It’s 2017, Why Are People Are Still Talking About Buying Twitter Followers?

Editor’s Note: This post was originally posted in 2016, but due to recent conversations, the date in the title was updated as it’s still very relevant.

Like words, numbers can matter. Everyone wants to be an influencer, but really it should send people running for the hills when it is suggested that you buy Twitter followers, and here’s why.

Twitter FollowersI am a huge proponent of using the right words at the right time. Words can lift someone up, or destroy someone — that’s certainly what Donald Trump bets on, but I digress. Numbers, like words are important in the right context. As a Digital Strategist, I love that instant measurement available. It can validate quite quickly that I am on the right track or, that I am on the wrong path so I can pivot quickly. Everything from reach, to clicks to how long someone is on a page — and everything in between — is very valuable.

Numbers, like words tell a story. People get very excited about a good story. Stories have the power to persuade — to influence. In business, government, academia and even non-profits, it really is all about influencing behaviour. Some will talk around this and try to “persuade” us that there is a bigger purpose, but in reality, let’s call a spade a spade. We want to influence you to buy a product or a service, vote for someone, choose a particular school or support “my” cause.

This of course is where things get tricky. I grew up hearing “figures don’t lie, but liars figure.”  That might have been true at one point in time but we all know of, and heard about, what some affectionately deem “creative accounting.” Numbers like words can be used as a weapon. Why do you think that polling results are so important?  The questions you have to ask yourself however is: who commissioned the poll? When was the poll taken? Who participated? What point in time did it cover ? Remember polls or surveys capture information at a given time — they are a snapshot of “that specific” point in time. That could be good or bad for the particular polling subject. 

So this takes me to Twitter followers (and other social media channels). The more followers one has, the more influence one is supposed to have. That is ONLY true however if your followers are real. I mean, come on, how can you influence behaviour or a change in behaviour if your followers are not actually real!

Trust has never been more important. The same goes for authenticity. We want to trust and we want to believe in people who are authentic. So, imagine that you have gained some level of influence because you have a great Twitter following. Perhaps you talk about how important it is to be authentic.

So, what happens when someone decides to check just how influential you really are, and how authentic you are by using a simple and free tool such as Twitter Audit. You might think, who cares? Well, if your followers turn our to be mostly fake, one can ask what else you are making up?

If trust and authenticity really matter, then walk the talk. Don’t say one thing to “look” or “sound” good, and then do another. Actually live and demonstrate what it is like to be trustworthy and authentic. By choosing to NOT buy Twitter followers demonstrates that you are truly authentic!

This of course is my opinion! If you want to learn more about marketing best practices, check out my other posts.

The Secret Behind Every Successful Executive and Business: Reinvention

Have you ever wondered what makes some people more successful than others? Sure, talent and experience are a part of the equation, but there is an even more important component – reinvention. Really successful people don’t stand still. They are constantly changing and reinventing themselves. For a more in-depth look at this, I had the chance, on behalf of Opportunities NB to speak to Dorie Clark, author of Reinventing You and the soon to be released Stand Out.

MacLean: Reinvention is an interesting concept, which in this economic climate is likely more important than ever. What was the driver for this book?

Dorie Clark

Dorie Clark

Clark: Certainly through my own career and observing others, I realized that we are being called upon far more than we ever have to reinvent ourselves. It is really an anomaly to stay in one job or with one company throughout your career. It just isn’t the norm any longer. The world is changing so quickly, that people need to be able to change with it.

For example, I started out as a reporter and got laid off. I worked on a number of political campaigns and we lost. It took a while for me to find my own professional footing, but I did. I discovered a lot about the process in doing so. Now, for the last nine years, I have my own consulting business, I write, speak professionally, etc. So, it was that process that really got me interested and I spoke to dozens of people who also went through reinventing themselves. I wanted to capture best practices and give readers the tools to do it for themselves in a faster more efficient manner.

