Making Social Media Work for B2B Companies

Hello everyone, I’m happy to return to posting after an unexpected break! An important project demanded my full attention. Apologies.

When a prospective client speaks with me about developing a plan to optimize the use of B2B social media, I ask ask that s/he name a goal or two. Most say the goal is to increase sales. Next, we talk about the difference between goals and outcomes and I tend to consider generating revenue as an outcome and not a goal. I do consider nurturing a robust sales / marketing pipeline to be a goal and I’ve found that a reasonable approach to B2B social media is to use the resource for lead generation that continually fills the pipeline with prospects.

Other uses for B2B social media include new product or service announcements, brand awareness and enhancement and relationship- building that consists of inviting customers to take a behind-the-scenes look at your organization. YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter can play a role when your company launches a new product or service.  If you’re able, create a 5- 10 minute video so that you and key team members can personally introduce the product and make the case for why it’s useful and which customers will be the best fit.  Post your video to the company website plus social media accounts.

Instagram is ideal for brand enhancement and awareness if your business can be expressed well in visuals.  Through well-composed and lighted photos, business leaders can create a narrative that reinforces product positioning, supports the pricing strategy, touts competitive advantages, introduces a new product, or portrays the company’s commitment to corporate social responsibility through involvement in community or philanthropic events (that you’ve documented with three or four action shots).

Instagram and YouTube can support relationship-building by enabling behind-the-scenes looks into your organization, whether in still photos or videos. Maybe you might want to show how team members unwind on late Friday afternoons, or the celebration of a team member’s work anniversary or birthday?

In the meantime, we can revisit the sales/ marketing funnel that we discussed a few weeks ago and understand how to effectively measure the impact of your B2B social media strategies through easily accessed social media and website metrics.

ToFu: Top of Funnel

Awareness takes place at this stage and a reasonable goal for the business is to expand name recognition and reach. Your newsletter, blog, or social media platform presence will be the likely draws, but keyword and voice searches could also bring interested parties to your door. It’s useful to measure your company’s reach and a good KPI (Key Performance Index) is the number of readers or visitors to each platform plus your website.

MoFu: Middle of Funnel

Casual “day-trippers” to your website or social media accounts at this level have either dismissed you or begun to demonstrate trust and commitment.  Make your content click-bait with a provocative headline that makes readers want to know more and provide content that fulfills the promise. Engagement takes place here and I think it’s safe to call this group qualified leads. Visitors will step it up and follow your blog, subscribe to your newsletter or become a fan. Your ebook is downloaded and they’re reading your case studies.

Useful KPIs include website clicks, time visitors spend on pages, following of embedded links, the number of fans and followers, positive reviews, comments, shares and “likes.”

BoFu: Bottom of Funnel

Leads at this stage of the funnel are looking to confirm details and finalize the decision of whether to do business.  Your prospect is ready to buy, but there’s no guarantee that s/he will buy from you.  Grease the wheels and present an inviting call-to-action that encourages the next step.  A Contact Us form on your website or Facebook Fan page makes a good call-to-action, as it signals a prospect’s desire for more than general information.  The offer of a free 30 minute consultation that can be scheduled by way of a phone call, SMS, or email should appear on the landing page of your website.

A time-sensitive special offer can make a difference. Try offering a tantalizing (and inexpensive to provide) upgrade or add-on to what the prospect has indicated s/he would like to purchase.  Free or discounted installation or a free product trial are also effective. The number of inquiries initiated to discuss your products or services, as well as the conversion rate of those inquiries, are the most relevant KPIs.

It’s useful for company leaders to remember that relationship – building is an integral ingredient of the recipe to reap benefits from social media. Too many business leaders want to dive into lead-gen, but your audience will have no desire to download your ebook until they know who you are and feel they can trust your expertise. Social media success is not an overnight sensation, it is a process that takes some time.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Photograph: Julia Child on the set of The French Chef  (PBS) in 1964

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Finally, A Social Media Strategy for Your B2B Company

Social Media has a B2B image problem.  Business owners, Freelancers and owners / leaders of B2B companies are for the most part able to recognize the effectiveness of Social Media marketing in the B2C realm, but many still don’t see Social Media platforms as resonating with B2B buyers, despite its pervasive use across most customer demographic groups in the U.S.

