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%

Barbara on December 14th, 2009

Chris O’Brien over at the Merc published The Influencers of Silicon Valley, a list of 10 important influencers in Silicon Valley. I’m on record as one who likes lists, and I’m recommending you read this one. These are people you may want to get to know. Plus, Chris revealed a bit about how he compiled the list, and you’ll find that of interest if you’re compiling your own list of market influencers.

First, who’s in: Marnie Webb, Susan Wu, Dave McClure, Charlene Li, Kevin Surace, Vish Mishra, Criag Hampel, Lisa Stone, Steve Blank and Tim O’Reilly. These are not just the usual suspects. The group is made up of people who each influence the industry in a special way. They don’t seek influence for the sake of influence. They’re driven by innovation and furthering business.

Next, Chris’ approach to list building:

Through conversations, emails and tweets with colleagues, friends and sources, I compiled an initial list of more than 100 candidates, including many I had never heard of. Then I whittled it down, in part by focusing on those who are having a real, quantifiable impact. In many cases, these people might be superstars in their realm yet barely known outside of it. My final 10 are not necessarily the most influential, but they are playing an essential role in shaping the valley’s innovation economy.

Take-aways for building your own list of influencers:

  • It’s a great idea to talk to people on the ground when you’re compiling a raw list of influencers. Like Chris, you’ll discover people you don’t know and would otherwise overlook. Talking to people can also help in validating and ranking your list. You’ll begin discovering which of the big-name luminaries really hold sway and which are filtered out.
  • Articulate a clear objective for compiling the list, and stick to it. Are you looking for the famous? The rich? The movers and shakers? The people who talk to start-ups or mid-size enterprises?
  • Document the reasons for including each person on your list. A simple numerical ranking is not enough. Human beings need human reasons to pursue relationships. What kinds of relationships do your influencers build and why are these relationships important to you?

Congrats to everyone, and hats off to Chris for great work.

Popularity: 4%

SAPThe SAP Influencer Summit dominated tech media and Twitter backchannel conversations about SAP all week. The event offers a good example of real time influencer relations management. If you’re planning an influencer summit for 2010, consider these 3 points:

1. Open discourse. Several tech providers nixed live blogging and live micro-blogging (Twitter) during their influencer events this year. SAP set an important precedent by keeping all social media channels open and participating in conversations in real time. Live sessions were blogged, reported, tweeted and debated by people in attendance and by virtual attendees around the world. Follow SAP’s example: Limit NDAs to the situations where they make sense, such as the strategy development work leading up to an event like this. When the content doesn’t mandate an NDA, don’t curb use of social media.

2. Employee engagement. Many SAP employees expanded on speaker and audience comments via Twitter. Creating a wider circle of employee commentators makes perfect sense. And you know what? The press, analysts and consultants were likely to contact their “unofficial” employee sources anyway. It’s a much better idea to involve more employees by design, than to pretend that exchanges are limited to the featured spokespeople and handlers in the room.

3. Diverse attendees. SAP invited a diverse group of influencers to participate. Among tech industry influencers, big brand analysts and media dialogued side by side with solo opinion leaders and every size in between as well as customers and bloggers. Gathering diverse opinion leaders together to share the same information at the same time at a flagship event is smart on several counts. One, it’s efficient. Two, it sets up diverse, multiple touch points with marketplaces. It also helps build enough momentum to flow directly to offline conversations. In other words, no single point of failure and lot of juice.

For more on the SAP Influencer Summit, check out:

  • Timo Elliott, an evangelist for SAP. He offers light commentary on what was going on behind the scenes here.  He also links to a PDF document of Twitter feed from #sapsummit.
  • Jonathan Becher, SVP marketing at SAP and official SAP blogger for the event, posted here.
  • R Ray Wang, an analyst with Altimeter Group, offers one analyst’s summary of the event themes and SAP’s performance here.

Update December 14th: Adding 2 more links to analyst reactions. Please feel free to add more attendee links in the comments. - B

  • Jon Reed, a fellow with PAC , weighs in on the experience and resulting expectations among attendees here
  • James Governor, analyst with RedMonk, gives a candid analyst viewpoint that was widely accepted among other analysts here

Popularity: 7%

Gartner’s planned acquisition* of AMR Research sparked some vibrant conversation this week. Alex Williams posting on it at ReadWriteWeb Enterprise asked my perspective. With his OK, I’m sharing our offline exchange, which focused on enterprise supply chain decision makers.

