Friedrich Nietzsche said that the future influences the present just as much as the past… but what about Twitter?
A new study shows that on Twitter, followers don’t necessarily equal influence. Researchers found that “follower count is not sufficient to capture the influence of a user (i.e., the ability of a user to sway the opinions of her followers). It only shows how popular the user is (i.e., the size of her audience). But, as we showed in our paper, retweets and mentions, which measure the audience responsiveness to a user’s tweets, do not correlate strongly with number of followers.”
A surprising finding of the study was that only a fraction of Twitter users actively tweet and it is this small group of active Twitter users who initiate retweets and responses. The majority of Twitter users read other users’ messages but don’t generate many new messages themselves. So what does this mean for your clients and their Twitter accounts? Encourage them to engage their followers directly. Monitor direct messages and retweets closely. Identify followers who tweet actively and take steps to engage them. Make sure you’re engaging your audience in relevant topics.
The researchers believe that “businesses, rather than trying to put emphasis on the follower count, could try to increase audience responsiveness in their fields.” Instead of using a Twitter account to push out news on a regular basis and nothing more, try taking a more active role. Besides, a comprehensive Twitter engagement strategy is much easier to wrap your head around than a Nietzsche quote!
The following is guest post from Craig Badings of Cannings Corporate Communications. It originally appeared at www.thoughtleadershipstrategy.net/
There is a lot of a commentary flying around the web at the moment about content, optimising that content for search engines , content curation (filtering and aggregating relevant content) and how best to deliver content to your publics.
But…and this is a big but - content alone does not make you a thought leader. It may help a company’s publics, it may make their lives easier, it may drive traffic to a site and it may position that brand as a trusted source of particular information. But does it make that company a thought leader?
No it does not.
Let’s have a quick look at my definition of thought leadership: Thought Leadership is establishing a relationship with and delivering something of value to your stakeholders and customers that aligns with your brand/company value. In the process you go well beyond merely selling a product or service and establish your brand /company as the expert in that field and differentiate yourself from your competitors
Key to thought leadership is innovative content
The key to being a thought leader is offering something of value, insights that position you as the expert in that field. By that I mean stuff which frames the debate and conversations on a particular issue or issues. Content that challenges the paradigms and the thinking of your own staff as well as your publics if not an entire industry sector, and content that delivers deep insights around a particular issue or sector.
Content that doesn’t do this cannot and should not be labelled as thought leadership. It is merely information.
This is not to say that it’s not useful but it doesn’t make you a thought leader.
HiveFire has produced a thought provoking e book on content curation. You can download it here : http://info.hivefire.com/eBook.html and I suggest you do. It is a good read and raises some very interesting questions about how you manage your content.
But as they say, competitors are drowning in a sea of information overload and they are challenged to decipher what information is relevant and which sources are trustworthy. My view is that it is particularly because of this that to be a thought leader, the content you deliver needs to differentiate you from the crowd, must be different and challenge insights and should position you as the pre-eminent company/commentator in that space.
The spin-offs of doing this right are huge as many marketers, particularly in the professional services arena will attest. True thought leadership is one of the most valuable marketing assets in which a company can invest. It inspires trust in your brand and in process imbues in your company and your people a perception by the marketplace that you are the ‘go to’ authorities and knowledge experts on that topic - a perception that no amount of advertising can buy. OK maybe a bucket load could buy it but it would cost a bomb .
Publishing alone will not help
Publishing on its own is not going to help. It’s what you publish and how you take it to market that makes the difference.
Before you become an aggregator or curator of content ask yourself the following questions: What is our thought leadership position? What do we stand for in the market place? What is our differentiator in terms of leading the market?
Only once you have established a position in this regard are seen as the go to place for insights in your area of specialty is it useful to become a content curator and specifically for content that relates to and helps inform that position.
Until then I’m afraid, you will just be a follower.
I’ve just returned from a short trip to the West coast, where I was able to work from the Ogilvy PR San Francisco office. I enjoyed meeting many of my Ogilvy San Francisco colleagues in person for the first time, some of whom I’d already been working with for months. Less than a week after my trip, one of my Denver colleagues is in town this week and working from our DC office, where I met her in person for the first time. Meeting these Ogilvy colleagues from across the country has shown me that there’s really no substitute for a face-to-face meeting in building a network and enabling collaboration.
