Before all you English majors go off on me, I know the title is making use of poor grammar -but “From Whom Do You Seek Advice?” doesn’t really “sing” when used as a headline. Nuff’ said.
The real question is, how do you select, solicit and filter advice on the topics in your life and work that matter? Most folks have an informal network of influencers and advisers, people they turn to when they have a question, want to validate a choice or point of view. Some have a small circle, some have a very large network of various family members with a range of levels of expertise. Sometimes its just that you want to hear another opinion, from someone who thinks like you do, who will dilute and sugar-coat their stance and feed your own back to you, just as a feel good.
But sometimes, picking the right expert really matters. Sometimes its a case of hiring a professional who you happen to know under other circumstances. Selecting a realtor, picking a doctor or dentist, finding a tax preparer or accountant, an attorney for non-criminal work. Most of those selections are based on referrals or references from our known network of advisers. Sometimes the professional themselves is part of the network! But how do you really make the choice? Is it emotional, is it pragmatic, is it price sensitive, is it strictly relationship based?
Studies have shown that reaching those influencers is the most powerful way to prompt word-of-mouth transference of brand and product information. But how do you find them and reach them? Most of the advisers who are non-family are close friends from various stages of our lives. College roommates, fraternity brothers or sorority sisters, high school buddies, team members from sports activities, vendors of various services we use routinely – familiar faces. To find these people and gather them as a list for someone else is virtually impossible – until now. Social media does exactly that and more. Those influencers and advisers are now called “friends”.
That’s the real power of social media – reaching the influencers of your target audience. If you wanted to build the killer marketing app, it would be one that selects all the Facebook pages from people that fall into your target demographic based on data presented on the pages, and selects the five most prolific friend commentators that appear next to a question mark. You’ve asked the audience for help with a question, and those top advisers answer it. Select them and market to them socially, and they will bleed that influence into the key purchaser. We can only dream . . . so far.
For now, we’ll have to settle for joining the online conversation in a corporate but personal way, and hope that those influencers see us, hear us, and most importantly, believe us, so that they pass along the attributes we offer to their list of “friends”.
Keep at it, the tech geniuses will eventually create the key that unlocks the real monetary power of social media, and when they do, look out . . .
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