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Social Media Sharing Falling Short? Why You Should Keep Trying.

October 6, 2015

social media sharing makes an impact

The results of a recent tweet:

twitter metrics via buffer

Crickets. No clicks, no engagement, nothing. Did anyone even see the tweet? Twitter’s analytics dashboard tells me some of my tweets receive less than 100 impressions. Given that I have close to 7,000 followers, that’s discouraging.

twitter analytics

Given results like this, it’s easy to get discouraged. Here’s why.

We’re Results-Driven

My day job as a marketer makes me data-driven and results-driven. Looking at my personal Twitter account with a Marketing lens, I think about where I can optimize. If optimizing doesn’t move the needle, then I ask whether to focus my time on other things.

Lack of Progress is Discouraging

Occasionally, I’ll hit it out of the park with a tweet. But for the most part, I’m hitting weak grounders to shortstop. Making an out.

At the plate, professional baseball players fail most of the time. But they accept that. On social media, we’re less patient. While we want to continually drive in runs, the reality is that most of us hit below .200.

Is Anybody Out There?

If a tweet falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, was it a waste of time? I tweet to provide interesting content to others. If there was no one on the receiving end, then it wouldn’t be worth sharing.

That’s why metrics (like those shown above) are discouraging. I found an interesting article, I tweeted it and 44 people saw the tweet. But no one clicked or engaged with it. Was it worth my time? Read on to find out why those 44 impressions may mean all the difference in the world.

It’s Important to Keep Trying

Dark social” is a term coined by Alexis Madrigal to reference hidden measures of social sharing. It’s sharing whose data is not captured and tracked. If you tweet an article and I share the link via email or IM, then that share is not captured by Twitter’s analytics.

My Term: Dark Impact

What I’ve come to discover is this:

Dark social also encompasses the hidden impact of your content. I call it Dark Impact.

Your content can have an impact on people, whether they share it or not. Some personal examples follow.

LinkedIn

Recently, I saw a close family friend whom I haven’t spoken to in 10 years. Her first comment was, “I see your posts on LinkedIn. I can almost hear your voice in your posts. I learned a lot about what you’ve been up to.”

Via LinkedIn, she was able to learn about my job changes, as well as understand my current interests.

dark impact

My friend never once interacted with my LinkedIn posts. I had forgotten we were even connected!

But there sure was an impact to my shares.

LinkedIn, Part 2

At a neighborhood block party, I chatted with neighbors who happen to be retirees. I’m connected with them on LinkedIn. At the block party, they told me they enjoy the content I share on LinkedIn.

One neighbor commented to another, “You should connect with Dennis on LinkedIn for the posts that he shares.”

Another neighbor sees the content I publish via LinkedIn Publisher. “I read your post on LinkedIn. I can’t believe your’s was right next to one by Arianna Huffington,” the neighbor said.

dark impact

Without speaking to my neighbors, I would not have known the impact my LinkedIn activities made with them.

I had no idea they read my LinkedIn Publisher posts.

Twitter and Blogging

At meetups and events, I’ll meet someone who says, “I think I recognize you from Twitter.” They had seen content that I shared, or saw retweets from users with large followings. Once, I met someone at an event who said, “Aren’t you the person who blogs about virtual events?”

Remember the 44 impressions I mentioned earlier? NONE of the people behind those impressions engaged or interacted with my tweet. But SOME remember me simply for the fact that I tweeted.

The tweet may have been meaningful, it may have been irrelevant. But I tweeted. And as a result, I was remembered for it.

dark impact

My Twitter and blog metrics may show low clicks and minimal engagement.

But it’s making a difference with someone, somewhere.

 


What to Do?

Keep trying. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t give up. Share useful information. Whether you realize it or not, you’ll make an impact.

Next, leave home and get out of the office. Meet new people and network. That’ll help connect your social media activities with the people you’re impacting. It’ll shed a light on the dark impact.

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How to Be More Authentic on Twitter

June 13, 2015

how to be more authentic on twitter

Note: This post was originally published at Online Super Ninja.

One of the great things about Twitter is its wide variety of users. There are brands, celebrities, executives, sports fans, music fans, startup founders, bloggers and more. Everyone brings their unique style. Some users are real and authentic, while others seem automated.

There are automated accounts out there, in the form of spam (and other) bots. Twitter even has a webpage titled “Automation rules and best practices.”