One of the people I spoke with for Reinventing You was Steven Rice, Executive Vice President, Juniper Networks in Silicon Valley. One of the things he shared with me was a question he always asks in interviews. The question: what are you doing to reinvent yourself?  He does this because he knows that the positions he is hiring for now, will likely be substantially different in two years. So, he needs to know if the candidates will have the agility and willingness to reinvent themselves. 

MacLean: Our economy and world is really changing as you mentioned, what do you think about organizations that exclude talent because they may have changed jobs several times in a three or five year period?

Clark: I think that is a ridiculously outdated notion and it might be that people who still propound this don’t fully understand how the economy has changed the landscape.

Of course you can look at a resume and make assumptions about why someone might have been in roles for a short period of time. But without further investigation, you might not fully understand the person has been working short-term contracts, held temporary positions or have had the misfortune of being laid off. Things are just not black and white anymore. Quite frankly by excluding such people, you are overlooking a huge talent pool with tremendous potential and experience. 

Layoffs, changing economies and changing work dynamics are all great reasons for people to take control of their careers. People need to be able to identify what is needed for the next change or the next role they will be in. They can’t wait for or expect someone to do it for them.

At the same time, I think that it is important for companies to realize that they tipped the scales in the 1990’s with huge layoffs. This created a realization for a lot of people that there wasn’t a huge benevolence occurring within the corporate world. As a result perhaps the most talented and marketable employees are keeping an eye on what was happening in the marketplace and often times jumping ship. It is now more important for employers to be aware of this and incentivizing their most marketable employees in order to keep them. Essentially, companies need to put more thought into the talent pipeline that they have and specifically how they approach retention. 

MacLean: Reinventing yourself is really about developing and maintaining your personal brand. Do people connect with the term “personal brand”? There are certainly critics.

Clark: As mentioned, the book came about as a result of my own experience, but it really goes deeper than that. I wrote a blog post on reinvention for Harvard Business Review and it was so popular that they asked me to expand it into a full length magazine piece and then a book.

So, yes people do connect with their personal brand. It is, after all, a synonym for your reputation. And, yes there has been some blow back in relation to building your personal brand. It is a modern term. It was inaugurated in 1997 by Tom Peters in a cover story he wrote for Fast Company, called The Brand Called You, but the concepts are much older. Because it really is your reputation, I would challenge any professional that claims he or she doesn’t care about their reputation, or doesn’t think it is important. Paying attention to your reputation – your personal brand – is important.

MacLean: You have really had a tremendous level of support and commentary from people about your book and their personal experiences, what can you tell us about that?

Clark: I have really been heartened by the response. There are so many people with so many stories. It is incredible. One such person is Blaire Hughes, a reader from Australia. He was a teacher by profession, but really wanted to get into the world of sports. After reading the book and using the self-assessment, he was able to set up internships around the world and he found a job that he absolutely loves.

MacLean: How important is it for the C-Suite in the process of reinvention?

ClarkReinvention is important at a corporate level and at an individual level. RIM for example, needed to reinvent itself into Blackberry and they are still evolving. It really comes down to the fact that if you find yourself in a position of what used to work, no longer working, you need to find a new find a new playbook. If you don’t, you are going to be out of business or out of work. Of course, it is also important that you don’t wait until the last minute. You need to be continually scanning the horizon for trends and plan accordingly. You don’t want to face a cataclysmic disruption and shift.

In fact, I like to think about reinvention in two phases:

  • First there is Reinvention with a capital “R: With Reinvention the change may be associated with something that doesn’t happen very often. For example, a complete career change or something that happens over a period of several years. 
  • Then there is reinvention with a small “r”. This reinvention is more about having an attribute of trying and being open and doing small activities that keep us fresh enough so that we are not thrown flat on our faces when bigger changes happen.

MacLean: What role do leaders play in reinvention?

Clark: Leaders play a critical role in encouraging people to reinvent themselves. They must create a culture for this. When you are reinventing yourself, or your organization, there is an iteration process. Some things will work and some things won’t. People need to in an environment where they feel safe to try and pivot when things don’t work. If however, you work in an environment that expects perfection, people won’t try. The culture won’t accept “trying”. This is dangerous. In these environments people won’t grow and neither will the organization.