Enterprises have been putting up with quite a bit of churn and staffing reductions among their analyst firms during this recession, and AMR Research is no exception. Still, AMR Research merging into Gartner signals the loss of yet another independent voice in the enterprise tech marketplace.

Gartner is not simply buying AMR Research business contracts. Gartner is buying the attention and trust that enterprise decision makers invest in AMR Research. That’s what will determine the lifetime value of the AMR Research clients. Attention and trust are the stakes.

The difficulty supply chain decision makers face is that they can’t easily transfer their trust in AMR Research to another analyst firm. Their biggest obstacle is limited choice. Few analyst firms come close to AMR Research in terms of size, expertise, track record, culture and clientele. The choices are:

  • the giants — Gartner, Forrester, Informa/Ovum
  • a few companies with dedicated teams, such as ARC Advisory and IDC Insights
  • a sprinkling of qualified supply chain experts among the hundreds of small analyst firms and one-person shops

Companies comfortable with the AMR Research company culture will need to think about chemistry as much as content when considering Gartner, Forrester Research, ARC Advisory Group and IDC Insights.

The small and one-person consultancies already include several former AMR Research analysts. Decision makers comfortable with betting on the jockey, rather than the horse, will find familiar faces in this group.

What about replacing AMR Research with advisors who do not wear an analyst badge? Most decision makers already listen to several types of experts, at least in the early stages of their decision process. So in reality, this is a question of whether to direct more attention and trust to current advisors whether they be peers, consultants, etc.

My advice to AMR Research clients and partners: take a fresh look at your decision support ecosystem while you’re on honeymoon with Gartner. Assess everyone who has your ear, not just the analysts. It’s a good time to ask, “who are the smartest people on the kinds of supply chain issues we have, and do we confer with them?”

* Tekrati news coverage: joint Gartner financial release, AMR Research commentary, Gartner AR webcast

Popularity: 7%

Barbara on October 27th, 2009

Ten years ago 91 analysts and journalists went on record with their top gripes about vendor briefings and vendor PR representatives - in other words, “AR”. Jeffrey Tarter, then the mastermind behind Softletter, did the research and compiled the results. That report is still useful perspective for analyst relations professionals today. It’s one of the links I’m posting here, part of  what I call the AR historical archive.

For the last few years, I’ve housed this list at the IIAR’s free Yahoo! community for analyst relations professionals. The IIAR plans to shut down that group in December. So I’m posting my archives here. The links are ordered by date.

The link to Jeffrey’s landmark report is at the end of this first section, Analysts on AR.

The second section (next post) puts the analyst business under scrutiny. It contains links to historical journalist and academic content investigating the analyst business.

ANALYSTS ON ANALYST RELATIONS (2007 - 1999)

ES Research Group 02-2007: “Working with Analysts” Free. Dave Stein blogs on analyst/vendor relations from both sides of the aisle

JupiterResearch 12-2006: “Lessons in Analyst Relations” No longer online. Free. Michael Gartnerberg blog post. Softly supports dedicated inhouse AR over other models. Original link:
http://weblogs.jupiterresearch.com/analysts/gartenberg/archives/2006/12/lessons_in_anal.html

AMI-Partners 11-2006: “7 Ingredients for a Winning Analyst Relations Program” Free. Reprint of Laurie McCabe’s out-of-print Kensington Group article, at the ARmadgeddon blog

RedMonk 11-2006: “Interview with James Governor, RedMonk” Free. Interview transcript on Helzerman’s Odd Bits Blog; scroll down to “Analyst Relations 101″ portion in particular.

Security Incite 11-2006: “Analyst Relations - Vendor Pet Peeves” and “Top 5 ways to piss Mike off” Free. Mike Rothman blogs on ”a couple of other things that annoy me about dealing with vendors”. And, the top 5 things vendors do that they shouldn’t.

Forrester Research 11-2006: “Analyst Models Are Key To Briefing Impact” $. Research Brief. Accommodate market models used by analysts, to improve likelihood of a successful briefing. By Kevin Lucas.

Forrester Research 10-2006: “The Three Archetypes Of Industry Analysts” $. Research Brief. How To Identify And Work With Advocates, Strategists, Evangelists. By Ray Wang.

