Key to Online Influence Is the Message

Thursday, 04 Feb 2010 10:55 AM

By Ronald Kessler

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Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail blasts are all the rage in developing support for political candidates and influencing events. But an expert in what is known as word-of-mouth marketing says the most important ingredient in the online world is not choice of technological tools but crafting a message that resonates.

“A lot of people are focusing on the channel and the tools rather than the message and the context in which those messages are received,” says Idil Cakim, whose book, “Word of Mouth Marketing: Online Strategies to Identify Influencers, Craft Stories, and Draw Customers,” just came out.

Editor’s Note: Get Idil Cakim’s book to learn how to formulate messages that sell, Go Here Now.

“We keep hearing about success stories from Facebook, where a political campaign, brand, or organization has managed to amass thousands of people to a given fan page,” Cakim tells Newsmax. “Such tools give a voice to the average citizen, who probably could only communicate with people who were immediately around them before, but we also have to think about what that message is that’s being sent from these channels and how they connect with people’s sentiments and whether they offer them a message that they find useful.”

In the book, Cakim offers a range of tips on how to influence people online. She provides case studies of success stories from Wells Fargo, Southwest Airlines, and Intuit to the campaign of Barack Obama.

Cakim, who is vice president of interactive media at the public relations firm of GolinHarris in New York, has been a board member of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, whose members include Dell, Microsoft, McDonald’s, Procter and Gamble, American Express, Google, and Yahoo. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll note that she is engaged to my artist son, Greg.

In influencing voters or raising money for candidates, “the best way to start is with a list of activists or donors or people who have subscribed to a publication that is close to your political view or your mission,” Cakim says. “But it’s one thing to distribute a message in a network and it’s another thing to identify the influencers, share your messages with them, and have them take the lead in spreading that message to the network.”

Cakim’s book calls these influential people networking agents.
“Demographically, they may not be any different than the average American, but they are more likely to speak up,” Cakim says. “They have a higher tendency to take the lead in organizations or in communities. They’re the ones who organize parent-teacher association meetings. They’re the ones who have a strong opinion and have the will power to send a letter to an editor. They’re the ones who say blogging could be interesting, let me take a crack at it. They start writing their daily musings and start sharing their points of view with the people around them. They like to connect, and they’re seen as experts in their own circles about given topics.”

In crafting the right message, “you have to find a hook that interests your intended audience,” Cakim says. “You have to think of what would resonate with them and offer them value. And by value, by all means I don’t mean money. I mean knowledge, I mean information. I mean tips that can make their life easier or encourage them to take action, making it easier for them to speak up and be leaders in their own communities, because that’s what they like to do.”

Cakim cites Barack Obama’s campaign as a success story. Obama used My.BarakObama.com to allow more than 2 million volunteers to create profile areas and plan 200,000 events, form 35,000 volunteer groups, and publish 400,000 blog posts. About 70,000 users raised $30 million through these fundraising pages.

Whether selling a candidate or a product, responding quickly to new developments is essential, Cakim says.

“A lot of organizations set up shop with social media to open communication and then they forget to look after them,” Cakim says. “A comment may come in and just sit there for a while. It suggests that the organization is not listening. If you respond fast, that means you’re listening. If you give a proper answer, you acknowledge a problem, you apologize, or you just provide more useful information. You defend yourself without being too boastful. All these help boost credibility and help you earn trust as an organization.”

Based on the percentage that are opened, studies have found that the best time to send mass e-mails is around 11 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

“Mondays are bad because people are just coming back from the weekend, and they have a lot of things to go through,” Cakim notes. “Fridays, they’re kind of checked out, ready for the weekend.”

Marketers have caught on. They now flood people with e-mails at 11 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

But whenever a message is sent, the key to success remains how it is crafted.
“You have to create content that people find meaningful and useful,” Cakim says. “Messages that are more likely to travel far online strike an emotional chord, speak to a common experience, or provide critical information.”

Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via e-mail. Go here now.

Editor’s Note: Get Idil Cakim’s book to learn how to formulate messages that sell, Go Here Now.

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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