Five steps to cultivating your 'Amplification Cohort'
I talk to clients about a blog post "boiling up" and I had an instant boil-up when I saw this chart on @AdamVincenzeni's blog the other day. It's a great chart that illustrates a number of key dynamics about social content sharing very well. It represents well that cycle where a piece of content is born, languishes in obscurity for a time, is discovered and "pimped" by influencers and ultimately ages until it enters the "Long Tail" period - a greatly underappreciated period where SEO can continue to deliver content-hits for a long while after its currency has worn out. Adam was talking about the challenge of "curating" content that is hot enough and fresh enough for this period of virility to begin and be as long as possible. But there's something else about the chart that got me excited. It's the point just before "viral tipping point" that Adam identifies as "Influencer Discovery". I feel that this is not a moment that should be left to chance. If social content sharing is a mainly natural, dynamic and mysterious phenomenon - this is the one point where you do get to affect the situation for your advantage.
Every person or organisation has a group of influencers in their immediate circle who will be instrumental in moving content on - or amplifying it These people form what I have clumsily taken to calling the "amplification cohort" (pretty sure I don't need to TM such a clunky expression!) Social sharing is not as simple as one-to-many I feel. It is more like one-to-some-to-many-more. The business of cultivating and developing that cohort is a PR task and one that should take place in the offline world as much as the online one. The "Influencer Discovery" point in Adam's chart is one where the individual must engage that cohort directly, or for an organisation PR must reach out and prepare the ground.
All this inspired me to consider Malcolm Gladwell's "Tipping Point" - written long before the emergence of social media as we know it today. He talks about "Connectors" - the people who act as the hubs of networks by nature of their ability to Connect people together. Gladwell tells the story of Dawes versus Revere - two messengers on the eve of the American Revolution sent out of Boston to the immediate countryside to raise the alarm that "the British were coming". Revere's ride has gone down in history as very effective, raising a militia strong enough to challenge the British advance the following day. Dawes' ride not so effective and as a result largely forgotten. Gladwell talks about those people able to spread information like wildfire because of their influence and network.
He goes on to talk about Stanley Milgram's 1960s theory of the "six degrees of separation" but contends that:
"Six degrees of separation does not mean everyone is linked to everyone else in just six steps. It means that a very small number of people are linked to everyone else in a few steps, and the rest of us are linked to the world through those special few."
So key to effective content dissemination is to identify who your Connectors are, your Influencers, who will carry your content; assuming it is of a certain quality that reflects well on them of course (you should read Adam's excellent post on the business of good content curation). When you have identified that "Cohort", you need to engage and cultivate relationships with them in the same way one used to do so with journalists. If correctly "managed" these people will "move" your content for you. Here are some steps in helping to identify who they are where to start:
1. Review your engagement history - who is retweeting/mentioning you the most?
2. Review your followers - who can you identify that has certain vested interest in your message? Partners, cusomers, etc? Group these people into a Twitter list and monitor them - what are their hot buttons?
3. Within that list, who has the greatest Klout, Kred or PeerIndex score? This is a rough measure of their influence.
4. Look them up in LinkedIn - how good a relationship do you have with them? Who in your network knows them?
5. Begin to reach out to them - 1-2-1 informal meets, approach them at industry events etc. Build a relationship. What can you do for them?
Artechulate offers B2B workshops in maximising social networking for corporate communications.