Influence is Much More than a Klout Score

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“The very man who has argued you down, will be sometimes be found, years later, to have been influenced by what you said.” — C.S. Lewis

Over the last few years, people have been measuring their influence on-line by using tools such as Klout (http://klout.com/) , TweetLevelhttp://tweetlevel.edelman.com/), Twitter Analyzer http://www.twitteranalyzer.com/, and PeerIndex (http://www.peerindex.net/), amongst other popular applications and services.

From a pure measurement and analytic perspective these tools can certainly help people instantly measure their on-line popularity, engagement, and trust with their audience.

According to Klout, the most popular standard of measurement influence on-line, my score on Twitter is a respectable 54. They define me as a specialist. Klout states that I “may not be a celebrity, but within your area of expertise your opinion is second to none. Your content is likely focused around a specific topic or industry with a focused, highly engaged audience.”

Another one of my favorites is TweetLevel, a tool developed by an AR colleague of mine, Jonny Bentwood ( http://twitter.com/#!/JonnyBentwood).  This beta tool  helps “understand and quantify the varying importance of different people’s usage of Twitter.”

This leads me to my central question:  do on-line influence and measurement tools singularly define your true influence on Twitter?  Case in point: I have seen people amass thousands of friends on Facebook and connections on LinkedIn.  Does this “social media collector” exercise make these types of people instant influential rock stars? Are they truly engaging with their social community to move their trust index up NOT just their popularity.

I’m here to state that to be truly influential in your social media community you need to arm yourself with an arsenal of techniques and engagement methods to connect and greatly effect your audience.

Here are some of the popular methods I use and recommend as ways to influence and connect with your audience:

1) Connect, connect, connect.   Social media is just one technique to effect your audience and have them hang onto your every word.  IRL or “In Real Life” conversations take your relationship with someone — be it personal or professional — to the next level.  In my experience, people tend to hide behind a contrived persona on social media.  IRL their true self comes out and your audience truly appreciates that.

In my job, which coincidentally is an influencer marketing role, I use a three-pronged method of influence — social media engagement, phone/E-mail engagement and IRL face-to-face conversations and interactions during road tours, trade shows, and on-site visits.

Why is this important?  It helps me enhance my relationships with my community by developing a “deeper” level of trust, respect and friendship.

2) Listen, Listen and Listen Some More. How often do you find yourself “talking at” people on Twitter, LinkedIn, or some other social media channel?  Everyone thinks their invincible on the Internet but nobody wants to engage with a super egomaniac.  Nevertheless, you probably want to crow about your company’s success and accomplishments through the social media airwaves.

But do you go out of your way to publish or re-tweet a post from someone you are following on Twitter or a key connection on LinkedIn?

In my job, I’m constantly monitoring and listening to conversations to find out where the technology industry is going.   More often than not, I influence key relationships by sending key contacts Twitter Direct Messages, then setting up phone and face-to-face meetings later on.

3) Don’t Try to Be Mr. or Mrs.  Popular.   Influence is NOT a popularity contest.  You are not measured by the number of followers, friends and connections you have.  Influence is the power of what you say and how you interact with your “engaged” audience.

Early on in the social media game I was constantly comparing myself to the celebrities, sports stars and social media advocates who attained a magical number of tens of thousands of followers.   Like Klout said, I’m a specialist in my area and I know how to engage and target my audience with specific hot topics and content.

While I like sports and other hobbies, I’m not going engage my audience with nebulous tweets about these subject areas since I’m specifically not a specialist.  I try to engage my audience on what I know well: social media, analyst relations, public relations, technology, and other marketing-related subjects.

4) Taking Things Personally Will Only Lessen Your Influence.   I have noticed this trend in the social media world running rampant.  For example, someone opens up a Facebook or Twitter account and comments and tweets to the world everything he or she is thinking.  I have been guilty of this philosophy and mantra before.  I used to think the more tweets I composed and sent and the number of times I commented on a Facebook post would spread my influence.  Oh contraire! People want to engage with people who listen, who interact and don’t have a personal agenda at hand.

