I’m not a fan of the growing schism between Altimeter Group and the rest of the analysts. One of the most visible wedges driving this rift is the idea of “rock star analysts.”
“Rock star analyst” is an old notion with deep roots among financial analysts. Originally, rock star analysts were the ones who made the right call the most often, especially on complex decisions. They made their clients the most money. There was a strong body of proof and formal professional consensus behind the status.
Not so on the tech analyst side of the aisle. What does “rock star analyst” mean to analyst relations people and analysts today? It seems to mean an analyst scores high on RSS readership, Twitter following, social net savvy, citations in the media. In short, celebrity status. Customer satisfaction isn’t a meaningful factor, beyond the PR value of the analyst.
What does celebrity status have to do with accuracy, completeness, timeliness? With giving clients great advice?
Why would a decision maker want to hire a celebrity to help with tech decisions?
It’s time for a reality check. Of the many reasons one might hire an analyst, celebrity status is — at best — just one aspect of the package.
Update, for clarification: I’m criticizing the rising popularity of labeling an analyst a “rock star” due to celebrity status. I see Altimeter Group as an unwitting victim of this craze. Ray Wang and his associates have proven their chops as technology & business experts. Putting them on rockstar pedestals strictly because of their social media popularity is insane. And arguably, it’s a disservice to the entire analyst profession. - BF May 12, 2010.
Whenever you look for the purchase decision influencers in business intelligence (BI) and business analytics, you end up looking at the trade press. And there’s some noteworthy news on that front this week: media giant TechTarget announced that they’ve acquired the BeyeNETWORK properties and network of experts. TechTarget plans to leverage BeyeNETWORK experts to build out their footprint in BI via the new SearchBusinessAnalytics.com destination site.
Regardless how this M&A looks once the dust settles, it will have a definite impact on the influence wielded by the BeyeNETWORK experts.
Many of these experts are solo or small-group professionals with deep subject matter expertise. The group includes analysts, consultants, lecturers and authors. They tend to have closely held relationships with their clients and industry contacts. They influence purchases, implementation, and best practices around enterprise business intelligence, data warehousing and analytics software. They engage with the market, and formulate and promote their own opinions. They can also play important roles in the influencer ecosystem as intermediaries — bringing the viewpoints of more powerful influencers, such as vendors, directly to their own contacts.
If you’re in the BI market, monitor BeyeNETWORK and TechTarget over the next 3 to 6 months to see which experts get more play, which get less, which get lost, and any new experts attracted by the larger combined media site. Keep your focus on the individual influencers, not the BeyeNETWORK brand itself.
For example, some of the BeyeNETWORK experts I recommend putting on your watch list: Merv Adrian, Lou Agosta, Leslie Ament, Steve Dine, Neil Raden, Craig Shiff, James Taylor, and Colin White.
Human relationships tend to be complicated, and relationships with influencers are no exception. Yet, you need to know where you stand with an influencer and to share that insight with others in your organization. That’s why so many of us strive to describe influencer relationships in terms that are simple, meaningful and broadly applicable.
There are many different systems for scoring relationship strength and, if you’re like me, you’re likely to develop a custom system rather than adopt something off-the-shelf.
Some systems are based on the old media mentions scoring. These score influencer relationships the same way that one scores media mentions: positive, negative, neutral or unknown. Usually there’s an “inactive” choice thrown into the mix.
Other systems go to into greater depth, all the way up to using 10-point scales for various attributes that average out to an overall “strength”. Typical attributes include knowledge, information exchange, willingness to engage, willingness to recommend, frequency of contact and more.
There’s no right or wrong way to do this. What matters is that you capture useful information in a professional, consistent and repeatable way and that you act on it.
Whatever method you use, consider adopting these 3 tenets:
1. Keep it as simple as possible.
2. Apply it as honestly as possible.
3. Respect the time and privacy of your influencers as much as possible.
May marks the 1-year anniversary of the release ofÂ Charlene Li’sÂ andÂ Josh Bernoff’sÂ book,Â Groundswell. Â Several industry analysts have released books since then.Â I figure it’s a good time to shout out to some recent analyst authors and talk a little about why writing books can be such an important activity for market influencers and influencer relations professionals alike.
