Social Media Influence, a Tucson Conference Talk about 2011 Trends

I spoke this week to attendees of 38th Annual Symposium on Racing & Gaming – a group that represents a tradition that instills passion in the blood for many. My thanks to the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program and the Harness Tracks of America for inviting me to the Symposium.

My session focused on Social Media Toolboxes. Everyone was looking for ways to continue to inspire loyalty and advocacy at the local level and at the industry level, in order to promote their interests and their brand.

For this group and for everyone – It is all about influence in a very noisy Internet world. Google and others are designing the filters of the future to guide us through the slush. And so users of social media must look for ways to keep their organizations at the top of the heap as gatekeepers strive to bury the weak in the noise.

I discussed a strategy for keeping up influence in a noisy world. My recommended strategy involves this 6-part formula:

  1. Developing the goals that will get you to influence the conversations you need to be part of.
  2. Identifying and defining your voice…your brand…in these conversations, these platforms.
  3. Aggregating and managing all the platforms, all the fans, all the contacts and all the communities you contribute to and maintain on the Internet. If you don’t do this step you’re sure to get overwhelmed.
  4. Enacting processes that methodically help you connect and acknowledge all the people you engage on the web, on a regular basis.
  5. Distributing your messages on your platforms and in widely crowd-sourced  newsvines and Internet communities. It’s a big, wild west world and you need to find those places to imprint your message.
  6. Monitoring….analyzing…and monitoring again your visibility….tracking it against your plan and measuring its ROI.

The deal is to focus a plan like this around involvement in meaningful platforms. In 2011 and probably 2012 there are a few obvious hot-buttons:

  • Location-based platforms like Foursquare are wrapped around the growing importance of mobile. Check-ins are generating excitement through Deals. The check-ins are building brand virally, with fans promoting through their own social media.
  • Looking at the various online marketing and e-commerce trends of 2011, what stands out is the incredible growth of localization, with Groupon and Living Social dominating social commerce. There are many perks of social commerce beyond the deal. There is the viral aspect of having people tweet your deals or post them, extending buzz and opportunities to make brands visible.
  • Facebook may be huge and popular – but search is still a primary online activity. Most of your searching is via Google, I’ll assume. So Google+ is formidable and should be part of a 2012 social media strategic toolbox.
  • LinkedIn is NOT just a resume-based website for professionals. There are over 101 million members, and it is a place for leverage in any social media marketing strategy – whether through use of LinkedIn Answers or LinkedIn Polls for market research.

At the Symposium we discussed where social media is headed. Think one word: MOBILE. We have moved past the question on whether mobile has arrived. It is embedded in the fabric of consumers’ habits, with millions owning Smartphones. That means optimizing your website for mobile, and developing a strategy to help people make the choices for your biz, service or venue when they are using mobile.

We also spoke about QR codes. QR codes need to be employed as a meaningful experience for users in 2012. It’s important to use QR codes to their full potential – or it could be just another fad. QR code is the gateway to an incentive or a special message that increases loyalty, community engagement and a return on your campaign.

Filters of the future: We talked about Google and how other browsers are looking to personalize user experiences and to filter out noise. The simple and most important way to respond – on your website, in your blog and all your social media – is to make sure your content has substance, is continually refreshed and is engaging your visitors.

Recapping some resources:
Mashable always has wonderful lists, and this Mashable list of top trends spotted in 2011 is a worthy one.

Read Write Web also has good lists and this one focuses on top 2011 social media products.

Here’s another list, this one of top social media bloggers to follow. You know most of them but are you following them for routine advice?

This collection of  27 Free Social Media Marketing Video Tutorials can be another resource to help you refine your toolbox.

Closing thoughts: No matter how active you become in social media space, be mindful that having an authentic voice is not just about spewing promotion. Importantly, look to localization.. and remember that person-to-person engagement holds priceless value.

Local face-to-face conversations refresh the creative spirit and our humanity, and are vastly different from our digital, global conversations. As we reach for global influence in social media, I hope we won’t lose sight of the place and the people where we physically live, work and play.

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