Thought Leadership Wins Social Media Votes in B2B

Did you ever wonder what builds social media audiences in B2B circles?

An empirical study of 171 leading influencers by Dr. John Gironda and yours truly found that thought leadership out ranks helpful advice, engagement, entertainment, inspiration, empathy and content credibility.

So what is thought leadership and what does it mean for marketing and sales representatives?

Aspiring thought leaders must champion groundbreaking ideas that provoke new mindsets around a different way of doing business. Think Steve Jobs and the way he fomented change. But for you to gain credibility for your forward thinking insights, the research suggests you must first earn your stripes with trails of content perceived as timely, relevant and useful (i.e., instructional tips that help buyers with their operational challenges).

This is where a lot of sales and marketing personnel bail out. After all, who has the time to brainstorm fresh perspectives and helpful tips?

But imagine the trust built if buyers see you generously sharing your digital content (e.g., blog posts, videos, live broadcasts, white papers, etc.). Your empathy speaks volumes. And don’t underestimate the confidence built as each shared piece sheds more light on your expertise and relevance to your prospective buyer.

On the thought side of thought leadership, buyers need original ideas or unique perspectives before they consider you a trusted authority. High on their list is your market foresight. How can you help them navigate through turbulent times or uncertain futures? In the social media world, this is often done by consultants who regularly forewarn their customers of risky technologies.

The combination of forward looking insights and operational helpfulness then sets the stage for showcasing your expertise. Without this, your claims for cutting-edge ideas cannot be validated. So start with instructional tips to show what you know. Periodically lay out some predictions for what is coming down the pike, and then provoke a new mindset that signals to your buyers that you are worthy of their selective attention and patronage.

On the leadership side of thought leadership, marketers with the most social clout are often known for their inspiration appeal. You have to be able to drive conversations that literally spark a movement. One way to do this is to edu-tain them. Our research showed no direct influence between entertainment and social influence. But it did show an indirect influence through inspirational motivation. The suggestion here is to dress up your content with humor and visual storytelling as a way to inspire your audience.

Why is this important? Imagine a buyer in total control of the sales process (i.e. inbound marketing). Most of the buyer journey is done digitally, and 60% of the cycle is complete before they contact sales. With over 850 million websites equipped for blogging, everyone wants the buyer’s attention. So who do they follow? Their go-to advisors are opinion leaders that could help in innovative brainstorming. This sounds more like helping than selling.

So what do you think falls next on the list of ways to build social influence?

James Barry, D.B.A., is an Associate Professor of Marketing in the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship. Dr. Barry develops, teaches and consults on a variety of social media marketing subjects. He can be reached at jmbarry@nova.edu

Study Shows 10 Ways Humor Lifts Social Content

As social content explodes beyond the attention capacity of us all, it’s no surprise that entertaining content has taken center stage. Humor, in particular, accounts for a vast majority of social videos reaching over 50,000 views. But many brands are still cautious about using comic devices to attract their target audiences.

Fearing a tarnished image to serious business, offended audiences, or simply a joke gone flat, many opt for inspirational content as an alternative to rousing emotions. But a large scale study (http://bit.ly/1dg5yex) of commercials parked on YouTube found a pattern of tasteful comic devices that works well in generating views and engagement.

The following is a countdown of ten types of humor that align well with three theories of humor. In general, we tend to laugh when we:

  1. See something out of sorts (incongruence)
  2. Enjoy others’ misfortunes (disparagement)
  3. Release ourselves from inhibitions or childlike innocence (arousal-safety)

 #10 Awkwardness

Why we laugh at awkward moments has much to do with the pleasure derived from seeing others fail or suffer misfortune. Rooted in the Theory of Superiority, this disparaging form of humor leads to a feeling of sudden glory when we displace our own histories of embarrassing moments onto others. Among the types of humor that capitalize on awkwardness are remorseful regrets, uncomfortable settings, exercising humility and revealed secrets.

One way to enjoy others’ misfortunes is through the depiction of embarrassing situations where victims are left speechless. By displacing own recollection of these embarrassments onto others, we are in effect saying: “I am glad this did not happen to me.” Arguably, this laughter increases the more a victim is caught off guard or left with an unsolvable quandary.

 #9 Sentimental Humor

Sentimental Humor taps into our emotions through an arousal-safety mechanism. For example, in the first stage or arousal-safety, emotions are aroused with sentimentality, empathy or some form of negative anxiety. As the story-line develops, we then see this heightened arousal state as safe, cute or inconsequential. This shift from high arousal to relief is what creates laughter.

A way to imagine this type of humor is to consider how we laugh. Comic wit, for example, is normally expressed as “Ah Hah.” Laughter from disparaging humor (e.g., putdowns) is normally expressed as “Ha, Ha.” Sentimental humor would be expressed as “Ahhh.” This could happen when we witness someone escaping danger as well as when we experience a child doing something cute.