I prefer to follow and engage with authentic users on Twitter. Here are 16 tips on increasing your Twitter authenticity.

1) In your bio, don’t refer to yourself in the third person

In your Twitter bio, you have 160 characters to tell us who you are. Talk to us as if we’re meeting for the first time at a cocktail party. Tell us your occupation, your interests, your hobbies. But substitute the word “I” instead of your first or last name. If you do refer to yourself in the third person at cocktail parties, people probably think you’re talking about someone else.

2) Avoid overstuffing your bio with hashtags

I get it: you want to insert key hashtags in your bio, to increase the likelihood that people find you. But if your bio is exclusively hashtags, then we really don’t know whom you are. It’s like the old days of SEO: when you keyword-stuffed a web page, people no longer knew what you were trying to say. So include a hashtag or two. But be conversational in your bio.

3) Think twice about Auto-DM’ing new followers

“Auto DM” (or, automated Direct Message) refers to the practice of sending a private message (Direct Message) to new people who follow you. I don’t like receiving these. Other users feel the same way. In fact, some users will unfollow anyone who sends them an Auto DM. Not only are these messages impersonal, they also tend to be promotional (e.g. “Check out my website”, “Visit my YouTube channel”, “Like me on Facebook”).

4) Respond to questions

twitter dialog, @dshiao and @jentsao

I try to respond to any question (or comment) that I receive, assuming the question itself is authentic. Twitter is a great conversation channel that enables me to converse with others. The neat thing is, these conversations can result in connections, colleagues and friends.

5) “Favorite” tweets to send positive karma

The “Favorite” button is interesting because people use it in different ways. Some people use it as a bookmarking service. I use it to send positive karma back to the person who tweeted. It’s a way of saying “I like what you tweeted.” And that’s how I interpret it when people Favorite my tweets.

6) Monitor interactions on your scheduled tweets

Tools like Buffer help you schedule tweets to be sent out at specific times. I use Buffer when I find a lot of links to share. Instead of sharing all at once, I spread them out over time. If you schedule automated tweets, be sure to monitor interactions. I stay on top of my interactions by frequently checking Twitter from my smartphone. If someone replied to my scheduled tweet, I’ll see that on my phone. If you schedule a lot of tweets and never reply to a comment, people will think your account is completely automated.

7) Share photos

While you have 140 characters available in each tweet, a picture is worth a thousand words. Sharing photos helps take users into your world. We get to see what you see. I share photos from events, the outdoors and other interesting things I come across.

8) Share your geographic location

twitter profile of Heidi Thorne

This tip comes courtesy of Heidi Thorne (@heidithorne): “I appreciate a general idea of where you’re located. I realize that some are concerned about security issues. I get that and you have to do what’s right for you. But for those without security concerns, including a country, state or region would be really helpful.”

9) Ask questions and encourage conversation

Twitter is one of the world’s best focus groups. I like to start a dialog by asking a question. For example, “What marketing automation solution are you using?” or “Tell me something exciting you have planned for this weekend?” Asking questions gets you engaged with followers and non-followers alike. These sorts of conversations increase authenticity. Just avoid selling yourself or pitching your product when doing so.

10) Own up to your mistakes

This tip comes courtesy of Jenise Fryatt (@JeniseFryatt): “Mistakes make you human. Don’t be afraid to admit them. Taking responsibility for your mistakes adds to your credibility, trustworthiness and authenticity.”

11) Share facts in your bio that no one else knows

Twitter profile of Aaron Lee

Taken literally, this might be hard to do. But the point is, share some unique facts about your hobbies, interests and passions. In my bio, I mention that I love blogs, bad jokes and karaoke. My LinkedIn network doesn’t know this (well, most of them don’t), but my Twitter followers do.

12) Don’t Favorite or RT your own tweets

Let’s just say it: this looks weird. It would be like writing a positive review of your own book. Or walking around town complimenting your good looks. Quick note: a “Favorite” can be un-done. If you mistakenly favorited your own tweet, click on “Favorite” a second time and it’s erased.

13) Use humor

Another tip from @JeniseFyatt: “Humor makes you a more likeable and approachable human.” I’ll crack a joke from time to time. Sometimes, people respond. Other times, the joke falls flat. One metric I use for authenticity is DTMYL: Did That Make You Laugh?

14) Mix business with pleasure

When I started on Twitter, I was “always on” with work-related tweets. I was too focused. I was not authentic. These days, I primarily tweet about Marketing topics, but will mix in tweets about my sports teams (especially when they’re playing) and related non-work interests.