MacLean: You have a new book coming out on April 21st, what can you tells us about that?

Clark: I am very excited about it. Stand Out, How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It is for people who have reinvented themselves and now want to build on it. For example, how do you become the recognized expert in your field? There are many voices out there and there are some people who are very noisy and they stand out. They might not have the best idea or the most knowledge, they are just the loudest. I wanted to hear what some of the world’s top thought leaders did to stand out. I interviewed 50 of these people and reverse engineered how they achieved what they did. It is my goal that this book will help people take the next step.

Want to learn more about Dorie Clark and her work and books? Click here. 

This blog post was prepared for Opportunities New Brunswick.

5 Ways to Use Influencer Marketing


Eric T. Tung

The term ‘Influencer Marketing’ can mean different things to different people, and can sometimes be narrowly defined as one particular type of influence marketing. A brand might be constraining itself by only considering one type of influencer marketing, when others could be used to supplement it. Here’s a quick rundown of various methods of influencer marketing, from the least involved to most involved for influencers: 

Marketing From Influencers: Use Them for Trending Info

Whether you use simple tools like Twitter Lists, or something more thorough like Traackr, you can learn quite a bit from your influencers. What are industry experts predicting for the future, or what are the trends being talked about currently among influencers? Even without contacting influencers for input, you can gauge industry trends just by seeing what influencers are talking about and then adding to the conversation with your view. Not only will you find that your viewpoint will add to the natural conversation around the topic, but you’ll provide great SEO for others looking for more information about it.

Marketing Through Influencers: Give Them Exclusive Access

One key aspect of influencer marketing is making them feel appreciated, and part of that is offering them exclusive access to your events or influencers. At Ned Lamont for US Senate in 2006, our campaign communications team worked closely with political bloggers locally and nationally. We offered access to the candidate, and even issued press announcements and daily schedules to bloggers as well as mainstream media. By offering bloggers daily announcements and exclusive access, we helped create or inspire content.

Marketing To Influencers: Giving Them Free Stuff

When thinking about influencer marketing, most people think about free-stuff marketing. That is to say that a company will offer free services or products to influencers for review blogs, videos and social shares. Ford gave away 100 Fiestas in Europe in 2009 and in the US in 2013 to celebrities, bloggers and reviewers to increase awareness of the new vehicle. Influencers spent between six months and a year and produced tens-of-thousands of pieces of content. Some sources quoted a 60% market awareness of the vehicle before it was sold. (Disclosure: I am a member of the Ford press fleet program where I review vehicles for them, typically for a week.)    

Marketing With Influencers: Set Up a Social Influencer Program

A step beyond offering influencers exclusive access is to formalize a social influencer program. At BMC Software, our customer connect team uses an advocate hub to help customers interested in supporting BMC. Tools like Social Toaster and Addvocate help by offering pre-approved messages and social posts to influencers and employees to share on your behalf. With a  formalized tool, it’s much easier for influencers to share company and product information without fearing they are sharing unreleased information prematurely. 

Marketing Through Influencers: Guest Blogging

Perhaps the most time-intensive option in influencer marketing is guest blogging. Just like I’m writing this blog post for TaylorMade Solutions, your company can also recruit guest bloggers interested in sharing their perspective on the issues. They can help you create content and share the information with their audiences, while you can provide them an outlet and platform to reach new audiences.

Whether you’re just getting started in influencer marketing, or you have been working at it for years, it’s always a good idea to take a step back and see what other ways you might be able to improve or expand your program. While most people think of free-stuff or guest blogging as influencer marketing, there are many more options to engage and work with influencers for your mutual benefit.

About Eric T. Tung: is the top-ranked social media professional in Houston and was recognized as a top 33 global social professional by Forbes. Eric is a national speaker and consultant in social media.  Eric’s experience includes communications, marketing and sales for Apple, Dell, Applied Materials and Newell Rubbermaid, and he is currently the full-time social media manager for BMC Software.