Forrester Research 8-2006: “Five Steps For AR To Improve Credibility With Product Teams” $. Research Brief. This report focuses on five best practices for earning credibility with product teams. By Ray Wang.

Forrester Research 7-2006: “How to get a briefing at Forrester” Free. Charlene Li’s candid blog post with personal and general perspectives.

Burton Group 3-2006: “Gartner: Speedtalk for 30 Minutes” Free. Guy Creese’s blog jabs Gartner, then explains 3 common mistakes dogging vendors attempting to brief analysts.

Gartner 9-2005: “This is Ground Control to PR Tom” Free. Andy Bitterer blogs on understanding analyst coverage to target the right analysts.

Enderle Group 11-2004: “Building a Vendor Advisory Council” Free. Rob Enderle’s whitepaper defining the goals, methods, and measurements for building a successful analyst advisory council for a supplyside company.

Saugatuck 7-2004: “Reviewing Vendor Analyst Relations Management” No longer online. Free. 3 common, expensive mistakes: not deeming AR strategic; spending too much money on research; using PR firms for AR. By B. Guptill. Original link: http://www.saugatech.com/151view.htm

Giga Information Group 4-2003: “Analyst Relations: In-House or Outsourced to a PR Firm?” $. Idea Byte. AR should be internally staffed, or at least centrally managed, by experienced personnel rather than outsourced to PR, and the factors driving this become more pronounced as the company grows in size and complexity. By Rob Enderle.

Softletter 10-1999: “The Decline and Fall of Public Relations” Free. 91 reporters, editors, and analysts share specific rants about vendor PR. Compiled by Jeffrey Tarter.

Popularity: 3%

Analyst relations is entering a time when the tech industry not only acknowledges – but celebrates – the rich diversity of decision-maker influencers. This shift to influencer marketing presents new opportunities for transforming AR programs and careers. Many of the skills that contribute to successful analyst relations translate smoothly to relations with other types of influencers.  And some skills do not. Building a checklist of AR skills is a good way to see where you stand.

A skills checklist can help you focus objectively, analyzing which skills have greatest value across the influencer relations spectrum and which are valuable only within classic AR. Plus, the process of creating the checklist can help reveal any significant gaps in skills, whether in AR or broader influencer relations.

Here’s a example of how I would build it:

Analyst-to-Influencer Relations Checklist

Skill: Influencer Profiling
Portable: Yes
Value beyond AR (0 to 10): 10
Assessment: Analyst relations provides a good model for developing influencer profiles. Typical AR profiles of analysts contain descriptive biographies, real-time media citations, blogs, reports and other recent publications, appearances, past and current consulting / services contracts, and ties to competitors.

Skill: Matching influencers with relationship owners
Portable: Yes
Value beyond AR (0 to 10): 10
Assessment: AR routinely matches analysts with company representatives for specific projects. They also do this for sustained relationships, as in executive buddy programs. Matches take into account the obvious – title, breadth and depth of technical expertise, shared experience, language – as well as subjective qualities leading to a healthy chemistry.

Skill: Cultivating influencer relationships
Portable: Yes
Value beyond AR (0 to 10): 10
Assessment: AR understands how to work with both analysts and internal stakeholders to help initiate, nurture and maintain relationships.

Skill: Mutual influence
Portable: Yes
Value beyond AR (0 to 10): 10
Assessment: Best-in-class AR professionals are skilled at facilitating analyst-vendor contact where the outcome is mutual influence. Much of this is achieved by structuring engagements as two-way dialogues and driving follow-through.

Skill: Ranking methods
Portable: No
Value beyond AR (0 to 10): 3
Assessment: The concept of ranking influencers on a relative scale is valuable. However, AR ranking methods rooted too deeply in an apples-to-apples context are not useful when ranking diverse influencers relative to each other.

And so on. I can easily think of 20 AR skills for evaluating this way.

This exercise is a good sanity check for career purposes as well.

Please let me know if you use this idea and build your own AR-to-Influencer Relations checklist. Or if you’d like my help.

Popularity: 4%

Barbara on September 7th, 2009

Succeeding in influencer relations requires a skill most often associated with sales and HR: schmoozing. Don’t think for a minute that business networking is best left to the natural-born schmoozers. Most of us spend a good part of our day working with information or brainstorming on strategy or listening in on conference calls. Telecommuting is further rooting us in our time- and place-shifted comfort zones. When you think about it, there’s little wonder that one-to-one networking can feel awkward.

