The Influencer Series – An Interview with Mark Schaefer

This week the Influencer Series speaks with Mark W. Schaefer, a globally-recognized blogger, speaker, educator, business consultant, and author who blogs for one of the top marketing blogs of the world. Mark also has written four best-selling books including The Tao of Twitter (the best-selling book on Twitter in the world) and Return On Influence,which was named one of the top business titles of the year by the American Library Association. His latest book is called Social Media Explained: Untangling the World’s Most Misunderstood Business Trend.  So, let’s get started!The Influencer Series, heather-anne maclean,

Heather:  On your website, you speak of trust.  Specifically you say people follow you because they trust you.  Trust is clearly important to you.  How do you think trust has changed over the last three years as a result of all scandals and misguided commentary or social posts from brand channels in the digital sphere?

 Mark:  I don’t think “trust” has changed and I don’t think our expectation of trust has changed. In fact, trust has been an expectation of those we work with since the beginning of time. And I don’t think we should confuse a company making a mistake (which they all do) with a fundamental culture that inhibits trust.

 New research from Pew shows that Millennials are the least trusting generation in history. They can easily sniff out a fake in 140 characters or less : )   So I do think enabling radical trust is a key to survival in this world.

Heather:  Based on your experience, why is it that so many brands are failing to really leverage the power of social media to build trust and influence?

 Mark:  I don’t know for sure but I have a theory. Many CMOs charged with leading a marketing department probably really cut their teeth in the business before social media was really as relevant as it is today. So they weren’t immersed in it, and many just don’t understand it. I see this so often at companies big and small and that was why I wrote the new book “Social Media Explained.” I get the same questions over and over again. So here are the answers!

 I also think many ad agencies are not equipped strategically or organizationally to handle the social media shift, which contributes to the problem too.

 Heather:  Speaking of influence, who do you think really holds the power base of influence?  Big brands, Paid Influencers, such as bloggers or Citizen Influencers? And why?

 Mark: It depends. Look, people with a lot of money to spend will usually have an edge. That’s a fact of life.

 But I also point out in my book Return On Influence that we do have this amazing, historically-important opportunity for every person, every company, every brand to build legitimate influence by creating content that moves through the Internet. I certainly have influence through my content. Will I be as powerful as Nike? No. So it’s all relative.

 A paid influencer is really just the modern day equivalent of somebody wearing one of those big sandwich signs. It might look cute at first but eventually you kind of ignore it. The real trick is to identify and nurture organic advocates and that is a long-term proposition that requires patience. Most companies don’t have patience. They have quarterly sales goals, which is why they fail miserably at influence marketing programs. 

Heather:  With social media being mainstream, content marketing being used by everyone and their pet, what do you think that marketers should be focusing on next to get a leg up on the competition?  Or, put another way, what do you think marketers are failing to do and should be doing?

Mark:  That’s a pretty big question. Let me try to answer it as simply as I can. First, most companies do not understand social media marketing. They are checking a box. Second, marketing is math, and becoming more so month by month. Whoever can master the analytics will win. Finally, keep an eye on the fundamentals. Don’t be blinded by the shifts and changes on the Internet.

I want to thank Mark for taking the time to be interviewed and a part of my blog.  It says a lot about his commitment and willing to help others!

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