I’ve been talking online to Jeremiah Owyang for 10 years today

Influencer engagement is something you want to do over time. No experience I’ve had over the years illustrates that better than the incredibly valuable relationship I’ve built with entrepreneur, serial innovator, and mega thought leader Jeremiah Owyang.

It was 10 years ago today that Jeremiah first replied to me on Twitter. 🙂

Happenstance twitter searching some time ago let me know that it was May 19th, 2007 that happened – and when I saw that date, I made a note on my calendar! I want to take this opportunity to thank Jeremiah for 10 years of high-value blogging, tweeting, public risk taking, inspiration and friendship.

That first exchange was a silly one, it was a late night chat about Twitter avatars, apparently. I can’t find the tweet this was a reply to, I think I may have deleted it! jowyangreply

I have no idea what he’s talking about.

We had met in person a few weeks prior, when I started a Twitter account just for SXSW (I was going to delete it immediately afterwords!) and found out about the annual Laughing Squid party. But it was May 19th that we tweeted first, according to Twitter’s awesome archive search.

Since that day…

Blogging for career development

I interviewed Jeremiah and wrote a big blog post in 2009 titled Why Jeremiah Owyang Is Leaving Forrester Research. I reread that post last week and rediscovered some great tips and perspective in it, including the following:

Jeremiah Owyang came to Forrester as a blogger and he leaves even stronger in that role. Despite a grueling travel schedule, a rigorous report writing regimen and constant briefings with companies large and small, he’s one of the most prolific leading voices in the social media blogosphere.

“My use of social media and my career advancement are intrinsically tied,” Owyang told us by phone today. “I started my blog as a practitioner at Hitachi. I budget time every morning to read and blog. I do that before I check my personal email or work email. I believe you have to pay yourself first. When you open your email you pay someone else, because it’s usually people reaching out to ask you for something. Taking the time to read blogs, synthesize and add value, that builds your community. That’s paying yourself first.”

Whenever a major initiative is launched by a large software vendor or a controversy erupts around best corporate use of emerging online communication tools, Owyang strikes fast with a blog post at his site Web Strategist, explaining complex matters in ways that marketing staff can use to talk to their executives.

Web Strategist is still active, though Jeremiah doesn’t post on it as frequently as back then.

Community analysis for corporate social media

In 2011, Jeremiah wrote an incredible blog post about all the people he knew who ran social strategy at major corporations. He made a big list and encouraged readers to post the names of others in comments. Now these days that might seem cliche or like an unwelcome invitation to sales pitches – but back in 2011 this was trailblazing stuff. Facebook wouldn’t launch its timelines for another year, it was all just profile pages back then! IBM Watson would appear on Jeopardy the next week. People working in social needed validation, representation, inspiration – and for a well-respected blogger to compile a list like this was a huge contribution to the still-emerging social business community.

I was inspired by Jeremiah’s blog post and made one of my own, analyzing all the people he’d listed in various ways, including discovering who among the set was most-followed by their peers on Twitter!

Fast forward a few years and I started a company, Little Bird, based on that idea – finding the people most followed by their peers in any field. I raised millions of dollars in venture capital, built a team, and poured my heart and soul into it for five years until selling it to Sprinklr last fall!

Jeremiah went on to co-found Altimeter, the most influential boutique analyst firm in the technology world. And then he left that job, too!

And beyond…

I thought that was crazy, until I saw him present at a small private event at SXSW the next year – where he blew my mind introducing the collaborative economy and his corporate innovation council dedicated to it, Crowd Companies!

He totally changed and expanded my mind again. So many times. So many times I’ve thought “wow Jeremiah had a good thing going, and now he’s diving into this crazy idea?” And then that crazy idea became the future.

I could go on (thanks for telling Jill Rowley about Little Bird, Jeremiah, thanks for your support when we were just getting started, thanks for that fun call where you told me about the future of content marketing in autonomous vehicles!), but I won’t. I feel so fortunate to have known and learned from Jeremiah and his work over these past ten years.

Thanks for all the support and advice, my friend. But thanks from all of us for doing so much exciting work in public. You’re an inspiration.

How to read 3X more than you do today

The democratization of the printing press (by that I mean the internet) has led to a new problem: information overload.

