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How the Shape of Influence changes social media strategy

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Brands are investing heavily in social media “influencers”, but most are getting it wrong, because they don’t understand the shape of that influence, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

Every big brand in South Africa is turning to social media to get conversations going around their products. For many, the heart of their strategy is to rope in “influencers” – people with a huge followings whose posts and shares generate massive responses.

So far, so expensive.

When the brands measure the effectiveness of these campaigns, based on the reach of the posts, they come away highly satisfied. But when they measure real impact – brand loyalty and sales in the real world – they are often underwhelmed. Usually, they have no idea what went wrong, since the campaigns look so successful on the surface.

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A new research project set out to find out exactly what goes wrong – and right – and came up with a startling discovery: that influence has a shape. More than that, the shape changes for every brand.

Fifty major brands cooperated in the research, conducted by World Wide Worx, in partnership with social intelligence platform Continuon. They allowed access to their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts for three months, enabling the Continuon platform to collect 100-million pieces of data, generated by 5,25-million individuals who had interacted with the brands.

The result is a study called #OnlyConnect2018 – The Power of Brand Influencers.

“When looking into what the actual definition of influence in the real world is, it becomes clear what needs to be measured in digital influence,” says Richard Nischk, product manager for Continuon. “Influence is defined as the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself.”

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When influence leaped over to social media, however, a new way of thinking about it evolved, by necessity. But necessity is not the mother of accuracy.

“The norm in social media and digital has been to take ‘reach’ and impressions as key variables in the measure of how influential people are,” says Nischk. “We saw that as a clear opportunity to redefine the measurements of influence, and rather take an approach that provides metrics that can be, in a quantifiable manner, used to increase return on investment.

“Reach is most certainly an important element of the equation. However, what really counts is having the ability to affect behaviour. In social media, this comes in the shape of sharing, engaging, interacting, tagging and gaining word of mouth from the people you reach.”

Continuon developed an Influencer Algorithm that uses the engagement types and behavioural data points to assign influencer scores to those who carry influence for a brand, but within those brands’ specific social media communities. They discovered they could identify thousands of influencers within these communities: influencers who cost nothing and are authentic.

They found that the best measure of social media influence, in terms of impact on brand loyalty, was the ability of an individual to extend the conversation around a brand or product beyond the original post or repost. This is called the velocity of social conversation and engagement, and it can be measured precisely.

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Continuon asks three questions:

  • At what point did an individual join the conversation and what impact did that interaction have on the conversation?
  • Did it result in a reaching and impacting the right audience through the right channels and at the right time?
  • Which individuals and clusters of people were responsible for this increase in velocity?

The Continuon platform then assigns a score out of 100. Based on that score, every influencer is clustered into a segment, and the segments add up to both the shape and quality of a brand’s social media community.

“Rarely do you ever see someone who has a score of 90 or above, and the overall shape follows that of a pyramid,” says Nischk.

The large majority of influencers carry low scores and exist within the bottom two tiers of influencer segments, which Continuon calls the The Herd and The Sharers. Next come The Trendsetters, with scores of 40 to 60, who start being influential. Finally we get the real influencers, with the Lighthouses having scores from 60 to 80, and the Icons – the cream of the crop – with scores above 80.

“Understanding this enables brands to understand the different levels of influence within their community, and how each level can be leveraged to build an army of authentic brand influencers,” says Nischk. “Brands can drill down and get granular to understand every single person as an individual and what their individual influencer score is. Now, from an impact point of view, influencer profiling can be granular, relevant and measurable within the social media universe.”

The ideal shape of influence is a standard pyramid, with a big base of Herd, slightly fewer Sharers, and a gradually tapering and reducing number of Trendsetters, Lighthouse and Icons. The reality is that most brands – and entire industry categories – have a flat and shallow shape that has no Icons and only a small proportion of Lighthouses. This means that their influencer strategies not only look flat, but are falling flat.

The top performers in each category have steeper profiles, with far more Lighthouses, but still very few Icons.