We live in an increasingly wired world in which a variety of technology solutions exist to connect us. But as much as we benefit from video conferencing, instant messaging, Twitter and the like, we must not underestimate the power of a face-to-face conversation. A 2009 Harvard Business Review study included over 2,000 businesses and found that over 95% of the respondents judged in-person meetings to be critical to building long-term business relationships. It’s understood that face-to-face meetings are critical in winning new business and maintaining strong client relationships; yet we often overlook the benefits they bring to our own internal teams. What may take days or weeks over email can be completed in a brief, face-to-face conversation. In fact, in-person meetings further strengthen our ability to connect via technology tools. As we spend our days and nights evangelizing new technology, let’s not forget the power of a handshake and a hello. Or if you’re Michael Arrington, a fist bump, head nod, or polite bow.
Last year, I posted a blog about SNW Spring 2009 and the blog is here. It was somewhat of a cheerleading post, as I have been to 11 of the last 14 conferences and I do enjoy being there and have worked with great brands at the conference (Disclosure: we currently represent the SNIA who co-hosts the event with IDG). Last year, I was pretty curious that social media hadn’t really taken off. Sure there were some solid online conversations and interesting blog posts speculating about the conference, its future, etc. But there just wasn’t a lot of buzz about the event.
Not to say all of this changed suddenly over the last six months or that suddenly everyone has figured out the ‘right’ thing to do…but at SNW Spring 2010 this week, there was a significant uptick in activity across the social Web – and that was exciting. Check out the activity with the #SNWUSA hashtag to get a quick look.
I have a few theories as to why this has happened:
1- A year has gone by and quite a bit has changed within the storage media landscape. Traditional media at the conference have all but dried up. At SNW Spring 2010, you could count them on your fingers. Actually the fingers on your left hand…and still have a few to spare. Sure meeting with media, analysts and, more importantly influencers, on-site to share news, updates or just to catch up still plays an important role. But the game started to change long-ago and in my eyes SNW Spring 2010 marked the tipping point for the industry.
2- Brands are realizing that having staff on-site and a booth, is a check-box. Important indeed, but not the end-game and there are new ways to engage users and attendees. Some are allowing if not encouraging their employees to use the tools they have available to engage with their peers and prospective customers.
But it is increasingly apparent that attendees at this SNW were also listening to social networks and he voices on them – and at the event – like never before. Every day, throughout the day, I’d hear, “did you see that tweet from X” or “look at this post by Y” or “get involved on our wiki/blog/site here…”
Just because there was a lot of activity also doesn’t mean that we all nailed it or got it right. There were rumblings of “I can’t believe this person was speaking about Social Media” and “XYZ brand doesn’t know how to spell Twitter, let alone use it.” Sure, that’s a natural element in Social Media and most is done in with a good natured spirit.
My point is, we should embrace new voices and opinions and help point them to the resources (if not guide them ourselves) that they can learn from and be inspired to engage online. This may be a bit too good natured, but we’re all students…some may be in grad-school and others just arriving for freshman orientation, but we’re all learning as we go. To me, this is all exciting and I’m already looking forward to SNW Fall.
So welcome aboard newbies, celebrate your status and jump in head first…see you in Dallas (if I don’t connect with you @dlarusso15 first!).
By now, almost all the western world — and a good chunk of Asia and Africa — have all heard of Apple’s latest breakthrough product, the iPad.
The sheer number of impressions this launch has generated is in itself impressive. But what is even more impressive is the use of early adopters and key influentials to drive the story, enthusiasm, excitement and buzz for Apple, not the company itself.
Remember that Apple is not a company that is that into social media, yet check out the Twitter hashtag #ipad and end user blogs to get a sense for the mountain of coverage and interest generated for the iPad.
How does it do this? Good old-fashioned smart PR and a communications strategy that relies on the magnification effect of early adopters and influentials to amplify launch noise via traditional PR, Word of Mouth (WoM) buzz and aspirational excitement.
Here’s some of the ground rules:
1. Carefully pick and choose your hero product(s) for the year and put as much wood behind these arrows as you can. The iPad was THE launch of 2010 for Apple. The company maintains ongoing influencer relations, a thorough reviewer’s program, and ongoing engagement for other products, like their laptops, iPods, etc., but the focus was iPad and later this year iPhone OS version 4.0. That’s it. Laser-like focus, picking and backing your product bets, not spreading the wealth across a wide product range that all cry out for PR support, even though they may be close to end-of-life (EOL) and have reached the downward side of the S-curve. The other products bask in the halo of the hero products. See what the iPod did for Macintosh sales post launch? See what the iPhone has done for iPad sales?
