March 14, 2013, Ian Greenleigh
The democratization of influence, and the falling costs of audience acquisition, can actually work in companies’ favor. Social media has created an army of citizen influencers—otherwise normal individuals that wield huge social footprints and outsized influence. They discuss and review films, music, products, and everything under the sun. They have earned the uncompensated attention of thousands of subscribers, fans, and followers who tune in by choice—not because they have no other choice. Advertisers have traditionally measured their ads’ effectiveness, in part, by how many sets of eyeballs they reached (for many companies, this is also the primary means by which they attempt to evaluate social media efforts). But eyeballs that are there because they want to be there—interested eyeballs—are much more valuable. Consumers don’t need any prodding to tell each other what they’re buying, using, and wanting to buy. Brands are a big part of how people view themselves, and how people want others to view them. All consumers, to some degree, see the brands they purchase as a reflection of who they are, but Millennials take this association to another level entirely. Edelman Digital found that Millennials are likelier to share brand preference online than any other personal identifier—including religion and race. This generation feels empowered, too. The same study reveals a strong sense of self-importance unique to the Millennials:
We also found that 76 percent of Millennials think they are highly depended on for their opinions.
Put this in your pipe and smoke it
During one my more colorful phases, I took to smoking an old-fashioned tobacco pipe (maybe it made me feel more like a writer?). Problem was, packing a pipe that stays lit for more than a few minutes is more difficult than it looks to the novice. I could have driven the mile and a half back to the tobacconist and sheepishly asked him how to actually make use of the tobacco he sold me, but stubborn pride prevented me. Naturally, I took my query to the web. On YouTube I found hundreds of videos, giving me exactly what I was after. I sorted by popularity and went through the top three at my own pace (all were in the hundreds of thousands of views), positively over the moon that I was able to learn this way, instead of having to request the tutelage of the grizzled tobacconist in front of all the good ol’ boys that hung around the shop. The guys in the videos used different brands of tobacco, and they either talked about why they favored their brand, or the tin labels were clearly in the shot. After combining some of the finer points of all three pipe-packing methods, I visited the tobacconist again, and bought several of the brands featured in the videos that helped me most. These video stars weren’t compensated by the brands they featured, and it’s doubtful that they even received the products for free. They were just sharing what they knew, and what they liked, in a way that helped hundreds of thousands of people who were just starting to develop habits and brand loyalties that may stick for life. I still wonder, how many tins of tobacco were sold as a direct result of these homemade videos? And do these brands have any idea about the videos, and what they’ve done for their brands?