Yet numerous studies have demonstrated that the various Social Media platforms can quickly and effectively increase brand awareness and generate leads for B2B and B2C companies.  Moreover, once a Social Media strategy is developed, it’s relatively easy to implement and monitor. Consider the following statistics, courtesy of the 2019 Global Digital Report prepared by We Are Social, a top-tier digital marketing firm:

  • 76% of Americans who are on the Internet use Social Media
  • Social Media (inbound marketing) has a 100% higher lead-to-close rate than traditional marketing (outbound marketing)
  • 45% of business owners/ marketers have acquired customers through LinkedIn
  • 43% of B2B companies on Facebook report generating leads as a result
  • Brands that are on Twitter generate 2x as many leads than those who are not
  • 66% of business owners/ marketers see lead generation benefits with Social Media by putting in as little as six hours/ week

Where to start

Perhaps the simplest way to generate B2B leads with Social Media is to optimize your business page profile on the platform you decide to use.  Your business must be visible. Include a link to the company website, along with links to your blog and/or newsletter. Make your value proposition obvious and devise a compelling call-to-action that indicates to prospective customers how they can learn more about your product or service.  “Enter your email here and receive a free ebook that teaches B2B leaders how to use five Social Media platforms.

Facebook

  • Call-to-Action Button: Facebook gives business pages the option to include a call-to-action button. The seven options include Book Now, Contact Us, Use App, Play Game, Shop Now, Sign Up and Watch Video. You can send the link to a page on your business website. Here’s how you can entice browsers to get familiar with your products or services with a free offer, such as a 30 minute consultation, or a free trial of an online service.
  • About Page: Facebook provides businesses a place to list their address, phone number, hours of operation and a brief summary of their business. Be sure to complete all this information. Not only is it helpful to visitors, but also boosts the pages SEO value.

 

Instagram

B2B leaders/ owners must first understand that marketing on Instagram is less about selling the benefits of your products and services and more about establishing deeper connections with people, including industry thought-leaders and prospective clients.

Instagram is a channel where building and maintaining awareness of your brand needs to come before lead generation.  Unlike Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, where you can drive traffic to your site, think of Instagram as a way to grab the attention of industry influencers and prospective clients at a time when they’re not really in ‘work mode’.  When they’re not in ‘work mode’ they’re not going to be clicking links, they’re not going to be interested in being ‘sold to’.  This is your chance to seamlessly inject your brand values into their Instagram feed so it doesn’t look out of place amongst the B2Cs, friends and co-workers they also follow on Instagram.

The key to leveraging Instagram as a marketing tool for B2B buyers is to not think of it as a marketing tool at all.  Instead, think about Instagram as a way to tell your story as part of a larger online marketing strategy.

Instagram will help you to demonstrate your company’s commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility when you include three or four photos of you and your team participating in spring clean-up, or fall planting of tulip bulbs, in a public park.  You can show the celebration of a team member’s baby shower. You can even show the team sharing beer and wine and celebrating that a big project deadline was successfully met.

LinkedIn:

  • Images: As with both Facebook and Twitter, your profile and banner images can have a big impact on the success of your page. Make your profile image some recognizable variation of your company logo and be sure to mirror your header image with current marketing initiatives.
  • SEO: LinkedIn company profiles are often indexed by search engines. Be sure that the first few lines of your company description are compelling and contain your target keywords, as this text will often be used as Google’s preview text. LinkedIn users can browse the platform using keywords, meaning that this optimization will help get more eyes on your profile within the platform.
  • Showcase Pages: LinkedIn offers the ability to create separate pages to showcase products or examples of your work, such as writing. These pages live at the top of your profile in prime page real estate. Use these to help out with your lead generation efforts.