2. Focus on long term influencer and early adopter relations and engagement. These are your natural allies. Cultivate them, let them talk for you because they ultimately carry far more weight and credibility than your own Press Releases, blog posts or advertising. Engage with not just technology influencers, but with business, social and celebrity folk that give you brand cache and style. It’s no accident that Stephen Fry is an Apple fan boy, so is half of Hollywood, thanks to decades of engagement with product placement on set and off set, with the stars themselves. Every episode of Seinfeld has a Macintosh and a small statuette of Superman in the background. Check it out next time re-run comes on. At one point, Jerry Seinfeld had a Mac too (and probably still does even though he did ads with Bill Gates last year).
So how does this translate into the iPad launch? How do these uber-strategies map with launch tactics? Well, here’s a synopsis:
The iPad launched officially on April 1, but embargoes were set for March 31. This means a wave of launch buzz and hype 24 hours prior to people being able to buy one (not counting the rumours and speculation in the prior nine months).
Key influencers were seeded with Product Verification & Testing (PVT) units three to four months out in some cases, depending on when these units were deemed stable enough and of sufficient quality to pass muster for people that will forgive non-production machine foibles because they love the technology and because they consider themselves Apple-insiders. These units went to key Apple business partners/friends (remember Google CEO Eric Schmidt got a pre-production iPhone and not so surreptitiously flashed it at Davos, where it stole the headlines rather than dry economic prognostications?), celebrities, technology gurus, etc. Also note that they all honoured the strict Apple NDAs — no insider wants to be ostracized and get thrown out of the club.
Journos/key bloggers in the US (a very select few, high impact folks) had their iPads under NDA for a week prior to launch, enough for them to play and enjoy, but not enough time for them to be too heavily critical. Launch reviews reflect that and it’s commonsense when you think about it. The shine always rubs off the shiny new toy the longer you have it. This early enthusiasm sets the tone for the launch coverage, providing the initial launch gestalt.
Celebrity Twitter-ers helped fuel the social media buzz. Stephen Fry was on the US West Coast at launch (funny how that happened) and put up video of the un-boxing of his iPad. He openly Tweeted he had one a day prior to the rest of the population. Robert Scoble did the same thing, except for the video of the unboxing (he later went out and bought two more iPads because his family kept hijacking his — and Tweeted about it). Reviews popped up the day before the official launch by Walt Mossberg and David Pogue in the US — two of the most highly respected tech journos in the country. Surgical media placement and engagement for maximum impact rather than a broad ‘hit as many as you can’ approach most companies take.
Foreign (that is, non-US) media got flown to a glitzy New York event and even if there was no pricing for their markets, they got to play with units at launch in salubrious surroundings and with high profile Apple execs. They in turn also had the opportunity if they were keen enough to buy their own units in the US, which judging by the coverage, a good few did, thereby continuing the buzz momentum.
And the result is, as you can see, a wave of initial great coverage that drives WoM, then sales and sets the tone.
More importantly its a self-reinforcing cycle of clever, surgical market engagement that fuels Apple’s mystique as a cult rather than as a technology company.
And the interesting thing is that other companies with ‘insanely’ great products could be doing the same to build their own mystique and stories. Mass communications doesn’t have to be massive, just smart.
Postscript: The iPhone OS 4.0 was announced a few days ago. Only Apple developers are supposed to have the beta code for testing. Stephen Fry, who last time I checked can’t cut a line of code, Tweeted yesterday that he had just installed it on his 3G iPhone. General availability for the masses is not expected until the northern hemisphere summer/autumn (fall).
In this weekend’s New York Times Magazine, the captions and efficacy of photographer Roman Vishniac’s work in capturing pre-war Easter Europe is questioned. While various sources in the article debate whether or not his captions distort the reality of the pictures or if his images project a narrow point of view of that time and place, there is a technology debate in the article as well. Were the pictures staged or not?
This actually can likely be proven if we know what kind of camera he used: The article states:
“Other claims have required only common sense to refute, like Vishniac’s assertion that he took moving footage with a camera hidden in a valise. ‘Have you seen film cameras from that time?’ Benton notes. ‘They’re not exactly camcorders you can just stick in your purse.’”
Most of Vishniac’s pictures in question were taken in the late 1930s. And here is what a typical camera looked like from that era.
Isn’t technology more at the heart of this debate? What kind of camera did he use? Would like to see some follow up piece that hones in on this piece of the arguments made.