One of my favorite series of tips comes from Guy Kawasaki, in a post he wrote back in 2006:

1. Understand the goal: discover what you can do for the person you’re meeting.

2. Get out: schmoozing requires practice, and networking requires situations where you can meet new people.

3. Ask good questions, then shut up: the point is to spend more time listening to earnest conversation, less time talking.

4. Unveil your passions: avoid coming across as a one-dimensional poster child for your job or company.

5. Read voraciously: being well informed is a good way to contribute to any conversation.

6. Follow up: email within 24 hours.

7. Make it easy to get in touch: no point meeting people if you don’t give them your contact details.

8. Give favors: pay it forward.

9. Ask for the return of favors: let people reciprocate the favors you grant.

I was reminded of every one of these points the last time I met with Ray Wang. He wove all of these into the course of our conversation and ended with a simple (and stunning) question: “So Barbara, tell me, what can I do for you?”

You can read Guy’s entire piece here: The Art of Schmoozing.

Popularity: 3%

Barbara on September 5th, 2009

Browse the net, and it becomes clear pretty quickly that somebody out there is giving lots of companies dubious marketing advice. Based on the evidence, here’s my take on the Top 10 Worst Marketing Tips for 2009.

1. Let’s add 2.0 to that noun.

2. Let’s add 3.0 to that noun.

3. If we use a cat in your video, it’s sure to go viral.

4. Don’t worry about running it through legal review — this is the social web.

5. We need to differentiate your message. Let’s turn all those keywords into verbs by putting an “ize” at the end.

6. It’s a mistake to strive for excellence. You should aim for good enough.

7. Every blog post should be short and pithy.

8. Create good content.

9. Let’s place your messages where customers don’t expect to see them.

10. Be brilliant.

Remember, friends don’t let friends market under the influence of misguided and useless advice.

Popularity: 2%

Barbara on August 6th, 2009

Influencer programs can be a lever for building and sustaining trust. How well this works depends largely on how we enable influencers to build and convey trust in our brands. This is especially true given the global economic climate.

We know that influencers are trusted advisors. The question is, how are we enabling them to develop and convey trust in our brands. What kinds of stories, facts and insights are we sharing with them? Are we sharing the right points and conveying them in a compelling, repeatable and remarkable way?

Edelman last week released a mid-year update to their Trust Barometer. The study measures public trust in business and government. This latest survey finds an upswing in trust across the board in China, France, Germany, India, the UK and the US. It also hints at what adds up to trust in informed circles:

“Informed publics attribute increased trust in business to tangible actions that companies have taken in the past six months, giving the highest marks to repaying bailout money (81%), reducing CEO pay (80%), and firing non-performing management teams (78%).

“When asked what companies could do to rebuild trust in the long run, survey respondents put a mix of “hard and soft power” items at the top the list: treating employees well (94%), having transparent business practices (93%), and communicating frequently and honestly (91%) — along with maintaining quality products and services (93%), all of which far surpass increasing shareholder value (66%).”

Do a little of your own market research — whether surveys, focus groups or point conversations — to make sure your influencer program is aligned with the way your market thinks about trust.

Popularity: 2%

Barbara on February 13th, 2009

picture-5LinkedIn is one of several tools that can help influencers pursue their passion for gathering and sharing knowledge. Here’s some insight from my own experiments as well as conversations with influencers:

Starting with basics, treat LinkedIn as a directory for being found. Create a complete profile. Write every section of text for fast, easy reading — and with a eye for search engine matches. Many people will find your profile by searching the web.

Next, consider using at least 2 of the new profile widgets: displaying your blog feed, and a SlideShare or Google presentation. These make your profile stand out from other experts with similar credentials and networks.

Judicious participation in Q&A is another tactic for giving people a sense of you and your style. Likewise, consider giving and receiving recommendations to partners, clients and colleagues.

More and more influencers are joining LinkedIn Groups, and those able to devote the extra time are creating and promoting their own groups.

Up until now, the emphasis has been on sculpting an online profile that conveys something of you in human terms, on top of a standard cv-style profile. Some steps also take you into the shallow end of the pool as a participant in the LinkedIn community.

This brings us to the final point, and it is strictly personal: contact settings. This determines how LinkedIn members can contact you — through referrals, or directly through LinkedIn’s InMail.

Look forward to your thoughts and experiences. Please share!

Popularity: 2%