How Do You Measure Influencers?

June 29, 2009

#SMCQ16 How do you measure social media influencers and/or influential online communities?

This is the latest in a series of ongoing questions from the Social Media Club.  When do you tune in?  When do you tune out?  How do you rate your sources?

Perhaps my response is rather mundane but with social media I use the same criteria I use in “real” life whether talking around the water cooler with a colleague, socializing with friends, or deciding which newspaper or magazine articles to read.  If the person has something interesting or important to say, I listen.  If the person has something interesting or important to say and is very eloquent either with the words used or the ideas conveyed then I begin to listen more intently and will more likely be open and receptive when that person speaks or writes in the future. 

With the ubiquity of information via social media channels, we have all become much more expert at skimming, scanning, and filtering.  We have to be.   Thus, it becomes very important for any “influencer” to be able to communicate much with little to capture attention.  This doesn’t apply just to the 140 character Twitter limit but maybe with any communication we should ask the question “have we done enough in the first 140 to capture an individual’s attention?”   Good communicators and influencers probably do some version of this intuitively.

So effective, efficient messages are key.  Regularly is another.   Transparent, non-promotional communications essential.  Self-effacing humor is nice.  But the most important aspect is just to be a part of the conversation and thought stream.  One person with one comment at the exact right moment in time who we never hear from again can be a profound influencer.

Events and Twitter: Ten Questions to Ask

June 15, 2009

The article The Ten Ways That Twitter Will Permanently Change American Business seems a bit presumptive given that many people reading the headline may not really understand Twitter, have not engaged in the discussion whether “to twitter” or “to tweet” is the proper verb form, and really don’t care how long it took Ashton Kutcher to reach a million followers. So I won’t be as bold or presumptive as I don’t have the answers but I’m pretty good at the questions.

1. Do you believe? Or can you at least pretend that you believe? Twitter just doesn’t happen overnight. If you’re just going through the motions for whatever reason, don’t bother. You have to actively participate to learn how to best use Twitter for your events.

2. Do you expect someone to tell you how to use to Twitter? Don’t. Listen, start to participate in the conversation, and use some the Twitter applications such as TweetDeck and http://search.twitter.com. You’ll discover your own way.

3. Do you know how to listen? I mean really listen. Twitter won’t work if you try to turn it into a blatant marketing channel. You have to start by actively listening.

4. Are you a control freak? If you are, start to line your office walls with padded materials as twitter and the whole social media environment will lead to deep, dark, self-inflicted headaches if you need to control the flow.

5. Can you learn to communicate effectively in 140 characters or less? I’ll give you a hint . . . the correct answer is “yes”.

6. Will you have the resources? Mmmm . . . tough one. Twitter is very resource intensive. Review #1 “Do you believe?”.

7. How will you react when someone says something bad about your event? All customer satisfaction research says that reacting to negative comments is the best way to handle them. Just remember that the conversation will be happening with or without you.

8. How will you handle free delivery of your paid conference content? Via twitter conferees will broadcast your paid conference sessions for free to the world. There may even be live bloggers providing more in-depth content and analysis. And what will you do what someone holds up a mobile device in the back of a conference session to livestream a session?

9. What is your voice? What do you have to say via Twitter? Are you speaking for yourself or your event? Are you trying to participate in a broader industry conversation? Whatever you choose just make sure that it’s not blatantly commercial.

10. Would you be willing to pay for Twitter? You most likely won’t have to, but does it create enough value that you would pay? How much?

What do you think? What else would you ask?

Integrated Media: A New Twist

June 1, 2009

When I hear the term “Integrated Media”, I think about combining various print, online, and face-to-face media products into an integrated package. It’s a term that probably came into existence when publishers began to feel the first signs of the declining long-term trend several years ago and they became creative in packaging together (mainly print) products into a package.

Chris Brogan in his blog post, Thoughts on Nowhere and Nowhen, led me to think about a different version of Integrated Marketing. He writes about synchronous and asynchronous communications. Even though there seems to be a movement towards live, lifestreaming communications, not everyone nor everythings needs to be shared that way.

He describes the first web as the brochure web which gave rise to the second web, the two-way web and poses the question, “What if the third web is about the relationship of things and places between the physical world and the placeless, timeless world?” An interesting perspective especially for those pondering the future of b2b media. And what if instead of defining Integrated Marketing from a publisher-centric product perspective, you defined it from s customer-perspective as to where and when they want and need to get their information and where and when iti makes sense for synchronous and asynchronous to come together?