 

Twitter

  • Bio: Twitter marketing expert, Madalyn Sklar recommends that “Your bio should be compelling and inviting. Don’t be cutesy or funny. Your profile should paint your story in 160 characters and encourage me to want to learn more about you.”
  • Profile/Header Images: For most B2B organizations, your Twitter profile image should be some variation of your logo — consider color, size, and how it will look on different devices. Your image, more than your handle, is what your followers will come to recognize you for, so it’s important to keep it consistent. Your header image, on the other hand, should be changed fairly regularly to match your marketing initiatives. Running an important event? Holding a webinar? Promoting a new product? This should be reflected in your banner image.
  • Pinned Tweet: Twitter allows you to pin important tweets to the top of your feed so they don’t get lost among your other tweets. If your goal is lead generation, this tweet should contain a call-to-action and a link to your website. Consider pinning a tweet about exclusive content, a free trial, or a special product discount.
  • Open Your DMs: Make sure your Direct Messages are open to the public. That way, if customers or prospects have questions, they can come to you directly. Prepare responses to common questions ahead of time.
  • Hashtags: Studies show that tweets with hashtags generate twice the engagement as tweets without. But be careful, because too many hashtags can resemble spam. Your marketing team should develop a strategy around which hashtags to use and how often. Soon your followers, customers and prospects will catch on and use these hashtags, too.

That’s all for today. Go to work on this and we’ll pick up the thread next week.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Photograph: Hussey’s Horse Auction (1926) at the Bonhay Cattle Market. Exeter, UK

Social Media Platform Review

Unless you are an incredibly well-connected Freelance consultant who is out there making a killing and maybe even turning business away (yes, I know a half-dozen people who fit that description but it ain’t me!), social media plays some role in your branding and marketing strategies.  Each platform has its uses and will be a good fit for some businesses and maybe not so much for others.  The platforms are all free, but remember that time is a valuable and limited asset.  No matter how responsive to social media marketing your venture is, Freelancers and small business owners cannot maintain a presence on every platform,  unless you outsource the function (but if the dollars are there, then it could be worth the investment).

As carefully as you manage your money, likewise manage the time you apply to the social media portion of your marketing strategy (and I mean portion, because social media is not the alpha and omega of marketing).  Get started by first asking yourself what you would like your broader marketing strategy to achieve and then what each platform can do to support that aim.

Everything always starts with your clients, your target markets.  Who are they and what kinds of social marketing might they respond to? B2B clients will require a different approach and will have different expectations than B2C customers, for example.  Next, think about what you would like social media outreach to do for you?

Is your objective to promote products or services, or promote awareness of your brand story (that is, who you are, what motivated you to go into business, what your venture sells and something of your values and priorities as regards the business)? Might you like to build relationships and a community of customers who will also talk to each other and you? Does supporting customer service have a place in your social media objectives?

Finally, how do you want to express your story narrative? You will notice that my blog content is exclusively text (but I did include images in two posts and a video in another, a couple of years ago).  I’d like to include photos sometimes, but I don’t have time to hunt down freebies online, so I chose to research, write and present topics that you might want to read about in text format.

Facebook

The biggest of the platforms with about 1.86 billion users (February 2017) around the world, who represent an all-encompassing demographic spectrum.  There are somewhat more women users than men and the bulk of the age demographic is 25-60 years.  47% of Americans say that Facebook is their primary influencer when it comes to making purchases (Forbes Magazine).

Especially those who are in B2C and for some in B2B, Facebook will bring excellent ROI.  In-store events and promotions, speaking engagements, your workshops and other events can be announced to Facebook Friends.  Content provided in text, photos, or video can be uploaded.  You can create groups and build communities, or post a customer survey.  Share behind-the-scenes information about your business and what it takes to do what you do and in the process engage with customers, strengthen your brand and build relationships.

Does that sound like too much work and too much sharing? Then create a Fan Page and limit your presence to basic info.  Be aware that your presentation of text, photos and other content should be relaxed and welcoming, to create a personal feel (but remember that business is nevertheless the context).

