Is the Forbes Top 50 Social Media List Flawed?

If you made the Forbes Top 50 Social Media Influencers list, you’re generally regarded as being pretty hot stuff. The Top 50 have a lot of influence, are extremely knowledgeable, and are connected to tens of thousands of people in their various networks.

If you didn’t make the list, you can tell yourself you were #51, or just try harder next year.

This year’s list was compiled by Haydn Shaughnessy using a “Pull Report” from PeekAnalytics.com.

There are also some basic criteria for involvement – experts must be creating their own content, and it has to be about social media. See more on the criteria here.

On the scoring, Peek Analytics gives people a score called Pull. If an individual has a Pull of 10x, that means that the audience the individual can reach is at least ten times greater than what the average social media user can reach.

Sounds pretty straightforward: if you’re a rockstar, you’ll be on the list.

Except it’s missing several notable names.

Jason Falls, Jay Baer, Chris Baggott

Seriously, these guys didn’t make the list? Jason Falls (l), Jay Baer, Chris Baggott (standing)

According to Judith Gotwald on Social Media Today (25 Social Media Influencers Forbes Ignored (And Why)), the Forbes list has snubbed a lot of pretty influential people, including several who were on last year’s list: Jay Baer, Jason Falls, Gini Dietrich, Charlene Li, Brian Solis, C.C. Chapman (Forbes did include his Content Rules co-author, Ann Handley), and even Mitch Joel.

Of course, Forbes does include some of the names you would expect: Mari Smith, Chris Brogan (but not his Trust Agents co-author Julien Smith), Liz Strauss, Jeff Bullas, Scott Stratten, and Dan Schawbel (disclosure: I write for Dan’s Personal Branding blog).

So what’s up? What happened to the names you would normally expect to see? Did Shaughnessy forget them? Did the non-Forbes people drop off on their Pull? Was PeekAnalytics having a bad day?

Admittedly, many names on both lists are names you expect to see year after year on a Top 50 or Top 100 list, but many of these missing names are glaring in their omission.

I’d like to see some better explanations for the list, and who did and didn’t make it, and why/how. I’d love to hear some of that “inside baseball” talk to explain how he went about determining who to measure, and who not to. How did he come up with the names to check? Is Pull based entirely on followers and reach, or is more like Klout, which could give a person with a very small following a high score because they the followers interact frequently? Or did Shaughnessy want to give some new people a shot at being on the Forbes Top 50? That’s admirable if it’s true, but then the list isn’t accurate or reflective.

It’s not that I’m suspicious of Forbes’ list, or will reject it out of hand, like it’s some partisan wing-nut website. It’s just that the exclusion of several noted social media experts is, well, eyebrow-raising, to say the least.

At the very least, Forbes’ list will be seen as problematic, which can be fixed with some basic explanations. At the worst, it’s a flawed list that is seriously lacking in its execution. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

50 Things That You’re Not Measuring for ROI, But Should

I’m so sick of the “what’s the ROI of social media” question. It’s asked by people who a) think it makes them sound clever, and they’re hoping to show that social media “doesn’t work,” or b) think they’re supposed to ask it, because they read an article that said they should ask it.

The problem is, we can’t answer the ROI question during out first meeting. We can answer it after your social media plan has been up and running for six months. We set goals and then measure to see whether you made them. We count how much money the social media campaign made — because we can do that — and we subtract how much money it cost.

But we can’t predict it accurately beforehand, and anyone who tells you they can is lying.

What about you and your business? What’s the ROI on the stuff and the staff at the office? Have you measured them? All of the things you buy and the people you hire have a direct impact on your bottom line. Some contribute to revenue, some take up space, and some are a drag on your bottom line.Number 50 painted on a wall And yet, the people who are so quick to pull the “what’s the ROI of social media?” trigger haven’t asked that question about anything else in their own business.

So I’d like to see companies start measuring ROI on these things.