15) Retweet regularly

Retweets get other people’s tweets on your profile (and in your followers’ feeds). If you never retweet, then every tweet is coming from you. Share the love by expanding the reach of others’ tweets. Don’t go overboard, however: use a good mix of original tweets (from you) and retweets.

16) Give thanks

Let people know that you appreciate their share, comment or retweet. Saying “thank you” is not only authentic, but it incents the recipient to share more of your content in the future.

Your Turn

I shared 16 tips for being authentic on Twitter. Surely, I missed a few. What tips would you add to this list? Use the comments area below.


How I Follow Back on Twitter

April 11, 2015

come in, we follow back

I like to follow back Twitter users who follow me. While some follow back everyone, I utilize a “quick scan” method to decide.

In all, it takes 5-10 seconds per user. So in a sense, it’s like the phenomenon Malcolm Gladwell describes in his book “Blink.” Here’s what I’m processing during those few seconds.

1) Scan the bio

The Twitter bio is the first thing I scan. Claiming to get me new followers or Facebook Likes at low or no cost? Sorry, but you’re ruled out. Next, I look for the following:

  1. You’re doing something interesting (launching a new business, writing a new book, etc.).
  2. We have shared interests (content marketing, social media, sports, etc.).
  3. You use humor. A creative one-liner tends to hook me.
  4. You have an interesting profile photo or background image.

2) Quick check of tweet count, followers, following

I prefer real people who gained a following organically (i.e. by sharing useful information). Some profiles make me suspicious. When a user has 50 tweets, follows 100,000 people and has 109,000 followers, I wonder.

I still may follow that user, but the rest of my scan happens with “suspicion filter activated.” Side note with a twist of vanity: if a user has lots of followers, follows few, but decides to follow me, that makes me feel useful.

3) Quick check of Favorites and Lists

comparing Twitter profiles

Some brands (and some people) use Twitter as a megaphone: they’re here to share their content in a one-way manner. They don’t RT, favorite tweets, reply to tweets or curate Twitter Lists. I like to follow people who use Twitter in a two-way fashion. People who will banter back and forth with me.

4) Scan recent tweets

This one carries far higher weight than all the others. I scan the most recent 10+ tweets to see if they interest me. I want to see some original content and commentary, so users who RT 100% of the time are a turn-off (sorry).

I ask myself, “If I saw this user’s tweets in my stream, would I click on some of these links?” If I get a few “yes” answers, I’ll tend to follow back.

How About You?

What is your Twitter “follow style?” Are you:

  1. Exclusive: you follow back very few users
  2. Joy to All: you follow back everyone
  3. None of the Above: you have a unique style to following back

Share your style in the Comments section below.


How Technology is Compromising the Human Condition

August 30, 2014

alone with our phones

I see dead people. No, I see zombies. They walk aimlessly down the street and swerve into my lane on the highway. They’re not under the spell of a witch or voodoo overlord; they’re controlled by their smartphones.

I See Zombies Everywhere

Zombies have taken over planet Earth. As I walk past a gym, zombies (in workout clothes) exit. Arm extended, phone in palm, shoulders hunched forward. Forget about making eye contact. These zombies are focused on the latest text, tweet or email. They can’t be bothered by humans.

texting-while-drivingWhen a car swerves briefly into my lane, or when a driver is going 35 MPH in a 70 MPH zone, it’s invariably driven by a zombie: one hand on the wheel, the other holding a phone.

Eyes pointed straight down. Talented zombies use two phones, while steering the car with the backs of their hands.

Visit a restaurant these days and you’ll see zombies seated at the bar, eating a meal by themselves. Fork in one hand, phone in the other. It’s difficult to tell which they enjoy more (food or phone). Forget about talking to the bartender or to other patrons. The phone rules.

Oh, and have you seen the deranged zombies? Their Bluetooth earpiece is neatly hidden. As you approach them, they’re talking really loud. It’s just the two of you on the street, so you say, “What?” The zombie pays you no attention, walks on by and continues his conversation.

Technology and The Human Condition

Call me an old timer, but I’m concerned about technology’s impact on the human condition. I remember the B.C. era (“Before Cellphone”). We made eye contact, we made conversation. We talked to strangers. We talked to friends.

