Review of a case study on social influence to build a personal brand

Mark Schaefer’s guest post on blogging and building your brand yesterday left burning ideas which inspired me to to add my thoughts, before I can do anything today.

So, starting with “Case study: Using social influence to build a personal brand” we find Don Stanley as an educator at the University of Wisconsin – Madison who is guest writing for Mark Schaefer about one of his star students, Erin Podolak.  He ‘tells the story’ of how Erin is a science writer and blogger, she’s dabbled in Twitter, but wasn’t getting the recognition she wanted (and in his opinion deserved), but eventually preservered.

One of Don’s courses focuses on building personal brands with blogging and social media. Students, many of whom have never blogged or used social media for professional reasons, are required to:

  • Identify their personal brand
  • Create a personal branding strategy
  • Promote their brand to key audiences and thought leaders
  • Prove they can bring value to the community they want to be a part of and connect with their audience in a meaningful way

The process they follow in class is straightforward and repeatable. Using Mark Schaefer’s “The Tao of Twitter” and Scott Stratten’s “Unmarketing” students learn to:

  • Set clear, specific goals (what will success look like?)
  • Identify influencers to connect with
  • Identify how to connect with influencers (choose tools and messages to use)
  • Do the work to get recognized and build meaningful professional relationships
  • Learn to self-moderate to determine if you are getting closer or farther from your goals

As always, Mark’s folks lay out a great ‘roadmap’ for earned success within social media.  I’ve been following Mark for about a year now and I’ve learned success is inevitable with the right amount of attention and care given to the steps above.  Anybody can earn success through this steady and consistent approach to growing relationships.  It just takes persistence and a repeatable process.

One key to Erin’s personal success was developing her authority of a particular topic of interest.
Topics of interest can be extrapolated to any industry, segment or vertical.  Erin has chosen science and she has chosen one of the top influencers of the field in which to create a relationship.  The method is clear from a marketing perspective, growth and personal branding purposes.  But the results from this process are relatively (painstakingly) slow if you are looking at it from a “startups” perspective.

Looking at it through the lens of an entrepreneur in a lean startup-who also needs an online personal brand blog/brand to blossom sooner rather then later.  How can you improve returns or increase the “return” of your “investment”?  Any best practice should either
a. improve the rate of marketing return or
b. reduce the amount of time you invest to achieve results

Per Don’s story, Erin’s process included:

  • Developing her expertise to share, an understanding of ‘X’ (science was interest here)
  • Preferably have a passion for science and getting in Scientific American (goal)
  • The topic should be of interest to an industry, vertical or market. (affiliate/shared interest of peers)
  • Become an authority on a relevant topic. (increase/improve relevance)

I won’t go into more detail, you can follow the multiple links back to his article and Mark will appreciate the use of ‘back links’ to his blog [i.e. best practice]. He’s been curating {Grow} since 2009, which is an indicator of his authority and influence, he’s definitely ‘earned it’.

Thanks Mark for being such a great resource.

Mark’s guest, Don closes with an open ended question to elicit feedback (another highly recommended best practice in social media.)

“What are your best practices for networking through the social web?”

Knowing best practices should encourage growth by increasing returns or reduced time spent, I’d follow-up by re-framing his question (to encourage dialogue):

What are your best practices for networking through the social web (right now vs. near future)?
OR
What are the best (ways to expedite the process) for networking in order to (reduce the amount of time and increase the amount of credit) gained through the social web?

[best practice] Each re-framing of the question actually increases the number count of keywords that are important to the topic!

Everybody needs best practices and a better framework to improve efficiency of the task at hand.  Real human relationships typically develop slowly ‘in real life’ by tech standards.  We’re in a new and constantly accelerating paradigm of ‘virtual relationships’ that shouldn’t take years to manifest.  These relationships (being virtual) and all, should take weeks, not months or years, but how?

Virtual relationships seem more like an “affiliate agreement” to me.  In the past, it might have taken Erin 15-20 years to build a relationship allowing her to guest post for SA.  But we’re not talking about building relationships in real-life.  We’re talking about more-like an affiliate agreements online.  Marketing is all about building relationships, but really it’s more about building and maintaining trust.  Trust is an ongoing process as well as brand curation.  So can trust building can equate to brand curation?

If you want to become an authority or thought leader today, get feedback from your readers asap and often.  Nice you say, but wait, “how do you do that?”  You become more collaborative, more adaptive, more greedy as it relates to feedback.  How do you get faster, quicker and greedier with data?  How do we go from being Lee Majors to the six million dollar man?  We’re using tools that share our thoughts in milliseconds, but we’re still sitting around waiting on someone’s feedback in order to be perceived or defined a certain way.  We want others to reflect ‘who we are’ or ‘who were to become’?  It’s a recursive process.

How do we speed up this recursive process or how do we get feedback faster?  This is the ultimate (credit) we expect or deserve based on our  time (and effort) spent cultivating a brand (online or offline),  improving our customer’s experience, exposing ourselves and creating awareness for our own passions and interests, aligning ourselves with folks with similar interests and passions in hopes of building their alliance and a promising reflection of our brand.

Feedback or attribution should be focused toward a consumer archetype-while also networking with peers

In the above case study, “influence” was being ascribed as ‘credit deserved’ among Erin’s ‘network of peers’.  She apparently was highly regarded and was successful in delivering and receiving feedback, but for a time she wasn’t seeing expected results or returns on her investment.  As Erin’s well aware, Twitter can help improve feedback and attribution, but something needs to be said about trust.  The trust she established between herself, her brand and her loyal readers, her consumers.  They were the tipping point for SA’s offer to let her guest post.

