Social Is Just a Feature Set

The ability to publish, comment and/or share text and media with people is just a feature set.

I don’t want to minimize the nuances of building relationships, communities and online customers through social.

That being said (and the chicken wire rolled out) in the end, new social network or old blog, customer review or private community, these applications all feature one very simple thing: The ability for a person to provide some sort of input and/or share it.

That’s it.

The rest of the increasingly mundane social media conversation seems to me about scaling people skills and applying advertising and public relations to social.

To me that’s a professional skill. It’s a job. And as such much of the social only conversation simply strikes me as a tactical conversation for a professional. In that sense, friend Mark Story’s book Starting Your Career as a Social Media Manager will be a welcome addition to the lexicon.

But let’s be clear. It’s not new, it’s not special anymore, and today’s dialogue about social media excellence rehashes much of what has been said since blogging, Facebook and Twitter first broke on the marketing scene in 2004-7.

It’s really time for edgelings and early adopters to focus on more. Consider how to integrate social into the larger marketing context. That dilemma which faces almost every CMO was why Gini Dietrich and I wrote Marketing in the Round.

Or simply accept that they’ve made a career out of becoming a social media specialist. Hey, there are worse gigs out there.

What do you think? Has the conversation settled into the ongoing debate of best professional practices?

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Geoff Livingston is an author, public speaker and strategist who helps companies and nonprofits develop outstanding marketing programs. He brings people together, virtually and physically for business and change. A former journalist, Livingston continues to write, and has authored three books.

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The Follies of Influence

The above are the slides and script from my IgniteDC 10: All Stars presentation, The Follies of Influence. The Ignite format is a speech given with 20 slides in five minutes.

Everyone wants influence today. They want to be that woman or man who can change the world by uttering a few choice words.

And why not? Modern media — traditional and social — portrays influencers as super heroes!

Who doesn’t want to be a powerful hero? We all fantasize about being a Batman or Cat Woman, or just being stronger and more capable.

So we pursue influence online and build Twitter followings, Facebook friends, Instagram hearts, and Pinterest repins. We pose, trying to be those we so desperately admire.

Then we get our Klout social score and feel validated. Or we measure ourselves against our friends calling it “influence” when it measures attention.

Then people swing their mighty Klout around, feeling bigger and better for it.

What are these people compensating for? Is it a bad high school experience? Perhaps something else a little closer to home.

Is a big Klout score the modern Corvette?

Then there are the Tribe leaders. The folks that “run” a strong LinkedIn Group, a Twitter list or the like and claim influence.

While they may have influence on a very narrow subject matter, tribe leaders claims of power fail to identify our complexity as human beings.

People have many aspects to their life. A subject matter expert informs them — may not even necessarily influence decisions — on a very small topic. Their influence is really quite shallow.

Then we have manufactured influencers. Personal brands, professional relationship developers, community managers, and strong sales people.

This sociological-based sales approach to becoming likeable dates back to Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. Modern research validates certain influence-building behaviors like reciprocity and consistency build trust.

Some people do believe these manufactured influencers. Sometimes they are authentic. And sometimes it just sucks.

What does science have to say about influence? How do human beings really influence and cause each other to act individually and en masse?

This is called the Science of Networks. Most of these scientists admit that we’ve only just begun to understand ourselves. We have more questions now!

Yet, we do know that it’s close friends who trigger the most action. Some signal trust within the community when they do well or offer the group a good new idea. Perhaps that idea is introduced by a respected blogger inside the community or just a well liked person. Others follow suit.

When a group of friends in a small community are seen taking an action, other community members are more inclined to follow suit. That’s influence.

This can in turn create mass adoption of ideas as it spreads from community to community. Groupthink can be dangerous creating bubbles like the real estate bubble or the .com era.

In the end, the truth is we don’t understand why. There is no silver influence bullet.

Just know those that are influenced the most by you are the ones next to you. So focus on your friends, families, colleagues and community.

Speech Take-Aways for Communicators

Before social media, influence was primarily used for sales. That’s why the current debate about social scoring technologies like Klout and Kred revolves around the ability to cause actions.

Klout and Kred really measure attention online. From a PR perspective, you should consider them tools to determine a person’s potential reach for new media publicity.

They suffer from relevancy inaccuracies so pitching people using the tools or advertising to/through their social channels may miss your target stakeholder groups. For example, because I published a blog post about lessons I learned from Elmo a while ago, I am considered an expert on Elmo by Klout.

Do yourself a favor and check individual profiles to make sure the person has 1) actual relevancy to your topic and 2) has a highly engaged network. The latter is important because some people simply garner automated retweets, likes, etc., and create a perception of influence for these tools, but don’t actually participate in real social conversations.

If you seek to inspire action, meaning sales leads, advocacy, or more, then Klout and Kred will be difficult tools for you outside of a straight advertising campaign. They lack the sophisticated relevancy necessary to pull mass-action from communities.

Instead you’ll need to look for the right online communities and integrate within them, develop relationships, and build word of mouth the old fashioned way. Keep in mind, it’s often the middle tier of influencers that spark action in these communities rather than larger voices we all celebrate as thought leaders.

What do you think about influence?

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Riding Alone on the Interwebs

The Steed

It’s been a year now. I’m enjoying my time as a lone consultant.

What I’ve come to realize after 12 years of agency work is that I don’t like working in consultancies. I didn’t really like working in companies and associations before agencies, either.

I like being the boss of me. LOL.

Yet while I’m working alone on the interwebs, I still need other people.

The Power of Collaboration

The value of working with other people lies in knowledge transfer. You have to expose yourself to others in order to see what you’re doing well, and where you can improve.

It’s great to team with people, even ride wing and play a role as someone who is as or more capable than you leads. You learn a ton from people that way.

The last year plus I’ve had such an experience with my co-author Gini Dietrich. While we maintain different views on some things, I learned quite a lot from this savvy PR pro. She has greatly impacted me professionally, and as I said publicly elsewhere, I’ll always be in her debt.

Like Gini, I learned a ton working with the good folks at Razoo over the past 18 months about deploying diverse multichannel campaigns that generate millions of dollars. For that I’m extremely grateful. Along the way, we went from $40 to $100 million in total funds raised.

This fall, I have expanded my portfolio of clients and companies I am working with to include Razoo, Human Equity, a great project with Yum! Brands, and others.

That’s good because I’ll be exposed to more people and their ideas. I’ll also enjoy a new writing initiative, building xPotomac, and participating in other growth experiences via new projects.

The Need to Roam

Rt. 211 Offers Danger

While working with others is awesome, roam I must.

I know this about myself now: Unequivocally, I am a dissident.

I cannot stand to be under one master or person’s domain for very long.Looking back, even in high school and college, even with my very best of friends, I maintained space and independence.

It’s not admirable, but it’s just who I am.

And so building a work life and online circles that allow me the flexibility to roam when I want to has become essential. For me, it’s the basis of freedom.

Consulting alone affords me that flexibility.

I ride wing when the opportunities are worth it, and break free when the need arises. Multiple projects empower changing workloads as the pallet demands (deadlines permitting).

Thus, I choose to live on the edge unaffiliated and unencumbered by any masthead. For now, I ride alone on the interwebs.

How much independence do you like at work?

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