh, and carry an eyeliner. Always carry your eyeliner.

Scot McKee