social impact theory
social impact theory

The term social impact theory was first coined by Bibb Latané, at The Ohio State University, long before the invention of social media platforms, in 1981. This psychologist conducted a series of experiments to figure out how influence really worked and came up with three different factors: strength, immediacy, and numbers.

By strength, the theory means how important is the influencer to the target audience, immediacy is in terms of proximity in time between the two, and numbers stand for the number of the influencers themselves.

Social Media Impact

Although the social impact theory was developed long before social media platforms came to be, it has become a lot more powerful when used correctly with the invention of these platforms.

For example, a social media platform such as Twitter provides strength in the form of family, friends, and coworkers – the people that most individuals are closest to and whose opinions they value. The platform provides both virtual and temporal immediacy because these people are always a device away. Finally, it also provides a big opportunity because there is a big number of people who can influence others.

However, the way that all of this information relates to marketing and public relations campaigns isn’t impacting an audience’s immediacy or these people’s connections – but it does greatly help in the third factor of the social impact theory – the numbers. The bigger the number of people that are familiar with the brand,

Through effective marketing and communications campaigns, a company can get in front of many people, who are going to be interested in the brand, and therefore, share their interests with their family, friends, and coworkers.

Although the social impact is best when the influencer is of a higher status, and when the influencing statement is more immediate, brands can capitalize on the benefits of having many people talking about it, which is, in essence, word of mouth marketing.

However, to further develop a marketing and communications campaign based on the social impact theory, brands and corporations have to be proactive and flexible in their marketing campaigns.

Social Media Strategy

With several people going online and on social media platforms these days to connect with others, they also seek out the same resources to solve issues or find out more information about proposed solutions to their problems.

When a company offers a solution to its target audience, the social impact theory is best supported through user-generated content – in other words, testimonials and reviews created by other buyers.

Research has shown that shoppers tend to trust reviews and testimonials and the claims made in them a lot more than the company’s claims or the manufacturer of the product itself. This is why businesses should strive to generate this type of content from their buyers and highlight their reviews when potential leads are looking into a company’s offers.

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Ronn Torossian is the Founder & Chairman of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently owned PR firms in the United States. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth and vision, with the agency earning accolades including being named a Top 50 Global PR Agency by PRovoke Media, a top three NYC PR agency by O'Dwyers, one of Inc. Magazine's Best Workplaces and being awarded multiple American Business Awards, including a Stevie Award for PR Agency of the Year. With over 25 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected public relations executives. Throughout his career he has advised leading and high-growth businesses, organizations, leaders and boards across corporate, technology and consumer industries. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications. He has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly in the media and has authored two editions of his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations," which is an industry best-seller. Torossian's strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, a Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a recipient of Crain's New York Most Notable in Marketing & PR. Outside of 5W, Torossian serves as a business advisor to and investor in multiple early stage businesses across the media, B2B and B2C landscape. Torossian is the proud father of two daughters. He is an active member of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a board member of multiple not for profit organizations.