Instagram

You’ll find 500 million users around the world here and 80% are outside of the U.S. On average, 95 million photos and videos are shared every day, with many accessed on a mobile device (present your content accordingly).  At least 42% of teens in the U.S. follow Instagram, with the demographic sweet spot 14-35 years and slightly skewed to female.  Instagram is about photo sharing, very short video trailers and concise text posting that includes a hashtag # that helps to spread your content.  Add a link to your profile bio.  Decide if you want a public or members-only account. Links cannot be shared.

Visual storytelling, behind-the-scenes photo montages, social selling, brand awareness, engaging with customers and creating relationships are good uses of this platform. If you are in public relations or special event/conference planning, then you will find worthwhile B2B use, otherwise it’s B2C as far as I can tell.

LinkedIn

As of January 2017, LinkedIn has 467 million users globally and it’s considered the gold standard B2B social media platform, very effective for communicating one’s personal brand.  I think most users place it at the junction of free website and online curriculum vitae. Business ventures large and small,  Freelance consultants, corporate and nonprofit leaders,  physicians and dentists, any employee who harbors professional aspirations and most college students  have a LinkedIn profile page. Recruiters use of the platform as well, to identify potential candidates for job openings and their success has motivated  thousands of companies to post job openings on the site.

LinkedIn is an excellent platform on which to build a community of professional colleagues through your connections and share with them your professional story, successes, highlights and other updates. This blog posts to my LinkedIn page and my connections receive notice of its arrival.  Your connections will also share their stories and there is great opportunity to be in touch and nurture relationships.

Professional portfolios, videos, white papers, newsletters, blogs, infographics and SlideShare presentations can be added to your profile page to add depth to your brand story.  Links to articles or studies that could interest your connections can be posted. Recommendations and endorsements let others verify your professional bona fides and you can return the favor.

In the Groups section, you’ll engage with colleagues within your industry, or with alumni of your school. Topics of interest are explored through posted questions and group members can respond and in the process get to know one another and possibly, forge  relationships that lead to doing business.

We’ll continue next week with overviews of more commonly used social media platforms.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

 

Social Media Strategy for Solopreneurs

Participation in one or more social media platforms is now a given in both the professional and personal spheres.  Nearly every Freelance solopreneur has a presence on at least one social media platform,  even if participation is not active.  Social media have the potential to provide benefits to business owners,  the self-employed and the traditionally employed,  but in order to reap those benefits,  one needs to understand how social media can best function for you.

The first question to consider is,  who’s listening? Do those you want to reach participate in social media for their organization’s needs or just for their own career? That answer will determine which platform you choose.  The second question is,  what is your business?  The third question is,  will social media function for you as a sales tool,  a marketing tool,  or PR?

If you produce a product that potential customers want to see, e.g.,  landscaping,  photography or fancy cakes,  then Facebook Fan Page,  Google + Business and maybe Pinterest are your social media best bets.  These platforms give you a place to post photos of your lovely creations.  Musicians,  artists and dancers use these platforms to display performance photos and videos.  LinkedIn Professional Portfolio also allows photos,  slide shows  and videos to be posted to the profile.  However,  LinkedIn has a “corporate”  image and prospective customers will not automatically search that platform when checking you out.

Foursquare is ideal for a bricks and mortar business.  First,  the platform specializes in geolocation,  so you’ll ensure that potential customers will find your business and second,  you can initiate dialogue between your business and customers.  Your customers may have already entered your business and created a page for you.  Links to Facebook and Twitter are available.  To track your advertising reach and evaluate the platform’s ROI,  offer exclusive  Foursquare specials and product updates.

Regarding dialogue,  Twitter is the king of all social media when having conversations about your business or industry is the goal.  Tweet the announcement of the class you’ll teach,  the conference you’ll attend and your thoughts on the presentation you just heard at that conference.   Store owners tweet the arrival of new merchandise;  restaurant owners tweet the daily specials;  musicians tweet the dates of upcoming performances.