You may also be asking “how does influence on-the-job affect my company’s brand and image?”  In my specific role of influencer marketing, I’m constantly listening to the opinions and suggestions of analysts and consultants.  Sometimes this feedback is critical and sometimes it’s not music to my company’s ears.

Bottom line: I try to win friends and influence people by helping my internal stakeholders understand why a message and strategy may not be properly aligned to market conditions.  And you know what?  My external audience appreciates that their suggestions and opinions are considered and evaluated.  This is key influencer relations from an inside/out perspective.

Are you going beyond your standard online measurement tools like Klout, TweetLevel, PeerIndex, and Twitter Analyzer to truly influence your target audience — your followers, friends and connections?

I would love to hear your thoughts…

Don’t Stop the Train: #usguys is on a Roll!

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Recently, I started participating in very popular group on Twitter called #usguys. This “from-all-walks-of-life” worldwide group is made up of a diverse set of individuals — young professionals, consultants, corporate executives, students, Moms, bloggers, cutting across different races, demographics and gender lines.   Their mission is to spread “social good” through social media, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and many different blogs.

The group was originally founded by five key members: Cristian Gonzales(@galactic), Tom Moradpour (@TomMoradpour), Jason Mikula (@mikulaja), Patrick Prothe (pprothe) and Chase Adams (@RealChaseAdams).  I actually had the pleasure of meeting with Chase here in Atlanta last week to share my views on the group and discuss #usguys’ vision and strategy in general.

According to their Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/theusguys), the #usguys mission statement originally started out as a way for members, which they refer to as a “tribe,” to communicate their thoughts on marketing, social media, customer care and corporate transparency.

Chase has described it as: “A proverbial social media garage, where we pop the hood on social media, marketing and customer care.”

The #usguys tribe currently looks at trends in technology, the state of social media, what it is to be a part of social media, what works in marketing, what’s trending in marketing, what companies are doing wrong, what they could do better, how they communicate, what works, and what doesn’t work.  Think of the popular TV show, “Survivor,” where the “tribe” is working together for one united cause/purpose.

From my perspective, the #usguys tribe adds tremendous value on hot trends in the social media and technology landscape.  In fact, many #usguys members have prominent voices in other popular Twitter marketing, technology, blogging and social media chats.

The tribe also tries to keep conversations and debates light and casual — very similar to a “fraternity house” atmosphere you may have encountered in your college days.  In addition to the serious subjects noted above, the #usguys tribe chats about beer, coffee and they even go out-of-the-way to say good morning and good night to each other.  Kind of like a family.

Think of a typical lounge you hang out at during a trade show or event. #Usguys, similar to the now-defunct popular TV show, “Cheers,” aims to make sure everyone knows your name.

One of the most unique rituals #usguys has is “Ringing the Tribal Bell” for newcomers to the chat.  I believe this is a very unique way of introducing new members to the group and keeping them interested, engaged and entertained in the lively discussions on #usguys.

Lately, I have been voicing my concerns to the group that this #usguys craze has become way too big for its own good.  In fact, yesterday, one of the members said there have been 698 Contributors over the seven days and more than 1,500 tweets per day.  To be precise, Chase told me there are 200 unique contributors to #usguys and more than 700 re-tweets on a weekly basis.

As a key influencer in the technology, marketing and social media landscape, I would like to propose a few new wrinkles to the #usguys phenomenon:

1) Your charter is to listen, engage and respect all members of the community.   My experience is many members of #usguys love to engage and welcome you to new discussions on social media, marketing and technology. However, in a course of day literally hundreds of separate conversations are happening making it very hard for new members like me to engage and voice our opinions and perspectives.

My proposal:  Like other popular twitter chats (i.e. #b2bchat, #PR20chat, #archat, #imcchat, #leadershipchat) come up with one or two conversation topics a day to keep the conversation more effective and engaging.  From my understanding, #usguys is seriously thinking about new streams (i.e. #usblogs) to stimulate deeper conversations and discussions about specific topics.

