The Safeway Test

Safeway is my local grocery store. It’s a remodelled one, open 24 hours with a Starbucks. Because it’s next to my gym, I am probably there three or four times a week.

No one knows who I am when I walk Safeway’s aisles. No one. Some people from the local neighborhood recognize me, but I never hear, “Hey, you’re Geoff Livingston, the blogger!” Or, “I see you on Twitter all the time!”

I like this anonymity. The lack of attention is real: It reminds me that I am not famous or special.

I see a lot of actions and words taken by influencers on back channels and on the public interwebs. The absolute nasty attitudes these people have with their peers, and yeah, sometimes me, is just astounding.

Over what, x0,000 followers? Or xx comments? Or x trade books published? Or access to xx?

Do people know who these mighty influencers are in their grocery stores?

It’s like people have forgotten where they came from. Perhaps folks were the uncoolest kids in high school, and now that they’ve garnered a little nano-popularity, they feel the need to wipe everyone’s nose in it. While quick to point out Justin Bieber’s inability to handle fame, they, too, act like teenagers spouting immature angst on their peers.

Putting Pants on One Leg at a Time

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Sometimes I act like a diva as well and spout some nastiness online, but I always try to come back to earth, and clean it up. I’m like any normal human and get annoyed at times. Yet I really try not to respond, and instead say nothing now.

The truth is as much as I dislike some of the things people say and do to me, I’m lucky to be pitched. It’s a really quality problem to not be able to respond to everything folks ask me. I am fortunate to be read well enough that I catch negative comments.

These aren’t even normal first world problems. Most people want to be in this position. Let’s be clear, interest is not a given thing. I could lose momentum at any point in my career.

If someone is really bugging me online, I just unfollow them. It’s not necessary to act-out. It’s not. Last week a peer called me an idiot in a bit of a drunken rant on Facebook. It wasn’t the first time I had seen such nastiness from x, just the first time directed at me. So I deleted the comment and unfriended, and I haven’t thought about it since. Some folks are incapable of getting it.

I wish that moment was an isolated incident, but I see influencer tantrums and bad behavior almost every day now.

In my co-working facility Connect113, I work next to a couple of folks who engage in social media for a well-known hair product brand. Because of a certain shine on my head, they can tell I chat to be friendly, not because I want their business or a free trip to the salon. The stories they can tell about bloggers, oh my.

Everyone of us puts our pants on one-leg at time (if we are wearing pants that day). Few of us actually have an original opinion, we’re almost always riffing off of someone else’s research or punditry.

None of us can say that the people we engage with won’t be our bosses or clients or competitors at some point. That’s regardless of age, folks. That 25-year old kid getting a dose of bloggy attitude about an email or tweet they sent might just be the boss in five or 10 years.

No, I am aware of these truths. That’s the benefit of the Safeway Test.

Something to think about going into the weekend without our Klout scores.

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Featured image by mcicki.

Beating the Algorithm

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Image by MUMA Monash

In the old days of “influencer relations” (you know way back when in 2009), PR professionals targeted the magic middle and top tier bloggers, which triggered larger blog coverage, and then more often than not traditional news media.

Since then digital media companies straddled the space occupied by both traditional journals and the top tier of bloggers. They use algorithms to detect hot news stories before they trend in the blogosphere, then break the news before traditional players and bloggers alike.

Specifically, Mashable, the Huffington Post, Forbes, Google and the others use algorithms listen to chatter on the social web. When hot trends bubble up they source the content provider, assign a reporter, or in the worst cases use narrative science — computer-based news writing — to break the story first.

This effectively takes power away from PR executives to affect the news cycle through traditional influencer outreach, and in turn, empowers the crowd to determine stories.

Some news outlets use the crowd to validate top stories, too. Validation is embodied by shares on social networks and comments.

For example, USA Today features stories on its web properties based on the posts that get shared the most. The old assignment editor loses weight in these scenarios.
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Social Scoring and Peer Influence

Half Moon Bay

In today’s online world social scoring systems like the new Klout matter, unfortunately. For example, some jobs are tied to scores now.

Scoring systems encourage people to build wide networks to foster reach and create the perception of influence.

The highest scoring “influencers” like to think they deliver widespread impact with their followings. Every single book I’ve read by a blogger on influence claims this.

In actuality, that influence lies closer to home.

When real researchers parse influence we get a different story than the blogger myth propagated by social scoring. Instead, we see that true influence comes from those who are closest to us in our on and offline social networks, our peers.

As the old adage goes, “You are who you hang out with.”

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A Heretic’s Quest for Influence Beyond Klout

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Image by Matthew Venn

Influence: The act or power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command.

I’m reading a series of books right now trying to understand what makes someone influential. There are more tangential theories and approaches into the psychology of motivation than one can imagine, well beyond the universe of Klout.

It’s easy to conclude that no one understands what causes one person to influence another.

Today’s influence theories offer just a slice of individual online behavior based on attention and reach metrics. These strength and influence algorithms support theories about content production and authority. Yet they cannot identify what causes actual people and their larger social networks to adapt and move towards new ideas and behaviors. I will prove this shortly with my very good Klout score and my very humble AdAge Power 150 ranking.
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The Abominable Influencer

Abominable Snowmen?
Image by codecarnage

You probably know the legend as Bigfoot, the yeti, or the Abominable Snowman. The mysterious, gigantic hairy biped eludes human contact in mountainous regions, vying for its own survival. Thrilling and scary at the same time, northern cultures dream of this elusive and powerful icon of the unexplored wilderness.

Similarly, PR and marketing types alike dream of the influencer, the person who will trigger an online contagion (a.k.a. viral event). They desperately look for that powerful personality who will become their brand hero.

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What ComScore Data Tells Us About Google+

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comScore released a report on Friday examining the demographics of the first 20 million people to join Google+. Some of the statistics were not surprising. American users tend to be from technology centric cities, and the overall user base is 2/3 male with a particularly strong age group of 25-34 years old. What was surprising was the international flavor of Google+.

Only 5 million of the 20 million are U.S. based. If you add the 800,000 thousand Canadiens, only approximately 30% of Google+ users are in North America. With strong showings in Europe, India, Brazil and Taiwan, Google+ is clearly an international phenomena.

The international flavor demonstrates the discussion about social media uberinfluencers dominating Google+ is a myth. Almost all of these influencers have less than 50,000 followers, and a great majority have less than 10,000. While perceived to be dominant in this corner of the blogosphere, they represent just one small part of the Google+ community. Even in the North American part of the network, their followings are well under one percent of the community.

Additionally, most people on Google+ believe that Facebook is the big loser in the network’s success. But if you look at the numbers, with 5 million Americans, Google+ has a long way to go to beat out the 50% penetration Facebook has in the U.S. population (more than 150 million). Even at its current growth rate, which is likely not sustainable, it would take Google+ the better part of a year to seriously rival Facebook’s reach.

comScore’s analysis shows a very strong networked effect occurring on Google+, which is indicative that it will succeed in achieving major social network status. However, as the report suggests, the network has to break out of the early adopter
community and into the general population. The next big test will occur as Google+ opens the network to the general public at the end of the month.

Update on Google+ for Business

Reports indicate that Google+ will launch its formal business offering towards the end of the third quarter (mid to late September). The company plans to continue policing businesses that set up branded profiles via personal accounts until then. Per the advisory, published here and on Danny Brown’s blog, businesses should experiment informally.