A related problem is the shortage of time we have to read the internet.  If you are someone who makes money or participates in the world otherwise, your work will be more effective, producing more value per labor hour, if it’s informed by the best thinking from your peers around the world. Right? Right.

But how? Who has the time to read very much? 

For the past several months I’ve been reading 3 to 10 articles online everyday, some very long, by using a new tool. I don’t know how much you read but that’s a huge increase for me.

I tell people about it every day and everyone is amazed. It’s Pocket! Specifically the text-to-speech function in Pocket. It’s life changing. 
Continue reading “How to read 3X more than you do today”

Could bots eat the ad economy?

Analyst firm Forrester published a new report this week with this bold title, “The End Of Advertising As We Know It: CMOs Should Shift Billions From Ad Interruptions To Branded Relationships.” Not even could, but should!

Jack Neff at AdAge explains based on an interview with the study’s lead analyst, James McQuivey, that the expectation is that big brands are going to spend far less money on advertising and instead invest in bots, apps, and personal assistants. Technologies that give users what they want (to buy) either when they ask for it, or when the tech believes they’d like it based on their behavior.
Continue reading “Could bots eat the ad economy?”

B2B influencer marketing is an acquired skill

Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 4.27.38 PM“In B2B [vs B2C influencer marketing] you need to spread the net a bit wider, keep the networks alive, keep the content flowing, and the chances are more likely that someone who influences a decision maker will see my content.” So said IBM’s Andrew Grill in a wise and thought provoking interview with marketing thought leader Mark Schaefer today. (“Unraveling the secrets of B2B influencer marketing“)  Right: Andrew Grill stops Tweeting to listen to something important, a nice Creative Commons photo by Guido van Nispen from 2009.

The interview is good, I recommend reading it, and it really got my wheels spinning. Below are my comments on the post, which I posted on Mark’s site but am posting here as well, including with anchor links to the specific parts of the interview that each comment is in response to. Some of it I agree with and some of it I don’t!

Indirect nature of B2B sales. Love it. I’ve been thinking about influencer marketing (B2B and B2C) as having “2nd order effects.” For example, influencer engagement yields press opportunities and press opportunities drive sales leads. Or influencer engagement generates speaking and event opportunities and speaking and events drive leads. It’s not just about how influencer marketing and engagement drive leads directly. Often, it’s about how accumulated influencer relationships lead to opportunities that offer leverage to your brand.
B2B influencers have to be relevant to the product. Love it. Contextually relevant influence will drive more qualified leads – but it will also offer something more to the relationship. Those times when you’ve invited the influencers behind the scenes, shown them your R&D etc? If they’re relevant to your brand – then they’re going to have some great advice about your product and market – and that’s far more value than just short term sales leads. Also, the flip side is true. If you want to engage with a market influencer, it’s good if your brand is relevant to them – it’s even better if you the person doing the outreach is relevant to them as well.
Influencers risk personal brand in exchange for market validation. Yup.
Affiliate sales model: I do not like it. Wasn’t Andrew just talking about the indirect nature of sales via B2B influencer marketing? Who do we expect to always use an affiliate URL? Or are we talking about affiliate specific cookies? Attribution seems to a real cluster here and it feels like Andrew is trying to have his cake and eat it too: on one hand he says you’ve got to play the long game with year-round relationship building, but on the other hand he’s saying we all know it has to drive cold hard cash immediately and measurably. Hmmmm….I’d like to see some examples of this.
Internal influencers, employees. Hopefully. If you’ve got a culture that encourages time spent on social media, taking risks and adding value. How many companies is that true of? Too few. And your employees need to step up to the plate, too. Will you object to their time spent building that influence online because they haven’t sold enough product through their trackable affiliate links back to the company’s e-commerce pages? 😔

Press-investors-influencers as the three external legs of the stool. That’s awesome, love it.
– Long term relationships are great, but why are we presuming we’re paying people cash here? I don’t assume that. A very, very small percentage of the B2B relationships we see or help facilitate are paid. That can be great, but it’s certainly not something I’d assume.
– The measurement discussion here gave short shrift to the way complex sales can be impacted by compound influence that’s built up over a history of engagement. The best deal my team closed last month was with someone we’d been engaging with on social for a year and a half. She didn’t have budget to buy when we first started talking – but we kept in touch online. She’s advocated for us publicly along the way. When her firm had an opportunity to buy, she was an internal advocate. Who wants to go back and record the eventual contract value next to every history of casual ongoing engagement over the past year and a half?