2)  I never belonged to a “fraternity” in college because I didn’t want to be part of a “cliquey” group.  I thought hazing rituals and drinking games were for people who didn’t know how to make friends.

My proposal: If you want to form cliques or private groups in #usguys set up separate IRL tweetups and meetups in major cities.  I’m actually planning an Atlanta #usguys tweetup in the Spring with Chase.  Another solution:  Set up separate #usguys groups for people interested in beer, coffee, and Skyping with each other at late nights.

3)  #Usguys is on the edge of something great but the tribe is relatively unknown to the greater social media universe.  So how do you make this Twitter phenomenon part of the social media fabric?

My proposal: Publicize, market and spread the good news about the #usguys craze.  #Usguys members are very influential on the social media landscape. Many are actually on the speaking circuit and are former executives for major companies who have successfully launched their own consulting companies. Why not set up a #usguys speaking circuit at major conferences and events i.e. the upcoming SXSW event in Austin, Texas?

In addition, how about setting up a very basic #usguys website with goals and objectives for the group as well as tribal rules or engagement?  This would make it easier for mainstream bloggers like the Huffington Post, Mashable and others to write feature stories on #usguys.

4)  Stop being “inclusive” and make it a universal chat group for all.

My proposal: Stop worrying about re-naming and re-branding the group because some people are offended by the #usguys name.  Make sure the original Founding Fathers actively engage with new members of the group to make them feel like they are part of the conversation.

Bottom line: A little bit of refinement, new structure and order, and new rules of engagement will help #usguys truly tap into the “currently submerged” iceberg of opportunity here.  And revolutionizing how conversations flow and becoming thought leaders on the marketing, technology and social media landscape will help the tribe continue its popularity for many years to come.

If you are currently a #usguys member or exploring participation in the tribe, I would love to hear your thoughts…

Slaying the Silo Marketing Dragon

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Have you ever had the task of changing how you do business with your customers?  You probably receive marching orders like this from your management on a daily basis.

But what about being truly “obsessed” with you customers?  Probably one of the biggest tasks facing most marketers today is how to slay the “silo marketing” dragon.

Over the last year, I have been studying and providing constructive feedback on the overall state of B2B marketing, influencer relations, and customer issues and communications in various social media channels and forums I actively participate in — Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn amongst others.

I firmly believe one of the most hotly contested debates permeating the social media airwaves is why are corporations still focused on “silo marketing” when “integrated and “relationship-based” marketing and customer communications models are helping companies like Best Buy, BT, Dell, Apple, and Zappos take their businesses to a new level.

Silo marketing has always been a traditional function and departmental-based method of marketing.   And while the 4 p’s of marketing – pricing, product management, promotion and placement – still apply here this business model is outdated, antiquary and most importantly misaligned with the way we should think about customers:  on a deep, passionate, engaging, and intimate level.

According to Wikipedia, “customer centricity” refers to the orientation of a company to the needs and behaviours of its customers, rather than internal drivers (such as the quest for short-term profit).  Not surprisingly today when marketers think “customers” they throw technology, products and services at them without studying their business needs and behaviors.

This is why “relationship or integrated” marketing approaches  — in other words “customer-centric marketing” — are revolutionizing how companies do business — from innovation, product research to customer satisfaction and social media.   The relationship marketing model reverses the traditional marketing approach of throwing shiny things at your customers and instead helps you listen and engage with them more directly.

How many times do you ask your customer “What business problem are you trying to solve?”  Product or technology-focused marketing approaches lose sight of a customers’ main issues and leave many organizations feeling left out.

How many times has your company launched a new product or service without talking to your customers first?  How do you measure the ROI of that product or service?  Usually it involves surveying your customer base and developing metrics that help evolve their problems and needs.

We are living in a “services-oriented” economy where the customer is gaining more traction, influence, and leverage in everything you do from a marketing perspective.   Customers are more vocal than they have ever been before, and you need to listen to them, NOT talk down to them.

