Social media has enabled business professionals to quickly grow large spheres of influence in targeted industries. These power users hold the key for marketers trying to gain access to their niche audiences. The question is how to identify who the key B2B influencers are, how do you rise above the noise to capture their attention, and how do you encourage them to become advocates for your brand.

On March 17th, join me for a live streamed event where you’ll hear from Don Bulmer from SAP, Guy Kawasaki from Alltop and Michael Fauscette from IDC as they share what attracts them and learn how you can influence the influencer to become a brand advocate.

thinkinfluence panel

WHEN: March 17, 2011, 8:00-8:45am PDT. Also available for replay.

PARTICIPATE:
Participate from anywhere, by watching the live streamed video webcast and posting questions/comments via Twitter. Or watch the replay. Register at http://www.brighttalk.com/r/kZS

Attend onsite in the panel audience or for a breakfast reception afterwards with the panelists. By invitation only.  Space is limited. Join the Think Influence group on LinkedIn to request an invitation.

PANELISTS:
Don Bulmer, Vice President of Global Communications, SAP AG
Guy Kawasaki, Co-founder, Alltop
Michael Fauscette, Group Vice President, Software Business Solutions, IDC
and moderator Barbara French, President & Managing Editor, Tekrati & Co-founder Think Influence

COST:
Free, however registration is required for the live webcast and replays. Onsite event is by invitation only.

SPONSORSHIPS:
Contact me for info on sponsoring Think Influence events. Contact BrightTALK for sponsoring their Social Media Marketing Summit.

ABOUT
This event is a joint production of Think Influence and BrightTALK. Think Influence is a grassroots community of peers discussing the role of influence in business.

Popularity: 100%

Altimeter Group is not a traditional IT industry analyst firm. The group not only provides expertise on innovating business through disruption, but also embodies a good deal of innovation through disruption. Two years in, it’s becoming clear that even analysts inclined to push the envelop — such as Michael Gartenberg and R “Ray” Wang — find the new business model is not quite a comfortable fit. Clients, on the other hand, are finding Altimeter Group a perfect fit.

The Altimeter’s approach to innovation through disruptive technologies is hitting the right chord with clients in several markets. “This year, we’ve already touched over 125 clients,” said founding partner Charlene Li. This number will rise before the end of the year. “We’re discussing multiple new proposals every week.”

Several attributes set Altimeter Group apart from its industry analyst and consultancy roots. At the most basic level, the partnership of high profile analysts and consultants produces open research rather than syndicated research. This means no recurring revenues through syndicated research, the baseline for companies such as Gartner, Forrester Research and IDC.

On a more sophisticated level, Altimeter varies from the pack in that the focus of its work is not technology per se, but on selecting and applying technology in order to innovate a business operation, division, culture or even an entire market. In order to achieve that kind of outcome, the Altimeter partners work together to bring different perspectives to bear on any particular client issue.

“Analyst firms are organized around coverage areas. Altimeter is modeled around customer pains,” explained Li. “Our recent event, ‘The Rise of Social Commerce’, is a great example. Every partner was involved as an equal. Every partner looked at social commerce from a different point of view. No one person can cover all of this.”

In other words, clients who want to harness the potential of disruptive technologies like social commerce require input from experts in several different disciplines. With a traditional analyst firm, clients get access to a single silo of topical experts. For analysts at a traditional firm, cross-discipline collaborations on a single client issue are the exception. At Altimeter, they are the norm. This is true of all of the customer points of pain that Altimeter Group addresses.

A third attribute that sets Altimeter Group apart is partner responsibility for the success of the business. Research, ideation and consultation are key. However, so is business development and ensuring the success of the partnership at large. Business infrastructure services — including sales — are lean; overhead investments are selective. There is significant pressure for participating in marketplace conversations, events and communities.

Li understood from the outset that the Altimeter Group model would not suit many of today’s analysts and consultants. She said she wishes Wang the greatest success, acknowledging his desire to work in a more traditional analyst capacity and, as importantly, to lead his own venture.