“ And yes Mr. Vice President, you’re right …”
If you hadn’t already seen, those were the words of White House press secretary Robert Gibbs acknowledging Vice President Joe Biden’s hiccup last month, and in my opinion, one of the best examples of someone embracing a PR nightmare.
As PR professionals, we are trained to protect corporate reputation. Whether it’s internally or externally, much of what we do all adds up to defending reputation, whether it be of an organization or brand.
So when an external force does something to harm the reputation we are protecting, we want to do everything in our power to stop it. Unfortunately (or fortunately), rapidly-changing technology and social media has made stopping this increasingly difficult. We cannot remove every Tweet, video and blog comment when something goes wrong.
So what can we do? How can we stop it?
I recently attended a three-day training session about brands, and one of the main lessons I learned was that most of the time, trying to stop someone or something from hurting an organization’s reputation is not the best path forward. We need to embrace what is coming at us and think about how we can take the bad and turn it into something good.
So while we cant always stop the bad, if we are able to take a step back and ask ourselves if the situation we’re dealing with is “a big f**king deal”, we will be able to understand how to make the best of a bad situation.
The NY Times got me again. To say that this is a great read for any marketer is an understatement and it may be worth reading more than once.
At the risk of violating one of the premises of the article, the section that really struck me from a communications standpoint was a concept the article attributes to Cass Sunstein called “cyberbalkanization.” Essentially this is the ability for anyone to easily use online and social tools (as well as traditional ones) to surround themselves with news, opinions and ideas that are in-line with their own existing ideas, perceptions and beliefs. This eliminates the need to listen or learn from anyone that has an opinion outside of your own - this part is towards the end of the story.
While I believe much of this has been around for years via traditional media catering to specific consumer, business and political interests, the future is certainly accelerating the opportunity and dropping the barriers to entry while increasing the gap between opposing views. Instead of paying for subscriptions or content, I can now get almost whatever I want, free and delivered to virtually any screen I want while mashing it up with any other content I wish. I’m able to create my own happy little news world - surrounding myself with my preferred bloggers and authors (thanks to my RSS feeds, readers) and my own social networks (that , naturally, consist of likeminded ”friends”). It is easy to see how small my world can become and how easy it is to block out the culture, ideas, thoughts and perspectives of those outside of it.
From a technology standpoint, some research groups are working on ways to try and intesect this trend. Take a look at the Dispute Finder project developed by Intel (Disclosure: Intel is a client) and UC Berkeley - here is a good video of the project as well. Through a Firefox extension, I’m able to read all the news and views I want, as normal. But when the Dispute Finder picks up a keyword phrase, I’m presented with the option to hear two perspectives of the story one supporting it and one opposing.
Until this type of technology is available for broad use, we’re faced with the challenge of determining how we speak with people and communicate with them if they’re not even listening or tuning in. Certainly we need to understand the habits of our target audiences (both online and offline) as well as the technology they use to gather their information - but we also need to be willing to listen to opposing views, learn from them and find ways to apply that knowledge to reaching our audience. Some of this may be engaging with them in discussion (online or offline) and that it is the beauty and fear of social media. I also think this is part of the reason we all jump to read the cyclical “PR is Dead” story or the debate about the death of embargoes (search Twitter for #newscartel) or how the media industry is dead (or dying - @themediaisdying).
We should be paying attention, and more importantly, we should be listening and learning.
Four key takeaways from Virginia Miracle on SXSW® Interactive 2010.
For the complete post, here is the link to our 360 Digital Influence blog.
Not too long ago, the NY Times ran a very interesting story that covered the emerging new marketing buzzword — Curate. This week Steve Rosenbaum added a new perspective in the Huffington Post introducing the notion of a Curation Nation. Fascinating read.
Certainly the concept and theme around agreggation as well as compiling and sharing content is nothing new, but the art and technology around this process is certainly changing. It has evolved to the point where we’re all becoming curators without even realizing it — whether that is through Twitter lists, Foursquare, Facebook or a seemingly endless array of platforms.
For brands the challenge remains how they can either move beyond simple content aggregation for aggregation sake and add value to the chain…or find a way to be an essential element in the content that is being curated. In other words, do you create the content that is curated or do you curate the content yourself?
I happen to believe that, for most bands, the best approach will be a blend of the two where they can deliver an experience that intersects the conversation around a particular area while creating and sharing relevant original content that adds to the dialogue. Its not about “owning” a topic or subject, its more about being a relevant listener and contributor to the conversation around that topic or subject.
David Carlson: Social Media and Traditional PR