Posts Tagged ‘Shonali Burke’

Machine Gunners and Gardeners

Posted on: May 1st, 2011 by Geoff Livingston 30 Comments

Navy gunner's mates inspect machine gun.
Image by the U.S. Navy

A movement exists to quantify everyone’s social media strength across diverse social networks and blogs. This widespread strength is a sign of true influence, argue social media gurus. Perhaps from a mass consumer market or a top influencer’s perspective, a “machine gun” approach towards influence makes sense. For most, addressing only widespread influence puts an organization into a position of weakness. A vast majority of companies and nonprofits must cultivate specific vertical markets, and specialized media and communities, just like a gardener tending his/her specific plot of land.

Rare is the brand that has the luxury of shooting across all markets with blanket approaches aiming for only the most “influential” voices. This is in essence a PR method, treating social media voices like large broad based media, and using them to broadcast to markets. Undoubtably, this top down approach creates a lot of attention, but is it effective? Does it produce desired outcomes?

Research shows that such approaches fire many more blanks than hits. In actuality, contagious moments occur online when multiple voices pick up a topic, and start discussing it. The buzz trickles up and then out, suggesting maximum impact occurs by seeding both the top and the bottom alike.

So much of social media is relational. People may retweet and give attention to the influencers, but they respond to the voices within their trusted sector. The difference is 90 percent trust for friends, versus 70% for general consumer opinions, according to Nielsen. Top down voices may spark conversation, IF you can get their attention, but they may have no relevancy within the sector (hello, Malcolm Gladwell). The best tactical approach is to also focus on the smaller, but more knowledgable voices within a sector.

In the interview for The New Battleground for Politics, GOP director of social media Todd Herman said the party specifically focused on diverse voices of varying influencer within the community to seed the fire Nancy Pelosi campaign. There was not a mention of Michelle Malkin. The effort went viral, raising $1.6 million on $20,000 budget, not to mention all of the fantastic impressions.

Why Mass Influence Metrics Don’t Work in Gardens

Garden work
Image by re.ality

Mass influence metrics are destined to fail. While someone may have strong pull across social channels and rank well on an influence metric, they aren’t necessarily influential within a specific vertical. Meaning that someone may have a wide reach, but that influence isn’t deep enough to have an effect on core communities. It’s like rain falling on the roof. The water never gets in.

Instead, organic approaches to cultivation are needed with influencer relations.
Online communicators need to dig deep into their communities, and work to build relationships over time within the community. That means actual participation with and manual verification of potential desired relationships.

How does one begin? Start with applying David Sifry’s magic middle influencer theory to your community. Back in 2006, those were the bloggers who had 20-1000 other people linking to them. While these metrics are not as applicable in the world of Facebook and Twitter, the principle is the same: Find the voices who discuss and/or curate relevant topical community knowledge and have their own pull.

These people may not be huge on Twitter, Klout, Facebook, Empire Avenue or any other quantifiable statistic, but they have great weight in their sector. They are the most important people to focus on cultivating relationships with day after day, year after year.

We’re talking about the Amy Sample Wards and the J.D. Lasicas, the Shonali Burkes and Justin Goldsboroughs of the world. These four voices have earned great respect within their communities, but you won’t find them on the top of the A-List. Yet, it is often these voices that break and/or discuss stories first. In tandem with other similar voices, they can create great ripples across their community’s conversations. Ironically, when a story or idea takes off because of the magic middle, often top “influential” voices and the media pick up the thread, the desired effect of the machine gunners.

Similarly, someone may have a very strong LinkedIn presence within their sector, perhaps moderating a large group. They are highly influential to tens of thousands, but because they choose to spend their time on LinkedIn as opposed to Facebook, Twitter, or blogging, are they suddenly not influential? If you need to reach their group but use machine gun influence approaches, you miss the value of knowing specific communities. Again, the vast majority of nonprofits and companies MUST target specific stakeholders. Understanding where the stakeholders are determines influence, not systematic metrics.

This is the exact type of influencer approach Zoetica uses when it plans efforts like last year’s award-winning American Red Cross Crisis Data conference, and prior recognized campaigns. After more than five years in social media marketing, the magic middle form of relationship “gardening” works almost every time. The top down machine gun approach has been hit or miss.