Today? We make more eye contact with our phone’s camera lens (selfies!), while human-to-human conversation is at historic lows. We’re so concerned about the email that arrived two minutes ago that we may not see the car that’s swerving onto the sidewalk.

Let’s consider how we got here.

Why We’re Victims of Technology

Hyperconnectedness

blackberry smartphone

It all started with the BlackBerry. Early generations of the device looked like extra-large pagers.

But these pagers were electronic handcuffs. Now, your inbox followed you wherever you went.

To the gym, to the beach or to sleep, the BlackBerry would buzz on each new email.

And the world would never be the same.

Now, you could email the VP Sales for a pricing request and she’d reply one minute later. You could invite a friend for dinner and know that he’d reply in an hour or less. You could lie on the beach for the afternoon, but still keep tabs on your inbox.

It’s Our Primary Channel of Communication

The phone was a fabulous piece of technology. We could speak to one another across large distances. Today, smartphone users under 20 may not know about the “phone” in their smartphone. Adults have followed suit.

Related Post: 10 Reasons Texting Has Taken Over the World

We speak to each other far less than before. Instead, we text, email and chat. For important life moments, we no longer call family members. Instead, we’ll post to Instagram or Facebook and let them learn about it there.

FOMO becomes FOMU

Our “fear of missing out” has become a “fear of missing (the most recent) update.” I’m guilty of this for sure: I’m quick to check for the latest email and the most recent Twitter mention or Facebook Like.

Technology has created this constant anxiety of “staying on top of things,” as if there’s value in seeing an email minutes after it arrives. That’s why some people sleep with their phone by their side, and invite it to buzz on each new message. When you disrupt sleep, you disrupt the human condition.

Why I’m Concerned

Health and Safety

Scientists have studied links between cell phone use and cancer risk (see this fact sheet from the National Cancer Institute and this CNN article about a World Health Organization study). My gut tells me that prolonged use of cell phones can have harmful, long term effects on the body.

There are more direct hazards, too. One afternoon, I left my office to grab lunch. I was checking email as I walked to my car. Because I wasn’t fully aware of my surrounding environment, I nearly walked into an oncoming car.

A Forbes article notes that “texting distractions may have been a contributing factor in the 4,280 pedestrian traffic fatalities recorded during 2010,” according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Technology Will Continue to Develop and Evolve

together yet alone

Consider Google Glass.

On the one hand, technology gets more seamlessly integrated (e.g. check email via Glass).

On the other hand, it makes it even easier to disengage from more meaningful human connection (e.g. check email on Glass while your friend is trying to talk to you).

When they visit my house, I say hi to the friendly delivery staff from FedEx, UPS and the US Postal Service. Those conversations will take a different form when those deliveries are performed by drones.

I’m concerned about the evolution of the human species. With continued advances in technology, will we lose the ability to talk to one another?

What We Can Do About It

Let the Phone Wait

I used to have a rule where I’d come home from work and put away the phone. It would sit in a drawer until after dinner’s been eaten and the dishes washed. Later that evening, I’d open the phone to check for calls, texts and emails. Sadly, that rule fell by the wayside.

But I ought to return to it.

We need to seize control back from the phones who rule us. Aside from emergencies, let the phone wait! The email you received a minute ago can wait an hour. Heck, it’s not the end of the world if you reply to that email tomorrow.

The key is to condition yourself. Maybe you need a habit like mine (though I hope you do a better job sticking to it). We’ll live healthier lives if we arrange for periods where we “make the phone wait.”

Alternatively, you could go to a summer camp like the one described in this New York Times article.

Go Out and Meet New People

go out and meet people

Technology has a way of hardening our shell or keeping us within a bubble.

When you’re immersed in your email, checking your Twitter stream or responding to a text, you’re not “available” to those around you.

Technology makes it too easy to be in a room full of people, but really be alone to ourselves. So make it a point to meet five new people each week. Beyond getting their names, get to know their stories, their interests and their passions.

If you’ve developed online relationships (e.g. via Twitter), arrange to meet in person. The human connection is unique and special.

Learn to Enjoy and Appreciate Your Surroundings

In the Bay Area, my average weather day is 70 degrees and sun. Depending on where I am, I can get views of the Bay, giant Sequoia trees or the Golden Gate Bridge. But I can be blind to it all if my face is planted in my phone.

When we immerse ourselves in technology, it makes us take things for granted. We must find occasions to leave the world of our inbox and explore the larger world around us. This is a behavior that must be learned and reinforced.

