Categories
Communication

Measuring digital influence: the silly and the science

“The most influential people online” says the tagline for WebIt, an upcoming “Digital and IT event” (vague terms as nobody is sure anymore!)   The idea isn’t new; a similar scheme had played out with the Influence Project some time ago.   These sort of efforts are of course plagued with massive methodological problems.

Obviously anybody that starts first has a great advantage, particularly in countries where the online influencers are fewer and it just takes one mention to tell everyone.   Furthermore, social media professionals tend to check each other out all the time, so whichever one of these happens to get their link out first gets everyone else under “their” pyramid.

An added problem is the incentive.   Some people may consider a free flight to Bulgaria a bonus, others a punishment.   In any case many top influencers will not bother.   So we are back to square one, possibly with a few new ideas about who is around in each country, looking for more reliable ways to measure influence.   Of course, this is a job for professionals, like Qualia who monitor all media and even do sentiment analysis on it.   They have also started doing what is more interesting and easy to understand, which is to look at specific topics or incidents.  (Check them out in the “blog” section of their website.)

Influence is a complicated matter but taking the more specific approach is probably closer to the “true” nature of things.   Oh, and don’t forget to click here if you want to measure your influence the cheap and cheerful way… ; )

Categories
Business Communication

The empty LinkedIn profile results

By way of an experiment, I removed absolutely everything from my profile on LinkedIn. It made absolutely no difference to the number of people visiting it (20 per week on average) or the number of people clicking through to my personal website.  So at http://gr.linkedin.com/in/alexanderchalkidis you can only see a very brief description of my studies.   All my recommendations have disappeared as LinkedIn considers them “unassigned”.

The data I have to assess the situation is limited as I refuse to pay for a premium LinkedIn subscription.   A “senior manager” or “someone in the management function” has been looking at my profile.   Quite often I can figure out who it was in relation to what I have been doing or writing.   I may have found LinkedIn extremely useful on several occasions, particularly setting up new business in a new country or region, but it is not worth paying for in order to know more.   I don’t do recruiting that often and even if I did, there are plenty other tools around.   Spending anymore time with LinkedIn other than the once a week I do now would demote it to Facebook timewasting status!   (Or Branchout – the latest of Facebook’s advertised LinkedIn killers…)

A couple of years back I wrote that “the social media profile is a particularly bad way of making an impression” and now I just put my money where my mouth was!   I suppose for junior positions it may make sense but any headhunter worth his or her salt will find me through my 1500 contacts and what they think about the results I can bring to a business; no fancy or empty resume is of any use at this level.

Categories
Business Communication

Personal Communications Advisor: better than golf

Yes, yet another acronym.   I am now officially a PE.C.A.   I coined the term because it is going to become a popular profession.   Not for me personally.   I only got involved and am developing the know how in order to assist corporate clients.   The problem is that the personal branding of their top brass is important.   Really important.   And they have no clue how to properly use their social media.

Top CEO easily accessible via Facebook?   Not a good idea.   His or her personal information available?   Most high flying execs have no idea just where and how the stuff they post online might be accessible.   So, most of them avoid it all together.   Also not a good idea for many.   (Depends what business you are in and what your overall company communications plan is.)

So, they need to be online, trendy and creating buzz but aren’t sure what exactly the latest Google, Facebook or LinkedIn policy change means.  In comes the PE.C.A.!   Setting targets, measuring results, checking what the reactions are.   Somebody has to be online to check that a storm isn’t brewing.   The CEO isn’t going to be signing in every five minutes…

For many up and coming entrepreneurs or other business people social media is a valuable way of getting up in life in terms of connections.   I was once advised to take up golf in order to meet “the right people”.   Unfortunately it is true that many a major business deal has taken place between swings.   (And – in my experience – this nonchalance often leads to catastrophic results.)  But by projecting the right message, the CEO can get the equivelant of golfing contacts online.

Take your best swing!

Categories
Communication

Hitch hiking in corporate social media

It is a form of constipation when it comes to writing anything in public.  And I am not talking about multimillion corporations worried about lawsuits or their careers if their names appear under a press release or a blog post.  Even (or especially) small companies suffer from the lack of bravado.  And the result is catastrophic.  No communication is bad communication.  In a world inundated with incoming signals, you get drowned out.

So how to energize the situation?   Here are techniques I have tried with varying degrees of success.   Never start with the top boss, he or she is usually the problem.   They are aware that there is a problem but when it really comes down to it, they can’t write to save their lives.   The same person that is fascinating and full of jokes, stories and details when he gets to know you, clamps up when he sits to a keyboard or pen and paper.  Fixed (boring) phrases, editing and re-editing until there is no life left in the text.  So if not the boss, who?  There is usually a sales director, marketing person or techie with a talent.   They may be afraid from past failures but they basically have the urge to communicate.  Use them!