Among the types of humor that capitalize on this arousal-safety mechanism are those involving false alarms, melodrama or child innocence. Another successful way to get laughter from sentimental humor is through the relief of fear and anxiety.

 #8 Malicious Joy

Malicious joy, or schadenfreude, refers to the pleasure we derive from seeing others fail or suffer misfortune. Also rooted in the Theory of Superiority, this feeling of sudden glory can occur when we witness bungled behaviors, unanticipated spoilers, unfortunate happenstances, deserved repercussions or the acts of cretins.

Many videos of this type are based on characters that are prone to accidents or saying the wrong thing. Another successful way to get laughter from malicious joy is through the portrayal of spoilers. This cause of laughter taps more into our emotional senses where a feeling of superiority is felt over those whose peace or excitement is snatched away.

 #7 Social Order Deviancy

The most engaging form of humor in viral videos involves social order deviance or those behaviors that challenge society rules and expectations.  Many of us love watching others unleash their innate desire to break the law, enter forbidden territory or simply act out our inhibitions. Most of the viral videos featuring this form of humor involve society irreverence, taboos, offensive behaviors or unleashed mania.

Several viral YouTube videos are based on high society satires, rule breaking and undermining authority. Common to all is the release of tension we experience by unloading on someone’s statutes. Witness how this works when we outwit the censorship imposed by honorable judges, pious clergymen or smug professors.

 #6 Unruliness

Unruliness refers to outrageous behavior. Consider how Snicker’s Mr. T, Nike’s Clay Matthews, and Reebock’s “Terry Tate Office Linebacker” videos reached millions of views as these icons disrupt peaceful settings.

The Relief Theory contends that laughter is created when we release tension or nervous energy such as when we unleash our suppressed desires. Consequently, we love watching others act out uncontrollably or violate some social order. In effect, we are likely enjoying the observation of others acting out our own inhibitions through hysteria, impulsive outbursts, displaced irritation or exercising improprieties.

A popular technique for entertaining audiences with humor is to show people unleashing their anxiety through uncontrollable screaming and yelling. Another common way to release suppressed desires is to display scenes of wishful naughtiness.

 #5 Irony

Irony much like that of any perceptual discord, is characterized by a contrast, between expectations and reality. It makes us laugh by showing the opposite or undesired intentions of someone’s actions. Mentally, we are saying to ourselves: “…I did not see that coming…”

An unusual pairing of well-known characters or scenes, for example, make us laugh at the imagined conflict. Other examples of visual irony include the casting of humans as animals or cyborgs as humans. We often laugh over situational irony in which actions have an effect that is contrary to what was expected. This often happens in the case of a coincidental backlash, where the odds of such an unexpected scene spoiler are infinitely low.

 #4 Surprise Twist 

Surprise twist causes us to laugh as we witness or experience a change in course. Stemming from the Theory of Incongruity, this concept entertains us through a distracting segue. Mentally, we are asking ourselves: “…Where did this come from?”

This surprise twist can be realized in the form of visual anomalies (e.g., sudden appearances, changes or revelations) or conceptual incongruities (e.g., storyline twists or unexpected responses). In each case, we detect a mismatch with what we expect to occur next. Research suggests that we laugh when our minds anticipate a certain outcome, only to be tricked at the end with a wrong or uneventful answer.

 #3 Perceptual Discords

Perceptual Discords come in at number three on the list.  Like exaggeration, discords represent a form of comic wit. But instead of showing extremes, they show us something out of touch. Stemming from the Theory of Incongruity, this concept entertains us by contrasting what we see with what is routinely expected.  Mentally, we are asking ourselves: “Did I see that correctly?”

This perceptual discord can be realized in the form of visual anomalies like impersonations, eccentric behaviors or bizarre substitutions. In each case, we detect a mismatch with common perceptions. Some of the top viral videos show unconventional routines or unusual settings surrounding the highlighted activity. In other cases, the viral videos make us laugh when we imagine a human depiction of abstract concepts or literal interpretation of idioms.

 #2 Putdown Mockery 

Mockery comes in at number 2 on our list. This technique capitalizes on our emotional reaction to watching others experience a well-deserved putdown. Stemming from the Theory of Superiority, we often experience sudden glory when dethroning others or elevating ourselves at the expense of others’ peculiarities. Of the viral videos featuring putdowns, most include mocked peculiarities, lofty conquests, society satires or stereotyping.

One technique used in putdowns taps into our desire to dethrone the self-righteous, the popular, the pretentious and the hyper-masculine.  Some of the top viral videos show scenes of humbled haughtiness featuring those we despise or compete against.

