Do you have a Bacon number? I don’t. I’m not famous enough.
According to the all-knowing, ever accurate Wikipedia, John Guare popularized the idea that no more than 5 connections separate two random people – dubbing this connected state “six degrees of separation.” Then, there was the Kevin Bacon game, which purported that any modern actor has no more than 5 connections to Kevin Bacon. The “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” has become a popular game to try and find actors with more than 5 connections. It became so popular that even Google got in on the action. Go ahead, type in a famous person’s name followed by “bacon number” and see the connection distance between them and Kevin Bacon.
A research paper from the “Fourth Annual Symposium on Combinatorial Search” held in 2011 indicated that Twitter’s optimal degree of separation was actually 3.88. As the network has only grown, that number may have shrunk even further.
It’s clear that our world is shrinking. I’m always surprised to see friends and colleagues connected to each other on LinkedIn or Facebook in ways I never expected. In a way, it’s mind blowing.
This social connectivity provides an amazing opportunity to amplify your message and content. This is “word of mouth” on steroids! My team looks to take advantage of this social connectivity every day. We supercharge our content amplification efforts with robust social ecosystem activities.
Any organization big or small can tap into this vast network of social “accelerators”. You have two routes – subject matter experts and influencers. Let’s talk about each group.
SMEs – The People You Know
Subject Matter Experts are your internal employees, colleagues or even close customers, willing to deliver your message to their networks. Imagine for just a moment what this means to a large organization like IBM. We have over 400,000 employees. If we can get many of our internal SMEs talking expertly about our products and services, participating in market conversations, putting a human face on our very large organization, why wouldn’t we do everything possible to make that happen? Well, of course we would, and we do. Activating your own internal subject matter experts is your first step in creating a social ecosystem. They know your business, your market and, frankly, you can mandate that they spend part of their time doing these very activities. (Of course, the ones forced to do it against their will are always the least effective and can down right damage your efforts.)
An alternative to pulling out the whip to get your SMEs engaged in market conversations is to deploy leaderboards – a gamification strategy. Major sports teams and leagues are beginning to use leaderboards to encourage social media activity, which, of course, benefits their organization when players and team managers interact directly with fans via social media. Leaderboards are a great motivator to kickstart SME activation. Check out the leaderboard for the Australian Open.
Influencers – The People You WANT to Know
Influencers are the people in the market you want to treat with special care. These are the men and women who are the thought leaders for topics important to your business. You want to get to know these people, and feed them great content that adds value to the conversations they drive. Building these relationships takes time and energy. But, the payoff is huge and lasting.
One thing to remember – you don’t pay influencers to spread your message. That’s paid advertising. This is influencer engagement. Work with influencers to find common ground – topics that you and your influencers are passionate about. Align your goals and objectives to their agenda and you’ll see great results.
We’re only scratching the surface here with influencer engagement. Jay Baer (@jaybaer) – an influencer in his own right – provides some marvelous guidance on effective influencer engagement strategies and approaches. Here are some other great resources:
- Why Online Influencer Outreach is Overrated and How to Fix It (more @jaybaer)
- 5 Steps to Fast Track your Executive Influencer Program (@traakr)
- The Practitioner’s Guide to Social Influencer Engagement (@agilityatwork)
Organizations of any size should start building their social ecosystem today. Large enterprises, in particular, should start by activating and then enabling their own internal SMEs to represent the company’s message. Then, move on to influencers. Smaller or mid-size organizations may need to jump straight to influencer engagement, lacking the necessary internal talent required to build a robust SME activation program. As you grow your program, you can begin to do a lot of cool things such as gamification, leaderboards and other activities to keep your ecosystem engaged and inspired.
Special thanks to Jay Baer (@jaybaer) for always having spot-on content, Traakr (@traakr) and PR Newswire’s Agility@Work (@agilityatwork) team.