Now when I grab lunch at work, I’ll leave the phone in my pocket and enjoy the afternoon weather. But I can feel the phone calling out to me and I’ll sometimes suffer a relapse. I’ll pull out the phone and check email. Meanwhile, another car is pulling out of its parking spot.

Share Your Thoughts

What do you think? Are you comfortable with where technology is heading? Are you concerned about the future of human-to-human connection and interaction?

Let’s continue the conversation below. And if I ever bump into you on the street, please call me out if my face is stuck in my phone. I may have been zombie-fied!


Attending an Industry Conference? How to Find the Right Conference-Twitter Balance

April 29, 2014

Tweeting at conferences

Photo source: S&S Media on flickr.

Note: This post was originally published at LinkedIn.

Introduction

I’m about to give you advice on things I’ve failed miserably at.

You see, I love Twitter. I use it every day. Put me at an industry conference? My love grows into an addiction. Armed with a smartphone, you can become a Twitter rock star at industry conferences. Take this to the extreme, however, and you can miss out on a lot of what the conference has to offer. After all, your goal was to attend a conference and not to spend the entire day on Twitter.

An Acid Test for Twitter Overuse

Here’s the perfect acid test to know whether you’ve overused Twitter at a conference: do you need to re-charge your phone before the conference is over?

It’s happened for me at every conference I’ve attended in 2014 (thank you for those sponsored charging stations!) My use of Twitter has taken away from other things the conference has to offer. I’ll always be able to connect with like-minded people on Twitter. I won’t have the same opportunity to engage with them face-to-face.

Here are six ways to keep your conference Twitter use in check.

1) For every 10 new people you follow, introduce yourself to 1 person at the conference.

I follow the event’s hash tag on Twitter. I like to read attendees’ observations about a session. I even like to hear what sponsors have to say, aside from the invitations to visit them at booth #317. When someone shares an interesting tweet, I follow them.

It’s quite easy to follow 50+ new people in a day. It’s harder to introduce yourself to real people in real life. So make sure you do that.

Photo source: TopRank Online Marketing on flickr.

2) For every 5 tweets, share 1 thought with another attendee.

It’s very easy to quote the keynote speaker and add the event’s hash tag to your tweet. It’s even easier to retweet someone else (yes, those get counted towards the 5). But how about the old fashioned way of communicating: face to face? Sharing your thoughts on Twitter is great. A lot of people can see it. Mix that with the more personal approach of expressing your thoughts to other people. In person.

3) Find and meet 5 people from the Twitter stream.

Once at a highly-tweeted conference, I got into the elevator during a break. I recognized another attendee from her Twitter profile photo. She and I had been tweeting during the same session. I knew her name (from Twitter, of course), so I introduced myself, saying that I recognized her from Twitter. Do this five times.

4) Put the phone down every 5 minutes or every 3 slides.

Photo: these two ought to take breaks to put their phones down. Photo source: Ed Yourdon on flickr.

There are some conference sessions (especially workshop sessions) that are learning-focused. When I’m in such a session, I take a lot of notes. If I’m tweeting every two minutes, I’m not able to take as many notes. And, I’m less likely to have heard all the valuable nuggets shared by the presenter. So force yourself to put the phone down. I recommend an interval of 5 minutes or 3 slides.

5) Collected business cards > number of tweets.

Sometimes, I’ll collect a business card from an attendee and the exchange will be superficial. We bumped into each other while waiting for coffee, but didn’t have a meaningful conversation. That being said, business card collection is a good proxy for the amount of networking and conversations you’ve had. Aim to have your collected business cards exceed the number of your tweets at the conference. To date, I’ve failed miserably on this metric, but hope to achieve this goal in future conferences.

6) Include 1 out of every 4 shared photos in a post-conference blog post.

Photos are becoming an increasing percentage of the tweet streams at events. They also work very well in blog posts about the conference. Write a blog post to share your takeaways from the conference. For every four photos you share on Twitter, pick one of them to include in your post.

Photo source: JD Lasica on flickr. Follow JD on Twitter: @JDLasica.

Conclusion

To get the most out of a conference, set some goals before going. Remind yourself of those goals throughout the day(s) of the conference. Twitter can help you achieve some of those goals, but stop to ask yourself whether (and when) it’s getting in the way. I’ll be sure to do the same for my next conference.


