Social Media vs Influencing Thought Leaders

In most markets worth being in and with most sustainable business models, sales is not a one time event, but a process. You first have to create awareness, then build trust, then finally make the sale. Do all 3 happen at once for some people? Sure, but probably not for the majority of customers.

My big issue with hyping social media is that most things that are popular on social media sites do not actually build credibility, and that you are going to have marginal success building your brand if you start by focusing on these broad third party communities rather than YOUR TOPICAL COMMUNITY.

When I first started getting well known there was no Digg. There was a Slashdot, but exposure on Slashdot did not make or break me. What really sent my personal brand on a sharp upward trajectory was when Danny Sullivan mentioned me. Because he felt I was comment-worthy many other people suddenly thought I knew what I was talking about and that I was trustworthy.

That perception of trust, audience, and personal-brand that Danny had spent years building was in some part transferred to me. Am I as well known as he is? Of course not, but while sites like Digg have audience they tend to lack that perception of trust and personal-brand that transfers BUYING CUSTOMERS to your site.

If a person who has trust and a broad base of readership recommends you that creates immediate sales. I see that in my daily sales data and my affiliate statistics. If you get featured on social media sites it does not lead to many sales. Perhaps that exposure leads to awareness, which can further be enhanced by writing about that community, buying banner ads from sites like Lead Back, or by writing other create subscription-worthy content, but generally in content editorial link from a trusted expert creates more sales than exposure on a nearly automated hollow social news site.

If your site is new to the market and you want some exposure you have two options

  • eat Taco bell for a month, take the world's biggest crap, then write a leading 10 step how-to guide on how-to polish it, or
  • create things that people INSIDE YOUR COMMUNITY will find useful

One of those strategies will get you in the Guinness book of world records. The other will make sales.

Does your content build trust?

Published: January 10, 2008 by Aaron Wall in marketing publishing & media


January 11, 2008 - 1:38am

Damn you Aaron and your misleading post titles! I came here to learn how to polish a turd, not to read a spot-on analysis of social media.

January 11, 2008 - 4:29am

ROFL, Aaron!! Where's the Digg button on this stupid site, anyway?

January 11, 2008 - 6:19am

Hi Dan
I believe this site is on auto-bury. :)

Matt McGee
January 11, 2008 - 4:38am

Wasn't there a South Park episode about that first bullet point?

Thx for the link and plug, Aaron.

January 11, 2008 - 6:20am

They made Bono all started with Bono :)

January 11, 2008 - 12:53pm

Got me - I'm a Brit (as you may know) and anything fart or turd related + SEO ish gets a click thru' from me.

The only way I could work out how to polish a turd is gently dip it in molten gold wait for it to set and hey ho there you go ;)

January 11, 2008 - 2:30pm

Typically if I am looking for pure size and gerth, I may prefer PF Changs, However, TB would be a lot more affordable and being stuck in WI where the heat bills through the roof this month, I think if in fact I would like to polish a turd or two I might take your advice and run to the border (and then the bathroom)

January 11, 2008 - 9:23pm

I'm not sure many people these days are interested in influencing thought leaders. Instead, they're looking to grab your attention with a flashy title. They're looking for a huge burst of traffic. They're looking for a busload of links.

Social media marketers build leverage by establishing power user accounts, which attracts clients looking to get their 15 seconds of fame on Digg. The perception is that these guys know how to create link bait and have the network of friends to push it to the front page, but at least according to one of my clients' experience, perception of value doesn't necessarily translate to results.

I don't see alot of Danny Sullivan's stuff on Sphinn. But every time he posts a comment, he scores points with me because of his ability to look at issues from multiple angles, maintain civility, and advance his opinions with rational arguments and facts. I don't always agree with him, but there are only a handful of people in the SEO industry that are not easily swayed by emotion-bait, and Danny is one of them.

Igor The Troll
January 12, 2008 - 6:17am

Aaron I think you stand out in the crowd not because who mentions you, but because of what you say and do! It may not translate to sales right a way, but better than polishing a Taco Bell tart..:)

January 12, 2008 - 9:33pm

Great post Aaron. I think you own the "Best Blog Title of 2008 So Far" for sure. :)

January 13, 2008 - 12:38am

I missed the 19 insider secrets
You got my attention
You put in an article about a turd and the author thanked you. Incredible wordsmithing. (no offense Matt)
Social Media does drive traffic, which frustrates those that really wanted sales. Bait and switched again.
Attention matters for sales.
How long before Taco Bell posts a comment here?

January 14, 2008 - 6:32pm

I loved the Rocky and Bullwinkle-style title (or Toilet Titles That Diggers Digg).

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