Why Influence Still Matters

When you are about to make a purchase, what do you do? If you are like me and most people, we do some research and then based on what we find, we…wait for it…we ask our friends, colleagues and family what product or service they use. This my friends is influence at its best. In fact, it is the precursor to social proof.  We feel better knowing that the people we trust and respect would: 1) share their experience with us and 2) recommend a product/service or, conversely send us running for cover because of their experience.  And, this is why influence still matters.  

For brands then, this really is at the heart of the matter. More specifically, it is at the heart of the people who manage the brands and plan, plot and strategize how to influence buyer behaviour. Ultimately these same people want to understand how to influence others. Influence is not new. Dale Carnagie knew this back in the 1930s. In fact, his book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” was published in 1936.  Still a good read by the way!

While wanting to influence is not new, what has changed is primarily how we go about influencing. There is now more of a focus on influencing influencers. This area of marketing is of particular interest to me, and many quite frankly, because of the potential for significant changes to consumer behaviour.  But the question remains: how do you influence and influencer? Here are six key principles of influence according to Dr. Robert Cialdini to consider:

  • Reciprocity
  • Commitment and Consistency
  • Social Proof
  • Authority
  • Liking
  • Scarcity

When it comes down to it, these six principles really make sense.  The only thing that I would add to this mix is patience. When building an influencer program or relationships, it is key to remember that Rome was not built in a day.  After all, working with influencers is about relationships and it makes complete sense that there is some give and take (reciprocity), commitment to the relationship and consistency.  After all, how do you feel when your “friend” only reaches out when he or she wants something?  We already know that social proof is very positive based on our insistence of asking people we know about products/service. We also like to know that people we trust, people who have authority, will guide us in the right direction. Additionally, we are influenced by the mere fact that “others” like something. You know the feeling..everyone is getting the new iPhone so you kinda feel like you should too. And, finally scarcity is very important in influencing someone. Again, relating back to the iPhone, think about how it feels to be on the pre-order list. Specifically think about how you feel when you have that new iPhone way before your friends. You know that feeling. You feel really special and important. That of course is the ultimate in influence!

Next time I will explore the six principles in more detail looking at specific examples and delve into the question of whether to pay or not pay influencers. 

Feel free to follow me on Twitter!

NOTE: this post previously appeared on InNetwork’s Blog.

3 Essential Tips to Start an Influencer Relations Program

Whether you have a small business or a well-established business, influencers can be a very important part of your marketing efforts.I am often asked how to go about setting up a program so I thought I would share these three quick hits to start an Influencer Relations Program. Once you have followed these steps, you will want to consider next steps as outlined in a previous postScreen Shot 2014-02-14 at 6.01.14 PM

1. Define What an Influencer is!

There are many definitions for what an influencer is. It is important that you and your organization come to an agreement on who you consider an influencer. Keep in mind that some influencers will be easier to engage than others. 

For example let’s say that you produce sunglasses and you want celebrities to take notice and talk about your product. That would be an awesome accomplishment, but depending on a number of variables, reaching that demographic and impressing them might be a hard sell.

Instead you might pursue another route, the one I typically recommend. Look instead to those individuals who are industry experts and well respected in your specific sector, business or industry.

2.  Remember You Need to Build Relationships

You know the saying: Rome was not built in a day. The same can be said for nurturing relationships with Influencers. After all, they are people with the same basic needs and wants that you have. They want to be respected. They want to treated well. Most of the time, people want relationships. So take your time and get to know people. 

Reaching out to people that you don’t know and asking for something rarely works…unless of course you are offering something that they want and need in return. 

3.  Determine What Type of Program that You Want and Need

Keep in mind that some Influencers will want to help you for the sake of helping you out, once you have established a relationship.  Others will want compensation for helping you out.  There is nothing wrong with that. It is their business model.  You really need to know and understand this in order to make the right decisions. This will help you decide what type of program you want and need. 

If you do choose the later, be sure to be transparent about paying your influencers.  Being up front about the relationship will benefit you greatly and save you from potential embarrassment.

For more information on starting your program click here. If you like this post, feel free to follow me on Twitter and be sure to tell me a bit about who you are!