Engage Influencers on Twitter in 8 Easy Steps

February 23, 2014

Your Guide to Engaging Influencers on Twitter

Twitter user

Photo source: User mdgovpics on flickr.

This post was originally published on the DNN Software blog.

Recently, I presented a webinar with Leadtail titled “How Top Marketers at Mid-Size Companies Engage on Social Media.” The webinar related to a Social Insights Report that DNN and Leadtail collaborated on.

In the report, we provided insights on how marketers at mid-size companies use Twitter: the links they share, the brands they retweet, the users they mention and more. Among the lists included in the report are the “Top 50 People Most Retweeted” and the “Top 50 People Most Mentioned” (on Twitter).

Prior to the webinar, I was reviewing the slides with Karri and Carter of Leadtail. We were looking at some of the “actionable insights” we included, on how brands (and people) can engage influencers on Twitter.

The Light Bulb Moment

As long as we’re including tips on how to engage influencers on Twitter, we thought, why not practice what we preach? We thought we’d reach out to the Top 50 List (on Twitter) and ask them how they like to be engaged by others.

We were able to hear back from these influencers quickly. As a result, we inserted a number of their tweets into the webinar slides. So we considered it a successful exercise in influencer engagement. From that exercise comes this eight step guide for doing your own influencer engagement on Twitter.

1) Build Relationships Before You Need Them

[tweet https://twitter.com/annhandley/statuses/435981257277968384]

Credit goes to Ann Handley (@annhandley) for these words of wisdom (thanks, Ann!). The first step is quite easy: follow influencers on Twitter. The follow gives influencers an indication that you exist. Even influencers with 100,000 followers will check to see the “new followers” they’re getting. Some influencers “follow back” liberally, while others are more selective. Don’t expect an immediate “follow back.”

In the meantime, observe the sorts of content the influencers are sharing and publishing, as well as the nature of their interactions with other users. Occasionally retweet some of their tweets. Don’t retweet everything they tweet, as that can border on creepy. Look at the articles or blog posts they’re publishing. Tweet a link to the article, include some of your thoughts and be sure to “mention” their Twitter handle in the tweet.

Also, focus on sharing useful and relevant content on Twitter. As an influencer gets mentioned by you, they’re likely to “check out” your Twitter profile. In addition to your photo and bio, they’ll probably view your most recent tweets. If you can interest them with your tweets, they may decide to follow you back.

If you do receive a follow back, that’s great. Now, you can “direct message” (DM) the influencer and s/he can DM you back. This gives you a communications channel to the influencer, but I would not rely on that channel, as many Twitter users ignore DM’s (due to volume, spam, unsolicited offers, etc.).

Instead, take the follow back as a good sign, but keep doing useful things: sharing useful articles, sharing their content, replying to some of their tweets, etc.

2) Partner Up to Widen Your Reach

We used the “power of three” in our influencer outreach: Karri, Carter and myself. Each of us built relationships with some influencers. Now, it was an opportunity to make use of them. By pooling together our outreach, we tripled our combined reach. We took the Top 50 lists and divvied up the outreach across the three of us. But we didn’t seek to engage the entire Top 50 lists.

3) Identify the Influencers Most Likely to Engage

President Barack Obama

Photo source: User vox_efx on flickr.

If you’re looking to curry favor with U.S. President Barack Obama, you’re unlikely to do so via Twitter. By checking the President’s Twitter feed, you’ll see a lot of content sharing, a few retweets (mainly of the White House) and very few interactions with other users.

Now look at some of your target influencers. If they interacted with you before (e.g. retweet or mention), there’s a chance they’ll do so again. Check how often they interact with other users (count how many of their tweets begin with a Twitter user handle). Also, look at how quickly they respond. Some influencers are on Twitter all the time. They receive a mention and reply back within minutes. If you find a user like this who’s also interacted with you before, they’re likely to engage with you again.

Of course, if you “know” the influencer (perhaps you met them at a conference and connected with them on LinkedIn), that’s a good sign, too. With our outreach, we looked at a Top 50 list and determined the 10-15 people who were the most likely to engage with us.

Once you identify your “most likely” list, throw in a few “reach for the stars” attempts, because you could get lucky. While he didn’t respond, we did tweet out to Jimmy Fallon.

4) Define Your “Ask”

With few exceptions, you won’t facilitate business or transactions via influencers on Twitter. It’s challenging to get influencers to provide an action that directly benefits you. Instead, you need an arrangement that benefits both of you.

