Social

7 Ways Not to Engage Influencers and Independent Analysts

Are you looking to engage folks beyond the major analyst firms? Over the past few years, companies are engaging influencers and independence analysts more and more. However, there are some bad practices that have developed and ways you can overcome those. Before you think about engaging influencers and independent analysts, read this first to avoid stepping in those potholes. Your approach could mean the difference between a fruitful, engaged and positive relationship with top-tier folks versus a lukewarm and negative relationship with second (or third) tier folks.

  1. LAST MINUTE INVITES: Many companies invite folks less than 30 days (or less) before an event. This includes major events from large firms. Unfortunately, top-tier folks are in-demand and often booking their time as much as six months (or more) in advance. By waiting until the last minute to block time, the folks you may prefer to attend are not available and leave you with only second or third tier individuals. The higher value the individual, the harder to attract. Be sure to respect their time. Another side issue is when vendors try to make the individual feel bad for not being able to attend due to a prior commitment. I have had people invite me two days before an event from a major company starts.
  1. MISMATCHES IN EVENT TYPE/ FOCUS: Companies do not do their research to understand the focus and/ or interest of the individual to ensure that it matches the event’s focus. Many times, this is due to last minute invitations and not being able to attract preferred individuals. When you do engage independent folks, find a way to include them in influencer and Analyst activities. These folks are instrumental to engage beyond the large analyst firms. You would be surprised at the networks they have access to and the people they influence. In many cases, they may have as much influence as a major firm.
  1. CLEAR ABOUT PURPOSE OF ENGAGEMENT: This is dependent on the maturity of the team and organization. Are you inviting the individual to subliminally pitch the product and/or service? Are you looking for free advertising through amplification to their Twitter audience? The vast majority of top-tier individuals are not about to promote your product/ service as it would kill their objectivity and relationships. As you get further into second or third tier folks, they are probably less concerned or don’t consider the ramifications.
  1. TRAVEL POLICIES ARE CRAZY: Some events do not cover travel. This is a nonstarter for the top-tier individuals. Second and third tier folks are probably open to the idea of a free trip to Las Vegas, San Francisco or New York. Most companies simply leverage their internal corporate travel policies. Unfortunately, this is a huge disconnect for most individuals. For top-tier folks, they often travel far more than most internal corporate employees. In many cases, they are traveling almost every week of the year. The last thing they want is to take an international trip, in economy, for a one-day event. And because top-tier individuals may be traveling from one event directly to another, they may need to make other travel arrangements. Blocking them from covering their airfare or ground transportation because they book their own airfare is crazy. Just as crazy are those that require flying a specific carrier and/or time just because it is a couple of bucks cheaper. Or not covering their ground transportation because the company is not able to book the flights too.
  1. NO RESPECT FOR INDIVIDUALS TIME: Many events and companies expect these folks to attend without paying them for their time. This gets worse when you ask them to attend and present. Remember that there is preparation time for these folks before the event. This is real time that they must commit. Yet, there is little to no respect for the fact that they are essentially donating their time to participate in the event. Marry this with crazy travel rules, last minute invites and the rest…and you get the picture. Have respect for the time that they are committing to your event.
  1. RELATIONSHIPS MATTER: Many companies only engage folks when an event takes place. There is often little to no engagement between events. Unfortunately, it is challenging to build solid, fruitful and positive relationships when you are only in touch once or twice a year. Keep engagement going throughout the year. Find ways to include top-tier folks in your Analyst programs and workflow.
  1. EXPOSURE IS NOT VALUABLE: Too many times, companies will offer that attending an event will provide exposure. To top-tier folks, they already have exposure. That is probably one of the key reasons why you want them there. And let’s face it, you found them due to their existing exposure. Second and third tier folks may be more interested in exposure, but not always.

These issues are often very different for those that have a commercial agreement with the company. In those cases, there is often a pre-determined relationship and travel provisions that match the type of engagement and individual. Plus, the individual is paid for their time.

Does this mean that we do not want to engage with your company or event? No. We have reached an inflection point where something needs to change. Be flexible and understanding.  More and more, I’m hearing of top-tier folks that are declining invites due to issues outlined in this post. Plan ahead and avoid the potholes.

Business · Social

Three keys to building a successful community

As someone whom is part of several communities, and now being asked by companies to help build their communities, this is a topic I see firsthand. Having been invited to join so many communities, I have had to ask what the value is. This leads to being more selective on which communities I ultimately participate in.

It is important to note that there is a difference between the value to a community member and the community organizer. The value equation must factor both and be bi-directional. In sum, all parties to the community must see value in their participation.

THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY

In personal terms, a sense of community plays a key role in our societal interests and overall well-being. A community of individuals with similar interests is quite powerful in many ways. There is a saying that “It takes a village…(to raise a child)”. If said ‘child’ were a product, interest or company, the value comes from not just the product itself, but from the community built around the child. It is this very community that brings the true value to any product, interest or company today.

In a business context, the community may include buyers, consumers and influencers. Today, there is quite a bit of discussion about “Influencer Marketing”. Understanding the authentic influencer and therefore their true value is much more complicated than just looking at some social media stats. Unfortunately, social media has provided a megaphone for anyone to use. Providing value to a community, like raising a child, takes more than just reading a book, showing up on a list or having an opinion.

In my experience, there are three core components that drive the criteria: Relevance, Relationships and Respect. Communities are complex to understand. Communities are hard to build. Communities require constant care and feeding.

Community Three Rs

THE FOUNDATION OF RELEVANCE

The very definition of community ties back to sharing a common interest. The interest ultimately becomes the relevance to each individual’s specific situation along with that of the organizer. Relevance provides the common bond and interest between the parties. It provides a central rally cry that addresses a common, shared need or desire.

Individual interest is not enough. An individual may be interested in a specific topic, but if is not something they are passionate about, it may be hard to keep their interest over time. Even if someone is passionate about a specific interest, do they have the capability to provide a significant impact. Interest does not equal expertise. Just because you have an opinion, does not make you an expert. Not-so-subtle message here: Reach does not equal Relevance. And like value, relevance goes both ways. What is in it for me and for them?

RELATIONSHIPS PROVIDE THE GLUE

Identifying individuals with a common interest provides a certain level of value. However, the true value is in knowing (and maintaining) the level of interest and influence of the individuals over time. What are the nuances that an individual brings to the community? These nuances often do not show up in a profile, post or list. How have those changed over time? Remember that we are talking about humans here..which are complex.

The relationships span both community members and organizers. In addition, these very relationships will evolve over time. The relationship itself is not a binary thing. It will exist on many levels and take many forms.

NOTHING WITHOUT RESPECT

One would be remiss to talk about relationships and leave out mutual respect. Rather than talk about what respect brings, let us talk about the inverse. Simply put, without respect, a community does not work. During the course of conversation, opinions will differ. There needs to be a level of respect among the participants. Otherwise, there is a high likelihood the community will either disintegrate or worse, implode.

Respect is not something that is freely given. It is something that is earned over time. It, like relationships, must be cared for. Respect is something that takes time to build and can be torn down in an instant.

COMMUNITY, COLLECTIVE OR ORGANIZATION?

Each of these three core components directly tie back to the participants whether discussing relevance, relationships or respect. All three are essential to success. A community is not a one-time activity. The value of a community is the sum of the parts…over time. It has a lifecycle that goes through different stages of maturity.

If you have reached this point asking how this differs from the complexities of building an organization…you’re spot on! But how does one go about building a community? And how does one ensure that the community will help the child…er…business flourish? Ahh… that is for another post.