The Three I’s of Social Business Media

While we continue to hear more about social media and the ways companies are leveraging these tools, I want to point out the significance of the business purpose for using them. As these tools have evolved from communication experiments to integrated marketing tools the next phase we need to watch will be the transition to how Twitter, LinkedIn and other tools become part of an organizations’ business processes. As we expand the use of new technologies and how to integrate them into communications, the emergence of social media on such a broad scale is making it more attractive to use them in the mainstream operations of management and business.

Influence, Information, Interpretation
Influence, Information, Interpretation

Part of this transition will cause frustrations. We fought early on to prove how useful these tools are to the business (“Social media is nice to know, but my kids only use it”), and now the business function is realizing the potential (“Thanks for getting this started for marketing, but I’ll take it from here.”). But businesses will need to evolve with the growing use of social media among customers and the rise in data — how will you play a part in that change?

I believe this transition over the coming years can be successful through following what I call the three I’s of social business media: Influence, Information, Insight, Interpretation.

Influence: If you want social media to “have a seat at the table” or to be taken seriously by management, you’re going to have to focus on developing influence with key internal stakeholders. Your number of followers that you’ve built up are great. The Google analytics looks strong. The feedback from your community is positive. But none of that matters if you aren’t talking to the right people and communicating what this means. You need be able to actively participate with the people who matter internally and get them to understand why social media is making a difference; to the company, the brand and to them. The bottom line is that if you want social media to have more of an influence than you need to spend time with the people that are important to the business. How do you get there if you are not already? You can focus on two other I’s.

Information: Business leaders thrive on information from customers, about competitors, on legal matters and trends. We continue to be awash in data from social media and how we use that data is important. If you are not getting closer to the data and the people and tools that help you track what is happening than I suggest you change that now. Successful business leaders know that information is key. A quote I often reference is, “The most valuable commodity I know of is information.” Information allows business leaders to sort and sift through data in order to find out what’s happening in their world. And good data can you answer the question, “What are we trying to achieve?” But information alone won’t get you there. You also need the next I.

Insight: I do believe that having unique insights is extremely useful for someone to be successful in business. That means over time you need to continue to work on developing your analytical skills in order to answer questions and provide ideas. In addition, you need to get really good at asking the right questions. Being able to look at data, understand the trends you are seeing, and then provide interesting thoughts on how to help the business will help you stand out. From my experience, really good business managers like working with and using people who can help them read into trends and what those trends mean for the company’s future. In addition, they value unique viewpoints that may actually differ from what they are seeing. Having the communication skills to interpret the economic value of what you are seeing from social media activities can be a powerful opportunity for you.

There is no doubt in my mind that social media can and will play an important role in the business function of a company. I continue to see examples from large and small companies alike that are leveraging these technologies and their ability to connect with people to create unique advantages. Taking it to the next level requires time and resources, which I know not everyone has these days. I challenge you take some time to think about what it is that can help you make a difference, learn from the many best practices and examples that exist, and then see if the three I’s make a difference for you.


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Use the Force of Your Influence, Luke!

Much has been made about often-provocative attempts to measure social influence, driven particularly by companies like Klout, Kred, Traackr, Appinions, and now apparently LinkedIn. I’m a tough critic of the effort myself, though I certainly praise the effort and find the tools useful at times.

Anyway, according to the new Klout, my most “influential” moment of the past 90 days is when I posted this on Facebook:















It’s great that I had some engagement, but I really really hope I’ve had a more influential moment than that! And anyway, so how did I influence people? I had some engagement, which might indicate I have the potential for influence, but friends, there ain’t a whole lot of influence actually happening here.

What’s especially puzzling is Klout can tell I’m influential in some way around B2B marketing topics. Yet none of the big “influence moments” reflects that. We may be making progress, but we’ve got a ways to go.


Klout Gets Closer But Can It Ever Arrive?

