The Influencer Identification Challenge

The reality of an evolving social web is that influence is very subjective and relative to each community,” writes Geoff Livingston in a guest post today on Spinsucks.com.

The impetus for his post was Empire Avenue, about which I’ve already expressed my opinion. But, it ties right in to what’s been on my mind this week – influence.

Specifically online influence and the search for those individuals deemed to be influential – that vague, inexplicit, possibly ephemeral, designation.

Talk is cheap. Throw money instead.
Everyone’s talking about trying to identify the influentials. And, Involver is now making it possible to offer them special content on Facebook according to their Klout score.

But how do you know as a brand using something like that whether the person with a score that crosses some random level is really the person that will influence the people you want to reach?

One illustration of what I mean came this week when I saw that Dunn & Bradstreet was trying to identify “the most influential people in small business on Twitter.” They sought to expand beyond a simple criteria like number of followers or even a Klout score (although that was part of the equation) by looking at the people’s peers within Twitter.

What they ended up with – in my view – was a list of all the usual cast of characters that I would call influential in social media. Names like Chris Brogan, Gary Vaynerchuk, Liz Strauss, Lisa Barone, Brian Solis, Robert Scoble and Jeremiah Owyang.

I had the opportunity to talk with Brian for a few minutes the next day and I asked him if he considered himself influential in small business. His view was that sometimes, yes, he does reach a small business audience, but that his reach is much broader than just that one area.

Like most of the other people on the list, he’s someone a small business might turn to if they want to learn about social media but, does that make them influential in small business? If I asked my neighbor who owns a small pharmacy, or my favorite local “cupcakery” owner, or the owner of the vintage clothing store next door to her, would any of them have ever heard of any of those people on the @DandB list?

Perhaps. But, running a small business requires someone to wear so many hats, there is no one person to turn to for advice. There are probably different influencers for small business on all sorts of topics like accounting, human resources, sales and technology.

And that’s exactly the challenge I see in online influencer identification – it’s going to be very niche. To filter the entire online population and find those niches is not going to be easy. And, it’s going to be a constantly changing ocean of people.

I do think there is a valid point to identifying people who can be influential to your target audience and building relationships with them – I’m in public relations, right? I just predict a lot of effort will be expended, a lot of “free stuff” will go out, and a lot of people will be hard pressed to show results.

Is there someone out there doing it right in your opinion?

Image via Creative Commons courtesy of PamDumBumPsh

The Circle of a Career

It’s Saturday morning and one of the first things I do is go on to Facebook. Not to see what my friends have posted, but to check the Dell for Business and the Social Media for Business pages to see if I need to respond to any comments or wall posts.

And then I remember. That’s not my job anymore!

Yes, yesterday was my last day on Dell’s Small and Medium Business (SMB) Global Marketing team and now someone else is responsible for communicating with our fans there and for managing our Business Solutions Exchange group over on LinkedIn.

Oh, don’t worry. I’m not getting totally out of the social media business. And I’m not leaving Dell. I’m not even moving away from focusing on small to medium size businesses.

An opportunity came for me to return to corporate communications which is where I first started at Dell more than 10 years ago. Beginning this month, I’m responsible for global Channel public relations, US SMB public relations and SMB blogger relations. Oh, and I’ll continue to manage the @DellSMBnews account on Twitter.

Excuse me as I break out into a Lion King song, but it’s all a part of the circle of my career at Dell.Career Circle

I started with Dell Financial Services working both the internal and external sides of communications. Then I was working with my new manager, Jennifer Jones Davis, in consumer public relations when Jeff Jarvis wrote that first infamous blog post. At the time, I worked with all the mainstream media consumer reporters who were calling about unhappy customers, and bloggers were a totally new element.

Then, I was offered a position in Dell’s Global Online team supporting Corporate Communications and Investor Relations. In that role, I was part of the team that launched Direct2Dell, first brought podcasts and RSS feeds to Dell.com and worked to try to implement a more social press release on the site. And, there was that adventure into virtual worlds.

I was then asked to join the SMB Global Marketing team in a role that began 20 percent social media/80 percent marcom landing pages, but evolved to be 20 percent landing pages/80 percent social media. That’s where I got the chance to dig into the new field of marketing in Facebook and LinkedIn, while setting the SMB business unit’s strategy for how we approach social media marketing globally.

So, now I return to my roots with a wealth of new experience under my belt. Social media won’t be my job title, but it will certainly remain a part of the way I do my job. And that’s exactly the way I think it should be.

I’m not sure what my new title technically is yet, although for a moment I did consider the one Danae claims in this Non Sequitur comic. <wink>

Any suggestions on how I should update this bio I use on Twitter?

Accredited Business Communicator. Digital Marketer. Social Media Strategist. Community Manager. Mom. Wife. LSU Tiger. Dell employee.