I’m not proposing an answer, but I am pointing to a perspective that could dramatically alter the way by which we view the future. More to come on this one.

Why Penton Cut Workweek

May 1, 2009

Here’s a comment I wrote in response to the 4/28/2009 Folio article  Penton Cuts Workweek, Reduces Pay.

No offense to the Folio editorial staff but I find the comments to this story to be more thoughtful, interesting, and entertaining than the original article. There are opinions about the best experience base and background to run Penton and its business units, a discussion as to whether B2B is truly a sales or editorially based business, and even speculation as to the source of some of the anonymous comments. Just think about how many good questions and ideas come from these comments.

In what I find to be an ironic twist, the article and comments demonstrate one of the core issues facing Sharon Rowlands, Penton, and every other B2B publisher. We didn’t have to wait to read this article as three-week-old news in a print publication delivered on a publisher’s schedule compounded by the vagaries of the US Postal System. I originally saw this article via Twitter. And the comments. How many letters-to-the-editor would there have been for the same print story? Not too many, and personally, I doubt I would have read them.

Think about our collective expectations as readers and information consumers. I still look forward to picking up the (threatened) Boston Sunday Globe and I rip open Guitar Player and Golf magazines when I get them in the mail, but my expectations have changed. I’d estimate that 80% of what I read is online. And I expect to see comments, I read the comments, and sometimes I even write comments.

For me the printing press is gradually being replaced by a networked infrastructure leading to my desktop, laptop, and/or mobile device with the content coming from sources who aren’t always professionally trained editors and journalists. Trust me that I’m not an apologist for Penton, but the positive sign from the furlough/pay cut is they recognize that they need to keep their people balanced against the financial reality of running the business. 

But the underlying question remains. After this economic tsunami passes, what does the core publishing product look like and how is it supported financially and organizationally? I’m guessing that Sharon Rowlands is trying to buy as much time as possible in a dismal business environment to figure out answers to these questions. I wonder if she’ll read any of these comments?

Future of Events I

April 24, 2009

I think that everyone is right in their assessment about the future of events.  On the one side,  we have the traditional events professionals saying that there will always be a need for face-to-face.  On the other side, we have the naysayers declaring the death of traditional trade shows and conferences due to the internet and social media.  They’re right.  Everyone’s right.

But everyone can’t be right.   Well . . . yes . . . you’re right.  Let me backtrack,  Part of  what each side is saying is right.  Will face-to-face meetings live on?  Absolutely, yes (unless there’s some dramatic leap forward in human evolution or hologram technology).   Will the internet and its latest iteration in social media play a large role in the evolution of trade shows, conferences, and event?  Absolutely, yes (these new communications channels and approaches will supplement, complement, and to some extent replace traditional channels).

Like many people, recently I’ve been watching the rapidly accellerating, public  death of the traditional newspaper industry.  A year ago there were probably only a few people predicting that this once venerable and strong industry would be where it is today.  A year ago most people saw some troubling signs but thought that with a little time solutions would be found and the local newspaper would continue to land daily at their front door.  But the combination of long-term structural changes and a weak economy  proved most people to be wrong.

I think that the same type of thought process has been prevalent among many in the b2b publishing and events space.  It’s not that these are not smart people, they are, but sometimes it seems that they have the admirable trait of believing so strongly in what they’ve always done that they dismiss signs that they would otherwise clearly see if they were an outsider looking at the same situation. 

The traditional media company and association managed event and conference business will become smaller in the coming years.  And it’s not just the economy.  With nothing other than my judgement and my finger in the air testing the wind direction,  I estimate that it will be 20% smaller in real terms by 2015 with traditional “concrete” trade show taking the biggest hit.

Why? 

Start with the buying process.  There are probably hundreds of ways to describe this process but it involves such steps as identifying a need, finding potential solutions, identifying suppliers, etc.   But no matter what words or steps you use the front-end of the process is heavily weighted towards gathering information.

Consider a trade show attendee from 15 or 20 years ago.  Apart from the much more prevalent “boondoggle” perception of trade shows back then and greater number of attendees, an extremely important business objective was to gather (attendee) and distribute (exhibitor) as much information as possible.  Attendees would load up with bag full of literature by the time they walked the first two aisles and then they would find another (exhibitor sponsored) bag and fill that up as well.   Their biggest challenge would be how to get it all home.

