Prague, city of legends and myths. Of fairy tale architecture, legions of dramatic statues, countless pub crawls. Where better to learn that some key social influencers are figments of someone’s imagination; and that games contain social truths?
Lessons from social gaming
Are you a gamer? I’m not. I have never played FarmVille. I think I took one swipe at Angry Birds. But it didn’t take long for Dan Garon, chief of staff to Zynga founder Mark Pincus, to persuade me that games teach deep lessons for social media management. Here are some takeaways from his presentation at Engage Prague 2018:
- “Games are deep social experiences. They are not empty calories. They’re good for you when they help you to form deep and lasting relationships.” A relationship-forming game? Word With Friends.
- Growth, both for games and social generally, comes through retention, not virality. Garon’s metaphor: a leaky bucket; no matter how fast you fill it from a spigot, the secret to success might be plugging the leak. There’s no point attracting new users in large numbers if the product is speedily converting them into lapsed users.
- Social density is key. Users stick around when their friends are present — another reason retention is so important.
- Use “social round-trips” as a proxy metric for retention. “Social round-trips” is another way of talking about an instance of engagement. If I post a social update, or an image, or make a move in a game — and a digital friend responds by liking, sharing, or making a reciprocal move, a “social round-trip” has been completed. If those round-trips are happening with frequency, retention will almost take care of itself. Round-trips, said Garon, are “the core of social experiences and products.
- Social experiences will evolve as channels evolve. Social gaming, for example, is staking a claim in chat apps, with the integrated game experience on WeChat, and the opportunities for real-time play with friends and groups on Facebook Messenger.
The science of influence
Ben Donkor describes himself as a nerd and a geek. He certainly seems to like numbers. He’s also director of research and insight at the agency We Are Social, and was previously UK-based social intelligence lead for Microsoft. When Donkor thinks about influencers, he doesn’t just think about Selena Gomez, the Kardashians, and Instagram likes. He thinks about the science behind matching influencers to brands and audiences.
On a Prague afternoon, he spent a few minutes giving some glimpses of what the science of social media influence might look like. Let’s get schematic. The three things to think about:
- Influencer (not necessarily a person, maybe just a channel; see below)
- Target Audience
Donkor brings a taxonomy for types of influencers. In order of increasing passion/dedication: Passive fans; active fans; advocates; evangelists; brand ambassadors. There are different levels of impact: Low impact; micro-influencers (small but relevant audiences); influencers; thought-leaders; talent. Yes “talent” refers to the Kardashians of the world. Finally, there’s relevance and concordance: The relevance of the influencer to the topic and the audience, and the concordance of the influencer with the brand’s image and values.
With these dimensions in mind, you can start graphing. That means assigning values to influencers for specific topics and audiences, based on all those indicators (and in the context of desired outcome and available budget). Donkor would like to see standardized metrics, but this brief presentation delivered an outline of what those metrics might involve.
The future of social influence? Donkor places an emphasis not on celebrity but on authenticity. Successful influencers will often be local, as well as relevant, and relatable. But wait — not necessarily persons? Check out Shudu Gram. Over 100,000 Instagram followers: but she doesn’t exist.
Socialbakers covered DMN’s expenses to attend Engage