If you work in influencer relations in Silicon Valley, you want to be at the Churchill Club this Monday March 1st for an evening event featuring John Byrne, Richard Edelman, Paul Bergevin, Peter Diamandis and Frank Shaw.

The event comes on the heels of the 2010 Edelman Trust Barometer, a global opinion leaders study mentioned in my last post. The Trust Barometer is freely available. Bring your toughest questions or just show up for a great evening of discussion, debate and networking.

I’ll be particularly interested to see how this year’s discussion compares with the 2008 event (my comments).

See you there!

What:
What the Public Believes: New Trends in Corporate Reputation Management
Corporations are in the combat zone, struggling to build back trust among all of their stakeholders in the midst of the global economic crisis. Faced with an overall meltdown in confidence, how is corporate leadership—including marketing, PR, investor relations and public affairs—to respond? How should companies retool their communication strategies and address the right stakeholders with the right issues and strike the right tone? This panel of thought leaders speaks out on the most current trends and strategies for managing corporate reputation and sharpening stakeholder engagement.

Cost
Individual Churchill Club event tickets run $58 - $90, and normally it’s a cash bar. Reg, more info.

Twitter
Hashtag will be #churchillclub.

Popularity: 15%

Barbara on February 5th, 2010

One of the original CRM/SFA industry journalists-turned-advocates, Ginger Cooper recently took on a new role as Director of Business Development for Green Mobile Tech.  The company specializes in matching client companies with the best mobile solutions for their needs.

In her words, “For end-user companies needing to purchase mobile hardware, we help them define their requirements and present them with the top options matching their needs and price point. We also resell some of the mobile software solutions with which we’re particularly impressed.” They’ll also step in on support issues, price negotiations and the lesser known down ‘n’ dirty on products. Clients include small to enterprise-class companies in retail and other industries, and software companies looking for the mobile technologies that will make their software hum.

Personally, I find Green Mobile Tech a little light on the “green”. However, I do see it as a good example of a shift underway among tech decision influencers. Jason Busch described this shift a few weeks ago. His take is that some of the dedicated “best in breed” influencers — e.g. analysts, systems integrators — are loosing ground as decision advisors. The issue is that they are too specialized, and too often lacking hands-on experience.

Take a good look at Green Mobile Tech. A well-rounded tech influencer list ought to include companies like it in addition to dedicated analysts, journalists, consultants and sourcing advisors.

Popularity: 7%

Many tech industry influencers think of Twitter as little more than a vehicle for extending the reach of their opinions. However, Twitter offers more to influencers than a bigger audience. It can be an aide in strengthening expertise as well. Combining the two agendas — improving expertise and expanding reach — makes good sense. One influencer who’s doing this is John Moore, founder of Chilmark Research.

John is a veteran industry analyst and an opinion leader on IT in the healthcare market. He was recently ranked in the top 50 tech industry analysts on Twitter, in a project using Edelman’s free measurement tool TweetLevel (see earlier post).

He provides a clear description of why and how he uses Twitter, including four tips based on his own experience:

  • Do not write off any technology completely
  • Define your purpose
  • Choose who you follow carefully
  • Be engaged and engaging

Check out the complete post. It’s one of the best explanations I’ve seen for people who are serious about managing their expertise and the reach of their opinions.

Popularity: 5%

Solid research is the only way to cut through the chatter about identifying and prioritizing influencers for word-of-mouth marketing and other forms of influencer marketing. Mike Gotta (Burton Group / Gartner ) points out a just such a study, from the pharma industry. I like this study because it focuses on finding the hidden opinion leaders who drive the first wave of word-of-mouth product referrals.

The study identifies two distinct types of opinion leaders among the target physicians: those who are trusted and respected by peers (called sociometric leaders) and those physicians who think of themselves as well connected and influential (called self-reported opinion leaders).

The opinion leaders identified by their peers are not the traditional targets pursued by marketers. If anything, they contradict current marketing wisdom about influencers and influentials. They are not overtly well connected, outgoing or high profile in terms of being published or public speakers.

Three nuggets to think about:

The study finds little overlap between the two types of influencers. Physicians fell into one group or the other.

The under-the-radar opinion leaders are quicker to use new product and more likely to influencer others to try it. This finding is based on matching network data with perscription records.

The under-the-radar sociometric opinion leaders are more interested in what their peers are doing, and are more open to word-of-mouth or social influence, than the self-reported opinion leaders.

Both types of opinion leaders play important roles in robust influencer marketing programs. One group is not better than the other; they’re just different kinds of people. The best course of action is to identify and address both types of opinion leaders. That means doing more research and more segmentation.