Just like relationships, trust among peers is grown and cultivated over time. Trust is part of your personal brand that grows with you through two years of blogging and sharing in this instance.

Attribution (or credit) should be ‘instantaneous’, while trust is cultivated over time..

There’s a paradigm shift occurring in the world Google created for content marketers.  Or the world content creators developed based on Google algorithms.  The foundational elements of earned media are shifting and evolving.  Earned media will follow ‘earned success’ which will be delivered more quickly as attribution and credit become increasingly seamless.  Folks will be given credit for their insights and ideas as opposed to how articulate they are in print or how long they’ve been posting their blogs.

The best insight and ideas from ALL will rise or percolate to the top, and so will their clout, instantly..

Google created a world of back links and ‘search’ to find resources or reference (past) content..   The ‘referencing of sources’ is currently the way folks get attribution and ‘credit’ in the highly content centric world we currently live.  But newer technologies, like Twitter, are developing new ways to get attribution through annotations. The sands of consumer interactivity and development are shifting beneath us to even newer platforms (i.e. App.net and IFTTT) and ‘business rules are being re-written’ as we speak.  Our relationships (communities and networks) are more than just back links to a carefully crafted blog post(s) of 750 words or less.

At the peak of it’s existence, Don’s guest post will appear on Mark’s blog and create awareness for a few days, someone else tomorrow, but naturally views will diminish based on attrition, soon to be memorialized for next encounters.  The network effect lives on. In the future, the ideas in Don’s post will propagate among the public via on and offline discussions so peers may view in minutes as opposed to weeks and the underlying theme or question

“What are your best practices for networking through the social web?”

Will adapt and morph and fork into new questions..

Since our consumer driven economy is shifting to mobile (i.e. Twittersphere), knowledge workers/content marketers should  be looking for platforms that allow us to analyze ‘on the fly and on the go.’’ We need to use our mobile devices to augment existing tasks currently regimented to our home or office desktops.  Soon we’ll be using mobile devices for our own daily functions. Currently, our mobile devices are mainly used to pass the time or take a break.  In the future, these breaks, while pleasurable, will also lead to empowering moments for our own personal brands.

Wiki surveys will help us understand information delivered in the ‘long-tail’ of the novice and the ‘fat head’ of the story-teller. The storyteller whose interviews and cascade of open-ended questions that draw out ideas from the unsuspecting interviewee.   Just as Don left the conversation open for future guests to respond. Folks will tune in with better tools that will allow for better aggregation and a cascade of counter questions, not only for relationship sake, but also marketing research.

The only way to improve your capacity or reduce the cost is to be aware of the next shift in technology. In order to improve your attribution OR credit from 15 years to 2 years to 2 minutes. The networks core function must evolve and those with the best ideas and knowledge will rise.  The best ideas will generate the most and best feedback and the responses will rise above the noise of the crowd.

The best ideas won’t fall victim to attrition, but actually survive, adapt and in time improve based on continuous interviews.

Everyone gets the attribution and credit they deserve.

By continuously re-framing, refining, re-telling the story, the questions gain context and insight.  We connect discoverable facts and understand meaning (as if the conversation were in ‘real-time’.)   This activity will improve what one could receive from sharing, which hopefully will encourage more sharing (and hopefully increase repeatability).

Fusing open-ended questions and carefully delivering better insight

So, if we augment existing content creation strategies with new forms of surveys to increase feedback, we could,

  • gain insight as a result of more and better feedback to review from the consumer
  • collaboration will be more inclusive of all individuals, including those outside traditional social networks
  • adaptability of questioning will become faster (encouraging real dialogue)

With proper attribution, credit can be delivered, which could increase pay-off and frequency.

In the near future, ‘inclusive of all’ could displace our need for highly curated repositories of stories by a relative few (as it relates to the world.)  All folks peripheral to the network will be encouraged for feedback in order to drive the narrative of the story.

Stories will be replaced by real-time dialogue. I look forward to when folks who CREATE ideas and ADD value to a conversation are seamlessly given the ‘credit’ they deserve, as opposed to waiting for for the web to find them (find an audience) to catch up with their capacity, be heard, be perceived, be understood more quickly on their particular ‘topic of interest’ in real-time.

Before being notified by SA, I suspect Erin felt disappointed, discouraged because she had a wealth of knowledge and it took years to establish the necessary clout to be perceived as a ‘young scientist.’

How (or what methods do you use) to inspire feedback from your peers as soon as possible? (i.e. open-ended question?)

[Best Practice] Frequently used words
attribution authority best better blogging brand care connect conversation create credit curated data delivered deserved earned economic feedback follow foundation future get getting growth guest health help identify improve industry influence influencers interest internet jobs look media more networking new now opposed our people personal practices process question questions repeatable social students success technology thoughts through tools topic twitter two us used using web years

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2 thoughts on “Review of a case study on social influence to build a personal brand

  1. Matter, Science Journalism for the web, tries collaborative commissioning
    http://blog.allourideas.org/?b87ab460
    Co-founders Jim Giles and Bobbie Johnson have recently raised start-up funds with a KickStarter campaign, and Matter should be publishing content pretty soon. But what stories should they cover? In order to answer that question, Matter recently finished a test of “collaborative commissioning” using allourideas. Their first test was a success and you can read more about the results on the Matter blog.
    http://blog.readmatter.com/day/2012/08/16/

  2. Pingback: Case study of a case study on social influence to build a personal ... | Connect! Powerful strategies for cultivating winning relationships | Scoop.it

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