As for Li, she too has adjusted her own role as the firm has grown. She recently named Alan Webber as managing partner to oversee day to day business. She continues leading the partnership, setting the direction as well as undertaking her own research, consulting, speaking and writing.

We all must cope with the impacts of innovation in our industries. As Altimeter Group proves, analysts have as much trouble coping with innovation as anyone else.

Reprinted from Tekrati

Popularity: 74%

Influencer marketing is progressing from too much hype and trial-by-fire programs to sensible strategies and accepted best practices. There’s no better time than today to re-fresh your thinking about influence — what it is, who has it, what roles it can play in business. I’ll be discussing these topics at next week’s Bay Area Executives Meetup in Mountain View, CA, along with moderator R Ray Wang of Altimeter Group and my co-panelists Michael Brito of Edelman Digital, Ali McCourt of Intuit and Tony Welch of HP. Special thanks to Tatyana Kanzavel for organizing the event and panel!

Register for the Bay Area Executives Meetup: Super Panel on Influence

“The Many Facets Of Influence: How to Outreach, Engage, and Build Trust with Key Stakeholders”

An interactive panel with R Ray Wang, Michael Brito, Barbara French, Ali McCourt & Tony Welch

Tuesday, August 24th
Networking 6:30 - 7:00 PM
Panel 7:00 - 8:30 PM
Location: Samovar Conference Hall, Mountain View, Calif.
Event hashtag: #baexec

The panel will provide perspectives on these critical questions about influence:
1.  What is influence? and how do we align it with business value?
2.  The myths vs. realities of influence
3.  Key success factors of influence
4.  Identifying influencers: who and why?

Space is limited. Tickets are $20 in advance, $30 at the door and include gourmet food and wine. Register now to get on the waiting list and (hopefully) get confirmed!

Bring your questions, join the conversation, and engage!

Popularity: 46%

Barbara on May 11th, 2010

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.

Popularity: 13%

Barbara on March 22nd, 2010

If you’ve been following my blogs or are a client, you’re familiar with my position on alternatives to the tech industry analysts for research and advisory. With this post, I’m bringing these conversations about alternatives to the industry analysts online. This post introduces some basic ideas and examples.

My position is simple: well-respected alternatives are out there; more sources are popping up all the time; only a fool ignores the good ones. Likewise, only a fool rushes in. The supply of ersatz research is bountiful as ever. Caveat emptor.

Today, I see very few cases where the alternatives completely displace the industry analysts. Typically, they coexist as vital resources. Often, they’re served up side-by-side in an integrated information portal available to employees. The alternatives tend to be most useful in 3 scenarios:

  • Supporting specific decisions in real time
  • Delving into topics that don’t attract dedicated industry analyst coverage
  • Helping professionals develop broader, deeper or more inclusive perspectives

So where’s the good stuff? That depends on whether you want data-driven intelligence to help you buy and implement tech, or build and sell it. To start, here’s a short list of examples.

Associations: Long a sales and marketing channel for the tech industry analysts, many associations now offer their own research services to members and the public.  Some groups permit members to conduct custom research and encourage well documented case studies and best practices. Others leverage member-supported research for advocacy and thought leadership. Classic examples include the Consumer Electronics Association, IEEE, NASCIO and Socitm.

Academics: The ongoing disconnect between business and academia, at least here in the U.S., baffles many including me. The mutual disrespect might have been appropriate in years past. It is not today. Here’s the bite: some of the most successful companies in the world know this and fund research.  Classic examples in this category include MIT Sloan School of Management, Stanford University and Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Consultants: Management consultants have produced insightful research for decades. This group has the greatest overlap with the industry analysts who advise tech buyers. Classic examples include Booz Allen Hamilton, Deloitte and  PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Smaller associations, universities, and consultancies can produce equally valuable data-driven insight. Plus, there are several other categories. Media and government agencies jump to mind.

