August 31, 2011

Twitter success demands both top influencers and everyone else

Do you focus on the most popular and ignore the rest in social media?

Chris AbrahamToo many colleagues, organizations, and companies are keeping their circles of influencers small, believing it is better to invest limited time and resources on the most influential, the most popular, and the most celebrated. Happens in DC all the time. I’m rocking the latest dinner party, parlaying attendees with my wit and banter, when someone snazzier and trendier enters. Immediately I’ve lost my audience’s attention. The idea easily transfers to Twitter.

Other users focus exclusively on networking within their own space, effectively limiting scope and reach by preaching to the choir. If you’ve invested in running with the A-list, fine; however, that’s an old model reminiscent of old PR, of the golf club, the lodge, and the private club.

The Internet created something that not enough social media consultants and coaches support and advise: the ability to expand circles of influencers, to engage with anyone and everyone. Only recently has the Internet become ubiquitous and global in a real way. Previously, the digital divide was a barrier to not just many Americans but quite a few developing nations becoming part of the global conversation.

The value of the Internet is proportional to the number of connected users. It’s also living proof of Rule 34. No matter how obscure, vertical, or arcane your material may be, there’s an audience for it. Someone will show it love and attention. Online social networks have made all of this even easier to the point where it is becoming less of a potential and more of a promise, an eventuality. In short, there is real value associated with connecting to as many followers and collecting as many “Likes” as is humanly possible. For real effect.

There’s also a psychological benefit of large numbers. I have won contracts and business on the power of five-digit followers on Twitter, which is modest compared to most of my peers. However, for someone who only has a couple-hundred followers, 38,000 is a lot and suggests mastery. To be honest, I wonder how long it will take these “less is more” social media consultants to realize that it’s not good business to dismiss what the client wants out of hand. Continue reading

August 24, 2011

Build Twitter followers using the theory of everyone

Look to the Long Tail to recruit brand ambassadors

http://mariosundar.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/500x_rodolex-hlarge.jpgChris AbrahamWell, as regular readers of this blog know, I am a Cluetrainian. This means I put more trust in the value and impact of the online influencer long tail than I do in the impact of the couple of dozen top influencers that most social media consultants and digital PR teams recommend. This is the Internet, an efficient platform allowing easy access to what’s called the network effect: The value of your social network is dependent on the number of others using it.

While it may well be important to have the top 100  influencers on any particular topic following you on Twitter or Facebook, it is not essential. You can make up for it by attracting, retaining, and activating everyone else. In short, anyone who shares her time, talent, and experience online is an important online influencer and potential brand ambassador for my clients.

How do you get lots and lots of people to follow your brand? Don’t know where to start? First, make sure you share your Twitter and Facebook information everywhere your brand exists in the real world or in cyberia. You could spend months and months developing these lists and groups of followers, encouraging folks to retweet your content and so forth. Continue reading

June 30, 2011

How to become a super-node in the attention era

To turn up in organic search, you need to play three-dimensional chess

Chris AbrahamI try to read through my RSS feeds every day. Today I stumbled upon an article by my friend Christopher S Penn, entitled Social media now directly influences search rankings.

It shows that Google is playing Tri-D chess in a world where most companies are mastering checkers:

If you’re marketing something, there’s now a direct incentive to build your network as large as possible among your prospective customers. Size matters.

Long story short: every search you make on Google returns results that are weighted heavily to favor people in your social network, especially those people and brands to have a lot of friends, likes, and followers.

In other words, you can access top organic search engine results for your company, brand, products and services by really diving into social media marketing and eveloping connections, followers, likes, and lists–getting people to like your brand on Facebook or follow your brand on Twitter hasn’t ever just been about brand awareness, it has also become an essential secret weapon for search engine ranking.

You should read Chris’ article for sure, but I have my own example to show how personally-tailored Google search has become

A few days ago a journalist friend of mine popped me a note to ask me if I knew the Rosetta Stone CEO.  I didn’t, however, he thought I must because my name came up twice when he searched for ‘Rosetta Stone” on Google.

