Social Networking Optimization – an Interview with Myra Norton of Community Analytics

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Kent Lewis’ initial coverage of the Online Marketing Summit included the notable presentation, “Social Networking Success: How Human Behavior has Changed the Way We Communicate to our Customers,” presented by Myra Norton, CEO of Community Analytics.

Myra’s presentation touched on one of the most pressing issues facing online marketers today. Technology is enabling the spread of more information to us and more quickly, but the problem is humans aren’t able to keep up. There is simply information than we can possibly digest. So how do we choose which information is important to us? We rely on others to do it for us.

So, how do we do that, exactly? Myra’s answer: 1) We determine who we consider to be credible sources, and, 2) the personal relationships we have with those sources.

Social networks are relationships between people. They are the real human relationships and interaction behind the technology. “Its just a matter of what advice will win.” says Myra. What we personally filter is based how much we weight the roles between “celebrity” and “advisor,” and how much those roles influence rate of verifiable-to-unverifiable information we choose to believe in and follow.

Myra explained that the most successful business objectives around social networking involve seeking out and establishing a connection, plus a working relationship, with a social networking group’s ‘trusted advisor.’ Myra defined the ‘trusted advisor’ as “a network member who has a large number of connections from others within a given network. These people are typically strong relationships builders.”

Myra summed up her social networking strategic framework in four parts: Opportunity identification, partnership building, connectivity facilitation, and relationship sustainability – with the last component being very well emphasized. “Successful social networking is NOT about creating an impersonal campaign. Its about building sustainable, ongoing relationships; and with that comes great responsibility.” says Myra.

After the conference, I interviewed Myra Norton to expand on her information about community analytics and how marketers can better understand and harness the power in social networks online.

Grant: What do you mean by the term “Community Analytics?”

Myra: It’s a funny thing how companies get named. The founder of our company wanted to do just what the name suggests – analyze communities. For us, that means understanding the relationships of trust and advice-seeking we all rely on for a myriad of decisions; and understand the impact of those micro-communities on the aggregate.

Grant: Using your Venn diagram, (x-axis of celebrity-to-advistor, y-axis of unverifiable-to-verifiable), do we ever need to adjust your strategy of how you approach advocate opinion leaders, based on where they fall in the x-y axis? For example, how would your strategy for approaching a typical leader in Facebook or MySpace (high on celebrity and unverifiable), differ from approaching a typical leader in LinkedIn (high on advisor and verifiable)?

Myra: This is a great question because it allows me clarify something here. We focus on identifying leaders from the perspective of the community, regardless of where they happen to be communicating. We only work in the verifiable/advisor quadrant because the relationships we are studying are verified through primary research and the nature of those relationships is that of sharing trusted advice. Key Network Members identified through this approach may be participating in Facebook or Linkedin – the key is that the way in which they were identified as leaders had nothing to do with how many links they have on Linkedin or how many “friends” they have on Facebook.

Grant: Are there exceptions with the Facebook example (high on celebrity and unverifiable) when you might be trying to reach a business profile page on there, as opposed to the page of an individual? For example, if you were to do an outreach with Rodney Rumford, a fellow OMS speaker and Facebook strategist. Would that be considered as an exception to the typical outreach strategy on Facebook, since he could be considered as “verifiable?”

Myra: I’ll expand on the explanation of the quadrant from my previous answer. The first question I would ask you is what topic or issue are we studying? Influence networks are topic/issue specific, so we first have to identify the issue/topic/product we are studying. Let’s assume we are mapping influence networks relative to online marketing strategies. In that case, Rodney would emerge as a Key Network Member only if the audience of online marketing professionals indicated that he was a trusted source. He may have hundreds of friends on Facebook, but this does not indicate a trusted relationship relative to this specific topic.

So now let’s assume that he is identified as a Key Network Member by the audience of online marketing professionals. Then the way we would reach out to Rodney would depend on why we conducted the study in the first place. We might ask Rodney if he would serve on an advisory panel for a new product we’re developing or we might invite him to evaluate a Beta version of our new social networking tool or we might ask him to lead a session at our next event – the outreach will depend on why we were conducting the research in the first place AND how Rodney himself wants to gain through the experience.

Grant: You mentioned in your presentation that “social networking is about building sustainable relationships, and with that comes great responsibility.” What are the types of situations where social networking, for marketing purposes, is actually irresponsible? How much of this is a problem in social networking and marketing today? What will it take to be corrected and improved? Or is it ripe for further abuse? If the irresponsibility grows, what type of backlash could we see (or that we’re already seeing)?

Myra: I think anytime you are dealing with trusted relationships, there is a risk of violating the sanctity of those relationships. It is irresponsible to manipulate relationships for marketing purposes. For instance, when companies blog as if they are part of the community and are not transparent, this is irresponsible. The key to maintaining integrity in social networking strategies is to maintain transparency, to meet the audience where they are and to respect and address the needs of the community. I think we’re already seeing the backlash that happens when companies act irresponsibly – the community will not disband – it will simply withdraw from the purview of the companies that abuse it.

About the Author

Grant Crowell is the CEO for Grantastic Designs, a search marketing and usability firm, and Senior Analyst of ReelSEO.com, a video solutions publication for online marketers.

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2 Comments

  1. Hi Grant Gr8 works here Social Networking is it the future? From my view point SEO + Social Networking would have an impact to gain traffic as well as rankings. Dealing with Trusted parties in Social is not an easy task. And as its dealing with Human Behavior which will be really a difficult task at the same. TASKS: - Targeting to the right ppl - Placing the right strategies on the ppl that we really need - Networking with socialites (niche) - Social Spam deal - Continuous process Can we make tasks simpler in SOCIAL ?

  2. Very insightful article, I really enjoyed this interview, thank for the heads up, great stuff. Myra Norton is really awesome too!