Data-driven insight is available from many reputable sources. IT professionals look to them for information, validation and advice. As a result, tech providers need to see them for what they are: influencers.

Popularity: 6%

Barbara on February 5th, 2010

Ok, I’ve been heads down on projects all week. However, here are a few tidbits worth noting from the influencer relations world.

Philippe Winthrop, one of my favorite enterprise mobility analysts leaves Strategy Analytics today. You can continue following his adventures at his Enterprise Mobility blog.

Jon Collins, MD and CEO of Freeform Dynamics, is raising funds for Water Aid by running in the Brighton Marathon. More at his Nothing to Declare blog and at JustGiving.

And, if you sometimes doublecheck links to see whether you’re reading about Jon Collins or Jonathan Collins, well, you’re not alone. Just sayin’.

The 2010 Edelman Trust Barometer has raised all sorts of discussion with its findings like this: Trust in social media and mainstream media has dropped like boat anchors, while trust in CEOs has risen. Tech is the most trusted sector. Trust in financial analysts remains high despite their failure to predict/reveal risks big enough to sink nations. Freely available.

Expect to see this latest Edelman Trust Barometer cited as heavily as usual in analyst relations circles. Once again, it puts industry analyst reports (Gartner et al) and business magazine articles as the top most credible, most trusted source of information about companies.

Social media took another big hit this week with findings from a Pew Internet & American Life study on social media and mobile internet use among teens. Blogging has declined sharply among teens and adults under 30. From the summary, “As the tools and technology embedded in social networking websites change, and use of the sites continues to grow, youth may be exchanging ‘macro-blogging’ for micro-blogging with status updates.” Freely available.

Davos is a crucible of influence and influencer relations. My favorite quote this year is from Larry Summers, U.S. presidential advisor: the U.S. is experiencing “a statistical recovery and a human recession” (hat tip WSJ).

Popularity: 8%

Today’s Apple iPad debut has everyone talking, including the tech industry analysts. The launch presented an unusually high profile opportunity for analysts to advance their credibility, influence and client loyalty. All they had to do was get to market quickly (i.e., this morning) with smart, helpful analysis. Unfortunately, only a few did. Instead, most of the industry analysts paying attention to the launch focused on speaking through the press or Twitter.

I checked 25 analyst sites for “ipad” or “apple ipad”. Here’s the short list of analysts who put their clients ahead of their sound bites as of noon Pacific today. My hat is off to all them. They understand that communicating through sound bites and 140 characters is not mutually exclusive to sharing more meaningful analysis — on a real time basis — with clients and online audiences.

Mike Borland, BIA Kelsey, at the Local Media Blog: Hello iPad, We’ve Been Expecting You

Harry Wang, at Parks Associates blog: Will the iPad Kill the Digital Photo Frame Category?

Carl Howe on Yankee Group blog: First take on Apple’s Anywhere iPad

Ted Schadler on The Forrester Blog for Information & Knowledge Management Professionals: Apple’s iPad Will Come Into The Enterprise Through The Consumer Door. Again.

Jeff Orr on the ABI Research blog: Apple Joins the Media Tablet Fray with iPad Launch

Andrew Brown on the Strategy Analytics blog: Apple’s iPad…just where does it fit in the Enterprise?

Philippe Winthrop on his personal blog: The Apple iPad: The Enterprise Mobility Perspective

Maribel Lopez on the Lopez Research blog: Apple Makes Further Advances As The Premier Retailer of the Digital Age

Stephen Baker on the NPD blog: Apple Reinvents The Netbook

If you know of others that were published on January 27, please add them in the comments.

Editor’s note on updates to post: added Andrew Brown; Maribel Lopez; Philippe Winthrop; Stephen Baker.

