The Influence of the Unpopular

wolf
Image by Khiera Falconari

Have you seen “The Grey?” What a dark movie!

Of course, if you’re a wildlife fan, the wolf pack scenes were fantastic. And how menacing was the wolf pack leader? I don’t think he’d be invited to the high school prom. Yet the alpha male is the most influential of all the wolves in the pack.

Point being, influence isn’t always determined by popularity. Sometimes influence finds itself in the opposite.

That applies to human influence, too.
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PayPal Research Shows Strength of Community Trumps Popularity

Paddyobrien

We live in strange times in which an online following is considered the mark of success. This era of weblebrity seems caustic at times with companies, nonprofits and individuals chasing personal brands for their time. Yet, as we dig deeper we see that real influence online does not necessarily tether itself to the most well known, rather the most engaged. Some research released today, The Effectiveness of Celebrity Spokespeople in Social Fundraisers, conducted on case studies within the PayPal network validates this truth.

The paper, my final as a Zoetican and co-authored with Henry T. Dunbar, concludes that online celebrity fundraising efforts are hit and miss. Further some of the biggest names get outpaced by lesser known web-based personalities or weblebrities who activate deep ties to their communities.

The research shows over and over again that the hyper-engaged online personality with an authentic story is the one to succeed. Here are some examples:

  • A campaign on Facebook’s Causes to raise money for a new children’s hospital. In it, a 9-year-old cancer patient with virtually no online presence generated more donations than any other individual, including television star Ashton Kutcher.
  • A DonorsChoose.org fundraising competition among bloggers —- including TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington and All Things D’s Kara Swisher —- was dominated by a blogger offering to parade around in a tomato suit.
  • The launch competition of Kevin Bacon’s Six Degrees social giving website: Despite recruiting more than 60 celebrities to create “charity badges” on the site —- including Nicole Kidman and Ashley Judd -— the top fundraiser was a woman who blogs about scrapbooking and has an autistic son.
  • The PayPal-sponsored Regift the Fruitcake campaign on Facebook was won by Operation Smile with the help of Filipina singer Charice and her engaged fans. Other more notable celebrities participated, but didn’t deliver Charice’s impact.
  • TwitChange, which hosts charity auctions where fans buy mentions, follows, and retweets from celebrities on Twitter. Through three auctions in 2010, two of the celebrities drawing the most attention and highest bids have been actor Zachary Levi (of TV’s Chuck) and celebrity photographer Jeremy Cowart, beating stars such as country singer LeAnn Rimes and celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton.

As practitioners and communicators, we owe it to ourselves and our clients to dig deeper, and learn the underpinnings of the online social web. Real influence is more than popularity, and this paper goes a great distance to highlighting the important components of authenticity, real strong community engagement, and a willingness to actively work with a community to affect change.

The whole paper is online, and embedded below. Over the next few weeks, expect to see several full case studies outlining the principles of the paper published here. Special thanks to PayPal’s Clam Lorenz, Network for Good’s Katya Andresen, DonorsChoose.org’s Anna Doherty, Operation Smile’s Kristi Kastrounis, and TwitChange’s Shaun King, all of whom provided the outstanding content and insights that made this paper possible.

Effectiveness of Celebrity Spokespeople in Social Fundraisers

Did Arianna Huffington Fire Michael Arrington Over Ethics?

Michael Arrington
Image by Joi

Guest post by Richard Laermer

It appears a couple of different takes on Friday’s story about Mike Arrington leaving TechCrunch, a company which he founded in 2005 and was bought out by AOL in April…

In Friday’s Wall Street Journal article one gets the warm fuzzy feeling that Arrington simply resigned to move on to a bigger and better adventure of running a $20 million venture-capital fund, called CrunchFund, which is to invest in start-ups. CrunchFund is backed by AOL and several VC firms.

TechCrunch is quoted as saying that Arrington will continue to write for TechCrunch, but will have no editorial oversight. When the news broke Arrington tweeted “slow news day.”

Business Insider story quotes Arianna Huffington, the President and Editor-in-Chief of AOL Huffington Post Media Group said, “Mr. Arrington is not being paid by TechCrunch, he does not report to TechCrunch editors and does not report to her or other AOL Huffington Post Media Group personnel.

Reading between the lines, it’s obvious that Arrington didn’t resign. This has all the flavorings of someone who has just been fired.

When Business Insider asked for a clarification on Arrington’s new role (if any), Ms. Huffington said that “Mr. Arrington will be welcome to contribute to unpaid blogs to the company as long as he stays within AOL blogging guidelines.” She went on to say that Arrington’s relationship with at AOL is not with TechCrunch but with AOL Ventures.

Business Insider pressed for clarification on Arrington’s role at AOL. They were finally told that Arrington no longer works for AOL in any capacity. Strong words for someone who the WSJ would have us believe that he just merely resigned. As Business Insider noted this sounds more and more that Ms. Huffington ousted Arrington.

There is a funny coda to the Arringtongate story, according to Business Insider: Suddenly, Arianna Huffington decided she could not have a bad vibe in “her house”.

“The editor just got bounced from the staff by his boss, Arianna Huffington. She found out Arrington and her boss, Tim Armstrong, were planning to launch a VC fund about the very startups that Arrington writes about. Not in her house.”

Oh, really?

Why Tech Already Has Women (And Why They’re Better Than Arrington)

UPDATE: Robert Scoble believes our comments are taken out of context, and has offered this Cincast on his views about women in tech. We appreciate Mr. Scoble’s participation in this important topic, and wish to encourage all parties to discuss the matter.

