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September 03 2011

15:44

Infographic - A "cosmic" snapshot of the stars of search marketing

SEO Blog :: Inspired by August’s famous Perseid meteor shower, the “Stars of Search” infographic spotlights some of the brightest lights in the SEO universe. James Anderson, SEO Blog, points out that this is not a complete list of the search industry’s most gifted personalities. Anderson: "We gathered the troops and grouped 24 people we felt influenced search the most. Several were interviewed and their responses were sharp, witty and a bit revealing at times."

History of Search Infographic

Continue to read James Anderson, www.seo.com

July 08 2010

20:51

The Influencer Project Showcases 60 Speakers in 60 Minutes

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Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

The world is flooded with multi-day web marketing conferences and other educational opportunities aimed at teaching people how to use social media. But this week the shortest social media conference ever lined up 60 thought leaders to speak for 60 seconds each.


The Influencer Project was streamed live on Tuesday, and each speaker was given the opportunity to tell listeners the most important thing they should do to grow their influence within the next 60 days. Headliners included Guy Kawasaki; online wine critic and co-founder of Vaynermedia, Gary Vaynerchuk, who I interviewed for my last post on social media training; Brian Clark, founder of Copyblogger.com,; Mike Stelzner, founder of SocialMediaExaminer.com; Marshall Kirkpatrick, the vice president of content development and lead writer at ReadWriteWeb.com; and many others.

Some of the advice included tips on how to get yourself interviewed in order to build your brand, discussing what you truly know, and focusing on a niche in order to dominate it. Guy Kawasaki advised people to repeat their tweets in order drive clickthrough rates throughout the day. Marshall Kirkpatrick discussed getting involved early in the news cycle. Stelzner told people how to open up a Facebook fan page.

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"Facebook has extended their feature capabilities to third parties," Stelzner said. "You could put stuff on your website, like your blog, and it allows people to click a button that reads 'Like,' and all of a sudden on their Facebook personal page there will be a link back to your blog."

That link will be spread to that person's list of friends on Facebook. Such exposure has helped Social Media Examiner's Facebook page get "Liked" by over 9,000 people. (Stelzner only launched the page in February of this year).

He has also written about how he has leveraged Social Media Examiner's Facebook page to grow its community.

The Power of Story

Brian Clark of Copyblogger argued that people need to know how to tell their story. And they also need to learn from other people's experiences.

"We need to learn from what worked in old media," he said. "Don't ridicule it or think that they're out of touch because sooner than you think the big guys are going to figure all this stuff out and they're going to be dominating social media."

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People respond to narrative content, according to Clark. He argued that media producers, meaning everybody with an Internet connection, need to have a solid understanding of human psychology and what can influence us. He has built his blog to over 100,000 RSS subscribers by employing narrative pieces, and he'll soon be expanding to offer multimedia.

"We have this incredible technology to build websites, to do video, to do audio," he said. "You've got to really pay attention to quality and production values even while you bring a more personal and authentic touch that this social media thing is for."

Enterprise brands only see the use of social media as one part of their complete media marketing campaign. Large corporate brands employ radio, TV, and billboards, which Clark says is now all social because people will keep documenting their experiences with marketing messages on the Internet. However, he contends that smaller publishers, such as bloggers, can use social media to grow their businesses to the level where they can also communicate through mass media channels.

"It's not like mass media," Clark stated. "You don't have to reach the whole world, but you could still reach enough people to build a good business."

Attracting Speakers: A Case Study in Influence

Sam Rosen is the CEO of ThoughtLead, the online media and marketing company that organized the event. His use of social platforms to recruit speakers and help market the Influencer Project serves as a mini case study of how media companies can succeed in a digital environment.

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Rosen worked with people in his organization's sphere of influence to help reach out to other people, thereby expanding his reach and attracting the participation of those from outside his immediate sphere. He invited up-and-coming marketers who are just starting to build their digital influence and then had them reach out to people that were influential to them and to whom they had a connection. As a result, more and more influential people signed on to speak. By communicating that this first batch of influencers were speaking, Rosen was able to attract even more influential people.

"The more speakers we got, the more other speakers were like, 'I have to participate in that, so and so is in that, I've got to be up there too,' " he stated. "It started to create a peer environment."

Liz Strauss, who runs SobCon, was enthralled with the idea. Strauss already featured a number of Rosen's targeted speakers at her event. So she had Rosen choose which speakers he wanted to speak at the Influencer Project. She emailed those speakers. Her influence helped attract additional speakers.

"In some cases we couldn't convince them to do it, but when the people who they considered to be influential and who they trusted said, 'You have to do it,' one person became the source of multiple contacts and a couple of those are really big names," Rosen explained. "We added those names to a roster used to attract bigger names."

Getting the 60th Speaker

Having some of the most influential names in the social media marketing space allowed him to also attract sponsors and media partners. He also had some speakers email their subscribers to let them know about the event. Email recipients had a link with an auto-populated tweet which allowed them to communicate that they were going to listen to the event. Then on Thursday, July 1, 2010, they sent out an email announcing their contest.

"We sent out an email that said, 'Will you be the 60th speaker?'" Rosen said. "'Tell us your thoughts about what it means to build digital influence, and we'll choose the best tweets.'"