Popularity: 5%

Barbara on January 18th, 2010

download_t_logo_outlineHow do you measure an influencer’s influence on Twitter? Social media guru Rich Baker (@richard_baker) offers up a great tip from Joe Fernandez (@joefernandez), CEO and cofounder of Klout.com:

“The biggest mistake we see people make is confusing influence with follower count. Having a large number of followers is worthless if those followers are not engaged and paying attention to you.”

Klout.com is a privately held company that measures influence across the social web. For more on Klout.com, read the entire interview.

Popularity: 12%

Barbara on December 21st, 2009

One of my activities for 2010 is helping get the word out on the CIO Summit of America in New York and the full 2010 CIO Leadership series. I’m supporting this event series because I believe it offers compelling value as part of a tech company’s influencer relations agenda.

Peer-to-peer events are growing more important. Research keeps telling us that peers and colleagues have the greatest influence on enterprise IT decision makers. HMG Strategy’s CIO Leadership series recognizes this. Each event brings together IT leaders within a region for a day of exchanging, sharing and learning from each other.

The events at a glance:

  • Market focus: regional to local attendees, enabling alignment with sales territories
  • Short: 1-day event, appealing to busy IT decision makers
  • Agenda: timely themes tailored directly by the speakers and attendees in the room
  • Experts/influencers: CIOs, COOs, CxOs, IT directors and VPs share their strategies, experiences and lessons learned; pundits are scarce onstage and off
  • Caliber of participants: Generally these CIO Leadership events draw an impressive group of speakers and participating attendees; in some cities, the summits are conducted in partnership with IT associations
  • History: while still a young endeavor, there’s now an established track record of events for attendee/sponsor assessment

The 2010 schedule is posted at the HMG Strategy website. It begins with New York and San Francisco in February.

As IT peer level events go, the CIO Leadership series puts many of the right pieces together. Consider adding it to a line-up of industry conferences, analyst events, professional association events, meetups and unconferences. Please let them know you read about it here.

Popularity: 5%

I’m pleased to find that a new study validates what I’ve been seeing in client projects and industry conversations: social media is taking on a larger role in business decision-making processes. Social media is enabling decision-makers to reach out to larger numbers of people (the size of their unique influencer ecosystems) and to tap into their influencers through online as well as offline channels. These are among the preliminary findings of a study conducted this summer under the umbrella of the Society of New Communications Research (SNCR). SNCR Research Fellows Don Bulmer, SAP, and Vanessa DiMauro, Leader Networks lead the research and analysis and have begun releasing preliminary findings. Their full report will be released in January.

On the business front, about 4 in 10 respondents incorporate social networks into 4 steps of their decision process:

  • seeking peer referral
  • reading blogs
  • gathering opinions through an online network
  • looking the company up on a social network

Other findings relative to social media and influence:

  • Information obtained from offline networks still have highest levels of trust with slight advantage over online (offline: 92% - combined strongly/somewhat trust; online: 83% combined strongly/somewhat trust)
  • Approximately three quarters of respondents rely on professional networks to support business decisions: 40% gather opinions via their online networks and 39% look up companies on their social networks.
  • Reliance on web-based professional networks and online communities has increased significantly over the past 3 years for essentially all respondents

Don has shared one of the interview excerpts, and for me, this comment puts the study results into context:

“I find that I will network offline at events and meetings where I establish connection with many people and I use online tools to follow up and maintain connect. I may meet 20 or so people at an event and then immediately then put them into Plaxo or LinkedIn to keep and maintain connection. I try to maintain my status and activity regularly to keep engaged and keep people informed.”

The methodology for the “New Symbiosis of Professional Networks” study involved a mixed methods approach supported by quantitative data gathered via online survey of 356 professionals to understand their perceptions and experiences with social media in support of their decision-making. Select interviews of 12 professionals were also conducted using a semi-structured interview guide as part of the second phase of the study. All respondents were either the decision makers or influenced the decision process within their company or business unit, and company size ranged from less than 100 to over 50,000 full-time employees.

Find more at Don’s blog and Vanessa’s blog.

Popularity: 6%