The category that stands out also offers a ley lesson to all brands: Non-profit organisations are the most likely to have Icons influencing their conversations. Because these conversations are not based on commercial campaigns, the conversations tend to be more authentic, and voices that extend this authenticity have the greatest impact.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube

 

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Get your passwords in shape

New Year’s resolutions should extend to getting password protection sorted out, writes Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO at ESET Southern Africa.

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Many of us have entered the new year with a boat load of New Year’s resolutions.  Doing more exercise, fixing unhealthy eating habits and saving more money are all highly respectable goals, but could it be that they don’t go far enough in an era with countless apps and sites that scream for letting them help you reach your personal goals.

Now, you may want to add a few weightier and yet effortless habits on top of those well-worn choices. Here are a handful of tips for ‘exercises’ that will go good for your cyber-fitness.

I won’t pass up on stubborn passwords

Passwords have a bad rap, and deservedly so: they suffer from weaknesses, both in terms of security and convenience, that make them a less-than-ideal method of authentication.  However, much of what the internet offers is independent on your singing up for this or that online service, and the available form of authentication almost universally happens to the username/password combination.

As the keys that open online accounts (not to speak of many devices), passwords are often rightly thought of as the first – alas, often only – line of defence that protects your virtual and real assets from intruders. However, passwords don’t offer much in the way of protection unless, in the first place, they’re strong and unique to each device and account.

But what constitutes a strong password?  A passphrase! Done right, typical passphrases are generally both more secure and more user-friendly than typical passwords. The longer the passphrase and the more words it packs the better, with seven words providing for a solid start. With each extra character (not to mention words), the number of possible combinations rises exponentially, which makes simple brute-force password-cracking attacks far less likely to succeed, if not well-nigh impossible (assuming, of course, that the service in question does not impose limitations on password input length – something that is, sadly, far too common).

Click here to read about making secure passwords by not using dictionary words, using two-factor authentication, and how biometrics are coming to web browsers.

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Code Week prepares 2.3m young Africans for future

By SUNIL GENESS, Director Government Relations & CSR, Global Digital Government, at SAP Africa.

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On January 6th, 2019, news broke of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plans to announce a new approach to education in his second State of the Nation address, including:

  • A universal roll-out of tablets for all pupils in the country’s 23 700 primary and secondary schools
  • Computer coding and robotics classes for the foundation-phase pupils from grade 1-3 and the
  • Digitisation of the entire curriculum, , including textbooks, workbooks and all teacher support material.

With this, the President has shown South Africa’s response to a global challenge: equipping our youth with the skills they’ll need to survive and thrive in the 21st century digital economy.

Africa’s working-age population will increase to 600 million in 2030 from a base of 370 million in 2010.

In South Africa, unemployment stands at 26.7 percent, but is much more pronounced among youths: 52.2 percent of the country’s 15-24-year-olds are looking for work.

As an organisation deeply invested in South Africa and its future, SAP has developed and implemented a range of initiatives aimed at fostering digital skills development among the country’s youth, including:

AFRICA CODE WEEK

Since its launch in 2015, Africa Code Week has introduced more than 4 million African youth to basic coding.

In 2018, more than 2.3 million youth across 37 countries took part in Africa Code Week.

The digital skills development initiative’s focus on building local capacity for sustainable learning resulted in close to 23 000 teachers being trained in the run-up to the October 2018 events.

Vital to the success of Africa Code Week is the close support it receives from a broad spectrum of public and private sector institutions, including UNESCO YouthMobile, Google, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Cape Town Science Centre, the Camden Education Trust, 28 African governments, over 130 implementing partners and 120 ambassadors across the continent.

SAP’s efforts to drive digital skills development on the African continent forms part of a broader organisational commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Goal 4 (“Ensure quality and inclusive education for all”)

A core component of Africa Code Week is to encourage female participation in STEM-related skills development activities: in 2018, more than 46% of all Africa Code Week participants were female.

According to Africa Code Week Global Coordinator Sunil Geness, female representation in STEM-related fields among African businesses currently stands at 30%, “requiring powerful public-private partnerships to start turning the tide and creating more equitable opportunities for African youth to contribute to the continent’s economic development and success”.

Click here to read more about the Skills for Africa graduate training programme, and about the LEGO League.

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