  1. Your college interns.
  2. Your brochures. You pay professionals to design these things. What have they gotten you?
  3. Your weekly staff meetings.
  4. Every other meeting you have to attend. They’re a big time suck and productivity killer. Yet we go to them without question. So what’s their ROI?
  5. The person who answers your phones. Don’t you think the voice of your company contributes to customer satisfaction?
  6. Your accounts receivable department. What does it do to your cash flow if they’re on time versus late with sending out invoices?
  7. The paintings and furniture in the front lobby.
  8. Your telephone hold music. People actually study this kind of thing, so it should be possible to figure out.
  9. That lunch meeting you had.
  10. Your mobile phone.
  11. The company mission statement that took eight people three months to write over six hour-long meetings.
  12. Your membership in three different trade associations. You should get valuable sales and clients from these. Are you?
  13. Your Chamber of Commerce membership.
  14. The company car. Lease costs, gas costs, maintenance. Are you making your money back on that?
  15. Your HR department.
  16. Your legal department. They’re great for keeping you out of trouble and for helping with intellectual property. How much did they make you this year?
  17. Your sponsorship of a Little League baseball team.
  18. Your fax machine. Seriously, do people still use fax machines? They have online services you can buy to send and receive faxes, instead of paying $40 a month for a separate phone line.
  19. Your voice mail system.
  20. The PR agency you hired for your latest campaign. And none of this “this is what your media coverage is worth” stuff — how much money did you actually make?
  21. Your office coffee machine.
  22. Your annual industry conference in Las Vegas.
  23. The business class flight you took to get to the conference. Execs need more leg room than regular staffers, apparently. So did you make more money by taking the more expensive flight?
  24. Your trade show display. These things are expensive. But did you make the money back?
  25. Your marketing department. These are the ROI experts. How much money did they make you?
  26. The cleaning service.
  27. The office Christmas party.
  28. Your office location. Retail stores can demonstrate how one location outperforms another. But what do you get for where you’re located? Do you really need an office downtown in the big city, when a location in the suburbs will cost less?
  29. The water cooler.
  30. The TV commercials you ran on cable TV for six months in 25 major markets.
  31. The IT department.
  32. Your CIO. Should your CIO really have the same decision-making abilities over the CMO? Should they be able to tell the CMO, “no, you cannot use social media tools to help market the company”? Hopefully they generated revenue to make up for all the lost sales they just caused.
  33. Staying at the conference hotel instead of a cheaper hotel a mile away.
  34. Your sponsorship of the local chamber event.
  35. The 90-minute morning networking meeting you attended. You go to this once a month. Have you gotten sales directly from going?
  36. The giant flat screen monitor in the conference room.
  37. The big table in the conference room.
  38. The conference room.
  39. Your administrative assistant.
  40. The company website. If you don’t sell anything on it, is it still making you money? Why did you spend $10,000 to get it designed?
  41. Subscriptions to all the business magazines that decorate your lobby. Did you even read them?
  42. Your newspaper ads.
  43. Your business cards.
  44. Casual Fridays. And while we’re at it . . .
  45. Appropriate business attire. There must be a reason we have to dress up for work. So how much money did you make from it?
  46. Your customer service department. You know how much they cost you, but do you measure how much they made you?
  47. The accounting department.
  48. The 12 books on new management ideas you bought and never had time to read.
  49. Your industry trade magazines.
  50. You.

I am not opposed to the social media ROI question. I just think it’s an easy fallback question that people use as an excuse, whether it’s out of fear or disdain. And I encourage businesspeople to ask that question. After all, you’re going to spend money on it, so you’d damn well better know how much money you’re making from it.

But you should do the same thing for some of these other things you have in your business as well.

Photo credit: duncan (Flickr)

Cancelled Soap Operas Take to the Internet. Is This The End of Broadcast TV?

You thought they were dead, but they were just in a coma. Or it was the evil twin. Or maybe it was a dream sequence, but the two once-dead soap operas All My Children and One Life to Live will find a new life online.