See, I blogged for Rosetta Stone for a while and have used their products for years. When I did the same search, I didn’t show on the first page at all. Online, my friend’s world is heavily colored by me.

I showed up because he and I are connected via LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Talk, Gmail, Twitter, and who knows where else.

His search reality isn’t objective at all.  It is being heavily adjusted by the connections he has and will make to other people and brands online. In real time, immediately, to order, based on dozens of tacit connections.

Google isn’t stupid. I won’t show up in all of his web searches–only those that are relevant to what he wants. However, if I have ever written and published anything online that is, in fact, relevant, there’s an excellent chance I will turn up on page one, possibly even if he’s logged out of Gmail.

With the multitude of social network profiles that I possess and maintain, the nearly five-thousand friends I have on Facebook (including the high-caste of many of my friends), the 38,000 followers I have on Twitter, and my 12-year-old blog, my 2,200 contacts on LinkedIn, 3,400 folks on FourSquare, subscribers on FeedBurner, all my content on YouTube, and others, means that Google generally tries to include me in other people’s searches of the Internet, gaming serendipity to the point that I come up as a few of the search results on such a competed-for search term like Rosetta Stone in the Manhattan offices of one of the top global newspapers.

I chose to use this example because I have invested myself so heavily towards building these connections shamelessly. People wonder why I would engage in promiscuous “follow back” on Twitter and maintain the maximum friends on Facebook? Surely I am not special. I, like anyone else, cannot maintain close friendships in excess of Dunbar’s Number of 150 friends.

I have been doing this for myself, for my company, and for my clients, using myself as the most shameless example to prove the concept that having the “right” friends online, following the few “right” people and brands is not only wrong but dangerous.

Shoot for quantity plus quality followers

The more people you touch via social media and social network connections, the greater the chance that you will turn up as a top result in search results.

Yes, get the right followers, but also get as many followers as possible. In a world where people get their search results based on who their friends are and what they’re looking at or doing, you’re going to want to become connected to as many as humanly possible, possibly indiscriminately but certainly promiscuously. The more people you touch via social media and social network connections, the greater the chance that you will always be a top result whenever they do a search in your general direction.

Sure, my level of social media populism is not for everyone because it does take a lot of work, and pursuing the Cluetrain long tail of everyone can surely scare away some of your elite contacts and friends, which it has done, personally, because I do create a lot of content and “noise” to someone who only has 150 friends on LinkedIn, on MySpace, Friendster, and Twitter. I have surely driven them away and hear, “I had to unfollow you because you were the only person I ever saw on my
Facebook wall.” Fair enough. No worries.

While this example is personal, all of these map across to brand beautifully. I am co-founder and president of Abraham Harrison and Google knows that. It is on my Google Profile (you really need to look at this and set this up and try to get all your employees to set their profiles up as well). Google met me halfway when it came to the profile, too, as it was mostly already sorted out for me when I arrived. I just made sure they didn’t miss anything.

This might all seem like Mickey Mouse child’s play but the net effect is that the experience of daily search for tens of thousands of people online tends towards returning content that I have liked, dugg, retweeted, blogged, stumbled upon, thumbed up, shared, starred, emailed, and recommended, including a mainstream media highest-caste global newspaper journalist, and others. Their search reality is strangely influenced by my Internet behavior. That’s powerful. In the attention data game, I am considered a super-node.

In terms of an SEO strategy, this means–and has meant for a while–that simply nailing your site’s information architecture, naming convention, keyword-rich URLs and titles, content, keywords, ALT tags, and link strategy is not nearly enough.

The new secret weapon for Search Engine Optimization is digital Public Relations and Social Media Marketing.

Even more info on this strategy over on Steve Rubel and SEOmoz. Via Mike Moran’s Biznology blog.

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September 13, 2010

CMO guide to Foursquare, Gowalla, Loopt & Brightkite

Gowalla
A Gowalla heat map of Austin, Texas, by Bramus on Flickr

Evaluating the business potential of location-based social applications—is the tail wagging the dog?