Those who know me are aware that I’ve long been a Klout skeptic. Anyone who mostly does B2B communications should be, quite frankly.  How pointless is it that we walk around bragging about some sort of “Klout” score?  I’ll keep that 75 score in mind the next time I have a new mobile data management application to market.

As of today, however, Klout has rolled out the results of another round of tinkering with their algorithm.  I gained about 10 points, so of course now I’m a huge fan!  😉 

To be fair, I do use Klout from time to time as another data point despite its limitations. When you’re helping a client get a new or revamped Twitter presence off the ground, it can be encouraging to use Klout to simply show that the world is noticing.  Also, although Klout doesn’t give as much attention to topics, there have been instances when the site has helped uncover other relevant peers in a space.  And the fact is that a score of 10, regardless of how relevant the person or how niche the subject, doesn’t bode well for their social impact.  Finally, and not insignificantly, basic Klout is still free. Better alternatives like Traackr and Appinions cost hundreds of dollars per month.

And while Klout’s efforts to get people to obsess over their Klout scores seems vain to me, the corresponding efforts to make the formula behind their Klout score better should only be encouraged. They’re making it easier to understand what’s driving your score (that feature is still coming) and introducing new data points like Wikipedia activity. All good.

Still, I’d like to see a lot more attention given to topics.  I’m influential on “Minnesota” and “B2B”? What does that even mean?

Meanwhile, I would really caution marketers – especially in B2B – that we’ll probably never get an uber-powerful, magic list of just the right influencers.  One of the points made in The B2B Social Media Book by Jeffrey L. Cohen and Kipp Bodnar’s book is to not over-target. You can’t know with enough precision today (or anytime in the foreseeable future) who exactly is going to be the key to spreading that great story about your brand or product.  If you have something compelling, cast as wide a net as practical.

 Read more about influence on B2B Voices:

How Are You Measuring Influence?

Social Influence Matters! No it Doesn’t!

Navigating the Legal Road Map of Social Media

Navigating the social landscape brings a number of challenges. What content should you publish? Do you use platforms like StockTwits that target investors? Do you create private or public LinkedIn groups? And what about those influencers?

Know your way around the law and social media
Know your way around the law and social media

One thing we also cannot forget is collaborating internally. I’ve blogged before about making sure you have talked with InfoSec so both of you understand each other – your goals and their risks. Another department to work with is legal. Mashable has a new post on the five predictions for social media law in 2012. If you haven’t read it you need to, but don’t stop there. If you are continuing to try to convince legal about mapping out the opportunities and value of social media you should do the following:

  • Understand the concerns: Is legal worried about intellectual property? Privacy? Reputational risk? If you don’t know – or just think you know — now is a good time to sit with legal to discuss.
  • Find a legal champion: Someone on the legal team may already use social media (e.g. LinkedIn). Discover who you think may be someone that can help you understand the concerns before you go into a formal meeting.
  • Do your research: The Mashable post is helpful and a good start, but dig deeper. You should have a firm grasp of the concerns and issues so that you can alleviate the risks and make everyone more comfortable.
  • Find working solutions: There are always ways to be more flexible, so be prepared to work with your colleagues and have a variety of idea.
  • Create a dialogue: You can start with the Mashable article and forward it to your legal team. If you start positioning yourself as someone who understands their concerns they will be much more open to listening to you.

If you enjoyed this you may also want to read:

What’s your “I” in social media?

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Do we need a social index for businesses?

Social Influence Matters! No, It Doesn’t!

There’s a growing debate on the relevance of social influence. From services like Klout to the Social Business Index, everyone seems to be discussing either how to measure influence or how to be influential. As Paul Colligan asks, “Does any of this matter?” We decided to join the discussion and look at it from a B2B brand perspective.

This discussion around thought leadership and influence does matter as Eloqua reminds us.

The battle for social influence

But I’d like to shift the question. Not the debate. Rather than ask “How can we be influential?” the better question to ask is, “What are we trying to achieve?” If you can start to think about it from this perspective you may find that you will be closer to your answer around influence than you think. And when we look at influence we really are talking about achieving one of three options — create awareness, educate or change opinions. You may focus on one or any combination of these, but it comes down to choosing one of these.