LinkedIn is the social media platform of choice for the traditionally employed and Freelancers who offer business services.  I think of LinkedIn as my adjunct website,  where I can announce professional victories,  post a Power Point presentation that gives an overview of my services on Slide Share and link this blog and supply updates of new posts to my connections.  LinkedIn Groups lets me interact with peers in my industry by reading and participating in discussion threads.  Recruiters looking to fill jobs troll this platform in search of qualified candidates to interview.

Finally,  define how social media can function for you,  based on the business you’re in and the way your customers use social media.  If prospective customers like the look of the landscapes you design or the sound of your jazz combo and feel comfortable judging the value you provide online,  then social media directly impacts the sales process and is for you a sales tool .

If potential customers use Twitter memes to discuss industry developments,  then marketing is your social media strategy.  Use the platform to establish your bona fides as an up-to-date,  in-the-know thought leader.  Promote your expertise and develop a following by sharing a steady stream of relevant information  (content)  that will benefit prospects.  Tell,  don’t sell.

Google + Business Hang Outs,  which allow you to conduct a video call with up to 10 customers who may be located anywhere in the world,  make it possible to have an online face-to-face meet-up or meeting,  depending on your agenda.  Marketing as expressed through customer engagement,  market research and customer service is the social media function.

Peer-to-peer PR is the function of LinkedIn.  Stay abreast with what colleagues are doing professionally and announce your achievements.  Make recommendations and endorsements for those with whom you’ve worked,  in either a paid or volunteer position and receive commendations in return.  Those looking to hire employees or Freelance consultants always peruse the LinkedIn profiles of candidates,  so keep your profile current and complete.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

New Facebook Ads Up the Social Ante

Recently,  I taught a business plan writing class and one of my students,  a talented home baker originally from Mexico who specializes in Latin American confections  (her pecan balls are wonderful!)  and wants to upgrade her hobby into a formal licensed pastry catering business,   spoke of her business promotion success with Facebook and Twitter.  On her personal Facebook page,  Mariela utilizes the Fan page for her cakes and other desserts,  featuring attractive photos of the goodies.  Additionally,  she tweets maybe three times a day about what she’s making for the parties she sometimes caters,  new recipes she’s trying out or other baking topics.

To her great surprise,  Mariela received a response to her tweets from an employee of a huge US sugar company,  who tweeted to ask whose sugar she uses when baking  (she does use that company’s sugar).  Also,  a popular local blog in her town tweeted to ask if they could write an article about her.  So maybe it’s time to take another look at your social media strategy and think about how the benefits of Facebook and Twitter might help you get on the radar screens of prospective clients who would ordinarily be beyond your reach?

To grease the wheels of that process,  Facebook will soon announce a new premium ad format that will radically transform traditional online banner advertising and replace it with ads that potentially will become  “conversations” about the advertised product or service.  According to sources with inside information,  Facebook will make the new ads social by allowing Friends of the advertiser to Like the ad and make comments. 

The new Facebook banner ads will not exclusively contain the usual content written by the business and reading like a commercial,  but also endorsements personally written by Friends of the business,  who know and trust the products or services being touted.  These exciting new ads promise to be personal and active,  not finite and static.

When page visitors view an ad and decide to click the Like button or enter a comment in response,  those actions will be added to both the advertiser’s page and to the News Feeds of the poster’s and advertiser’s Friends.  Pictures of Friends who have Liked the ad or have made a comment will also be incorporated into the ad.  The goal is to start a conversation between Friends and Friends of Friends,  with comments traded back and forth,  spreading credibility and brand visibility far beyond the advertiser’s usual reach.  As a result,  the whole advertising process will become organic and based on who knows and trusts the advertiser.

To verify the process,  Facebook tested the new ads and found they produced 40%  more engagement  (meaning clicks,  comments and Likes)  and are 80%  more likely to be remembered by viewers.  Best of all,  Facebook claims that viewers of the new ads are four times more likely to follow-up and/or purchase products / services when they see their Friends interacting with the ads. The new ads are set to promote the coveted  “word of mouth”  that is widely seen as the most effective form of advertising.

