Influencers: a new meaning for social capital

Social media gave way to a new meaning for the term social capital. Social capital now means how much influence one can effect in society or a group.

Originally, the term social capital included when someone opens a door for someone, returns a lost item to a stranger, gives someone directions, loans something without a contract, and any other beneficial interaction between people, even if they don’t know each other.

Now with social media giving everyday people a platform to voice their opinions and showcase their talents, this growth in audience and having any influence over this audience has become a symbol of power in modern society.

Business leaders don’t really know how to leverage their online social networks strategically to build valuable business relationships because social networks are not a channel that they should use to push out corporate messages.  Social networks are essentially extensions of their s0cial circles. Social networks are networking tools that businesses can use to build organic and authentic relationships with other leaders who may be able to support your work or would be an asset to know. In fact, using social media only to push corporate messages often ends up becoming frustrating and a way to alienate followers and friends alike. Yes, you have that friend that is constantly sending you chain messages that you always break.

Influencer marketing becomes another go to market channel to sell

Tech entrepreneurs have begun building services for creators and influencers. From marketplaces that connect individuals with brands, financial solutions that help capitalize influencer-led businesses, tailored monetization platforms and even a “LinkedIn for Influencers” intended to foster connections between brands and people.

People like to read about other people, which is why much of the news lends itself to feature treatment that emphasises human nature. The famous “according to John Doe” used in traditional media explains the idea of human-interest stories in the content of journalism, but this is still evident for social media as these platforms have become our main source of news and interest. We need “real” references to corroborate our suspicions and make us believe. Even if we don’t believe or agree.

Fazenda Futuro profile on Instagram.
Fazenda Futuro profile on Instagram.

And that’s where influencer marketing comes in specially when we are talking about Direct to Consumer businesses.

Similar to how a company will pay millions to have a 30-second advert play during a slot on a popular TV programme on a Saturday night, advertisers will now pay for a slot in the influencers social media feed or platform.

“What’s in your wallet?” I’m sure you’ve heard that slogan if you live in the US. That slogan is part of an ‘influencer marketing’ campaign ran by Capital One with Kimberly Genevieve, Paul Octavious, and Zachary Rose, three famous social media celebrities of the Millenial generation. They were given access to the credit card company’s Instagram account and gave viewers a glimpse into their wallets.

The campaign according to MediaKix (there’s me giving connotation to my article), saww both great and unexpected results. For brand lift, Capital One’s overall image perception increased by 3% among Millennials. With ad recall, Capital One’s Instagram campaign improved 16% with Gen X and Baby Boomers, but a significantly larger 25% with people 45 and over.

Brands built on social marketing

There are now companies built essentially on the social marketing influence. They haven’t yet advertised on traditional social media but their presence on LinkedIn, and other ‘modern’ media channels is palpable. Take for example “Fazenda Futuro”.

Fazenda Futuro is the first Brazilian company producing plant meat, and they have already proven themselves in South America for its “true meat replicas based on plants” and now the startup says it is time to conquer the rest of the world. The company’s founder Marcos Leta stated, “Our goal is to be one of the largest players in plant-based products and bring joy to everyone’s belly and the planet.”

Fazendo Futuro goes to market as Future Farm in English, Instagram profile.
Fazendo Futuro goes to market as Future Farm in English, Instagram profile.

The future of marketing?

Social capital is the practice of developing and maintaining relationships that form social networks willing to help each other. These networks perform best when they are diverse, so leaders need to identify people capable of helping their cause who they may not normally encounter or regularly interact with.

But as the large media love to generalize could we say ‘influencer marketing’ is the future of marketing? Well, the future will tell, but honestly I have a hunch that is just another channel for marketing and reaching consumers. What do you think?

A renewed spirit of civic engagement, neighborliness, and social trust would be a welcome contribution toward re-knitting the frayed fabric of society but the forces that bind communities together also have a dark side. Formal efforts to rejuvenate social capital, salutary though they might be, are double-edged swords, and those who would brandish them need to be aware of the multiple ways they can cut.

But how to find influencers in your industry?

You likely already have a clear picture of your audience from your other marketing efforts, so now you need to dive into this audience’s interests a bit deeper to determine who they follow and where they consume information.

Brands can accumulate social capital by growing connections with and endorsements from community members who themselves have a high amount of social capital—like partner brands, celebrities, experts, and other social media influencers.

In order to determine your social media influencers, you first need to ensure that influencer is targeting the same audience as you. For example, if you sell SEO software, don’t just assume that the king of SEO is the person you need to partner with. Your audience might be much more novice and have no clue as to whom that person is. Perhaps you’re better off looking for an influencer in the small business advice space (SMB).

You can easily measure your brand’s social capital and doing so can give you unique insights into buyer personas, behaviors and buyer KPI’s. You can measure social capital by analyzing your brand’s online sentiment and influence. Thanks to new technology, it’s now easier to do it than ever before. Measuring sentiment and influence is, in effect, measuring the “tone of voice” that your brand’s online conversations have. This analysis can be conducted by using sentiment metrics which quantify the stockpile of trust that constitutes your brand’s social capital. Ultimately, metrics like these will show you how easily your brand is able to share knowledge on social.

The goal with all social media activity should be to accumulate more social capital.