According to a Gizmodo article, the two ABC soaps, which were killed by the network this past spring, are going to be made available online instead. ABC has licensed both shows to Prospect Park, a production company that “promises all the shows will be just as long and just as ‘high quality’ online as they were on TV.”

While Casey Chan, the Gizmodo author, doesn’t “imagine soap opera watchers to be particularly good at using the Internet,” I think it’s a gutsy move, as opposed to moving to a cable network, like USA Network or WGN. I wonder if this could be the beginning of the end of broadcast television as we know it. Will more TV shows start migrating online? Will the “critically acclaimed” (that’s TV talk for “awesome show, sucky ratings”) shows find new life online, while regular TV is left with the same tired old clichéd dreck we’ve watched since 1983?

While I don’t know whether most soapies (soapers?) will have the ability to watch their favorite soaps online, I think this could be a great reason for them to start. And if they were smart, advertisers like Best Buy or Dell and cable companies would take advantage of this opportunity.

For example, Best Buy or Dell should run commercials during these soaps that say “you don’t have to miss your favorite soap. We have a laptop just for you.” Call it the One Life to Live or All My Children package — build it with enough RAM and a big enough processor, easy-to-use wifi, and a browser that comes preloaded with shortcuts to the OLL and AMC streaming sites.

After I heard the news, I was talking with our new intern, Cody (@CAustinMiller), about the possibilities, and we thought of all the possibilities this venture held for Prospect Park.

Production costs are greatly reduced

A typical TV show is shot on giant TV cameras, which are easily $100,000 dollars a pop. But this year’s season finale of House was shot entirely on a Canon 5DmkII digital camera.

One of those cameras (body only) is $2,500. Lenses are several hundred to a few thousand dollars apiece. Similarly, the web series Odd Jobs is shot entirely with a Canon 7d ($1600 + lenses).

Imagine shooting an entire show for a fraction of the cost of a single TV camera. Since very few people are watching an Internet-only TV show on HD plasma TVs, the need for the giant cameras is reduced.

Better video equipment means better story settings and language

If you’ve got these small handheld cameras, imagine shooting some scenes outside, without worrying about a sound stage and all those cables and production crew. A boom mike, digital audio recorder, and a digital camera, and you’re all set.

And you’re no longer bound by studio Standards and Practices people who say you can’t use certain words on television. Want to drop the F-bomb? Fire away. Want the s-word? Let ‘er fly. Online means you can say whatever you want without S&P dropping the hammer on you. (Of course, you have to make sure you don’t offend your audience.)

Advertisers can reach targeted audiences

This is worth a blog post in itself. Imagine these scenarios:

  • To watch the shows, users have an account where they provide some basic demographic information: age, sex, race, location, income, family status, etc. Show producers can go beyond providing basic demographic info to their advertisers — “we think it’s mostly white women between the ages of 25 – 45” — and provide actual counts and percentages.
  • Thanks to today’s web technology, advertisers can deliver specific ads to specific people watching on specific browsers. Send diaper ads to new mothers, life insurance ads to women in their 40s, luxury car ads to people who make a certain amount of money. Go read up on Facebook advertising for more ideas on how this works.
  • Advertisers can offer special coupons and codes during the show. These ads and coupons can even appear in a sidebar in the browser window. These can all be based on the viewer’s demographic information.
  • Marketers can then track click-throughs and follow the visitor’s path all the way through to the contact page or purchase page. They can determine that X number of people ordered our product while they were watching All My Children at 2:37.
  • I just had a EUREKA! idea: Put a shopping cart right in the browser sidebar window. When a small product is advertised on the show — say, the latest Danielle Steel novel — viewers can fill out the shopping cart without ever leaving the viewing window, order the book, and have it shipped, all during the show. It’s the ultimate in impulse purchasing.
  • Product placement is much easier and less expensive for marketers. Since the production company can call the shots without having to involve the network executives, they can sell product placements for a fraction of the cost of TV spots, but make a bigger piece of the pie.

