Pondering the Little Bird brand

2 Comments 03.03.14

Thinking about marketing and branding as I look at applicants for our Director of Marketing position at Little Bird, I’m pondering the following. 1 claim, 3 planks, keep it simple. (Simple is a challenge for me sometimes.) That’s one framework for thinking these things through, what others do you like? I’d love to know.

Claim: Little Bird will help you discover and create new business opportunities on the social web.

3 planks:

* Find the most influential people online in your market. Little Bird’s graph analysis (analyzing peer connections, not general popularity) is the smartest, most objective, flexible system you’ll find.
* Engage with those thought leaders and their hot content – so you can know, and show you know, what’s at the cutting edge in your field.
* Do it all at scale, fast: on your mobile device, for any topic, before any meeting.

Where’d you learn that? A Little Bird told me…

Little Bird is: Smart. Useful. Fast.

Maybe that’s still not simple enough. I just thought I’d post here and work out loud.

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Klout, the Mashable of Social Influence Measurement, Gets Acquired; What I Think This Means for Social Business

7 Comments 02.11.14

Disclosure: I am the CEO of Little Bird, which is a more effective, interesting and genuine social business technology than Klout. That said, I use Klout every day, they paved the way for our customers to start thinking about us and I wish them nothing but the best in their new hard-earned home. The following post is filled with metaphor, followed by quick thoughts on owned, earned and paid media. Here’s a more plain spoken one on our company blog: Klout and Little Bird, the difference in 3 sentences.

Klout, which is the Mashable of social influence measurement, is reported to be nearing acquisition by big corporate social platform Lithium Technologies, according to the very smart reporters at Re/Code.

What does this mean? Perhaps it means: get your Klout critiques out on the table now or forever hold your peace. Perhaps it means congratulations, Klout team, you may not have become “the credit score for the future” but you did build something worth $100 million and you’ll no doubt continue to make a big impact over at Lithium.

Lithium is a formidable social platform, they acquired Radian6 competitor Scout Labs years ago, they serve big brands really well, they have a super smart chief data scientist in Michael Wu and now they’ll have Klout’s technology and data. It will be really interesting to see what they do with it. I bet it’s going to be really cool.

From my perspective, I think the news means this: the current Klout model for relating to social media is flawed and businesses need something better. We’re building something better right here at Little Bird.

Klout is Dirty

If you’re a serious social media user, you probably know that Twitter can change your business but blogging can change your life. The deeper you get into social, the more connections you make, the more you learn and the more opportunity to lead or fast-follow comes your way.

Klout is shallow and social runs deep. Old school businesspeople look at the teeming global real-time conversation on the social web and what do they see? They see a handful of popular people and wonder how much it would cost to buy their advocacy and ride their coat tails to big social media mindshare. And that’s almost all they see.

futwThat’s all Klout has offered for most of its history: an artificial velvet rope to put around the popular kids at a party and offer them free stuff in hopes they’ll talk about you.

But rock and roll isn’t about 1950’s DJs getting bought off to play the big record companies’ would-be-manufactured hits. Rock and roll is about new sounds building new communities and changing the lives of the people it touches.

Social media is like rock and roll. To get it, you’ve got to really listen to it.

That’s what we do here at Little Bird. We find the topic experts and influencers that other experts trust, not just the popular kids at the party. Then we help you really listen to them, to capture the real value of social media – including but not limited to genuine earned advocacy through engagement. Not bribery or petty cash.

Here at Little Bird we believe that influential people online are most valuable because they represent where the future will be created. Engage with them now and you see it, heck you can co-create it with them. Market trends, key insights, sales and business opportunities – this is the what the finest minds on social media have to offer – not just access to the audience they’ve built. You can get that too, though, if you listen and engage with them effectively!

Below: It’s all about the inbound connections, not just the outbound popularity. Anthony Iannarino has a Klout score of 74, pretty good but no Beyonce. But if you’re looking for experts in a topic like B2B sales – Little Bird will tell you that the B2B sales community knows Anthony is out of this world. Will he talk about your brand? Maybe, maybe not. Is he worth listening to and getting to know? Yes he sure is!

In business terms:

* Earned media: Klout has just begun with its pivot last week to try to help you get into conversations, to engage with great content and to earn some growth in social capital. Prior to that new home page, Klout did nothing for earned media.

Little Bird does more and better work to help you engage not just with good topical content, but with the people you can develop relationships with who are discussing it. Earn that new media, businesses! We’ll help.

* Owned media: What does Klout do for your owned media? Not much. It might tell you who the most popular people are who re-shared what you already wrote. You’re on your own to create your own original media though, and Klout does a terrible job of discovering credible people to co-create it with.

Little Bird gives you a big boost in owned media optimization, by serving up inspirational trending conversations from inside and outside your existing community online.

