Being an Influencer Is Not a Top Priority

Many people engage in online media to promote their services. The idea of choosing between becoming an online influencer or a communicator probably doesn’t occur to them. After all, they just want to win a few clients and projects.

I reached a point where I needed to prioritize my own online interactions versus a desire to do the work, scale a business, and maintain balance in my personal life. Some are able to build larger agencies and businesses that coincide with significant online profiles, but I struggle to do both. So a choice was needed. In many ways, it is a living decision, one that I constantly need to reinforce.

Last week, a top 100 influencers metric came out, as usual based on Twitter reach, though this time it measured the reach of persona’s following, specifically “how many people are following those followers.” I guess that’s potential RT reach? Anyway, I am not sure how that translates to influence, but many friends whom I do consider to be influential were deservedly on the list. My congratulations to them.

As I watched the usual accolades posted on my social streams, I grew jealous. I could have been on that list if I’d only chosen to focus on my personal network growth over the past few years. But then I reminded myself about my choices. I was able to detach.

How This Choice Impacted Me

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I secured an opportunity for my client Cade Martin serve as the primary portrait photographer for the NBA Wives Association (Behind the Bench) black tie gala last weekend. Cade is photographing MLB great Prince Fielder here. Check out all of his shots.

Many who have known me over the past 10 years would agree that I am not as prolific as I used to be online. I am a practitioner now, not an uber-influencer on the social media conference speaking circuit. Ratcheting it back was necessary to achieve those other objectives.

Instead, I am present enough to contribute to the larger conversation and market my business. Further, I use the tools to demonstrate competency with social media, particularly with my photography.

Frankly, I feel like online tools like Twitter, this blog and others are awesome, but they can blind you. You think the attention is necessary to succeed, but it takes a lot of energy and time to keep that influencer flywheel turning. Plus the necessary, um, political schmoozing is not my favorite activity. So I made and continue to make the choice to focus on other things.

This decision hasn’t been unkind to me. I earn a bit more than I used to, and I have better family relationships.

Having attained the right balance, I believe I am still credible to clients. At the same time, my intent is to promote them first, and not myself. I guess that’s old school, the client should be in the limelight, and not me.

Perhaps I have become just a member of the community rather than one of the top voices. Others have taken the mantle, and today, it seems some leaders are newer voices, at least to this old man. I kind of like that. Perhaps it is time for the next generation of influencers.

Me, I just want to build a good business, and do what is necessary online. My time as an uber-influencer — real or imagined — has passed.

LinkedIn Endorsements Don’t Get Me

I receive a lot of emails from LinkedIn about endorsements for random skills. I am not quite sure what these endorsements really mean so I decided to dig deeper.

When people log in to LinkedIn, they are asked by a random algorithm to endorse people for certain skills. Mind you, these are skills that the computer program thinks folks would agree with based on whatever determinants it sources.

I was bit surprised to see what I had been mass endorsed for (see the above chart). In particular, media relations and public relations struck me as odd. I haven’t identified myself publicly as a PR pro since 2009. Yet LinkedIn still thinks this is a relevant endorsement. Further, I have not engaged in media relations activities since 2008. Yet its my fifth skill set.

Ironically, I have published four books, three in the past three years. And the last business book was on integrated communications. Yet, you won’t find either of those skill sets in the top 10. In fact you have to scroll further down to see them in the other skills.

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Here are a few quick observations about endorsements. Personal positioning or branding techniques don’t seem to matter to the algorithm. It doesn’t source your recent work, web sites, or even your postings for topics (again, I post on what I work and write about, not PR or media relations). Which in turn makes me think the algorithm can’t effectively garner endorsements about anyone’s actual work.

Others have levied significant criticism against LinkedIn endorsements, questioning their validity and value. Yet, some people do use these for their job searches.

I am much more likely to trust a recommendation because they are written referrals, but even those feel contrived. I get asked to write recommendations all the time. When I write one it’s authentic based on past work, but are others as discerning?

Thank goodness you have to scroll far down the profile to see these endorsements. They feel like a crowdsourced mess. That’s too bad because they had potential to provide deeper value than other influence metrics like Klout or Kred. In the end, I may just turn endorsements off.

What do you think about LinkedIn endorsements?

This post ran originally on the Vocus blog. I am on vacation until September 30th and will not be responding to comments. The floor is yours!