Sell subscriptions to the shows

This is a chance to test the loyalty of the shows’ viewers: sell monthly subscriptions — say $2.99 per month — to viewers for ad-free episodes. Otherwise treat each episode like a regular TV episode: splits in the shows where they usually happen, with 2 – 3 minutes of advertisements. But monthly subscriptions can also offset production costs and help pay for the episode. If enough people opted for the monthly subscription, it may also show advertisers that viewers don’t want ads, which means they have to be more clever in how they reach those viewers: more product placement, sidebar ads, etc. This could also help the production company find new revenue sources as advertisers scramble for a way to reach this now-clearly defined audience demographic.

Crowdsource the writing

Many years ago — and I can’t remember when or what show — viewers got to vote whether a certain character lived or died. They called in, cast their votes, and the story unfolded to the majority’s wishes. Now, imagine having an online poll that allows viewers to vote on a particular story line. Does Trent live or die? Is Ashlyn’s evil twin really Ashlyn? Does Trent marry Ashlyn?

It’s one more method of interaction, and one more way to keep viewers involved and coming back. Maybe they could even shoot two endings to a storyline or episode, and let the viewers vote for which ending that gets shown. As a bonus, let people watch the ending that didn’t get aired after the episode is over. Again, more interactivity, more content for viewers to consume, which keeps them coming back.

I’m really excited to see what sorts of developments will come out of this new deal (not enough to watch soaps, mind you, but still, fairly excited). Prospect Park has said they will begin airing All My Children online starting September 26, after it makes its final TV appearance on Friday, September 23. I’ll be interested to see what kinds of ideas they come up with, and whether the Internet may be a great new frontier for TV shows that can’t survive the picky whims of studio executives who worry more about ratings than actually showing good television.

Measure the Three Most Important Business Metrics With Social Media

Jason Falls is currently rocking the Exploring Social Media Business Summit in Toledo, Ohio, talking about measuring social media marketing, and making sure that businesses are making money from it. There are three Very Important Questions every business manager will ask of their social media manager, and you’d better be able to answer them.

  1. How much did we make?
  2. How much did we save?
  3. Are our customers happy?

Jason Falls rocks his talk about social media measurement at #ESMToledo

That’s right, social media hippies. Social media, just like every other part of marketing, is about making money. It’s not about conversations, friends, followers, Likes, fans, connections, comments, or Google ranking. It’s about sales and conversions, and customer service and satisfaction.

This is why social media monitoring and analytics is so crucial. You need to be able to show your boss that your social media campaign was not $20,000 thrown down the toilet, because you thought it would be cool to sell your bulldozers on Facebook.

Use Google Analytics to Measure How Much You Make

Google Analytics can tell you how people came to your website, what pages they visited, and whether they went to your sales page and placed an order. If 300 people visit your website because of a tweet, 30 people went to your sales information page, and 3 people placed an order, you have a close rate of 1%. If your social media campaign costs $1,000 per month, but those 3 sales are worth $4,500, your ROI is $3,500.

Use Your Accountant to Tell You How Much You Saved.

Social media is a great way to handle customer service complaints, reducing the amount of troubleshooting calls that take 20 minutes, reduce technician visits, or even the total number of calls coming in to your service center. Ask your accountant to tell you how much you saved from month-to-month. Calculate the average cost of troubleshooting calls, technician visits, and the monthly salary of a call center rep. Get with your Google Analytics person and social media monitoring person (#3) to see if you have seen an increase in social media activity. Chances are, the latter had an effect on the former, so count these savings as a win. If you spent $1,000, but saved $3,000 in a month, your ROI is $2,000.

Or, more importantly, if we combine the two, you spent $1,000, and made/saved $6,500, your ROI is $5,500.

Use Social Media Monitoring Services to Measure How Happy Your Customers Are

Radian6, Lithium Technologies, Sysomos, are some of the biggest social media monitoring services around (they’re all subscription-based services, so expect to pay a fee), and if you’re a larger brand, it’s worth doing. If you have a small company, set up a free listening post with tools like a Twitter search (like a TweetDeck column), SocialMention.com and/or Google Analytics to see what people are saying about you. Quickly respond to any complaints or queries, and make sure you’re keeping people happy (see #2 above).