Fast forward to 2008 and a typical attendee/buyer.  The front-end, information gathering part of the buying process is now down largely online.  The need to go to a trade show and gather information is still there, but it’s nowhere near as important as it was 10 to 15 years ago because technology has changed the channel.

Now do the same role play for a traditional conference participant.  Think about the limited ways in which anyone could get structured, professional information 10 to 15 years ago.  Fast forward again to today.  Where do you even begin in describing the ubiquity and ease of accessing information from Google searches to webinars to the Twitter stream. 

One way to look at this is as an Economics 101 basic supply and demand equation.  The supply of information and information sources has exploded.  Yes, not all is veritifiable, Grade A stamped information, but we all know that this is a lot of good solid information out there  . . . free . . .  a pricing structure that causes all kinds of problems for my Economics 101 supply and demand equation.     My simple analysis becomes even more complicated when we take a look at the demand side and individual behavior.  Just think about your own situation and how many different information sources you use and how those sources will most likely expand in the coming years as you begin to tap even more into the social media delivery of information through blogs, podcast, video.

Not only will there be more information sources but you will also start to use some of the social media channels for relationship building activities.  Although these activities will not be as effective as face-to-face they will fill some of the time and mindshare leaving less for traditional channels.

So this post is my first attempt at exploring my thoughts on this.  More to come as I tighten up my argument and thoughts.

Twitter @Events II

April 23, 2009

So step one is complete.  You now have a working knowledge of Twitter and Social Media.  Most importantly, you understand that Twitter is an ongoing conversation and not a traditional marketing or selling channel.  So what do you do now?  How do you use Twitter with your event? 

Let me attempt to combine my thoughts with articles and blogs that I’ve corralled. 6 Ways to Utilize Twitter at Your Conference provides some solid observations and ideas from BlogWorld 08.   Ian Skerritt, Marketing Director at EclipseCon in his blog posting Creating a Conference Twitter Community  provides an excellent case study and tips covering everything from setting objectives to offering improvements for next year’s event.  And TwiTip offers up another 6 step process in the blog post Twitter Trumps Online Conference – Six Steps for Using Twitter for Your .Conference or Event.  By no means is this intended to be a comprehensive list, but it should be a pretty good starting point.

So here’s the composite list:

  • Create your Twitter account(s).  You need to determine whether your Twitter identity should be the show or individuals on the show team.  If you have multiple individuals, create multiple accounts, and don’t try to control the individuals.  Let then develop their own voice.  Remember that Twitter is a person-to-person, transparent, open, and honest environment, not a broadcast medium. 
  • Establish a #hashtag for your event.  Very simply this is the # sign followed by an event name, acronym, or abbreviation (e.g., #CES).  It is best to establish the hashtag early and then to start using it in your pre-show tweets to establish its usage.  The hashtag acts as a filter that allows anyone to follow the conversation happening at your event.
  • Develop a strategy to build followers. Invite people to follow you.  Follow other people.
  • List your Twitter accounts on your web site and in all marketing materials. 
  • Feed the Twitter stream to your web site.  Depending on what works best you can stream to your home page or to a separate section.  There are even Twitter apps that allow you do things such as mash up Twitter with Flickr images.  But start with the simplest approach.  EclipseCon created the “EclipseCon Bird’s Nest”.
  • Start by listening but gradually begin to engage in the conversation.  Remember not to be overtly promotional.  Retweet (RT) materials that other people have created.   Establish your voice and your presence in the Twitterverse.
  • Ask  your potential participants what they want at the event.  Send out tweets with questions and ask your followers to retweet to get more input.  You can even embed a poll in a tweet using tools like PollDaddy.
  • In your event promotion (specifically following up with pre-registrants) and on your website, promote the use of Twitter and your #hashtag, but also offer Twitter tips and links to Twitter beginner articles to help those who need some advice to get going.  
  • During the event send tweets with updates, changes, and agenda items.  Encourage your CEO, board members, or other vested leading industry stakeholders to join the conversation. Remember that these tweets should be personal observations, comments, even “newsy”, not promotional.  You may want to provide these folks with some Twitter tips before unleashing them.
  • Encourage your participants to tweet during the event.  You probably want to create separate #hashtags for individual conference sessions to develop an interactive, more tightly defined conversation.  Note that these additional #hashtags can be developed on the fly at the event. 
  • Use twitter for Q&A during sessions and keynotes.  You can feed the Twitter stream to a large screen so that everyone can follow the conversation.
  • Encourage your participants to hold “meet-ups” or arrange them yourself.
  • Post-show keep the conversation going.  Immediately after the show you have a lot of material to work with but even after that dies down stay as active as possible and maintain your presence.