 #1: Exaggeration

Hyperbole, is the number one attention getter among all humor techniques used in viral YouTube videos. Dating back centuries as a comic device, it suggests that laughter results from seeing things out of sorts.

Many brands and small companies have capitalized on the visual side of exaggeration. Seeing the visual anomaly, our brains often ask: “can that really be true?” Some of the most popular comic devices used in this form of wit include the display of supernatural performances, motion distortion, exaggerated body reactions and incredible allure.

So have we left anything out? What type of humor do you feel most comfortable using for your audience?

James Barry, D.B.A., is an Associate Professor of Marketing in the Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University. He develops, teaches and consults on a variety of social media marketing subjects. He can be reached at jimbarry@huizenga.nova.edu

5 Ways Top Brand Stories Went Viral

This past year witnessed the mainstream development of brand stories. The top 25 brand stories released over the past year amassed an average of 1.9 million views per month. Spanning from heartwarming to heart-lifting, the best performers touched on some key themes showing that tears work nearly as well as laughs when connecting emotionally to target audiences.

Results of a study showed that the highest performance is reached when brand stories are about:

1.      Female Confidence

2.      Unlikely Friendship

3.      Pushing Limits

4.      Spirit of Giving

5.      The Unforgotten

Stories of Female Confidence topped the list as young girls in particular are encouraged to see themselves in a better light. Unlikely Friendships come in second as they touch upon themes of harmony and peace. Stories about Pushing the Limits taps into the inner self that seeks encouragement to overcome severe life battles or achieve greatness.

Following the great success of WestJet's Christmas Miracle, others pursued the Spirit of Giving to bring tears to the eyes of those surprised with unexpected gifts. Finally, a number of stories are developing along the lines of those feeling their sacrifices were unappreciated. The Unforgotten includes familiar tales of hard working moms and soldiers surprised with rewards for their acts of generosity.

Shown above is a rank ordering of these Top 25 stories. The term story, in this case, refers to narratives encompassing a familiar story arc that includes a hero, challenges and overcoming obstacles.

What other stories released recently do you feel were testimony of brand story trends?

James Barry, D.B.A., is an Associate Professor of Marketing in the Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University. He develops, teaches and consults on a variety of social media marketing subjects. He can be reached at jimbarry@huizenga.nova.edu

Social Marketing to 4 Types of Influencers

Brands and small businesses are quickly recognizing the power of marketing to their key influencers as their own thought leadership efforts stall out. Invitations to an influencer's podcast episodes, guest blogs and featured commentaries are arguably becoming the quickest and most affordable way to organically grow an audience. Unfortunately, few recognize the distinct characteristics of influencers that impact our ability to get on their radar.

An exploratory study of Top Social Media Influencers found 4 Archetypes derived from an examination of a content spectrum (educational to inspirational) and a communication spectrum (insightful to engaging). The resulting archetypes include analytical pundits, evangelists, mentors and motivators.

Notice from the table below how the approach to attracting each archetype varies across:

·         Content delivery formats

·         The way we interact

·         The method used to boost our influencer's audience

Analytical Pundits seek research to support their vision. They prefer round table forums in a debate oriented setting. Consequently, marketers can get on their radar with empirical data, conference invitations, trend line reports and book reviews.

Evangelists seek more illustrious content that support their fresh leading edge perspectives. Their audiences of advocates often share their views in a storytelling format. Marketers can contribute to their causes or insights with heartfelt commentary and inspirational imagery.

Mentors are looking for ways to enhance their courseware with instructional aids for workshop settings. Their audiences seek enhanced performance skills through tactical tips in a Q&A format. Marketers, in this case, can support them with educational aids and expert commentary.

Motivators seek ways to stimulate their audiences often in an entertaining setting. Content contributions need to help them maintain audience energy so as to sustain a packed audience. This works best when the content includes audience participative exercises, humor and motivational success stories.

So where do you find yourself among these categories? Are you more of an analytical pundit, evangelist, mentor or motivator?

 James Barry, D.B.A., is an Associate Professor of Marketing at Nova Southeastern University. He develops, teaches and consults on a variety of social media marketing subjects. He can be reached at jimbarry@huizenga.nova.edu

Why Apps will Jump-Start “Friend-of-Mine” Marketing

You may know that over 1 million apps are downloadable on an iPhone. But did you know how businesses are counting on these apps to break the mold of traditional marketing? Just at the point where you may feel comfortable sporting your inbound marketing badge, you may want to research this new generation of Friend-of-Mine marketing. As explained further, smart marketers are finding clever ways to befriend consumers addicted to "self-help" apps while reinforcing their brand image in the process.

From "Top-of-Mind" to "Frame-of-Mind" to "Friend of-Mine"

Let's first rewind. For years, marketers counted on Top-of-Mind awareness to reach audiences. So after constantly hearing AFLAC!, AFLAC!, we would remember them if and when we become a prospect. This assumes a great deal of consistency, channel breadth and cash.

