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

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.

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), 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.

I’m Thinking Arby’s Social Media — An Open Letter to the New VP of Digital and Social Media Marketing

It seems that Arby’s is jumping on the social media bandwagon, having formed a new Digital and Social Media team, and hiring a new VP of Digital and Social Media. This was later confirmed by Mashable, which listed a job for a new Manager of Social Media Manager, that would be part of “a newly formed team reporting to the Vice President of Digital & Social Media.”

From what I have heard, Arby’s hired their new VP just recently, and has made social media a big part of their marketing effort. So, to welcome this new VP to the social media fold, here is an open letter of recommendations to their VP as they start their new ventures:

  1. Find a couple social media mentors you can talk to on a regular basis. Even if you have a few years of social media experience, you’re going to need someone to talk to on a regular basis, to bounce ideas off of, and to give you helpful hints on your efforts.
  2. Treat social media as a listening tool more than just a push marketing tool. If people complain or praise Arby’s or an individual restaurant, respond to them. If they had a bad experience and talk about it on Twitter, Yelp, or the Arby’s Facebook page, respond to them publicly, apologize for the problem, and offer to fix it. If they like something, thank them. If they ask for something or lament the loss of a product, explain why it went away and if it will be back. If customers see that you’re interested in their input, they’ll give you more of it. And if they know they’re being heard, they’ll return to your store over and over because you’re listening to them, and the other guys are not.
  3. Trick out your Facebook business page, and then monitor it heavily. Hire a Facebook design expert to create a good looking page. You have good traffic, and 114,000+ people like it, but I don’t see any communication with your customers. However, you do have a couple of Arby’s fans who are talking for you. In addition to your own communication, you should reward the people who are talking on your behalf. Reward them with free stuff once in a while so they continue to be your brand evangelists.
  4. Get an account for either Radian6 or ScoutLabs to monitor the social media sentiment about Arby’s. Find out where and when people are talking about your restaurants. Monitor the complaints and respond to them. Monitor the compliments and thank them.
  5. Set up ever Arby’s restaurant on Foursquare, Gowalla, and Yelp. Follow these networks on a regular basis and watch what people are saying. Run special promotions, like a free shake or sandwich to the mayor of a restaurant. (Make sure the store managers and staff know that this promotion is running.) This may not be possible with franchise-owned restaurants, but see if you can get them to buy into the idea. Let the franchise restaurants run their own campaigns too.
  6. Create a mobile version of your website. Include a restaurant locator so people can do a quick search to find the nearest Arby’s restaurant. Be sure to direct people to it if you’re communicating with someone who is looking for the nearest Arby’s or is just looking for a place to go to lunch. And don’t make the mobile version a Flash version. Flash doesn’t play on the iPhones or iPads, so all of your content will be lost to the millions of Apple users. Plus, Flash is not searchable by Google, which means you’re getting absolutely no Google benefits at all.
  7. Create a Twitter search for terms like “#Arby’s,” “roast beef,” and even some of your competitors. Set up these search columns in TweetDeck, and respond to anyone who tweets about any of these terms, when it’s appropriate. If someone says they’re thinking about Arby’s for lunch, send them the URL for the restaurant locator on the website (especially if it’s mobile enabled). Let your new Manager of Social Media handle this, as well as the interns you will no doubt be able to hire.
  8. Learn how to use Google Analytics and tie it into your different social networking properties. See what traffic is being driven to and from your different sites, and how many people are redeeming the different offers you’re making. You’re actually better off using a paid service like Yahoo Analytics, but Google is a great place to get started because it’s free, lets you monitor campaigns, and is one of the most thorough analytics services out there. Plus there are some great books, like Google Analytics in 10 Minutes a Day to get you started. This isn’t going to be a way to accurately monitor something as large-scale as a multi-million user, national scale campaign (ScoutLabs and Radian6 are going to give you a better idea of sentiment and the actual communication threads), it’s at least a good way to watch trends and get basic information at a glance

While this will only scratch the surface of what you should be doing, it’s at least a place to get started. Good luck in your new position and with your new team.

Canadian Council of Public Relation Firms Shouldn’t Ask for Media Monitoring RFPs

I’m a little angered and disappointed by the Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms.

According to Joseph Thornley’s blog, they’re calling for a Media Monitoring RFP to ask media monitoring companies, especially those who provide social media services, to fill out an RFP so they can “propose the most comprehensive set of offerings they are capable of.

From there, they want to identify who has the best offerings, and then use that to compare costs to find the provider who offers them “the best value.”

We find ourselves dealing with a monitoring industry that has adjusted to the new environment in different ways and at different speeds. Following what’s going on has become a complex process that can involve setting up dashboards with several different suppliers. And each provides us with a unique view of different things.

Multiple offerings. Multiple methodologies. Increased complexity. Increased cost.

Thornley is the CEO of Thornley Falls, a Canadian PR firm, that combines PR with social media and word of mouth advertising. He’s also the president of the Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms (CCPRF). So, I’m sure he’s a smart guy. (And he’s Canadian. I love Canada.)

Which is why I’m disappointed in the CCPRF.

I’m not a big fan of RFPs. I think they’re mostly a waste of time, and an incorrect way to evaluate whether a company is good enough to do a project. In most RFPs, the vendor is not allowed to speak with the client, which means they may miss out on an important point that makes or breaks a proposal. (I’ve been on RFP committees. They were awful.)

RFPs force the vendor to start selling on price, not on value. I don’t know of a single large PR firm that will try to match the pricing of a small boutique firm. But if they offer the same services on paper, then the temptation of the client is to assume the quality and scope of work is exactly the same. Yet, this is what RFPs do to vendors who can’t demonstrate value over price, because they can’t speak with the client.

Finally, the companies submitting RFPs have no way of knowing if the client even knows what they truly want. I’ve known companies that actually spoke to the client, and found they not only put the wrong specs in the RFP, the client didn’t know enough about the problem to know what to ask for. Again, a simple meeting would allow a vendor to educate the client, and could make the whole process much easier.

So it sounds like the CCPRF wants to be educated, since they don’t know what the different media monitoring services can do. But it also sounds like they’re not sure what’s most important, since they’re dealing with different offerings, methodologies, and complexities.

I’m morally opposed to RFPs on general principles, but this almost seems a bad practice.

(Having said all that, the really smart media monitoring agencies will do whatever they can to educate the different PR firms about what “good” media monitoring looks like. And if they haven’t, they’re a big part of the reason this is happening at all.)

It sounds like the CCPRF is just information gathering. There’s no chance of winning a project. There’s no definite work that’s going to come out of it. It’s just hours of work that doesn’t really educate, answer questions, or teach people about what that particular company does. The agencies will put in several hours of work for which they will not be paid, only have an outside possibility of getting deals out of it, and the CCPRF is getting the benefits of the work for free.

If the CCPRF wants to learn more about media monitoring, they need to do it on their own time, or invite the media monitoring agencies to an educational session, webinar, conference, or white paper on what their particular agency does. And the CCPRF needs to pay for it.

CCPRF, you know how frustrating it is to spend time and money on projects and RFPs only to have them not make the final cut. You’re asking people to put time and money that will essentially be an RFP to another RFP, which you may or may not submit in the future.

Joseph Thornley says this RFP is an industry first. I hope it’s the last too.