Often, that’s about inviting influencers into a conversation. Choose a conversation topic that interests them (or, if you have a pre-defined topic, use that topic to identify relevant influencers). In our case, the “ask” was pretty simple: share some tips with us.

5) Communicate Your “Ask”

Get this step wrong and your entire plan may backfire. To start, be open and transparent. That means explaining (in your tweet) what you’re looking to get and why. The “why” is important, since it provides influencers with the right context.

Next, communicate how you’ll use what they provide and whether there are any next steps. In our outreach, we communicated to influencers that we were compiling quotes to use in a webinar. For them, that signaled where their tweet may end up. This gives them the chance to decline the opportunity or, tweet back, but ask you NOT to include the tweet in the webinar.

Be sure to address the what, why, how and where.

[tweet https://twitter.com/dshiao/statuses/435898076461408256]

Bonus Tip: If the first word of your tweet is a Twitter handle, insert a period (“.”) at the beginning, like I did in this tweet to Ian Gertler. If I did NOT preface the tweet with a period, the only people who’d see my tweet are Ian, plus my followers who also follow Ian (though I bet many of them do just that). By sharing your tweet with a wider audience, you may draw others into the conversation, such as Don Power, who’s influential in his own right.

6) Make “Digital Eye Contact”

When we ask for something in person, we always make eye contact with the person we’re asking. In the online world, I call it “digital eye contact” — looking directly at the person means being present and available. Don’t auto-tweet your “ask” at a scheduled time. Make sure you’re ready, willing and able to respond (quickly!) to any question or comment from the influencer.

If influencers respond and it takes you a day to get back to them, they’re less likely to take action. But if you reply back minutes later, they’re more inclined to give you what you want, on the spot.

7) Follow Up to Close the Loop

[tweet https://twitter.com/Leadtail/statuses/435846858934456320]

Circle back with the influencers (who participated) to show them how you used their contributions. When we uploaded the webinar slides to SlideShare, we tweeted to our contributors, pointing them to the slides in which their tweet was listed. In addition, we created a “story” of tweets using Storify and tweeted the Storify link to the influencers.

8) Continue the Conversation

The Twitter engagement could (and should) be the beginning of a long term relationship. Continue to read influencers’ blog posts and tweets and engage with them when appropriate. If you continue to provide value, there may come a day when the influencers come to you to ask for a favor.

Conclusion

Following this list will give you a strong chance of engaging with influencers in your target market:

  1. Build Relationships Before You Need Them
  2. Partner Up to Widen Your Reach
  3. Identify the Influencers Most Likely to Engage
  4. Define Your “Ask”
  5. Communicate Your “Ask”
  6. Make “Digital Eye Contact”
  7. Follow Up to Close the Loop
  8. Continue the Conversation

View the Slides

Feel free to view our webinar slides. The tweets from influencers can be found on Slides 30 and 31.


Why Personal Branding Begins at an Early Age (and What to Do About It)

December 7, 2013

Photo source: Dave Lawler on flickr.

Introduction

I asked a class of tenth grade students how many of them have a personal brand. A few looked around the room to see who raised their hand. One student did. And that was it.

When I grew up, the Internet did not exist. Back then, personal branding was centered around experiences and achievements and how they combined to form a reputation – you know, tangible things. Today, those things still matter for your personal brand, but so much of that brand is formed online.

Junior Achievement Program

San Mateo High School

Photo: I visited a tenth grade class at San Mateo High School.

My visit to a tenth grade classroom was part of a Junior Achievement program called JA Career Success.

Junior Achievement is “the world’s largest organization dedicated to educating students about workforce readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy through experiential, hands-on programs.” (learn more: Junior Achievement website)

The JA Career Success program consists of seven sessions. I participated in the seventh session, which is titled “Get Hired: Know Your Personal Brand.” The session’s objectives, as defined by JA:

  1. Explore how to hunt for a job and the tools needed
  2. Determine choices they can make to create a positive personal brand as they build their careers

Why We All Have a Personal Brand

An informal poll of the classroom determined that every student is on Facebook (although their teacher does not use the service), 15% are on Twitter and everyone has an Apple device at home (iPhone, iPad or iPod). In short, these students grew up with mobile devices connected to the Internet.

So I told the students: if there’s one thing you remember from today’s program, it’s this:

You’re online, which means that you already have a personal brand.

Well said.