* Paid media: Klout is an odd form of paid media. It’s probably appropriate for B2C markets, to let popular people from the internet test-drive a new car or get a voucher to visit a big city for free. But for B2B markets, paid media is most appropriate with absolute transparency and advertising.

Little Bird customers use our data to learn not who to pay-off, but who to target reputable advertising towards. I think that’s a much more proven way to do it.

Ok people at work, looking to do business on the social web: come on in, the water’s fine! Don’t just throw money and gifts at the natives. Come join us and enjoy all the wonderful things that these networks have to offer.

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NTEN helps nonprofits learn to use the web effectively.

The Whole New Klout, Now for Content Marketing: 3 Bad Things & 3 Good Things

4 Comments 02.06.14

Influence measurement startup Klout unveiled a major new feature today, so big they call it The New Klout. It’s the new home page; they’re all in.

What does it do? It suggests hot links related to your interests so you can easily find things to share online. When you share good stuff, you build social capital. Klout being one measure of that. (Disclosure: I am the CEO of Little Bird, which is much, much cooler than Klout. I use Klout too, though.)

I like the idea behind The New Klout; in fact we do something similar at Little Bird. But at first glance there are three big shortcomings I see in The New Klout. We’ll see how long these last for, they’re smart people and I can imagine the feature will improve dramatically over the coming months. I bet the new site will become mobile soon responsive too.

All critique of Klout aside (it’s based on keywords, it can be gamed, it’s about nothing but the size of your megaphone, it puts a hard number on soft human interaction, etc – or at least all critique in parentheses) the New Klout is pretty cool.

Here are three things it doesn’t do, though.

  1. You can’t really pick your own topics – you have to select from a list of pre-created topics.

    Sure, you can type keywords into the search box, but lots of topics just don’t show up. I ran a report for someone tonight on Little Bird to discover the most peer-validated experts on ITC4D (Information Technology for Development) in Africa, then track the hottest content among them. You can’t do that in the new Klout – but you can’t subscribe to content for ICT4D, or for Oil and Gas, HCM, talent management or quantified self for example. I guess it’s aimed for B2C markets.

  2. It only finds content to share, not influential people to engage with. You can barf out great links all day, but if you’re not engaging in conversations with other influential, reputable, relevant people on social networks, you may as well be one of those social media consultants who buys hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers. If a bear shares a great link in the woods and nobody’s there to hear it, does…?
  3. The sources seem pretty mainstream. A lot of links from Forbes, TechCrunch, the top sites that everybody knows. One thing that’s super cool? The Hidden Gems feature. I don’t know how Klout determines that my audience (I don’t like to call people that, that’s their word) hasn’t likely seen a link, but it’s a cool idea. That’s cool thing number 1.

  • Cool thing #2 is the ability to train the system to show you more or less content like a particular item. It’s unclear whether that means show me less from this topic, source, keywords, or what – but trainable things are good! I would like to do more of that.
  • Scheduling the sharing of content is cool. Look out, Buffer. Buffer has been experimenting with recommended content to share too, I saw people say on the twitter. We’ve got support for Buffer publishing in Little Bird as well. Scheduling means you can jump in to whatever system you’re using, find great content, put it in a scheduler and then be publishing insights all day long.

That’s my take on The New Klout for Content Marketing. I wish our charming and much larger rivals the best of luck with it. I hope they move the whole industry forward. And now I’ll put my head back down and get back to work on building our own technology for capturing value from the world’s most influential people online. (Hint: we believe it’s not about getting free stuff and new followers – it’s about learning new things and discovering new business opportunities.)

Here’s how we do it, right now.

The Overview page of our whole report on this topic:

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Making Social Business a Habit: Working Out Loud

5 Comments 01.25.14

Stepper coaches professionals on identifying key relationships they want to build, then developing new habits of offering whatever contributions they discover they can make to those key people and doing all of it publicly. That’s the TL;DR summary of this post, see the links below and please forgive me for such a long rambly bit of writing. I’m trying to get back in the habit a little but didn’t have the time to write something shorter.

This morning I was reading my Top Kanban Lovers Twitter list on my phone (exported from a Little Bird report on Kanban) and came across John Stepper’s week-old post Deepening relationships through contribution. (Good thing he re-shared an excerpt from it again a week later, something perhaps more of us would be wise to do.)

It was my first introduction to John, who describes his job as working “to change how people work at Deutsche Bank, using collaboration platforms, communities of practice, and public social media channels.” Awesome! I went on to read his posts on “Working out loud”: Your personal content strategy and Working Out Loud: the 12-week program, all of which I’d recommend highly enough that I’m blogging about them now when I should probably be cleaning my house before a brunch we’re hosting tomorrow morning.

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NTEN helps nonprofits learn to use the web effectively.

Life After Blogging?