Living in silos has also been a cultural philosophy for a very long time.  But does this mean we should stay in our “silos” box?  Does your CMO and CTO discuss customer issues with your sales and customer teams?  Chances are your customer marketing efforts are departmentalized across the business. Customer centricity is an inside job too.   Collaboration, trust and loyalty should also be built across your departments to give every employee value and start thinking like a customer does.

A good friend of mine, Fred McClimans, who provides professional and consulting services to a range of clients, came up with a great idea.  Why doesn’t every company employ a “Chief Synergy Officer.”  This person’s primary job would be to bridge the gap between the customer teams, the sales teams, marketing teams and other departments within an organization hierarchical structure.   By “synergizing” the entire company, every employee becomes a critical part of their customers’ success and value chain.

The bottom line is the silo marketing dragon needs to be slayed right now if you want to remain in business.   This “customer centric” philosophy needs to be part of everything you do in your job, how you interact with your customers, and how your company survives in the long run.

How do you see the future state of marketing evolving and what are you doing to break down the silos?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Disclosure: I have more than 20 years of marketing, PR, strategy and customer communications experience working for large corporations.  To that end, I have worked with teams of people employing both siloed and integrated marketing approaches in various aspects of my career.

Does it Really Make a Difference? Friend or Foe: Leveraging Industry Analysts in Your Message Testing

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My colleague, Fred McClimans, and I hosted another stimulating discussion today on our Twitter #archat.  #archat, for those of you reading this for the first time, is a Twitter conversation channel for analysts, media relations, analyst relations, investor relations, marketing, and other “influencer” business professionals interested in sharing best practices about the industry analyst community.

The Twitter session centered on a major and pressing theme in the analyst relations community:  “Why analyst relations and marketing must work together to validate strategic messaging.”  The chat generated more than 40 unique visitors and more than 200 tweets.  See the full transcript here:  http://wthashtag.com/transcript.php?page_id=11766&start_date=2010-08-10&end_date=2010-08-10&export_type=HTML.

The consensus from the chat is that most AR pros agree that they need to work in collaboration with their product and marketing teams to test and validate their new solutions with “influential” analysts weeks and perhaps months ahead of time.  The result:  Your company can take this analyst feedback and fine-tune its strategy before it hits the market with the formal press release.

There’s also strong sentiment that the AR community should control which analysts are specifically targeted for messaging, strategy and consulting sessions.  This makes logical sense since AR pros are more experienced in this area of the business.

To that end, message testing and validation is a true art because it allows the AR pro to truly maximize analysts’ thoughts, opinions and recommendations and feel like they are part of molding a company’s strategy.

My advice is to always target those analysts who you trust and will tell you the good, the bad and the ugly about your new product or strategy.

There were quite a few debates on today’s chat on whether these analysts are “friendly” or not.   Does this really matter after all?  One analyst quipped that “friendly” analysts are those who aren’t afraid to tell you that you are full of BS.  That’s true but I personally think “friendly” is a misnomer.

An analyst, friend or foe, has a prime role and responsibility in telling a company how he/she feels about a product/solution during a message testing session.  And this feedback is critical in helping a company re-mold its strategy before a major product or solution launch.  One caveat expressed on this chat however:  Many analysts expressed the opinion that “messaging” and “testing” are two separate initiatives that need to be part of a company’s overall analyst strategy.

One of my esteemed AR colleagues summed it up best by saying, “there are some analysts who can help build your messages, some that can tear them down, but both can make it better.”

In my experience, analysts like the message testing and validation process because they feel like they are helping a company make important decisions about its strategy and messaging.  One analyst said: “Friendly analysts will deliver honest feedback and criticism–hopefully helping you to avoid problems later!”

Bottom line: If you tier, rank and prioritize your analysts based on this best practice, the message testing process is a ‘win-win’ for all involved — the analysts briefed on the strategy and the company’s marketing and product groups.