How to Avoid the Reputation Mistakes of Lululemon

Once the darling of women across Canada and the United States for great yoga and leisure clothes, Lululemon seems to have lost its way.  First came the less than stellar quality pants, then the comments that essentially only certain women can wear their pants without issues arising, and now marketing promotions that counter concerns about skin cancer.  Lululemon is not unlike any other brand in that reputation issues do arise. The difference however, could be in how a brand responds.  So, let’ take a look at how to avoid the reputation mistakes of,

1.  The Argument FOR Listening to Brand Conversations

When the story first broke that Lululemon’s pants were of poor quality and actually see-through, Lululemon’s response, or lack of response was odd. At first they completely ignored their customers’ complaints and continued to promote other product in their social channels.

This only fuelled the fire and angered customers. As more people became aware of the issue, the story also grew. Playing the role of the Ostrich and burying your head in the sand does not work.

Key Take-Away:  It is hard to imagine that this commentary still needs to be shared but, apparently it does. Brands can no longer “push” their communications on customers.  Communication is a two-way street.  Therefore choosing to “not” listen is no longer acceptable business practice.  In the case of Lululemon they could have addressed the issue immediately and demonstrated to their customers that their opinion was valued. Instead it escalated out of control, the brand took a hit, as did their stock.  In the end, they were forced to respond.  Once news hits mainstream media and you are forced to respond, you have damaged your reputation.

2.  Act on Your Own.  Don’t be Forced

As someone who provides guidance to companies on PR and reputation issues, I always tell people to come forward first.  Don’t wait to be outed by the media or some other source.  If you did something wrong, admit it and have a plan to fix it.

“Key Take-Away:  Lululemon is certainly not alone in waiting to respond. I can’t put them in that category alone. There are many companies that have also done so. Most airlines, including Air Canada have had to respond to outrage as a result of actions incurred and not addressed properly.  It really comes down to doing the right thing. If you did something wrong, like United Airlines when they broke Canadian musician Dave Carroll’s guitar and then do nothing about, even with video proof, you are headed for a PR nightmare. Over and above that you have a bigger issue though. You have a cultural issue. People working for you just don’t care. You cannot fix a reputation issue without first fixing your cultural issue. This is a big take-away and one that should be looked at seriously.

3.  Test Your Messages

Sometimes we blame agencies for providing marketing materials, campaigns, etc. that result in PR nightmares.  While that does happen on occasion, as brand managers, we must take some responsibility for our brand and what we choose to do.  There is a reason that both agencies and many brands test messaging before going to market. For me personally, if I have this “I don’t know feeling” and can’t really articulate it, I know I need to test it.  Nine times out of 10 the testing comes back with results that send us back to the drawing board.

Key Take-Away:  Don’t let nagging feelings of doubt just fade away with the hopes that it will be o.k.  And, more importantly test your message. Sometimes brands are too close to the message or storyline and can miss subtle nuances that an unbiased audience will pick up immediately. Getting this information before going to market can save you time, money and embarrassment.  Lululemon might want to think about this as a go forward plan.

Now, like all Canadians, I like to see my Canadian companies succeed. I am hoping that these few missteps are just that and things will evolve and change for our much loved Lululemon!

Like this post?  Follow me on Twitter:  @MacLeanHeather.  Feel free to leave a comment, add your input or disagree with me.






6 Easy Tips to Overcome Communication Failures

We all think we can communicate. After all, we are all good listeners. We are all very good at sharing information and conveying messages. Right?  Wrong! Most people are not good communicators. As we move through the corporate world, we are sensitized to “time is money”, “get to the point” and “what’s your ask?”  Our leaders, mentors and peers share these messages with us constantly through words or body language.  Add to that, we all have our own agendas.  We do.  You can deny it, but if you do, you are only fooling yourself. So, we add all of this together and we are hard-pressed for time and we want to achieve our objectives and meet our Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).  Now, think about your customers.  Think about your prospects.  How are you communicating with them?  There is a good chance that there are some communication failures happening.  Here are 6 easy tips to overcome communication failures:

5 tips to over communications failure,, taylormade solutions (Canada)

Image courtesy of

1.  Know your Audience

This is by far the oldest piece of advice going when it comes to communications. Despite this, I am often surprised by how many people and as a result organizations, just don’t know their audience. They use communication media that they feel most comfortable with and communicate when they want to communicate. They often have more than one audience, but choose to communicate in exactly the same manner for each.