Useful links:
Summary at Knowledge@Wharton (hat tip to Mike Gotta)

Opinion Leadership and Social Contagion in New Product Diffusion - by Raghuram Iyengar, Christophe Van den Bulte, and Thomas Valente, 2008 [08-120]

Popularity: 6%

Barbara on September 21st, 2009

Many of us are ready to recognize social media as a standard subset of our B2B and B2C communications channels. Even the slow moving Fortune 500 is adopting public-facing blogs, according to SNCR. So it’s time to stop thinking about analyst-written blogs as a novelty and start thinking about them as part of standard analyst business practice. One of the central topics we can start talking about openly is vendor sponsorship. That’s right: analyst-written blogs as vendor sponsored content.

In the analyst business at large, most (maybe all) communications channels contain a portion of sponsored content. The mix varies by firm. Some don’t license any content to vendors. Others license any and all content. Most firms are somewhere in between.

Sponsored content represents a mature, steady stream of income for many analyst businesses. I doubt many of us were around when the first vendor co-branded analyst report was circulated as a sales tool. Lots of us were around to witness the first analyst appearances in vendor-sponsored microsites, webinars and podcasts. These are commonplace today. We accept them — even mine them — as a natural part of everyday communications channels.

Why imagine that blogs will be any different? Or Twitter? There’s nothing about blogging as a communications channel that makes it a poor match to sponsorship interests.

Think about it. Some analyst firms won’t buy into sponsored blogs / blog content, some will. The question is, will you buy-in?

Popularity: 2%

Barbara on January 27th, 2009

Scott Brinker blogged about propinquity and Twitter last week. I’d never heard the word propinquity before. However, propinquity seems to be a label for a familiar concept — the notion that physical promixity promotes relationships. My parents harped about that while I was a teen. Happily, Scott takes a different tack. He suggests that social media applications such as Twitter may wear down the effects of physical promixity in relationship dynamics. I wonder what kind of effect they will have on relationships with influencers. And how we will measure it.

Today, we use several criteria for measuring influence for our Influencer50 clients. Our metrics include factors such as an influencer’s

  • market reach
  • frequency of impact
  • quality of impact
  • closeness to decision

“Closeness to decision” is where propinquity comes into play. We include physical proximity and timing in this metric. So, we already think of closeness to a decision as a measure of more than physical distance.

It’s not hard to envision extending “closeness to decision” with new metrics focused on social media, mobile communications, or both.

Several companies already use Twitter as a way to engage with influencers and customer conversations online. Duncan has written about this development in The Influencer, our free newsletter.

One thing is clear. We haven’t gotten our collective heads around the implications of social media in terms of influence. We’re still caught up in early adopter personalities and tactics.

Sometime soon, we’ll need to stop counting social media links and echoes. We need to start agreeing on what counts as distance and what counts as closeness and what counts as influence.

Popularity: 3%

Barbara on October 14th, 2008

Tom Smith’s guest post at Mashable makes the point that we now trust the opinions of strangers as much as we trust our close friends, thanks to social media. He’s highlighting findings from the Universal McCann study, “When did we start trusting strangers”. Don’t let yourself get lulled into thinking this phenomenon is taking place only in consumer markets. Social media is also changing the way that businesses source trusted opinions on products and services.

Social media is transforming B2B decision-maker ecosystems in two fundamental ways. The most notable, according to Influencer50 research, is that more categories of advisors are exerting more influence during B2B purchase decisions. Social media is helping make many types of “hidden” advisors more visible, more accessible, more informed.

Another change is the appearance of new types of influencers. Examples include niche consultants, procurement groups, and expert communities.

The bottomline is that social media is changing the way we slice the B2B influence pie, just as it is changing influence in consumer markets.

Popularity: 4%

Richard Stiennon raises an interesting point in his Threat Chaos post, Finding Cool Companies: should analysts who blog at online media networks — in this case, ZDNet — be given media passes to competitor’s events — in this case, Gartner Symposium?

I don’t think so, but it does raise an amusing question of ethics.

Stiennon, a former Gartner analyst, recently launched an independent research and advisory venture of his own, IT Harvest. However, he blogs at ZDNet, along with analyst blogger buddies like Dana Gardner and Joe McKendrick.

Now, Stiennon’s attempt at getting a Gartner press pass was probably more hijinks than not. But consider this: Lots of analysts blog at various media sites. What happens if analysts take to the habit of introducing themselves as bloggers OR as analysts depending on what’s most convenient, or who they happen to be contacting at an organization, or … ?

As always, I hope you’ll voice your opinion on my opinion at the Tekrati blog.

Popularity: 2%