People Use Social Networks To Strengthen Social Ties, Not To Influence Others

Evidence shows that you can’t influence people on social media, but you can connect with people that share similar interests.

Have companies been going about social media all wrong?

New research says that could be the case.

Influencing Others

There is a common belief in the business world that “influence” is possible in the online world especially in social media. We often hear about influencers and how companies should become influencers in their space.

This may not be the case. Businesses that are trying to influence people to like their brand or to buy their products may be going about the task in the wrong way.

Strengthening Social Ties

New research (Lewis, Gonzalez and Kaufman, 2011) has found that people use social media such as Facebook to strengthen their social ties with people that already like the same things instead of trying to influence others.

[O]ur data show surprisingly little evidence for the common notion that what we like rubs off on those around us. Rather, our findings would support a view of contemporary online interaction as having less to do with influencing our neighbors and more to do with strengthening social ties among those whom we already resemble.

It’s a slight difference in understanding of social media, but it’s important.

How To Grow Your Business With Social Media

Your customers are going online to find other people that share similar interests as they do. They’re not always looking for new ways to interpret and experience the world.

As a company, the best bet is to connect with the people that already share a similar world view. This means you’re going to be required to share your beliefs about the world when using social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a company blog.

We often think of companies that have a unique personality as the ones that are having the most success with social media. This now makes sense. Those companies are connecting with their target customers because they’re sharing information about themselves; what they belief and what they feel.

Sharing stories, likes, dislikes and taking stands on things are what people are looking for in social media.

Companies often take the vanilla route trying to not turn people away. Instead, this research found that you might have to share the things you stand for in order to connect with people using social media.

Image: D. Sharon Pruitt

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