You can also view many of the thoughts on this chat by viewing my Twitter handle (http://twitter.com/LoudyOutLoud), reading Fred’s blog: http://fredmcclimans.com/ or checking out what the hashtag?! at http://wthashtag.com/archat.

Parting World Cup 2010 Thoughts

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FIFA World Cup 2010 lived up to the hype and the world’s expectations once again this year.  Fantastic games, great players, a terrific atmosphere in South Africa, a rejuvenated U.S. population, and unbelievable drama made the World Cup truly a “world-class” event once again.

I watched countless hours of matches either live on ESPN or ESPN2 or taped on ESPN Classic.

To me, the best moments of the World Cup can be summed up in many different ways.  Who can forget Landon Donovan’s dramatic last-minute, extra-time goal against Algeria to secure a Round 16 birth for the first time in a very long time.  The U.S. wasn’t even expected to win its group but it truly outplayed its competitors in Group C.

And even though the U.S. lost to a young Ghana squad in the Round of 16, I have high hopes that the U.S. squad qualifies for another World Cup in Brazil in 2014.  In my opinion, they need to give Bob Bradley another nod as coach and keep building a solid defense and more players with speed in the forward spots.

I even enjoyed the non-U.S. moments of glory in the World Cup.  It was great to see the vuvuzelas make their debut even though they drowned out the play on the field.  And who can forget the passion of the South African continent.  When Ghana lost to Uruguay in penalty kicks I could feel the collective hearts of Africa beating 1 million beats a minute.

And how about all the drama? It’s no wonder this sport is “must-see” T.V. While referees and players didn’t always make the game look pretty, to follow the back-and-forth dialogue between the fans and the sports commentaries was truly something to behold.

I love the argument some naive fans had about the game being boring and the fact that most soccer players faked injuries to stop time.  The truth is “The Beautiful Game” is just that: A game of intricate moves, fantastic passes and great goal-keeping.  To get a goal in the World Cup is truly an amazing feat! Are you reading this Rooney, Renaldo, Kaka, et al?

I predicted before the tourney began that there would be major surprises in the World Cup.  How many of you didn’t have England, Brazil, Italy, France, Argentina and others in your final bracket?  Did the soccer populace truly believe New Zealand, the USA, Uruguay, and Ghana would have nice runs in the World Cup?  They were all written off before the Cup started.

Congrats to Spain for emerging as this year’s winner.  While the Spaniards didn’t score a lot of goals, their defense was impeccable at all times.

As soccer continues to emerge as the “World’s” game, I hope FIFA grants the USA another bid for the World Cup in 2018.

Wouldn’t that be another dream come true?

What a Summer!

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I can’t believe how fast the summer has gone.   But what a summer it has been. One of the best things about summer is spending time with my family and going to new destinations and exploring new adventures.

My wife, boys and I just spent a week on the North Carolina coastline visiting my parents, who recently bought a house in this area.   They say the South has the most beautiful beaches and I truly believe that.   Beautiful sand, fantastic coastline, unbelievable shells and warm ocean temps!

One of the joys of summer is watching your kids romp on the beach, playing in the sand, building sand castles, flying kites and playing innocently in the ocean.  It’s almost as if time stands still for those precious moments in your life.

We also spent time in Myrtle Beach checking out the rides, the boardwalk and lots of cool shops.  We also took a day trip to a fantastic aquarium called Fisher Island Aquarium.  The family loved shuttling to the island on the N.C. Ferry System.

I would also highly recommend the Wilmington, N.C. area as a sight-seeing, must-do visit.   Wilmington’s historic and picturesque scenery and history is second to none.  Many of our famous presidents have visited this historic Southern city and did you know it’s the third most-filmed location in the U.S., behind NYC and L.A.?  We took a trolley ride and boat ride on the Cape Fear River and loved seeing the Battleship North Carolina, the Cape Fear Bridge and other sights and sounds.