The data have convinced Facebook execs that the hyper-social ads will have a substantially better conversion rate for advertisers than traditional print or online ads.  The top brass believe that ads  “written”  by those who know the products and services best will convey trust and credibility in a way that traditional advertisements cannot.  The company is expected to discontinue its traditional banner ads and offer current advertisers replacement with the new format.

I was unable to find any cost data on the new interactive ads.  If even a couple of your business clients are inclined to follow Facebook,  the new ads could be a very savvy way of spreading the good word about your services and giving those who don’t know you well the confidence to hire you based on the endorsements of people they know and trust.  I’ve thus far avoided Facebook,  but I plan to pay attention to this new ad format.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Heads-up: Google + Business Pages

At last it is here.  The business page option for Google Plus was rolled out in November of last year.  The early adapters are still figuring it out,  but the consensus is that Google + is an innovative and useful social marketing tool for Freelancers,  business owners and our customers.   Google + combines and enhances the business-friendly social networking features of Facebook,  LinkedIn and Twitter and presents it all in one platform.

You’ll be able to share links,  location data,  photos,  videos and have interactive two-way conversations on the Plus platform.  Ian Schafer,  founder of the Manhattan digital marketing agency Deep Focus,  says  “Integrating with Google + is essential right now,  because of its impact on Google search results.  Experimentation will give businesses  (especially small ones)  a leg up on their competition.”

But all is not rosy.  First of all,  you need a Gmail address to set up and access the service.  On top of that,  there is as yet no cross-platform integration with other Google services.  Plus doesn’t mesh with Analytics,  Blogger or YouTube.  The company vows that full integration is on the horizon,  but an arrival date has not been promised.

As with all social media,  you must sign up  (with Gmail)  and create a profile.  Like LinkedIn,  describing your services is the name of the game.  The  “About”  tab is especially important,  for this is how visitors to your page will elect to invite you to connect with them  (or not).  Present an informative,  compelling profile and tell the story of you and your products and services.  You may provide a link to your website.

Like Facebook,  photos figure prominently in you Plus profile.  Before you sign up,  create five photos of yourself in action as you provide different aspects of your services,  sit on a panel,  speak or teach,  take a meeting or whatever.  Those photos will be uploaded to the Photo Strip,  which is displayed beneath your business name and tag line on your home page.

Next you can populate the  “Circles”,  “Sparks” and  “Hangout”  sections.  Circles are grouping categories for your connections.  Hangout lets you set up various group events and invite contacts from your Circles and also the public to interact in useful and engaging ways.  Sparks is a streaming feature that lets you choose to receive info that keeps you updated on business issues of interest to you.

Invite clients and professional contacts to join Circles that you will designate.  You get to curate what information is shared with contacts based on the Circle you place them in and that decision will be determined by their relationship to you and your business.  You may designate Circles for clients,  peers and colleagues,  members of your business advisory board,  friends,  press updates,  or whatever categories seem appropriate.

Through interactions with those in your Circles,  you may refine your understanding of what contacts would like to know about your business,  how your services can be packaged and marketed and/or what clients value most about your services and how you can become even more valuable.

Like the LinkedIn Answers forum,  questions can be posted and Google+ members can offer answers.  It’s a great way to expand your connections and build relationships by sharing your expertise.  Visit http://findpeopleonplus.com to find professionals in your target markets and find out what’s on their mind,  how you can help and who you want to invite into a Circle.

Hangout is a very intriguing feature of Plus.  It one-ups Facebook and the Skype connection.  Real-time interactive communication is possible on Hangout and with a larger audience.  Reportedly,  the Dalai Lama recently hosted a Hangout with Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu with an audience of millions. 

 With Hangout,  those of us who teach now have a way to present our courses and workshops in a free online classroom that will host up to 10 students in a group class.  Private consulting sessions are also possible with clients who live anywhere there is internet access.