Those are my 2 cents! I spend all day every day thinking about this stuff as we build out the Little Bird influencer discovery and research application inside of Sprinklr. The research part of B2B influencer marketing warrants a ton more discussion too, I believe. You addressed using insights from individual relationships to inform business strategy, but there’s a whole thick layer of valuable insights available from aggregate analysis of B2B influencer activity as well. See, for example, this post titled “4 ways to use influencer network visualization for marketing and intelligence.

Thanks again for covering this topic and so well! Really exciting to know that a world full of marketers are going to read this interview and up level the sophistication of their thinking on influencer marketing in B2B.

There’s some good discussion of this post over on LinkedIn.

If fake news is wrong, what’s it take to be right?

TL;DR: I think it would be awesome if data analysis were used to find critiques of “fake news” that were close to a reader’s existing values, allowing them opportunity to “be right” or at least feel less sure about their wrong opinions. I think that might be a more compelling response to the popularity of fake news than trying to convince people that the news is outright wrong. Because the feeling of being right is more compelling than someone telling you you’re wrong.

Almost everybody secretly likes to say “well actually…” that annoying catch-phrase of the Mansplainer. I think one of the most visceral appeals of fake news on social media is that it gives many people a chance to “be right” for a change. What if the antidote to Fake News wasn’t trying to prove to people that the news they’re reading is wrong – but instead giving them more opportunities to be right?

Reading yesterday’s post on Venturebeat titled “Can AI Detect Fake News?” got me thinking about the nature of truth, our relationships with it, and what data+automation could do to at least dial back some strident opinions where they post danger.

In that post, Hira Saeed concludes “There is a role for AI to play in separating fact from fiction when it comes to news stories. The question remains whether readers still care about the difference.”

At first blush I thought that was a silly conclusion to end with but I’m reminded of something Seth Godin once wrote: “Sometimes we find ourselves in a discussion where the most coherent, actionable, rational argument wins. Sometimes, but not often. People like us do things like this.”

Further, one many matters there may be a clear truth. Eg “Hillary Clinton does not have Parkinsons.” But on many matters, there really isn’t a single ultimate version of truth. I read a few months ago about a paradigm called Feminist Standpoint Theory, which argues that in many instances there isn’t a single bedrock version of truth, but rather the best way to get a picture of reality is by taking into account as many and as diverse a set of lived experiences as possible. I really like that.

In a recent New Yorker piece called Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds, Elizabeth Kolbert summarizes research that concludes with two interesting suggestions for the future. First, asking someone with a strident (and let’s say wrong) opinion to explain that opinion leads to much lower self-reported confidence in that opinion than you see prior to an attempt to explain. And second, merely introducing doubt in a public setting greatly deflates the social pressure to go along with a theory.

(Related research says it’s easy to get conservatives to support things like refugees and the environment if you just appeal to their values of authority, purity, and patriotism. Barf! But stay with me here for a moment.)

Put all of this together and what could big data plus automation do about “fake news?” One set of things it could do would be to offer people a chance to be right again, to know more than other people know, by discovering and analyzing a multitude of perspectives, introducing doubt, and maybe offering up the best-explained critique of something you’re reading that’s closest to your own professed values.

Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 8.12.05 AM

I remember almost 10 years ago, the best political aggregator on the web, Memeorandum, saw outside developers Andy Baio and Joshua Schachter build a visual overlay that told you about the political slant of the linking history of any given blog participating in a conversation. That meant you could sample from across the political spectrum, see which direction a common conversation was leaning, etc. It was awesome!

Imagine if there was something like that people could use to discover and summarize additional perspectives close to their own, but that introduced the burden of explanation and a sense of doubt? (Hopefully there’s enough conversation, enough data, enough diversity of opinions even within common general perspectives, to analyze.)

Then people could say “well, actually…” and deflate some of this fake news themselves. Just an idea 🙂