For IT industry analysts and other types of influencers, writing a book serves several purposes. Books can help create broad industry acceptance of ideas. They also elevate the status of the author as a bona fide expert, and serve as a powerful marketing tool.Â As a result, influencer relations programs take “author status” into account when profiling opinion-leaders. Publishing a book adds weight to the influencer’s market reach and authority.
Carol Baroudi, Jeffrey Hill, Arnold Reinhold, Jhana Senxian: “Green IT For Dummies” explores how businesses can save money and energy and reduce environmental waste by becoming a leader in green technology. Â Carol has other “Dummies” titles to her credit, including SOA for Dummies which she co-wrote with Judith Hurwitz, Robin Bloor & associates.
John Blossom: Developed through a collaborative expert wiki, “Content Nation: Content Nation: Surviving and Thriving as Social Media Changes Our Work, Our Lives and Our Future” describes how social media changes the way businesses market products & services, influences how people interact with the government, and dictates how we communicate with one another on a personal level.
Greg Schulz: “The Green and Virtual Data Center” covers technologies and techniques for data centers trying to maximize resources such as power, cooling, floor space, storage, server performance, and network capacity. ItÂ shows how to make server and storage virtualization energy efficient and still be able to support a diversity of high-performance applications without degrading application quality of service or service level commitments.Â
Chetan Sharma: “Wireless Broadband: Conflict and Convergence” (IEEE Series on Digital & Mobile Communication) explains the business, regulatory, and technology issues of the future market for wireless services.Â It covers broadband and the information society; drivers of broadband consumption; global wireless market analysis; broadband IP core networks; convergence; and contention and conflict.Â
Jackie Fenn, Mark Raskino:Â Companies rush to adopt the innovation, often with a heavy investmentâ€”and then, when the promised bounty doesn’t appear as quickly as anticipated, there’s an equivalent rush to bail out.Â ”Mastering the Hype Cycle” lays out a disciplined, benefits-led approach to innovation adoption, drawing on company examples and Gartner’s STREET framework (Scope, Track, Rank, Evaluate, Evangelize, Transfer).
Did I miss one? Â Feel free to post additions & comment on these titles. All valid influencers and all types of influencers are welcome.
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.
Two important points from the discussion:
1. Influence is in the eye of the audience.
2. No such thing as a universal grade for influence.
As for MrTweet: I’m on the record as a died-in-the-wool skeptic on these kinds of applications. None have given me worthwhile recommendations or insights to date. Now MrTweet is in the hot seat. I’ve followed MrTweet and will share my thoughts once it returns something. As with so many of these social network applications, MrTweet puts an awfully big stake in the ground:
“I’ll suggest to you which influencers and followers you should check out.”
OK, MrTweet. Pimp my twitterverse.
Today I saw 2 more threads in the ongoing debate over whether social media popularity is a good way to measure influence.
First, my colleague Duncan Brown writes that Google is launching an AdWords-style SEM program across big social networks.
As an online publisher, I can see how this Google program makes perfect sense for media buyers. It will play from Madison Avenue to Main Street. After all, the big advertisers say they plan to shift their remaining 2008 and 2009 spending, cutting traditional ad spending while increasing spending on word of mouth and other forms of social media. (For the latest CMO study visit Epsilon; hat tip to Ken Rutowski for flagging it in his newsletter.) Google is offering just the right media product to pick up those extra dollars and euros. I’ve got no issue there.
However, I do see a potential downside. Call it collateral damage. Google is portraying the program as a measure of influence. Duncan describes the confusion this could cause:
“If Googleâ€šÃ„Ã´s plans get more firms to talk about influence, then fine. But I fear that it will dumb influence down to a few â€šÃ„Ã²magicâ€šÃ„Ã´ numbers that have tenuous relevance to real influence.”
“Popular people are not necessarily good influencers. And influencers are not necessarily popular. There is much more to it than that.”
We’ve got some very bright people on both sides of the debate — those advocating that we equate influence with popularity/connectedness, those advising against it. Neither side is ready to blink.
In the end, the media buyers may have the final vote on whether online popularity is the path to the influentials.