Happy customers are returning customers. Measure the sales of returning customers, especially those who have complained in the past, but you managed to keep by solving their problems, and compare that to the amount you paid for the social media monitoring service, and you’ve got your ROI.

We’re hopefully moving beyond the “social media is all about the conversations” way of thinking, at least in the business world. While this was cool and froody back in 2008, businesses are starting to use this as a new marketing channel. For those companies who want to make money this way, it’s real simple: just measure how much you made, how much you saved, and whether your customers like you.

If you can’t answer these questions, quit playing Farmville and go find someone who can answer it for you.

10 Advanced Blog Writing Techniques Used By Professional Bloggers

Anyone can write a basic blog. It’s not that hard. And I’ve talked for hours, whether at seminars or at a one-on-one “brain picking” session about basic blog writing. But I rarely get the chance to talk about advanced blogging, the secrets that I use to improve my blog, and make it stand out from the hundreds of thousands of basic blogs.

Cover of Corporate Blogging for Dummies book

This is a good book to use for advanced blogging. At least until I write my own.

Here are 10 advanced blog writing techniques we use for our clients and ourselves.

  1. Use WordPress.org: I don’t have anything against platforms like Blogspot.com, WordPress.com, or Posterous.com (I have blogs on all three). But WordPress.org is what a lot of the pros use, because it’s extremely customizable and you can improve its functionality with a few plug-ins.
  2. Use a search engine optimization plug-in: We use All in One SEO Pack and Zemanta. Both of these let us do some additional optimization on our articles, which is something the other blog platforms don’t do as well.
  3. Choose 1 – 2 keywords or phrases per post: Stick with the mantra, “one idea, one keyword, one post, one day.” This post is about the keyword phrase “blog writing techniques,” and nothing else. Not about choosing topics, not about winning readers, not about whether video or photos help with readership, it’s just about how you actually write posts. By doing this, I not only boost my SEO efforts, but I don’t overload people with information.
  4. Write catchy, dramatic headlines: Your headline needs to be catchy, interesting, and compelling. Include phrases like “10 Secrets” or “5 Tips” to fire peoples’ interest. Also, be sure to use your exact keyword phrase in the title for better SEO.
  5. Use keywords in your anchor text: If I’m writing about blog writing techniques, I need to link that phrase to another article about that phrase (which I just did. Sneaky, huh?).
  6. Watch your keyword density: Density means the percentage ratio of keywords to copy. This particular article has about a 1% keyword density (1 keyword every 100 words). If the number is below 1%, search engines might not realize what your post is about. Anything over 2 %- 3% could be seen as keyword stuffing, and the search engines could drop you. Shoot for 1.5% – 1.99%. Divide the number of keywords by the total number of words to figure density.
  7. Automate your cross-posting: Use services like Twitterfeed.com and Ping.fm to promote your posts to your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts, and 40 other social networks. It will save you several minutes every time you publish a post.
  8. Use analytics to determine how your effectiveness: This lets you see where your traffic is coming from, what brought them there, and how long they stayed. You may learn that a particular keyword is getting a lot of traffic, so you write about that topic again. Or that a particular website is sending a lot of traffic, so you work to get published on that site again. I like Google Analytics for solid analytics.
  9. Publish your blog 2 – 3 times a week: Everyone who starts blogging has great intentions, but life intrudes and this resolution gets broken like it’s January 3rd. If you want to excel at blogging, you must write more than once a week. Schedule an hour a day to write, or schedule a three hour block, and write all your posts in advance.
  10. Become a fast writer: Writing fast means being able to find the best words and assemble 400 of them in 20 minutes. If you can’t do this, focus on those things that are holding you back, and work to overcome them. Being able to write fast will also help you publish more frequently.