Earlier this summer, we enjoyed another top-notch “Loudy” vacation at the “Greatest Place on Earth,” Disney World.    While the Best Western hotel we stayed at was anything “best” about it, my wife, the kids and I enjoyed all the Disney Parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios).  My oldest son went on every ride known to man (with the exception of the over-48-inch rides) and seems to have a liking for all the wild rollercoaster rides Dad enjoys.

Photo sessions with the Disney characters ranked very high on our list once again.  My oldest son adored all the characters while my youngest tended to shy away from them.

We spent some great nights shopping and eating out at Downtown Disney, one of the best entertainment spots at DW.  I think everyone loved the new “Dinosaur” restaurant.  It almost seemed like these pre-historic creatures were eating at the table with us.

Many people have made comments that Disney World is over-rated but this cannot be further from the truth.  My oldest son is mildly autistic and Disney was able to give us “fast passes” so he didn’t melt down getting on the rides.

We plan on going to DW again in two years and may even try the Disney Cruise in a few years.

I can’t believe the kids go back to school next week.  But I will always cherish these summer memories.

Soccer Seen Through My Eyes

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The US National men’s soccer team selected its 23-man roster today for the World Cup and I’m ecstatic to say with a few exceptions that Bob Bradley made the right choices.

Most people I know could care less about “The Beautiful Game” but I’m very passionate about the sport.  I truly believe the World Cup is the most amazing sporting event in the world, I envy the Renaldo’s, the Donovan’s, the Beckham’s, and the Rooney’s of the soccer universe.

You see they all play a sport that I played on a regular basis growing up. When I was growing up in a suburb in Connecticut, soccer was one of the most popular youth sports.  I played in rec leagues, travel teams and our high school team and many of my friendships were made on the soccer field.

I always loved the beauty, the grace and the simplicity of the game — from fancy dribbles to short finesse passes to artistic goals.  If Picasso painted a picture of soccer, it would be a masterpiece no doubt!

This past Spring I coached my older son’s U-4/5 soccer team and enjoyed it immensely.  I emphasized sportsmanship, having fun and was overjoyed to see the kids pick up a few basic technical soccer kills.

I’m also keeping active by playing on an adult rec league here in the Georgia burbs.  While I don’t have the flash and speed of my glory days (actually, I was never blessed with the SPEED), I still have a few crafty moves on the pitch. My team continues to lose most games but just getting out on the field and touching the soccer ball invigorates me like no other sport.

I really hope the World Cup becomes center stage for the girls and boys of the USA.  Once the watch, they may be obsessed with the game just like I am.

Analyst Relations Chat

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As most of you know, I strongly believe Twitter is one of the next big social media channels for creating buzz about hot topics.

Why many people (business and personal) still doubt the actual and relevant impact of social media, I believe conversations, dialogues, stories and relationships are built leveraging powerful social media dynamics.

As most of you know, I’m a big advocate of going “outside the box” and creating new relationships inside and outside the telecom, analyst relations and PR industries.

So I came up with an idea that was germinated from conversations I have a had with many PR professionals.

I started an analyst relations chat called #archat on Twitter with a friend of mine, Fred McClimans.  This is  a site for analyst relations, analysts and key influencers to come together to express their opinions about the way to improve the analyst ecosystem through best practice approaches, relationship-building techniques, corporate pitches, etc., etc.

Our Twitter chat community is growing into a “viral” dynamo with analysts, marketing, PR and AR professionals talking about it.

I hope to build similar communities like this on other social media sites, including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Yammer over the next year.

Welcome to My Blog

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Hi All-My wife gave me the idea and I seized the opportunity.  I’m officially starting my own personal blog to discuss an array of topics, discuss my views and in general become a platform for me to voice my opinions and ideas.

As a caveat, my blog is not an extension of Alcatel-Lucent and does not represent my company’s views.

I hope you enjoy my musing and observations about things that are important to me: Public relations, analyst relations, marketing, social media, telecommunications, sports, and hot topics.

Happy reading!