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

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Tweet to Build Buzz for Your Business

Because the February-March session sold out,  I have been invited to reprise my three-part workshop  “Become Your Own Boss: Effective Business Plan Writing”  at Boston Center for Adult Education 122 Arlington Street Boston MA on three Mondays,  May 9, 16 & 23 from 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM.  For more information or to register please visit http://bit.ly/becomeyourown59  or call 617.267.4430.

As you develop strategies to promote your services,  be mindful that the goal is to package yourself in a way that makes clients feel that hiring you is a smart move.  Keeping your name visible by publishing good content across various media outlets and platforms is a strategy that will support your goal. 

When under consideration for an assignment,  you want to be certain that an internet search of your name brings up links to postings that demonstrate your bona fides.  The savvy Freelancer creates an online footprint that portrays a knowledgeable and capable professional,  one worthy of trust and lucrative contracts. 

Today,  we’ll take a closer look at how Twitter can support your online presence and brand,  help you build relationships,  connect with peers and portray yourself as a familiar and trusted source of useful information.  Let’s start the process by considering these three questions:

  • Who do you want to reach?

Since your tweets will focus on business,  it’s  safe to say that you’re looking to connect with current and potential clients and perhaps also peers with whom you do not directly compete.

  • Will your tweets be interactive?

Will your stream be public  and will you allow followers to post comments?  I suggest that you say yes to both and post comments to other’s tweets as well.

  • Do you have time to create good content?

In the allotted 140 characters,  it’s important that your tweets be relevant and timely and a conversation,  not a one-way sales pitch.

In the beginning,  try spending a few days  following the stream of someone whose tweets you find relevant,  then join conversations and answer questions.  When you feel ready,  start tweeting. 

Give updates on conferences you’ll attend,  on items in your newsletter,  on the workshop you’ll conduct.  So that your stream is not just all about you,  share links to articles you think your group might like to read and re-tweet interesting updates that you’ve received.

When it comes to followers,  focus on quality over quantity.  Your objective is to connect with key influencers and not everyone.  Share relevant stories that highlight your expertise.  Be helpful and informative.  Make a point of commenting on what others are doing.  Give your brand a voice and personality.

Tweeting is an ideal way for in-the-moment info sharing and that also includes listening.  In other words,  Twitter can play a role in market research and competitive intelligence.  Use Twitter to learn what your clients say about services they find useful and are willing to pay for;  about new trends and priorities that may help you identify potential business opportunities;  and to learn what competitors are doing and saying. 

Visit http://search.twitter.com to find out what’s being said about topics in your industry.  Add the Company Buzz app to your LinkedIn profile and find out what’s being said about your business.  You’ll be able to view tweets and learn the top key words associated with searches of your company.  Use what you learn to refine your brand and sharpen your sales pitch.

While you’re on LinkedIn you can also add the Tweets app to your profile.  This app will allow you to tweet,  reply and re-tweet all from LinkedIn and will also display your latest tweets on your page.

Along the way you’ll no doubt make some Twitter friends,  but remember that true relationship building requires personal contact and virtual connections are not necessarily reliable.  So use Twitter to encourage face-to-face activities. 

Invite your group to networking meet-ups and to your workshops and other speaking engagements.  In return,  be sure that you likewise support the activities of those in your group.

Social media platforms can make your name and business activities familiar to many and might even lead you to discover new business opportunities.  Consider it “free” advertising,  as you let the online community know of your capabilities.  Just remember to factor in the cost of your time.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Twitter for Your Freelance Practice

Because the February-March session sold out,  I have been invited to reprise my three-part workshop  “Become Your Own Boss: Effective Business Plan Writing”  at Boston Center for Adult Education 122 Arlington Street Boston MA on Mondays May 9, 16 & 23 from 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM.  For more information or to register please visit http://bit.ly/becomeyourown59  or call 617.267.4430.

I don’t know about you,  but I’ve made a point of avoiding Twitter.  It appeared to be a total waste of time,  unless you plan to either start a revolution or take your band on tour.  Tweeting on subjects like what I decide to have for lunch is way too much information sharing.

Although it’s been easy to dismiss Twitter as just so much noise,  the microblogging platform is nevertheless rapidly gaining traction among businesses.  A convincing case can possibly be made for using Twitter to benefit a Freelance consulting practice.  So maybe I should reconsider?

Twitter is now five years old and growth trends for both business and personal use are upward, despite a reported 60%  dropout rate among users.  According to the tech marketing research firms BIA/Kelsey and ConStat,  nearly 20%  of businesses currently include Twitter in online marketing strategies and nearly 50%  indicate that in 2011 they plan to increase the use of online social media as a means to connect with current and potential customers.

Data from both research firms show that newer businesses and younger business owners are more likely to embrace online social media,  rather than traditional print media,  and to incorporate its use in marketing and customer outreach.  Businesses less than seven years old are more likely to use Twitter and less likely to advertise in the Yellow Pages,  for example.  Money is also a determining factor,  since other than time spent updating content (and time is money),  online social marketing is free.

But how effective is Twitter and the other social media platforms in helping to spin straw into gold and generate billable hours?  I’ve read a handful of anecdotal success stories,  but in my experience LinkedIn has not brought me a single contract in four years of active membership.  Come to think of it,  two years of blogging hasn’t brought me any money,  either (but hope springs eternal).  However,  there is a prospective client who follows my posts and has complimented me on what I produce.  There’s  no contract yet,  though (hint, hint!).

One thing I do know is that it’s entirely possible to build a lucrative consulting practice without either ad budget or Twitter,  LinkedIn,  blog or newsletter.  The most successful Freelance consultants with whom I’m acquainted—client lists to die for!—spend no money on promoting their services and have no social media presence.  An internet search of their names yields nothing.  That’s because in our business,  it’s not only who you know,  but also who knows you.  The highest paid Freelancers are known by the right people and they’ve successfully monetized those relationships.

Most of us will never dwell in that Valhalla,  but we know that Freelance consulting is a referral business.  We know that  to keep the cash flowing,  we must continually demonstrate to those who matter that we are capable,  reliable experts who will get the job done every time.  To be successful,  we must create and sustain positive word-of-mouth  (always the best form of advertising),  primarily by doing a first-rate job for our clients.

Beyond that,  we must establish good relationships with those who possess the money and motive to contract for our services.  The smartest Freelancers know to build relationships  before  they are needed. 

In theory,  social media help narrow the gap between the regular folks and the fortunate few by allowing us to share expertise and information,  announce our successes,  learn what is being said about the types of services that we provide and learn how to effectively communicate our value.  We have a forum in which to portray ourselves as  a knowledgeable,  trustworthy,  familiar known quantity,  which is precisely what our highest paid colleagues have done.  We also learn to get smarter about how we do business overall.

So maybe tweeting might be worth your time?  Next week,  we’ll discuss practical tips for how to create buzz for your business by way of Twitter. 

Thanks for reading,

Kim