Business Influence in the Social Media Age

I recently took part in a marketing masterclass at Oxford Brookes University led by Mark W Schaefer and Ana Silva O’Reilly.  The topic was Business Influence in the Social Media Age, presented by Mark W Schaefer and Ana Silva O’Reilly.

We all have multiple sources of inspiration – text books, teachers, broadcaster, writers… well now to that add bloggers and podcasters. Mark blogs as {grow} and Ana blogs as Mrs O Around the World and both have a significant following.

Mark has authored many books on Social Media and blogs at Businesses Grow.  He is the co-host of a fortnightly podcast, The Marketing Companion, with Tom Webster and has built a solid following these arenas.

Ana Silva O’Reilly was unknown to me, but has an inspiring luxury travel blog Mrs O Around the World and a loyal fan base of fellow travellers and dreamers – as well as luxury brands.

Half the audience were unaware of Mark W Schaefer, even fewer knew of Ana Silva O’Reilly (see below for official their biogs). However, despite their online following, both displayed genuine humility, and it was a great leveller, unlike the rock star treatment of US social media and industry conferences.

Both were very approachable, hence the title of the event, but also ‘genuine’.

So what did I learn?

Human to human communication

We have come full circle from the market places of old, where people shopped daily, traded gossip and news, compared wares and prices and relied heavily on their good name and others goodwill. When broadcast media were invented (radio, then television) and mass communication became possible, we lost that personal touch and although we could reach far greater numbers of people, the communication was all in one direction.

Enter Social Media and we are back in the market place, one-on-one again, or at least we can be.

This makes perfect sense especially in the context of Facebook or twitter. This how people use it in reality and any response from our connections is personal – don’t forget that.

Be entertaining and the rise of the cat selfie!

Let’s break that down… it’s not what you want to say that matters to others, it’s what they want to hear or increasingly see.

Size doesn’t matter!

We will all still have our most trusted sources of information, whatever the choices we are looking to make.  Even my closest friends and associates, with whom I regularly trade ideas and new stuff, with whom I have the most in common, all have their own heroes.  And I’ve seldom heard of any of theirs, or they of mine. Weird!

Business influence doesn’t depend on big advertising budgets.  It stems from your ability and willingness to become a trusted source for the people who follow you.

It’s very grounding as a blogger, teacher and a consultant for these reasons:

Firstly, there will be an audience for your content, even if it’s a few dozen like-minded people. Depending on your reasons for blogging, that may be all that matters and makes it all worthwhile.

Secondly, you are unique. The combination of your own voice, observations, realisations, knowledge and style of communication will also be unique. If you have the courage to be you, you will connect with the right audience for you – rather like we do in our face-to-face relationships and interactions.

Find your niche and get really comfortable inhabiting it.

Ana has a following on Twitter of nearly 19K and Mark of 107K. The world population currently stands at 7 billion and rising. So oddly enough, they both inhabit their own niche.

Mark has 4 books to his name, yet due to the nature of his audience – grown online then migrated to print – he is not as widely known as, say, Malcolm Gladwell, whose books and column in the New Yorker are widely read and appreciated, yet is almost inactive in social media.

Depending on your longterm goals, growing an audience in your niche may be all that matters.

Depending on your reasons, of course. If, like me, you are a consultant and teacher, there is a natural limit to the number of people you can help directly before you reach the point of critical mass. You can no longer respond personally to comments, tweets, emails and direct messages any more because there are just too many of them.

Both Mark and Ana had reached this point some time ago and yet they clearly missed it, that personal interaction with their audience members, and both still engage with twitter as their dominant social media platform.

So it’s still about capacity and keeping it personal. That counts for brands as well as individual bloggers.

Integrity. Trust. And ‘Swag of the Day’.

Should you blog about stuff for sponsors and promoters…

If your audience are going to ‘smell a rat’ and they follow you for your honesty and truth, this may turn them off you, for good. I personally prefer an independent point of view or ‘broad church’. Mashable, Social Media Examiner, SEOMoz and MANY others have all built their tribes by being inclusive yet critical. Many bloggers started out that way – a lone but passionate voice.

Blogging and Social Media for Google Rankings

When you look at the following of some brands, bloggers or even media companies, it’s easy to face a mental barrier if you’re less than a ‘super-blogger’. My question to Mark and Ana was how small businesses who want to create and share content can hope to compete against automated software systems like HubSpot, Marketo and Eloqua.

Mark’s advice was to find and occupy your niche. You need to establish what your value proposition is to customers.

If you can you complete the sentence:

“Only we…”

… you will build an audience for whom those particular qualities or attributes matter.

This is not easy, by the way. For many small businesses in my niche, B2B marketing, this is something they need help to define either from critical friends, a business coach or a consultant like me. I’ve even consulted other consultants to help me to define my value proposition!

Be what you know…

Ana blogs about luxury travel and has been fortunate enough to enjoy this style of travel for many years. Lucky Ana, I hear you say, but in reality she will be less impressed by a freebie to a 5 star resort than a rookie travel writer. She can afford to travel in style so her criticism is valid, her praise meaningful.

Travel journalism is full of writers looking for freebies and I know from professional experience the high cost of travel PR. The destination marketing organisation will invest in it heavily, but so too will the resort or hotel. After a week in your hotel, enjoying a free holiday, there is still no guarantee the piece will be selected by the editor or your details will get printed.

Honestly, I’d rather invite an Ana…


Do it! Go on! It’s where it’s at!!!

Content that moves

Many bloggers will talk about a breakthrough moment when their content ‘went viral’. Or their followers went through the roof.

For Mark, it was a blog post that got picked up by the Washington Post online and was ultimately syndicated worldwide. It was even in the Daily Mail, but we’ll gloss over that one.

You need to connect with the people in your niche who have business influence online. Their reach in terms of followers and credibility can lend great weight to your content, should they choose to ‘share’ it with their following.


Online, influence is is developed regardless of birth, class, education, status symbols, position, even looks – anyone can move mountains.

So what is Klout then, if not an index of online influence and ones ability to ‘move content’.
So remember, we all create our own personal eco-system of heroes, gurus and teachers and that’s our niche. Mine will be different to yours, and if you consult friends, colleagues and business associates time and time again, they won’t have heard of yours… and you won’t have heard of theirs. And it doesn’t matter.

It means that you too can become one of somebody else heroes, gurus and teachers and build YOUR niche, attracting like-minded people (customers) to your eco-system.

And it’s scalable.


If you want to know more about Content Marketing and how it can help your business grow, drop us a line. We run regular small group workshops, or can come and run one just for you and your team.

Mark W. Schaefer is a globally-recognized blogger, speaker, educator, business consultant, and author who blogs at {grow} – one of the top marketing blogs of the world. He teaches graduate marketing classes at Rutgers University and has written four best-selling books including The Tao of Twitter (the best-selling book on Twitter in the world) and Return On Influence,which was named one of the top business titles of the year by the American Library Association. His latest book is called Social Media Explained: Untangling the World’s Most Misunderstood Business Trend – See more at: “

“Originally from Lisbon, Portugal, Mrs. O is now permanently based in the UK. With a degree in Business Studies and a Henley Business School MBA, Ana Silva O’Reilly developed her career in strategic marketing management as Marketing Director for Portugal, Spain and Turkey with global commercial real estate consultant Cushman & Wakefield. She is also a New York University alumni (NYU), having graduated from its Social Media Strategy & Execution course in 2011 & 2013.

An avid traveller, Mrs. O is also a good daughter, who does as she is told, religiously following her mother’s mottos: “if you are leaving home, it has to be to a better place” or “i love camping… in 5 star hotels”.

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