How influential are you? Your social media activity may offer clues. Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics, an award-winning book on the power of influence, as well as a TEDx speaker, reveals that nearly one in five Canadians report that social media has made them more influential. According to him, the power and influence of word of mouth is turning to “world of mouth.” Qualman is an influential source of wisdom among young professionals (YPs) in terms of motivation, digital leadership, digital media and social media trends. The international keynote speaker is also the author Digital Leader and Crisis. We caught up with him for a quick Q&A…

What are your favourite social media outlets?
LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube.

What is the biggest marketing mistake that brands make on social media?
They are afraid to fail fast, fail forward, and fail better.

What, in your opinion, makes someone influential both online and offline?
I agree with the findings of a recent survey by American Express that indicates that the 3 greatest factors driving influence are: 1. Confidence (81%) 2. Education (55%) and 3. Willingness to try new things (44%).

For all its good, what do you think are the biggest pitfalls of social media?
People and companies need to realize it isn’t a replacement for face-to-face communication; it helps augment it when time and distance are an issue. 

What, in your opinion, is the future of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram? Are all here to stay?
Social media is here to stay; the tools can come and go. That’s why businesses need to invest in the relationships, not the tools. A great example of this is the American Express Refer a Friend Program in Canada. If an Amex Card member loves their card and they refer it to a family member or friend, then not only does the friend receive points, but the existing member is also rewarded with a referral bonus. This is word of mouth on digital steroids.

Do you think that social media has made certain people “influencers” or “experts” in a certain realm when they really shouldn’t be?
Perhaps in the short term, but long term the truth comes to light, and we arrive at the truth rather quickly with the full transparency of today’s world. Hence my new book out December 15 is titled: What Happens in Vegas Stays on YouTube: Why privacy is dead and the new rules of reputation. 

Who influences you?
Guy Kawasaki, Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Pink, Tony Hsieh, Michael Parrish DuDell, Dave Kerpen and Magic Johnson.

What is the best way for a company to leverage social media in terms of reputation control, for example, after a series of negative reviews, etc.
Be open and honest. Be flawed. Through our flaws we can show how awesome we are as a company by taking the time to fix the situation. I’ve seen this first-hand with some of my readers that have posted negative reviews; they are now my most ardent supporters!

What advice would you give your 25-year-old self?
Aside from drinking less :) … that life is complex, those that simplify it win.

What is something you learned in both your journey as an author and public speaker that you didn’t know before?
Helping others succeed gives one more satisfaction than your own personal success. Ironically, you will become more successful when you help others succeed. 

Now, go Tweet about it.

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