Key Take-away:  What is (are) the personas of your audience(s)?  Are they in their 20s, 30s or 60s?  All of the above?  How do they consume content?  How often do they want to hear from you and consume content?  Do they prefer mainstream media, social media or public forums?  Does it depend on the situation?  If you can’t answer these questions with validated data, you have some homework to do.  If you don’t have the resources in-house, hire a consultant to find the answers for you.

2.  Slow Down

Yes, this is hard for most of us. Everything is a rush. After all, time is money right? It is..but and there is a big BUT..if you fail to communicate with your customers or prospects, the costs will be much higher. Customer retention becomes an issue. Reputation management becomes an issue. Stakeholders, including boards of directors get riled up as profits dip and stock prices follow. Slow down and pay attention to what is happening in your environment. When you do this, you hear, see and learn a lot. People notice that you are present. They appreciate this. Showing up only when you want something also gets noticed.

Key Take-away:  Be present. Don’t just show up when you want something or when there is a problem to fix. Your customers or prospects will soon associate you with only being there when YOU want something or when something has gone horribly wrong. Customers and prospects are people. People need and want relationships. They need to have confidence in you. They need to trust you and trust that your organization will do the right thing.

3. Follow-up and Follow-through

Similar to knowing your audience, this is one of the oldest and best pieces of advice when it comes to communication.  As mentioned in Good Customer Service:  What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You, be sure to follow-up on your customers or prospects.  This builds real trust and confidence.  And always under promise and over deliver. This can be hard to do at times, but consistent application will pay off in spades.

Key Take-away:  If you aren’t sure of your answer, then say so.  If you can’t deliver the product at a specific time, be up front.  The sooner the better.  And, when you do execute on “whatever” it is, circle back to ensure that your customer or prospect got what he or she needed. Yes, it can be time consuming, but it will be worth it.

4.  Put Your Best Foot Forward

Just like meeting your significant other’s parents for the first time, you want to put your best foot forward.  For a brand, this might be about the person they send to a meeting or the one that acts as their spokesperson.  Regardless of which scenario it is, you want to ensure that your point person has the facts, can present the corporate brand meeting or exceeding the brand standards and that that person or persons have the ability to make decisions and answer questions – any questions.

Key Take-away:  Putting your best foot forward, or your best people forward does not necessarily mean the most senior and certainly not the most junior. Each situation requires consideration and judgement. You need to consider your audience and the situation.  Who will provide win/win results?  Who will irritate or provoke?

5.  Be Timely

This one is quite important.  For any communication, it needs to be timely.  Your communications’ professionals need to always be thinking about timing. Depending what the communication is, too early and you sell the farm.  Too late, or too little you will lose creditability and trust.

Key Take-away:  Communications should never be an after-thought or relegated to lower importance.  Communications is a strategic component of everything you do.

6.  There is No Such Thing as Over Communicating

Once a upon a time someone actually said this to me – that we were over communicating. Think about that for a moment. Think about how people process information. Think about how people receive information. Think about how many times a message MUST be shared before it is actually absorbed. This is all proven documentable information.  If you apply fact and research, you cannot possibly over communicate. It is that simple.

Key Take-away:  Just because you know the answer or a few of your stakeholders know the answer, doesn’t mean your audience does.  People absorb information differently. Therefore you must apply proven communication techniques using various media and multiple messages to reach your audience.

