Why Social Influence Is Better Than SEO

Last fall I was pretty excited about the new addition at Stukent HQ. We installed a couple foursquare courts. When was the last time you played a solid game of foursquare?

I snapped a quick photo and sent it to the Twittersphere:

Shortly after I received this reply from a friend(Chad):

 

My immediate thought was, what the crap is Spikeball? Sounds interesting. Curiosity was killing me, so I clicked on Spikeball’s Twitter handle and eventually ended up on their website. It didn’t take long for them to convince me that I needed to play this intriguing new sport.

Fast forward three months.

I’m now a professional Spikeball player and currently on the amateur circuit. End of story.

Okay, I’m kidding.

My family and I were planning out our trip to San Diego, and I wanted to surprise everyone with a cool new game that we could play on the beach. It was finally my chance to pull the trigger on this majestic game I’ve been dreaming about over the last few months.

I’ll spare you all the details, just know that it was awesome.

playing spike at Pacific Beach in San Diego

playing spike at Pacific Beach in San Diego

As you can tell, I’m now a borderline raving fan of spikeball, I mean, I’m writing about it on an edtech startup company blog for Pete’s sake.

As I’ve had time to reflect on this entire process, I’ve come to a conclusion:

Social influence trumps SEO.

Before you get all sideways on me, I’m not saying SEO is dead. I love SEO, matter of fact, I’d even think about reading a new SEO blog post while on a date with my wife!

Like I’ve ever done that before…

But, you know that feeling you get when you lay your trump card down and take the pile? Well, that’s what we’re talking about here with social influence. You get all these players playing the SEO game and then you wham, bam, thank you ma’am them with your social influence trump card.

Let’s talk about two ways in which a consumer finds and purchases a new product, and we’ll use my Spikeball experience as an example.

A sales process without social influence:

This assumes that Chad never tweeted me with the Spikeball plug. I would have jumped online to do a Google search for “cool games to play on the beach.” I would have kept it on the first page, and cmd+clicked three or four of the top results. I may or may not have ever stumbled upon Spikeball. Those products winning the SEO game would receive my immediate attention. One thing for sure is that many more options would have been presented to me during my search phase.

As far as a business is concerned, more options mean more competitors.

Eventually, I would have selected a few different games and then confirmed that those games were available on Amazon just so I could check out reviews from people I don’t know, but reviews nonetheless. I wouldn’t be surprised if I found a couple more games while on Amazon, thus adding more competition to the dollars I am about to spend.

Quick recap: Google search research multiple products on first page > read reviews of said products on Amazon make my selection

A sales process with social influence:

In my case, a friend sent me an unsolicited recommendation. I figure if a like-minded individual as myself finds a game to be exciting, so might I. And since he told me to check it out, I felt as though I should obey. Once I landed on Spikeball’s turf, they had me. I was sold. I didn’t need to go search Google for “cool games to play on the beach.I knew what game I wanted to play on the beach.

Another form of social influence that we’re all familiar with is the “let me ask my circle” approach. We see this on a daily basis whether on Facebook or Twitter. Friends will ask friends which local plumber they recommend. All it takes is for a few friends to recommend Bob the Plumber and before you know it, Bob the Plumber is getting a phone call.

Quick recap: An acquaintance recommends something to me > I look them up > if what I see is appealing I commit.

As you can see from both the examples above, they usually end up with different outcomes, or a different product or service purchased. Sure, as a consumer I may be equally as happy with the purchase of either product. But we’re talking about how a company chooses to influence my purchasing decision.

So which is better – social influence or SEO?

I think we all know what the standard answer is to that question…DO BOTH! If your company can rank well for your targeted keyword terms, and gets its users to naturally share the love socially to their friends and acquaintances, then you’re set up for success.

But…

Most of us don’t live in a perfect world. Reaping the benefits of both can be rather difficult at times.

And that my friends is why I wrote this blog post. Not to tell you to make sure you’re doing both, but reminding you how powerful social influence can be on where dollars are spent. A suggestion from a trusted acquaintance is worth more than a review from a stranger. Remember that.

A suggestion from a trusted acquaintance is worth more than a review from a stranger.  – Tweet this.

How to succeed with social influence?

The product. Just like the old saying goes, “the ball never lies.” We’ll swap out a word and say, “the product never lies.” Your product needs to satisfy a need or desire to a starving audience. NO LOSER PRODUCTS. Humans are smart. It doesn’t take us long before we realize something isn’t up to par. In fact, we are known to voice our opinions more often negatively about a product than positively.

How important is it then that the product in which you offer is awesome?

Cool factor. People don’t want to share things about a boring company. When you hit cool factor status, you’ll know. You’ll start to see raving fans pop up all over the place. When a fan is selling your product for you, that’s a beautiful thing. Love and appreciate those raving fans by committing always to uphold a cool factor and by being innovative.

Step outside your company walls and take a look at it. Do you see a cool company?

Show if off. Spikeball did a fantastic job showing off their product to me. They did this by using cool video shots of cool-looking people playing a cool-looking game. Their website looked fresh and easily navigable. I didn’t experience a single negative feeling while on their site. This is important. Even a minor negative experience can create friction between you and the consumer.

Are you being shy about your cool product? Show it off!

A bonus for making it this far:

I was able to take a few POV videos with my GoPro while playing Spikeball. If you’ve never seen anyone playing this game, this will give you a nice idea of how the game is played.

*warning* video and athletes are very amateurish.

Spikeball on ABC’s Shark Tank on 5/15/15

shark tank logoA few weeks ago I found out that Spikeball was airing on Shark Tank! Since Shark Tank is one my favorite shows, I was beyond excited. Let’s all tune in on May 15th, 2015 (8/7c) and cheer on Spikeball! If they’re able to strike a deal, my guess is that it’s with Robert. Comment and tell us which shark you think will take the deal.

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Trevor Erikson

Vice President, Stukent, Inc. at Stukent, Inc.
I'm from Idaho, best place ever. Currently working the pavement on our ed-tech startup - Stukent, Inc. Follow me through my social media channels to see what keeps me busy.

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