Twitter @Events I

April 23, 2009

I’m doing a bit of a fast forward in writing about using twitter at events.  I thought that I’d have several more posts setting the social media framework before getting here but something must have inspired me.  So let me take my first shot at discussing the use of twitter tied to trade shows, conferences, and other events.

The traditional, knee-jerk, old school event management reaction to Twitter is most likely, “Great,  a new, inexpensive marketing channel that I can use to replace traditional, expensive marketing.”  If you had this thought, please  go directly to the corner and a mandatory five minute time-out.  Come on.  Go.  Corner.  If you’re sitting in the corner right now and feeling pretty silly about yourself,  it’s because you haven’t been paying attention to the lesson about what social media is.  Where traditional marketing is a one-way broadcast in which you do all the talking, social media is a conversation in which you should do more listening than talking.    

Before even considering using Twitter with an event, you should first just use Twitter.  Sign up, follow, develop a following, spend your time watching and listening to the conversation not only so you learn the etiquette and the tools, but more importantly that you understand the sharing and collaborative nature of social media and Twitter.

The next step is to a find an event, any event, it could be trade show, conference, webinar, where there is a Twitter “backchannel” (fancy word, eh?).  Typically someone will have established a hashtag (i.e., #showname).  Watch the conversation and if you have something to say, say it.  For a traditional trade show you’ll see comments ranging from “I hate trade shows” to insightful comments about new products being introduced.  For a conference or webinar, you’ll most likely see a healthy discussion about the session or keynote topic, maybe links to live video, and/or note taking and thought sharing in 140 character chunks.  You’ll be amazed with the richness of the discussion.

Social Media: Listen

April 16, 2009

Lorna Li in her 6 Steps for Creating a Social Media Marketing Roadmap offers 4 simple steps to help you jump start your buzz monitoring campaign.  Please note that I re-used her comments word-by-word:

1. Sign Up for Google Alerts

Google alerts is a service that notifies you by email of the latest Google results pertaining to your query or topic of choice. Google alerts covers your query results appearing in news, blogs, web page updates, video and groups.

Because of the large volume of alerts that will come to your inbox, it’s recommended that you create a “Rule” in Outlook that will filter all Google results to a specified folder.

Google Alerts will also list recent blog entries. However, to retrieve a listing of blog entries that span a longer period of time, use Google Blog Search or Technorati.

2. Monitor Blogs

Google Blog Search

Blog Search is Google search technology focused on blogs – all blogs, not just Blogger blogs. Google Blog Search will search for the latest blog entries related to your query. You can also subscribe to search results for your specific keywords by RSS, and receive continuous Blog Search updates for that search term.

Technorati

Technorati is an Internet search engine that focuses on blogs. I find that its search results tend to be less relevant than Google or Yahoo, delivering a broad spectrum of results for queries with more than 2 keywords and delivering nothing when exact match is enabled.

It does allow you to query tags, and suggests alternative tags related to your search term.

For continuous updates subscribe to Technorati search results via RSS feed.

Co.mments

Tracking a blog may not reveal the full conversation about your business. Even if a blog post makes a positive mention about your business, those commenting on the post can still attack your reputation. Co.mments helps you to stay on top of blog conversations by keeping you updated of new comments, allowing you to break into the fray and defend your brand at a critical moment. Just bookmark, track and follow. You can also subscribe to your tracking feed and read new comments in your feed reader or e-mail client.

3. Track Conversations in Community Forums & Message Boards

Boardtracker

Boardtracker is forum search engine, message tracking and instant alerts system designed to provide relevant information quickly and efficiently while ensuring you never miss an important forum thread no matter where or when it is posted.

You can pre-define search terms and receive an alert by email or RSS as soon as a thread matching your search term is posted in any of the thousands of forums it tracks.

If you want to track specific forums, you can also submit the forum url to be included in the Boardtracker database.

4. Use RSS Feed Readers to Stay on Top of Industry News

In the Information Age, staying on top of news the old-fashioned way can be overwhelming, time consuming, and inefficient. Why not let the latest news come to you? Sign up for a free RSS feed reader/ news aggregator and peruse hundreds of news items with your morning cup of coffee.