UPDATE: Robert Scoble has shared his thoughts on Women in Tech. You can view his take here.

Women of WiFi, after Caillebotte

Image: “Women of WiFi, after Caillebotte” by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

by Danny Brown and Geoff Livingston (Cross posted on Danny’s blog)

Contrary to Violet Blue’s disappointing stance about women in tech in 2010, this year saw a terrible new trend, the outright enforcement of the glass ceiling in technology.  First there was Michael Arrington’s terribly ignorant rant, followed verbally by the likes by Robert Scoble and Ms. Blue, as well as the visual use of boobs to sell copies of WIRED by Chris Anderson and crew.

Before opining too much, here are some statistics for you (the first three were originally cited by Allyson Kapin in Fast Company):

In spite of the statistical advantages of women in tech, negative trends towards male speakers and executive leadership continue. Worse, reading this negative enforcement of sexism in tech has been a damn shame. Working with great women in tech — Susan Murphy, Beth Kanter,  Kami Huyse, Allyson Kapin, Amber MacArthur, Sarah Prevette, Lisa Kalandjian and Cali Lewis to name a few this year — has been a phenomenal experience for both of us, and they demonstrate every day how brilliant and capable they are.

In fact, these women are better than the likes of Arrington and crew, because they would never allow themselves to demean an entire race, gender or religious sect of people on the Internet.  Even if they had such feelings (which we doubt), they would rise above this kind of baseless attack to offer solutions.

Then again, perhaps that shouldn’t come across as too surprising. TechCrunch is hardly the purveyor of common sense and good “fights,” as they’ve shown continuously in the past with their attacks on PR, CEOs, bloggers – basically anyone who doesn’t bow to Arrington’s missives.

There are certainly issues for women, as pointed out by Allyson Kapin in the above articles as well as many other women who discuss this issue. Men have a role in it, too, as evidenced by this year’s newest glass blowing experiences.  Moving forward, men need to be more active about providing solutions to create a more level playing field. For example:

  • Actively support women in business, both through choices of partners, vendors and employees, and in promotion.
  • Support men and women trying to help women.  Whether it’s Girls, Inc., supporting female entrepreneurs abroad, efforts to highlight Women Who Tech, or a host of other efforts, support women.
  • Stop trashing and reacting to women trying to succeed.  Rather than get into throw downs about how women create their own problems in tech — or worse revert to past bad practices like conferences for men — work to create an inclusive balanced playing field for every human being.
  • If you are a man and you don’t like these types of actions against women — posts, magazine articles, speaking rosters — say something. When both genders actively voice dissatisfaction in this matter, it becomes a powerful statement.
  • Instead of supporting old structures for speaking — such as soliciting speaking submissions from chest beating male A-Listers — build an editorial mission for the conference, and seek out great male and female speakers beyond the comfortable and immediate social network.
  • Stop thinking with the mindset that “women” and “success” are two words that – together – are news, and start thinking it’s the norm.
  • Think of the challenges your great-grandmother, grandmother and (possibly) your mother went through to be someone. Then ask if you’d want that still, and add your wife or daughter into the mix. Would you want them to be viewed as “unique” because of their industry choice? And that’s “unique” in a negative way, not in a good one-of-a-kind way.

To be fair, this isn’t an isolated issue with the technology sector. Think of a lot of industries, and you’ll find that women are often viewed as second-best to their male counterparts. They may have won the vote but it’s clear that women still trail men when it comes to advancement, recognition and financial reward compared to their male peers in too many industries.

But it’s even more evident in the technology sector, where too many geek overlords want to keep the sandpit for themselves, and maybe the women can solder a chip or connect a conference call between the male kingfishers.

And it’s just plain stupid. For every Michael Arrington there’s a Bindi Karia; for every Robert Scoble, there’s a Gina Trapani; for every Chris Anderson there’s a Stephanie Agresta. And with new innovators being sponsored to come through from India, and developing countries making women and technology one of their key focuses, these names (and others like them) will only be added to.

Frankly, an argument can be made that most of the modern gender imbalance issues are rooted in men not consciously looking for great women, as opposed to them not existing. 2011 can be a year where forward progress can be made — by both women and men.  Let’s hope the community joins together in working towards that goal.  Given how great women are in business, why wouldn’t you?

About Danny Brown

For readers who aren’t familiar with Danny, he is co-founder and partner at Bonsai Interactive Marketing, a full service marketing agency offering integrated , social media and mobile marketing solutions and applications. He’s also the founder of the 12for12k Challenge, a community-driven social media charity initiative to connect globally and help locally that’s raised over $100,000 since inception in 2009. His top ranked blog is featured in the AdAge Power 150 list as well as Canada’s Top 50 Marketing Blogs, and won the Hive Award for Best Social Media Blog at the 2010 South by South West festival.

The El Show Episode #2: Trolls and More!

Warning: There’s significant profanity in this podcast.

tren
Richard Laermer and I hosted our second show today. The El Show (follow us on Twitter) was a wee bit outrageous today, focusing on:

Trolls

  1. Loren Feldman and his Puppets
  2. Michael Arrington and his Libel Suit
  3. Amanda Chapel – Hottie bombalody troll
  4. Us as Trolls

Tr.im/Friendfeed

Mass markets without newspapers

Scoble’s mass unfollowing

Socializing content – It doesn’t mean anything.  Now it means get slimed! Nothing social about it

GI Joe

Download and/or listen to the El Show today.