In other words: whether you like it or not, the digital footprints you’re leaving across the Internet are the embodiment of your personal brand. By being aware and proactive, you can manage that brand. By being reactive and unaware, it gets managed for you.

So let’s consider ways in which you can start managing your personal brand. And yes, it’s NOT too early to start this in high school, or even middle school.

5 Personal Branding Tips

1) Always Be Mindful of What You’re Sharing

This photo could become a future issue

Photo source: Dennis Harper on flickr.

I know that high school students will do things that their parents would not approve of (example: throwing a wild party at the house when the parents are away for the weekend).

High school students will have their fun and should continue to do so. But take a moment to ponder before clicking the “submit” or “tweet” button.

Be sensitive to what you share and know that there can be implications and ramifications. If you post something online, accept the fact that it never goes away.

Even if you’re careful to limit your posts to particular groups, the fact remains that the post is online. Understand that when you apply for a job as a forty year old, what you posted as a teenager could come back to haunt you.

Here’s a good mechanism: when you’re ready to post something online, think whether your parent(s) and your teacher would approve. If they wouldn’t approve, then don’t post it (hat tip to Junior Achievement for this).

2) Pay Attention to Details

When you interview for a job, body language can be far more important than the words you speak. You might have an eloquent and insightful answer, but if you’re slouched in your chair and not making eye contact with the interviewer, your answer doesn’t really matter.

With personal branding, every little thing matters. Start with your email address. People will need to contact you, whether it’s a college admissions officer or a potential employer. Select an email address accordingly. “ilovetoparty” at (gmail dot com) will not curry favor with potential employers.

If you have an unfavorable email address, get a new one to use for college admissions and job applications. Next, have friends and family call your cell phone and listen to your voicemail greeting. Does it say something like: “Yo. Do it now. Over and outtie”? That would make a college admissions officer think twice about your application.

3) Sprinkle in Brand-Appropriate, Proactive Sharing

Photo of an academic award

Photo source: COD Newsroom on flickr.

Yes, you should do some proactive “brand building,” even in high school. Some tenth graders will apply to colleges in a few short years. When you apply to a college, the admissions officers will review your social profiles.

Did you recently receive an academic achievement award at school? Have a friend take a picture of you (with your award), then post that to Facebook. This digital footprint can make a difference, when discovered by the admissions officer (hat tip to a parent volunteer, who provided this suggestion).

4) Don’t Let Your Inside Voice Get Outside

In other words, keep your posts and status updates positive. We all have our dislikes, whether it’s jobs, other people or situations. Think twice before you share those dislikes with the entire world. Social media should not be a venting mechanism.

If you found a new job, but really disliked your previous job, keep your feelings about the previous job on the inside. Negative comments don’t play well when viewed by potential employers. And who knows? Things change and the employer you disliked years ago may be one that you return to years later.

5) Advanced Topic: Start Blogging

I started this blog five years ago and it’s helped a great deal with my personal brand. I’m able to share thoughts and ideas (with you!) and I consider it an add-on to my resume. In fact, blogs and social profiles (e.g. LinkedIn) are far more relevant than the old-fashioned resume.

One important point, however: figure out a “focus area” for your blog that’s tied to the personal brand you’d like to portray.

Your blog should not be an extension of Facebook, in which you share anything and everything going on in your life. Instead, it should be an outlet for you to share thoughts and observations.

Consider what you’re most passionate about and start writing about it. If you write well and share interesting things, I’m sure college admissions officers will take note.

Additional Thoughts on Personal Branding

Jonha Revesencio

Photo: Jonha Revesencio (@jonharules).

While writing this post, I posed a question on Twitter:

At what age should we start building our personal brand?

Jonha shared the following:

“In a world where technology has helped in facilitating questions, I think there’s not really an exact “age” to best build your brand, or as I like to put it, #BrandYOU. I think, though, that it’s most essential to “position yourself to be found so you won’t have to look around.”

That means it’s important to provide value even before you ask for one. I’ve given a presentation before college students about this and my main message is for them to use the time they spend on social networks by building their brand instead of using it for activities which will at some point break it (even before they try to build).”

Conclusion

Thanks for those thoughts, Jonha!

The concept of a personal brand was quite new to the tenth graders I spoke to. And that’s a big reason why I wrote this post: to create awareness around the fact that personal branding starts at an early age. Those who get an early start will have an advantage. Start working on your personal brand today.


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