But along came search engines and social content marketing. This shifted "Top-of-Mind" to "Frame-of Mind" awareness. The goal here is to align your problem solving content (e.g., webinars, eBooks, blogs, etc.) with targeted audiences precisely when and where they are in their buying cycle. This inbound marketing approach is less intrusive than Top-of-Mind and is based on the generous giving of helpful content.

Enter the "app" generation.

Big brands see the move toward mobile apps as a way to engage in Friend-of-Mine marketing. The concept works like this. Charmin's "Sit or Squat" app allows you to download a map of rated restrooms in your area.

Why would they do this? Hopefully, you will associate Charmin's brand with helpfulness while inviting them into your circle of friends. Okay, that may be a stretch. But imagine seeing only this brand name at the time of need.

The Geek Squad is often questioned why their self-help electronic repair videos don't jeopardize their own repairs. Instead, they find the typical overextended gadget fixer searching for a bail-out. Upon witnessing the Geek Squad's expertise, they make the call. This "Let me Help" form of marketing" is not employed as a sales tactic but as a way for the Geek Squad to become a friend. But in the process of helping, they undoubtedly generate new demand.

A widely downloaded app for stain removals is sponsored by Clorox. Although much of their researched advice goes well beyond the scope of their offerings, they can actually stimulate new demand as users consider new possibilities for stain removal. Similarly, Ortho has an app that will help you identify and treat harmful weeds in real-time. Whose weed killer and fertilizer are you going to remember?

Friend-of-Mine Marketing Offers Entrepreneurial Advantages

Small businesses are also capitalizing on low cost app development to offset the high costs of top of mind advertising. Consider how Columbia Gear has an app to explain the various knots to tie when engaged in outdoor excursions. Rather than sporting ads for their outdoor clothing, they are banking on your befriending them at a time when you might consider their products.

So what cool apps do you think can qualify as an exemplary use of Friend-of-Mine marketing?

James Barry, D.B.A., is an Associate Professor of Marketing at Nova Southeastern University. He develops, teaches and consults on a variety of social media marketing subjects. He can be reached at jimbarry@huizenga.nova.edu or 954-262-5134. More About the Contributor

Inbound Marketing: Give Me FREE Stuff Plus Your Secrets?

Did you ever imagine a world without cold calling or interrupting ads? How about one where marketers share secrets for free? That's where we are heading with social media and inbound marketing. Do you buy this?

Inbound marketing implies that our blogs, webinars and eBooks do the talking. Arguably, we can even post and tweet our way to a sale. In the process, we share valuable advice in order to build trust that is worthy of an invite. This makes sense given our aversion to pushy advertising. But why would marketers spend for us to download their FREE content only to wait for an invite?

Get Your Audience to Know, Like and Trust You

When marketed correctly, useful content can leave a trail of expertise backed by a likable persona. If delivered free, we can even be credited with acts of benevolence. What? Mother Teresa and marketing in the same mix? Yes, if you think of benevolence as blogging about solutions to your target's pain points but without wanting something in return.

Now imagine doing this with ads and cold calls. Where is the trail of expertise and trustworthiness? Let's face it. Today's consumers hold little trust in our promises and will demand a trail of trustworthy advice. What's more, they have the power to ignore unwanted emails and unidentified calls while fast forwarding through commercials. Instead, they conduct their own online evaluations and consult with social networking friends on who to invite to the cocktail party.

Show All of Your Cards for Free

So why not join them? And don't forget to bring a dish. You can start with a free blog that fits the conversation. Then reveal your secrets on how to help them. Before you know it, others will join the conversation. Some may even think you know what you are talking about. Finally, lighten up the dialog and even tell a story. Drop the PR and legal speak, and sound like a human. Better yet, say something funny. Who knows – they may grow to like you.

The same applies to inbound marketing just without the cocktails.

Wait for the Invite

So let's get this straight. We are asked to:

1. Share competitive secrets

2. Provide free content

3. Entertain if we cannot educate

4. Wait for an invite

Is Inbound Marketing Really Here to Stay?

With over a billion on social networks, consumers choose who to hear and who to ignore. But do we really expect to become blogging journalists and comedians to gain their favor? What happened to professionalism and timely savings broadcasted on your favorite channels? I would like to know what you think.

Is inbound marketing:

1. Here to stay for most businesses?

2. A mainstay for some businesses?

3. Likely to fade away?

James Barry, D.B.A. is an Associate Professor of Marketing at Nova Southeastern University. He develops, teaches and consults on a variety of social media marketing subjects. He can be reached at jimbarry@huizenga.nova.edu or 954-262-5134. More About the Contributor