They had their speakers send out the same email to their lists, too. People began to tweet what they thought was the best way to increase digital influence using the hashtag #influencer. There were a few hundred tweets posted using the hashtag. As a result Rosen says that most of the 3,500 registrants came from Twitter; 750 people viewed the podcast. They expect over a thousand more to read the PDF with the transcript of the event and listen to the MP3 recording. They have a similar marketing plan in store working with their existing media partners and speakers.

However, regardless of how efficient they are tactically, Rosen argued that content producers should have a good understanding of how to format a message so it can be easily shared by people. A lot of that came by coming up with a format for a conference never launched before to create what he calls an "idea virus."

"Repetition, upending convention, taking something we have an idea about already that means something to us then flipping it on its head," Rosen explained. "And then describing it in a way that's really catchy and in a way that people can pass on to others."

Neal Rodriguez vlogs on social media marketing tactics he has employed to his and his clients' monetary benefit on nealrodriguez.com. Subscribe to Neal's feed to stay abreast of his updates.

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Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

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April 01 2010

18:06

The hunt for the elusive influencer

Maybe there is no such thing as an influencer.

We keep hunting the elusive influencer because marketing people, especially, but also politicians (marketers in bad suits) and media people (marketers in denial) think that if they can find and convince or brainwash that one influencer, he or she will spread their word like Jesus and their work will be done. But I think this quest is starting to look like a snipe hunt.

At this week’s very good Brite marketing conference at Columbia, Duncan Watts, Yahoo research scientist, presented interesting work trying to track down the influence of influencers via Twitter, with help from the data Bit.ly provides about links. He asked — hypothetically, thank God — whether it would be worth it to pay Kim Kardashian $10k for a tweet to her alleged 3.27 million followers. He found that targeting instead lots of people who have far fewer followers would yield “much, much higher ROI.”

What that says to me — ironically — is that trying to find the big influencer with big audience is really just old mass marketing in a cheap dress. Old mass marketing (go with the largest numbers … and breasts) isn’t economical; neither, it turns out, is marketing to just one or a few powerful people — the mythical influencer. That brings us to a new hybrid to mass marketing, which is what I think Watts is suggesting: Target many people who at least have some friends who’ll hear them. (Disclosure: This was a key insight in the development of the company 33Across that made me invest in it.)

Or to put this question in the current argot: Is there more influence in the tail than in the head? If you talk to 100k people who talk to 10 people each, do you get more bang than talking to one person who has 1m followers? (Watts did also say that a combination of mass and tail marketing is effective.)

In his talk, Watts referenced me and Dell Hell as an illustration of influence. But I protested. I’m no influencer, I said. When I wrote about Dell, I had no juice in the tech/gadget world; still don’t. I then pointed to the amazing Dave Carroll, he of the “United Breaks Guitars” viral phenom, who’d spoken earlier, and said he was no influencer in airline travel or customer service. What was influential in both cases was not the messenger but the message.

But if it’s the message that is, indeed, the key to influence then there’s really no way to predict and thus measure and replicate its power; messages spread on merit. That is a frightening idea for marketers because the viral influencer in social media — pick your buzzword — is their messiah for the digital age, the key to escaping the cost and inefficiency of mass media (and the cost and apparent tedium of real relationships with us as individuals). If you can’t bottle influence, you can’t sell it.

Now it’s true, of course, that the most magnificent message ever won’t spread if no one hears it, if a person with zero followers on Twitter says it. (Tree, forrest, etc.) But a banal message in Miss Kardashian’s Twitter feed — I know, it’d never happen — will go thud and die no matter how many people she speaks to if no one cares about it. Some people need to gather around the speaker for what she says to be heard. But more people doesn’t equal more influence. And this doesn’t make that speaker an influencer. The speaker is merely a node in a network.

So the message spreads not because of who spoke it but because the message is worth spreading. What makes us spread it? First, again, we spread it if it resonates and it is relevance; it has value to us and we think it will have value to others. Second, trust or authority is a factor. If I see Clay Shirky or Jay Rosen or Kevin Marks tell me to click on a link I’m more likely to do so because I respect them and trust their judgment and I’ve found in the past that clicking on their links tends to be worth the effort. They give me ROC (return on click). But if I followed Miss Kardashian (I don’t) and she told me to click on a link, I’d be less likely to, both because I don’t put her in the same intellectual corral as my other friends and have no relationship with her and because I have seen that clicking on her links gives me lousy ROC. Is trust or authority or experience influence? In a small circle of actual friends, I don’t think so. And in any case, having only a small circle of friends isn’t the one-stop-shopping influence marketers are seeking.

So abandon the hunt, marketers. You’re not going to bag the influencer. She doesn’t exist (well, one did but she quit her TV show).

What does this mean then for marketers in social media? I think it means they need to reread The Cluetrain Manifesto (out in a 10th anniversary edition) and recognize that messages and influence aren’t the future of marketing; conversations and relationships are. No getting around it. No shortcuts.

Think about it: I don’t want someone to influence me. I don’t want to be influenced. The whole idea of looking for influencers is so old marketing: spewing messages to people who didn’t ask for them. So looking for influencers only perpetuates the mistakes of marketing past. Stop.

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