The next powerful wave in social marketing involves marshaling the influence of your existing connections to more effectively engage new audiences with your messages. This strategy utilizes available information about social connections and interests of your existing audience to influence people’s behavior. With well over half the U.S. population on Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms, marketers get a reasonably comprehensive picture of their connected audience and who that audience can reach on their behalf.  By analyzing this information, marketers influence the volume of friendly chatter that happens around you, with the twist that the “buzz” comes from your friends, not the marketer.

Here is an example in the all too common mobile phone battle. As a marketing goal, I want to pull a number of buyers from my competitor, but that target audience effectively filters out my branded messages because it contradicts their established purchase choice. The desire to maintain the appearance of consistency in decisions makes it hard to pull someone from one brand to its rival. However, communication amongst friends can break through that filter and get my message heard. So as a marketer, I analyze my audience of supporters and segment them based on the number of connections they have that support my competitor. I’ll focus on my connections that link to my competitor’s audience to generate as much chatter about my message. Those likes, comments, posts, etc. bridge over into my competitor’s community. This presents the most effective presentation possible to convert my competitor’s supporters to my brand.

Now let’s translate this to the non-profit sector. Using today’s technology, I identify a person with an affinity for my mission, but not connected to my organization. That represents an opportunity to gain a supporter. As a next step, I analyze my community of supporters and realize I have 15 people connected to that person on social media. Why wouldn’t I increase my messaging and appeals to those 15 people. In doing so, I increase the chances for them to share it on social media. Now my desired supporter sees friends touting my organization’s accomplishments and demonstrating their support. That is hyper-peer marketing.

The idea of “hyper” targeting has long been a part of online marketing. Early on, hyper-contextual targeting emerged. Google Ad Word serves as an early example of this strategy.  Based on the search criteria people use, related advertisements show on the screen hoping to play off the interest or topic of the search. A more modern example from Google of hyper-contextual work would by Google Now. It curates information and present it to users based on an array of inputs from searches, email content, web surfing activity to even third party application information via integrations with applications such as Spotify. Based on this context, it presents information such as the weather at tomorrow’s travel destination or an upcoming concert in town by a band you listened to on Spotify.

Another popular “hyper” marketing strategy involves location. With the saturation of mobile phones and their constant presence as we move through the day, marketers employ strategies based on where you stand at a given moment. Apple made a splash in this area with the rollout of iBeacon for use inside stores. This enables the delivery of specific messages to users based on their location.  It can be argued that location is just another context, but with a critical distinction. Hyper-location enables presentation of a message when you can most easily act on it.

With advances in social network data mining and sentiment analysis it is possible to do hyper-peer targeting like the earlier examples. Facebook has used some versions of peer marketing when it bumps the visibility of an item in your News Feed based on the level of engagement by your friends. This strategy builds on homophily, the assumption that you are similar to your friends, including your interests. A more powerful way to enlist your audience has them promote your message on your behalf. Sponsored stories in Facebook and Google +Post ads play on the fact that people disproportionately trust their friend’s judgment. You see this trust manifest itself in the rate and manner people solicit their social network to help with major purchases.   More powerful versions of this strategy now exist due to advances in accessing a person’s full social network across multiple channels, stronger listening platforms and a new generation of sentiment analysis solutions.

To put hyper-peer to use, identify which segments of your existing audience connect to your target audience for the campaign. Next, inspire chatter about your message by these segments to put the message in front of that target audience. You can initiate this chatter via a mixture of paid promotions, such as sponsored news feeds in Facebook and the sophisticated ad networks that exist on social networks, but also on the general web. You can also trigger this chatter via direct communication such as email, your own social posts, or targeted mobile messages via SMS or push notifications. All of these tools seed content for use by the people around your targeted audience and provide the motivation to get it shared to the targeted group. By following this approach, you not only strengthen your relationships with existing audience members, they enrich your content, making it the most powerful and persuasive message when seen by your extended target audience.

 

1. “Five examples of how marketers are using iBeacons” provides an overview of the technology and specific examples of its use.

2. “12 Surprising Stats about How Social Media Influences Holiday Purchases” collects statistics on the influence friends have on each other’s buying decisions.