The only thing you need top level consent on really is the main message.  Reassure them that no matter what gets written by someone in the company in any social media situation we will be following these basic assumptions about the company, the brand and the product messaging.  Help them focus on the big picture which is their job anyway, rather than examining the details of every blog post or LinkedIn update.

Where is the material?  Usually right in front of everyone! Any company that has been in business for some time, has amassed loads of material from conferences, sales meetings, trade shows, research…it is just sitting in a pile or a hard disk somewhere.   It is magical that first time I get the customer to see through these glasses as it hits him just what a goldmine he is sitting on.   Match the information to the audience and we have the energy to get this plane flying!

Here is a fine point though:  social media is NOT about making a new car in order to get somewhere.  It is more like hitching a lift every day.  Uncertain and dynamic.  What are your customers using already?  Facebook?  Twitter?  Linkedin?  You go to them in a way they will appreciate.  And make damn sure the content is useful.  No point in doing it anyhow else.  “Useful” can also mean “pleasant” or “motivating” or “feel good”.   It doesn’t have to change their lives but it has to fit in pleasantly.  If this is B2B communication it means “helps me get results”.  Me the customer.

The hitch hiking analogy is probably the best one to keep. You get in the car of someone you have never met.  You try and think of a topic of conversation they might find interesting.   You get off when they tell you to or you feel you have overstayed your welcome.   You offer useful tips and politely try and find out more about them.   That way you might get a lift tomorrow too!

Hitching a lift also offers itself as a metaphor to keep in mind that there are many other ways that people get information without you.  You want your information to be picked up?  Put it where they expect to find your information, where they are likely to be positively inclined towards its presence. Don’t stand in the middle of an uphill and expect cars to stop! What influences people to stop?  Time of day, your clothing, your smile…they all make a difference.  If you don’t care about all of these ‘details’, you’re not going to get a lift.

(More on ‘real’ hitch hiking advice – one of my favourite means of transport – with twenty practical pieces of advice here.)

Categories
Business Communication Technology

Social CRM is better than flossing

A long time ago I helped develop what was at the time the cutting edge of CRM.  My gripe with traditional CRM systems, even the really big, fancy, expensive ones, was that they made you do double work.  Keep your contact details in one system and then remember to fill in all the details in another one.  Finish a meeting and then don’t forget to open up a different system, find the contact and write what happened.  It is too much like a visit to the dentist for me: yeah I know I should floss every day, it just never finds its way into my schedule!

So my CRM system made sure all the inputs where automatic.  Send an email through Outlook if you want but with the press of a button it gets attached to your contact’s activity record.  Incoming emails can even be tagged automatically based on rules.  They can even autogenerate actions like being considered a lead.  Same with phone calls or any other action.  The CRM is integrated with the ERP system so all products, knowledge base items, prices and customer or company information is in one single database.  Even setting up a meeting is better as it can link to a touch screen enabled monitor at your entrance or meeting room door.  “Enter your invitation number to enter” it says to the visitor.  When you finish your meeting and get back to your desk there is an open window showing that your guest left two minutes ago (he checked out using the same touch screen) and asking what happened at the meeting.  Like everything else in this CRM you can generate next actions easily from any item.

It was cool.  It still is cool and you can buy it as a finished product, complete with a web front end that seamlessly allows you to make any of this information available to the customers themselves as any self respecting company needs to do in 2010 in order to be transparent and online.

Enter sCRM.  Yet another acronym, but this one makes sense as it solves many new problems in one.  What it gives you is a way to very quickly “touch” many contacts.  Open up a project and see all the people involved in the decision.  It shows you how long since you “touched” them in some way.  A “touch” is a contact, but in this day and age it doesn’t have to be an email, phone call or visit.   It could be a comment on their status on LinkedIn or a discussion in a group.  You are in “touch” and in a way that is much more meaningful than calling up out of the blue.

In many ways, the “S”(social) in front of CRM is not necessary.  Customer Relationship Management is one acronym which will always be around as business and life itself will always be about our contacts, the people around us.  We can call it People Relationship Management or whatever else in the future but that is what it is about.  Who are my friends and what can I do for them?  So, if you haven’t tried out Flights, I thoroughly recommend it.  If there are other similar systems out there, I am not aware of them yet.  (Please tell me!)

You can use the free version of Flights (up to 5 objectives and a few other limitations) even for personal goals.  Heck, most people have turned to professional networking tools like Xing, Plaxo, Viadeo and LinkedIn in order to find a job in this climate, they might as well be a bit more systematic about it!