Which influence method do you prefer, top down, organic, something completely different, or a bit of everything?

Mindfulness the Key to Finding Female Speakers

Posted on: September 1st, 2010 by Geoff Livingston 20 Comments

womenwhotech.jpg

It’s late in another summer, and another thought “leader” has said that the blame for the lack of female speakers (or success) should be laid squarely on the shoulders of women. While there have been several great direct responses to this latest link frenzy, I felt that instead of participating directly (like I did last summer), the best commentary I could make is to outline how as a conference organizer I successfully garnered approximately 50% female speaker rates for all three BlogPotomacs.

First, I co-organized the first BlogPotomac with Debbie Weil, and together we set the precedence for the event series. We mindfully decided that at least three of the seven speakers will be women. This seemed like the right thing to do, especially considering that there are more women in communications than men. We wanted to represent our stakeholders with a group of speakers that at least came close to matching our audience.

Each of the three BlogPotomacs had predetermined topic areas, and speakers were matched to the topics. In almost every instance there were natural choices that made sense. A couple of times the would-be speaker was not available. So we found someone else! In one case, I held the spot for two months until my networking yielded the speaker.

But I didn’t give up. And when men asked for speaking spots (women rarely solicited a speaking spot, in fact I cannot remember one), I said no. I did not want the loudest chest beater. I wanted quality lady speakers, was committed to achieving that result, and would not be distracted.

We had some fantastic lady speakers including KD Paine, Maggie Fox, Kami Huyse, Shireen Mitchell, Liz Strauss, Amber Naslund, Jen McClure (emcee), Beth Kanter, Natalia Luckyanova, Jane Quigley, and Shonali Burke (emcee). Two of them are so great, they are now my business partners.

So, the morale of this story is as a conference organizer, it’s a conscious decision to either have women or not. As I told my friend Allyson Kapin, “If you spend time in a homogeneous social network like Silicon Valley’s VC community, then you will only get white, male venture backed candidates. It’s your job to go beyond the comfort zone. Victimization may be an easy out, but it won’t stop the criticism of your inability to break out of limited social circles.”

BTW, if you would like to hear some outstanding lady speakers sign up for some of the WomenWhoTech Telesummit on September 15. I’ll happen to be one of the few men participating, a refreshing change.

What’s Coming Next?

Posted on: January 20th, 2010 by Geoff Livingston 1 Comment
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Shashi Bellakonda, Daria Stegman and Shonali Burke

Last week the Washington, DC chapter of IABC held an event on the past and future decade in online media. Daria Steigman moderated the panel, which included John Taylor, Sprint; Shashi Bellmakonda, Network Solutions; Torod Neptune, Waggener Edstrom; and Paul Sherman, Potomac Techwire.

The first conversation was fascinating, discussing which media properties mattered most, new or old. Instead of the usual black and white debate, Sherman noted that it really was a question of the stakeholder and the media forms they prefer. Neptune also noted that influence was determined media outlet by media outlet, not by traditional or new form. This matches the larger trend of confluence we are seeing between new and old media forms in the current marketplace.

All of the panelists agreed that organizational culture still continues to be the biggest barrier to success in social. It became apparent that determining how (or if) to embrace social needs to be a much more thought out process for organizations, particularly those with conservative cultures.

Both Sprint’s Taylor and Bellamkonda noted the important impact that mobile was making. Taylor added that the industry broke a record with mobile fundraising for Haiti. Shashi added that anyone could communicate using mobile, and noted Twitter as a primary example, as well as its importance to companies.

Corporate social responsibility campaigns are also becoming an important part of online communications for companies. Taylor noted Pepsi’s $20 million online giving program that replaced its traditional Super Bowl ads.

Later in questions and answers, the NBA’s suspension of Gilbert Arenas was noted, in particular, whether or not the league had a right to stifle Agent Zero’s tweeting. Bellamkonda noted that if its illegal, employees cannot be talking about it. Panelists all agreed that the NBA had to act to protect the Bullets, er Wizards, image.

Also of note, IABC-DC President Shonali Burke celebrated her birthday at the event. She used social tools to make her 40th a fundraising endeavor for Kids with Cameras.