GUEST POST: This post was written by our newest MarketMeSuite intern @Words2live.  There's a lot of buzz going on around influence and Klout changes, so we tasked Andrea with going beyond the buzz and find out what's really behind being "influential."

The last time I used the phrase "social influence" in a face-to-face conversation at a business luncheon for small businesses, one of the owners sighed:

"Another buzzword they want to stick down on our throats."

"Well," I told her, "you know online marketing? PR? Elevator pitch? ROI? Sustainability? They are all buzzwords. Because like it or not, they are part of our business success."

But she's made me think: buzzwords have a negative baggage. Are you really aware what social influence is? Why is it important and how can you use it to your advantage? Let me share some quick tips with you how to turn it to your advantage.

1. What is it?

The term, social influence is vague in nature. The best explanation from a sociological point of view defines three stages and various models of social influence but for us, let's just stick to the basic definition. In general, it has two main areas:

  • fans, followers linked to you (newsletter subscribers, twitter followers, fans of your facebook page etc.)
  • reactions you get from them (comments, mentions, retweets, backlinks etc.)

2. Why do you need it?

"The responsibility of the influencer is to create buzz, drive sales and increase traffic." - Michael Cohn It's all to get customers in the door and make their stay enjoyable. It's adding your name to the blender so that when a problem comes up, potential customers will think of you. It's making you stand out in the large scale competition that we all face today. It's letting people know who you are, what you do and how you've helped others.

3. How to improve it?

a) Influential people (organizations) move people.

They motivate others to take action. In business terms it doesn't only mean custom. It also means to get people be the ambassadors of your product/service, to share their positive experience proudly. So if others share your tweet/post or publicly like/1+ your page, that's a good sign. Make it easy for them to do so. Keep those buttons available at the end of the post, let them follow you in the sidebar, promote these options and you'll be ahead of the competition - even Guardian makes it difficult to share their articles.

b) Build co-operation and partnerships.

Reciprocated favours create a bond that's a basis for a long-term relationship. If you help a customer with a problem that's not related to your business, they will appreciate the genuine interest you took in them. They won't forget it. If somebody asks a question in your feed, that's outside of your expertise, take a moment to think of who/what do you know that could help them. Even just re-sharing the problem can bring them closer to a solution.

c) Have dialogues with others (as opposed to monologues) and listen carefully.

Sometimes customers don't know what they want - remember, you're the expert, you know the inside outs of that particular area, they've got other things in mind. So talk to them, reply to them and read between the lines. Follow the conversations you have with that person, don't let a question hanging in the air, and reply to comments as often as you can. Some applications, like MarketMeSuite allow you to find and start conversations automatically, but don't use it as a sweeping method - the key to social media is individuality, not mass marketing.

d) Track the results.

Just like you follow up on the results on your other marketing methods, an advertisement campaign, a specific price reduction etc., you have to measure your social impact as well. Each media gives you numerous options for measurement: Facebook Analytics, Google+ Ripples, and Klout score on Twitter. With the latter, you have the option to check other people's Klout score as well, giving you plenty of options on how to use it:

  • you can place yourself among the competition
  • you can focus on the most influential customers
  • you can follow up the changes a marketing campaign brings along.

e) Be the best you can.

That's probably the most important: be genuine. Don't try to be someone you're not, and even though there is an official field to play in, individual voices are highly appreciated by social media users. It's a noisy platform - you can't stand out by trying to be louder than others, you have to be different. Yes, social influence is a trendy buzzwords these days. But there's a lot to learn about how to use it the best way. What's your favourite best practice that you've seen or used yourself?

Who Wrote This Post?

Andrea is a fabulous MarketMeSuite intern, the social media marketing dashboard. And big news... we're now free! Please get it free here. Influence metric fans be sure to check out our influence integration!