6 Comments 01.22.14

I used to blog every day. Heck, I used to write 4 posts every day for AOL, 6 on forex as a subcontracted writer for a CMS company and 3 long form interviews (with people like Mark Cuban) per week for the non-profit Netsquared.

Now I struggle to put up one post a month here or on our company blog. I’d really like to be publishing at least twice each month.

I have a lot of other pressing priorities as a new startup’s CEO – and Twitter is so quick and easy. The feedback loop is fast there too, something I lost when moving from a major blog to building a startup.

Excuses excuses! I’m doing all of this for the joy of learning from new media, and blogging feels important to keep doing. I remember when blogging felt uncomfortable, now of course it feels very natural. I spend most of my days now doing things I’ve never done before. It’s awesome. I’d still like to blog on occasion though.


Crossing over Portland’s Burnside Bridge, blogging.

I spend a lot of time learning about learning, building capacity so my execution each day can rock all the harder. Here are some of the ideas I’ve picked up recently regarding building new habits when it’s hard. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this too.

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NTEN helps nonprofits learn to use the web effectively.

Enterprise tech is awesome! Highlights of Constellation Connected Enterprise 2013 day 1

0 Comments 10.30.13

Everyone talks about startups innovating but some big businesses are doing really interesting work, they’re doing it at scale and they’re doing it in ways that reflect changes that could be unfolding in society at large. When those changes are about collaboration, learning and freedom – I get excited.

I’m in here at the Constellation Connected Enterprise 2013 conference in Half Moon Bay and I am really impressed. Upstart analyst firm Constellation Research has put on an inspiring event about the future of work, about the most innovative work being done in big businesses and about the impacts of technology on the human experience. And enterprise software. It’s awesome.

I’ll be demoing Little Bird on Thursday afternoon at 3:00 and I’m honored to have been invited.

Above: Constellation’s Ray Wang, photo by Michael O’Donnell

A few highlights from my notes:

Constellation’s Ray Wang is not only the most-connected man in enterprise software, according to our data, and a really interesting, smart guy – he’s also an incredible bundle of energy. An inspiration. Puts on one hell of a show.

The world’s leading expert on gamification, Jane McGonigal, was the first keynoter and she nearly brought me to tears. Her talk was incredible. Google around for more from her; you could probably spend all your time just following in her digital trail and learning a lot. She spoke about games and engagement in work. “There are now at least 1 billion people worldwide that spend 1 hour + per day playing video games,” McGonigal pointed out. 71% of workers are not engaged. The longer you stay in school, the less engaging and hopeful it is. Games are the antidote, she said, because they evoke lots of positive emotions and build resilience. “The opposite of play isn’t work – it’s depression,” she said.

The conference has a branded mobile app from Double Dutch, it’s really good. It’s a social network just for the event, with check-ins and activity feeds and a leader board. All of the interactions people have with it are measured and served up to conference organizers as data about who to invite back next year – not just among panelists but it determines who in the audience is most influential, too. Do people use it? Here they sure are. I asked in a thread in the app and founder Lawrence Coburn told me that the average user of one of their event apps makes more than 800 measured gestures per event. Whoa!

The Constellation Super Nova awards for successful enterprise software implementations were really interesting. For example, I learned that Mercedes Benz uses SAP’s new realtime collaboration platform HANA to deliver auto manufacturing QA data directly to engineers. Kelly Blue Book’s Karen Simmons said when accepting her Supernova Award: “My team is not the data warehouse; we are the *business*!” Cool.

If you’re here, I’ll see you tomorrow. If you’re not – I recommend it next year.

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NTEN helps nonprofits learn to use the web effectively.

How big are startups when they raise seed and A round financing?

0 Comments 10.17.13

How many employees do most startups have when they announce Seed or Series A financing? I was thinking about that today and realized the data is available on Crunchbase. I didn’t want to bother our team’s developers because they are very busy building awesome tools for Little Bird customers, so I just clicked through by hand and grabbed the number of employees listed by the last 25 companies to announce seed and A round funding whose Crunchbase profiles disclose the team number. Benchmarks are always interesting and I thought I’d just take a few minutes to grab this and share it. I bet these same patterns would play out if we pulled more data; this makes sense to me. I can imagine the 1 to 5 category getting bigger though. I’d love to know your thoughts.

For what it’s worth, when we announced our seed financing a year ago this month, we were in the 5+ category. Today we’re in the 10+ category. Promotional conclusion: Startups, if you want to rock your go-to-market and connect with the most powerful, interesting people in your target market, you should check out the technology those 10+ people have built at Little Bird. Non-startups – if you want to do social business, content marketing and social sales more effectively, I think you’ll like what we’re doing too.

I want to make sure you know about NTEN - the Nonprofit Technology Network.

NTEN helps nonprofits learn to use the web effectively.