So check out Google+ and consider the benefits for your business.  49 million hits were made on Plus in December 2011 and analysts predict that Plus will have 400 million users by year-end 2012.  Google is the word’s biggest search engine and inbound links are increasingly important in search engine marketing.  A well-thought out and crafted Google+ page has the potential to draw in prospects with the money and motive to join your client roster,  the best Circle of all.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

What’s Your Influencer Score?

If you have a Facebook,  LinkedIn or Twitter account, get ready to have rating points assigned to your online presence.  There’s yet another way to keep score in this world and the newest yardstick is your social media reach. The rating system resembles a credit score or Google page ranking and it assesses your social media power and influence.  Three companies, Klout, Peer Index and Twitter Grader, will analyze and determine who the heavy hitters are.

Who are the movers and shakers,  experts and taste makers,  across a range of topics and specialties within a certain geolocation? Marketing departments want to know.  While authors, celebrities, politicians and athletes have traditionally been capable of influencing opinions on a large scale, social media have given a powerful voice to ordinary citizens and a new league of authorities has emerged.

The rating companies measure your Facebook (Klout),  LinkedIn  (Klout, coming soon)  and Twitter  (all three)  friends,  connections and tweets on their respective algorithms.  According to analysts at Hewlett Packard who tried to crack the codes,  a large network of contacts and friends is not the primary value of the influencer score.

Peer Index focuses on topic resonance  (how much interest you generate within your area of expertise),  subject authority  (perceived credibility and trust)  and activity  (how much content you generate within your topic)  in its ranking recipe.  If you’re looking to game the system  (you wouldn’t try that, would you?),  it is beneficial to become well known for a particular topic and avoid being a generalist.

In other words,  go narrow and deep.  Boost your influencer score  (and online brand)  by demonstrating knowledge and expertise,  trustworthiness and credibility and enthusiasm and passion for your preferred subject.

Furthermore,  demonstrate your ability to influence those in your network with calls to action and recommendations that engage and inspire followers and friends and cause them to spread the word about your choices and opinions.  Did you get out the vote for Obama or persuade people to join the revolution in Cairo? If so, then you are an influential social media darling.

Surprisingly,  blogs,  newsletters and YouTube are not in the ratings mix at this time,  but tweets and online profiles most definitely are.  The rankings of your connections and friends also factor impact your score,  as do the rankings of those who retweet you.

It’s possible to sign yourself up for free and learn your Twitter rating on Peer Index http://peerindex.net or Twitter Grader http://twitter.grader.com and your Facebook score on Klout http://klout.com.  The latter recently announced a deal to rank LinkedIn profiles  (I wonder if activity on the Answers Forum will be in the algorithm?).

So what’s in it for high scorers? Thousands of companies have already signed on to buy data and big influencers are positioned to receive all manner of promotional goodies.  As reported in The New York Times on June 26, 2011,  Audi will begin to offer special promotions to Facebook users based on their Klout scores.

Last year, Virgin America selected highly rated Facebook influencers in Toronto and rewarded them with free round-trip flights to Los Angeles or San Francisco.  The Palms Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas used Klout scores to choose Facebook influencers and give them either free room upgrades or free admission to Cirque du Soleil.

Nevertheless,  a corrective is in order.  While it is apparent that social media influencers exist and in certain circumstances they are able to impact the actions and opinions of others,  they do not necessarily live up to the hype.  Duncan Watts,  author of  “Everything is Obvious Once You Know the Answer” (2011),  asserts that the  “influencers”  do not always obtain impact through their expertise,  persuasiveness,  popularity or reputation.

Watts used computer simulations to model how information is likely to disperse through social media and found that the spread of an idea or story depends upon  “a critical mass of easily influenced people,  who in turn influence other easy-to-influence people.”  When this critical mass exists,  “even an average individual is capable of triggering a large cascade.”

Well,  so much for algorithms.  However,  it may be fun to sign up and get your influencer score anyway. You might somehow manage to get a high rating,  perhaps because you’re connected to other high influencers,  and get some promotional comps as a result.  But then again,  being connected to the right people has always  been how to get the goodies,  with or without social media influence!

Thanks for reading,
Kim