As you think about how your B2B brand can be influential here are some thoughts to consider.

From a B2B perspective, one of the biggest obstacles with social influence metrics is that they are focused on consumer and retail brands. So from the start, those numbers mostly become popularity contests. However, if you can use a service like Klout to identify the people who talk about your B2B service/product you can help further narrow the prospects of who you want to talk with. My suggestion is stop focusing on the top people/brands overall. They more than likely won’t matter to you. What you need to research are the topics you want to discuss and then find out who you need to follow and engage.

Don’t focus on the obvious numbers thrown out at you — number of Twitter followers, number of Facebook likes, etc. Those number are meaningless for the most part. What you need to do is find and implement a measurement system, which means making a time and money investment.

What we need to realize is that this discussion around social influence is new, and I believe we need more people talking about the topic and more debate about social influence. We also can’t ignore influence in the non-social world. That still matters more these days by building relationships and gaining access to the right people. Don’t be blind and just focus on social. Remember that there are still plenty of organizations and people who are influential and not active on social networks, so while social is growing in importance it is one piece of the puzzle.

But the key to all of this discussion remains that being influential must be defined by you. Not others. So while you can’t ignore the concept, you should may want to ignore all of the rhetoric around the offerings. In the end, it may all come down to content anyway, but that’s a discussion for another post.

Here are some recent stories from around the web on this subject:

Klout has raised ~ $30 million – Business Insider

Klout tries to adjust your influence…again — PR Breakfast Club

Do we need a social index for businesses? — B2B Voices

What is Klout really about? — KD Paine

Do We Need a Social Index for Businesses?

Last month, the Dachis Group launched a public version of its Social Business Index as a way to measure and analyze the social influence of brands in real-time. Less than a month into its launch the company has gathered a lot of attention from the likes of Tech Crunch, AdWeek and Edelman Digital. There certainly are a lot of questions. For one, do we need this? And second, is it legitimate?

In terms of the need for it, yes, it’s an interesting way to benchmark brands and its early days for the index. Before the index existed taking a look across multiple platforms was time-consuming and, frankly, quite biased if you were doing this for your own interest. The index looks to create a “neutral” view of brands based on the back office technology it is using. This can be helpful, but it also needs to be accurate and fair. As time goes on I’ll be following what the Dachis Group is doing to improve and expand the service.

So is this a legitimate tool for you to use? That’s hard to tell since companies that do this type of analysis keep their formula mostly secret. The most well known indicator of online influence these days is Klout. The service is focused on individuals for the moment, but brands can take advantage of Klout as well. Klout has its detractors, but people can opt out of Klout. An advantage — or disadvantage depending on your point of view — of the Social Business Index is that if you’re a brand you have no choice — you will be measured against your competitors. In order to build on the influence of this tool I’m hoping the Dachis Group continues to reveal more about its metrics and analysis.

From what I’ve seen so far I like the index (One reason is that we rank quite well as a brand against our competition). Yes, there are a lot of questions that remain but surely Dachis will continue to improve what they have created. It’s not perfect. None of the metric and measurement tools that exist are perfect, so don’t think of this as a way to solve any content or competitive issues. It’s simply a tool to give you a view of your industry.

So what can you do?

First, if you’re company is not listed you should register it. Once you do so you can gain access to a handful of ways to compare your company against the competition. My hope is that Dachis Group will build out the metrics portion of the index, and even offer for purchase more detailed information on their scores.

Second, you should discuss the index with your team. Keep in mind that this is a view into the social side of your business only. I have always held the point of view that social media needs to play a part of your overall brand strategy — it’s not a silver bullet. If you are falling behind the competition in social media, yet, track far ahead of them in other marketing measures you will need to assess how important it is. On the other hand, if you are far ahead of your competition in social media, yet are behind in other areas you should decide how to integrate everything better. But these are decisions for you to make. The advantage is that you now have a new tool to help in your discussion and decision process.