Christopher RollysonIf you read any mainstream media or social media sites, you might have started to get the impression that a Foursquare, Gowalla or Loopt application is your only hope to make this quarter’s numbers because check-ins are on everyone’s lips, er, fingertips these days. However, for chief marketing officers of large brands, what’s the real business potential of these apps in 2010? What can they do for your business, and what and where are their limitations?

Below I’ll share some due diligence I’ve conducted for one of my clients and give you some general guidance for using these apps this year. I’ve also included links to the best information sources. First, let’s start with an introduction of geosocial and how it fits into the ecosystem you already know.

A brief introduction to geosocial applications

FoursquareGeosocial — or geolocation or location-based services or applications — represents an emerging space within the Web 2.0 ecosystem, so I’ll spend a minute here positioning them because their development is moving at warp speed. Geo refers to exchanging information related to your current temporal and physical location via a mobile device. Social applies the now-established bundle of practices called “social networking” to your physical location — interacting with friends or friends of friends.

You might think of geosocial as “situational social networking based on where you are” (and what you’re doing). Many geosocial applications use GPS technology to automatically report the physical locations of their users, subject to their privacy settings. For some quick visuals, see Geosocial Applications and the Enterprise (PDF).

Small niches of people have been active in geosocial, using text messaging, for many years. Progenitor Dodgeball was founded in 2000 and enabled users to SMS each other to report their location, notify them about other people nearby to enable “meeting in real life.” Geosocial applications try to increase opportunities for socializing with existing friends or people users don’t know but have certain things in common, based on each user’s privacy and sharing preferences.

It’s worth noting that geosocial is related to but distinct from geotargeting, which usually denotes serving precise marketing messages to people based on their locations. Citysearch has been doing this since Web 1.0, and current players like Yelp and Facebook are converging into the geosocial space. Google tried to morph its Dodgeball acquisition into Google Latitude, but it hasn’t really worked, and I’ll speculate that they are channeling much of their geosocial energy into Google Buzz.

Some key players

Key players in the space include the following:

  • Loopt launched in 2006 and claims 3 million users.
  • Brightkite launched in 2007 and claims 2 million users.
  • Gowalla was born in 2007 and claims 150,000 users.
  • Foursquare launched in 2009 and claims close to 1 million users (with this growth, is it any wonder it receives the lion’s share of the buzz?)
  • Continue reading

April 1, 2010

4 minutes with the CEO/co-founder of Foursquare

A chat with the co-founder of Foursquare from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

JD LasicaHave you heard of Foursquare? If not, you likely will in short order. As some people here in the Valley are saying, it’s the Twitter of 2010.

Yesterday, at the Where 2.0 conference in San Jose, I caught up with Foursquare CEO and co-founder Dennis Crowley just after his eye-popping keynote talk.

Watch, embed or download the video on Vimeo
Watch or embed the video on YouTube

For those who don’t know, Foursquare is a web and mobile app that lets its users to connect with friends and update their location. People in their 20s and 30s obsess over checking in at various locations to win digital badges. It runs on the iPhone, Android phones, Blackberry, Palm and other devices.

Crowley says the year-old company is on track to hit a million registered users around May 1, which would be quicker than Twitter made it to a million.

In our chat, Crowley says Foursquare is about “trying to make the real world more playful (and) trying to reward people for doing interesting things.”

Merchants are starting to climb aboard the bandwagon, offering coupons and discounts for people to check in or create a swarm, where 50 people need to check in at a venue or event. Some are pretty funny, like the Seattle business Babeland, which wanted to give a free vibrator to its Foursquare mayor, or the medical marijuana dispensary in Beverly Hills that wanted to give a 15 discount to its mayor.

This kind of swarm behavior, which Howard Rheingold chronicled early on in “Smart Mobs,” was much in evidence at this year’s South by Southwest Interactive Festival, where groups roamed from one party to the next following their friends’ leads on Foursquare. Continue reading