Monetize Influence and Lessen It

There is a movement about how to monetize individual blogger and online personality influence. Influencers considering monetization of their online trust should also weigh how such strategies can lessen trust within a community, and hurt search rank.

This old debate goes back to paid blogging and affiliate marketing. As in those past cases, every influencer today needs to weigh how monetization efforts tax their good will.

Influence online is often a result of becoming an integral part of a community and providing good information. When you add affiliate links, sponsorship, consultancies, clients, advertisements, products and other forms of monetization to the mix, a transition occurs. In the paid, earned, and owned model of media, you are moving from earned (natural word of mouth) to owned or paid media. Both of those types of media are less trustworthy to communities.

Part of building trust is putting your customer ahead of profits and operating honestly. It’s no coincidence that one of the biggest causes of trust deterioration in the financial sector is conflict of interest and scandals.

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No one wants to begrudge monetization. Creating and building a significant online presence takes a strong and sustained consistent effort over months and years. Peer trust requires consistency. Why shouldn’t one benefit from it?

Certainly, done in a strategic way, such as books on a topical area, paid speaking gigs and the like, business strategies can actually enhance a strategy. But others add a factor of distrust.

When I read a consultant’s blog about xxx professional service area that the author is promoting a business. And I take that into context. So do most readers.

People take these motives into consideration when they read my blog posts and books on marketing. I’ve been told so by more discerning customers.

That’s why I am very careful about how many asks I make of readers, the content I share, the lack of paid advertisements here, etc. For example, I almost never take pitched blog ideas, and don’t offer affiliate links. The trade off isn’t worth it, in my opinion, especially considering that I consult, sell books, and raise money for causes here.

The suggestion that one should monetize influence may not be constructed correctly. Rather, a personality should weigh whether that monetization strategy is worth the negative impact.

What do you think?

Differentiation Requires Show, Not Tell

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Image by Eric Lim

The Internet and in particular social media have empowered thousands, perhaps millions, to start their own businesses. One outcome of the social media movement is how easily people become “thought leaders” or topical influencers.

As a result, we have many paper tigers running about, almost indistinguishable from the ones with real teeth with one singular exception: Results.

Last week for PRSA-NCC and this morning during a keynote at Brand Camp NYC I discussed this exception, and its critical role in creating true market leadership.

When content and personal branding techniques online quack and act like ducks, many readers are quick to believe. Yet results are not necessarily associated to the voices, creating a problem. Because we have hit a saturation point, more businesses are becoming discerning in their choices of vendors, digging deeper than what’s published on a blog post or LinkedIn group.

As time continues and social becomes a place overburdened with branded marketing content and voices, differentiation requires more. Pundits are a dime a dozen these days, real businesspeople are not.

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Two Ladies Lead #Demand13

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As one of my projects, Vocus asked me to program the Demand Success 2013 conference (6/20-21), their first marketing conference open to the general public. Last week we announced our second major keynote, Elisabeth Moss, who plays Peggy Olsen on Mad Men. I was tickled that the buzz revolved around Mad Men, and not the presence of two strong ladies Moss and Arianna Huffington as the leading voices of Demand Success 2013.

To me, that’s remarkable because for once female speakers at an Internet marketing conference are a non-issue.

Our two primary keynotes are women, and no one cares. Why? Because they are qualified, relevant, and obvious.
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Actors and Directors

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If you listen to conversations about online power — at least those supported by bloggers — strength centers on the individual voice. Yet, now that big money has arrived online, the solitary influential voice represents a role player in the Internet ecosystem.

Let’s use a metaphor to illustrate this point: Hollywood and its power structure of actors, directors and producers. Individual voices represent actors. Entities like budget-rich companies investing in online media, traditional media companies, publishing houses, and already successful individuals are the directors and producers.

This is not to demean individuals that have made a name for themselves online. Consistently excelling online as an influencer takes significant effort. There’s a reason why so many social media voices are obsessed with influence.

You can debate whether people garner attention or become noteworthy for achievements, but long-term success is not an accident. It’s the result of doing something right consistently over time.

Back to the metaphor… Everybody wants to work with the most successful actors (cough, stars [ugh]). We know this. Any blogger just needs to show you their in-box and the heaps of spam pitches they receive as proof points.

BUT.
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