Like this post?  Follow me on Twitter:  @MacLeanHeather


The Sunday Brief (June 29, 2014)

Welcome to this week’s The Sunday Brief. As I sit listening to one of my favourite radio shows (and yes, I did say radio) and drinking a really great cup of coffee I decided to only write about one post this week. Why?  Well, it is a post that echoes something that I have been saying for years. So, I obviously believe strongly in what is being advocated. My influence however, does not extend nearly as far as the subject of this blog post. So, without further adieu, here is my one and only pick for this week:The Sunday Brief

Richard Edelman: Traditional Marketing Is Broken

This LinkedIn post by Shane Snow  is a great example of re-examining how people are influenced and how there has been a paradigm shift in terms of who has the power – the consumer or the brand? More over it explores the importance of communicating with people in advance of trying to sell them something. It is about creating a relationship or relationships.

For years I have advocated that we need to build communities and thereby build relationships. We need to communicate and share information relevant to our community. Of course when Richard Edelman speaks, there is a great probability that people will listen. So maybe I was ahead of my time in espousing these thoughts – at least that is what I am telling myself this morning.  Hey we can all dream right..but I digress.

Regardless of who is saying it, it is being said and I am glad.  Edelman’s examples of Red Bull and Blackrock really demonstrate the point. It’s not all about you.  In fact, you are only a supporting character. It’s about your audience, your community, your customers, your prospects…whatever you label them as it is all about them.  So, listen, build “meaningful” relationships, and communicate versus pushing your product or service. Give it a try and see what happens. I think that you will be pleasantly surprised.

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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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The Shocking Way You Are Alienating Your Customers

Have you ever been a loyal customer? Sure you have. Have you ever been put off by something by something that the brand you have been so loyal to has done? Of course you have. Sometimes it is something so innocent that they that don’t even know that they have done it. Nonetheless, while innocent, it is a shocking way to alienate customers.

Shocking Way to Alienate Customers,, taylormade solutions

Image courtesy of

This past weekend I was flipping through one of my favourite magazines “House and Home” when I came across an article, and specifically the image to introduce the piece, that just stopped me in my tracks. But let me back up a bit before sharing with you my gut reaction to what I was seeing. I love House and Home for its simply beautiful pictures and stories about homes with good design. They are wonderful at curating a story and helping people visualize what is possible within their own homes. Page after page is a visual delight of gorgeous places decorated in a simply stunning way.

The magazine has wonderful pictures of beautiful, and most often, very expensive homes, cottages and cabins. Gorgeous! A lot of these featured abodes are located in Ontario, Quebec and the Western Provinces of Canada. Hopefully, I have painted a picture for you. Occasionally they will feature a location in Atlantic Canada, but not very often. In fact, they do feature a Nova Scotia home in this very feature…but and there is a big but here…and this is where I feel that they failed and did somewhat alienate me, and I am sure others. They succumbed to stereotyping. Yes..yes they did. The article which was focusing on seafood, certainly stereotyped Atlantic Canadians, and particularly fishermen as living in much, much, much more humble abodes than our neighbours to the west of us. While I did not grow up in a family of fishermen, I did get to meet and know a few over the years and none lived in a house remotely close to what was pictured.

But here is really the crux of the matter, stereotyping is dangerous in marketing/selling. It is a very easy way to alienate your customers and your prospects. I know that, in this case, they were attempting to paint this quaint lifestyle, but it is not accurate. It was innocent enough, but it does demonstrate that the editors likely have a picture of what most Atlantic Canadians do and how we live. Now, they might not be impacted by this at all since they also featured another piece on a lovely Nova Scotia property, but not all businesses would be this lucky.

Depending on your business, you might not even realize that you have alienated people. You just might notice that some customers have retreated. For a restaurant, coffee shop or another such business where you get to know your regulars, you would actually notice that some customers have disappeared; but for utilities, magazines, airlines, etc. you likely wouldn’t notice. Depending on how serious the alienation is, it could really hurt your bottom line. It is very easy for stereotyping to become a social media crisis, which impacts your reputation and trust that you have built. A brand can take a real hit when this occurs.

Key takeaway: This one is such an easy fix. Throw out stereotypes. The risk is just too high.

If you like this post, feel free to connect on Twitter: @MacLeanHeather