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary. RSS is a family of Web feed formats used to publish frequently updated content such as blog entries, news headlines or podcasts. An RSS document, which is called a “feed,” “web feed,” or “channel,” can either contain a summary of content from an associated web site or the full text. RSS makes it possible for people to keep up with their favorite web sites in an automated manner that’s easier than checking them manually.

Several good, free RSS news aggregators are available, such as:

Google Reader

This is Google’s free news aggregator. You can also share news feeds by publishing your feeds to your public page.

RSS Owl

It’s a platform independent, downloadable news reader. It’s cool because it:
• Allows you to import your feeds using the OPML format
• Bookmark your favorite feeds
• Import blogrolls
• Export an entire category of news feeds into PDF, RTF, or HTML files.
• Has search options that allows you to search within news feeds or an entire feed category

Social Media: Engage, Tactics

April 16, 2009

Reproduced from Lorna Li’s 6 Steps for Creating a Social Media Marketing Roadmap .

Now comes the tactical deployment. Here are some examples of different kinds of social media engagements.

Blogger outreach & engagement – this is a top down, bottom up approach. To demonstrate a significant impact, this is best handled by a team. You will need to identify the A-List blogs, cultivate a positive relationship with as many as possible, persuade them to blog about your issue, or guest blog for them. You will need a team of conversation agents to fan out into the blogosphere and engage in MEANINGFUL conversations wherever conversations about your topic is happening.

If you have a call to action, relevant product, or web resource you are trying to drive traffic to, drop html links with target anchor text for an additional SEO lift (a % of the sites you will be hitting will be do-follow)

Disclose your identity, be courteous, informed about the subject, or you will be flamed, and that will live forever on the web.

Social networking – only hit the communities relevant to your issue, product, company, topic or you will get poor quality traffic, if any.

Are you infiltrating tight-knit interest-specific online communities? If so, you will need to ingratiate yourself into the pack.

Are you starting your own community on a hosted platform, like a Ning? You can drive conversation and awareness, your revenue options are limited (ad revenue sharing).

Do you own the community? Great – you can drive targeted conversations and include strategically placed calls-to-action, promos, ads, anywhere. If you’ve designed your site with SEO in mind, your users will create the content, and you will had an advantage in the SERPS, especially for long-tail keywords.

Social news marketing – thru social sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, Newsvine. These sites also have a unique culture and will work for you if your news item relates topics favored by the community. Digg, for example, veers towards the geeky. Write for maximum click thrus – think “linkbait”. Popular stories here can get picked up by bloggers, which will also give you an SEO boost. Traffic can be huge and fickle like a tsunami. Don’t expect it to convert. Avoid marketing here – you will be buried.

Social Media Strategy: Learn

April 16, 2009

Lorna Li 6 Steps for Creating a Social Media Marketing Roadmap does an excellent job describing what social media is and what it can & can’t do so I’ve cut & pasted below.  Keep in mind, however, that although her descriptions provides a great overview, the only way to truly understand social media is to participate, first, by listening, second, by engaging in the conversation.

Please note that the following comments are taken directly from Lorna Li’s post: 

What social media is:

The best way to look at social media is to view it as one of many Internet marketing channels, one that has the amazing power to go viral. In the very least, it has the awesome ability to engage your audience in meaningful conversations about your product, issue areas, company, and brand.

The social media marketing umbrella includes sites that are both Web 2.0 and Web 1.0 – basically you want to be anywhere that enables discussions, sharing, and user-generated content (UGC), such as:

  • Blogs and Forums / Discussion Boards
  • Consumer Review Sites
  • Social Networks / Online Communities
  • Social Bookmarking Sites
  • Social News Sites
  • Social Music Sites
  • Video and Photo Sharing Sites
  • Wikis

What Social Media Can & Can’t Do

Social media can engage your audience, encourage online conversations that are user-generated, increase your web presence, expand brand awareness, generate publicity (both good & bad) and provide SEO benefits. It doesn’t convert.

For most marketers, social media has no ROI but is great for:

  • Brand building
  • Relationship management
  • Product development
  • Reputation management
  • Customer interaction
  • Customer feedback
  • Customer support
  • Community building
  • Defensive SEO – Yes! Bury your bad press with positive UGC