Last week, in writing about the top social media influencers I was struck by the sheer scale of connectivity that leading influencers create for themselves. Chris Broganfor example has an astonishing 122,000 identifiable followers onTwitter (up from 115,000 last week) and strong followings on LinkedIn, Facebook, andGoogle + where he has almost 67,000 followers. 60,000 people subscribe to Mari Smith’s public updates on Facebook, along with approximately 77,000 identifiable people who follow her on Twitter.
Two things are remarkable about the numbers.
The first is the scale. Chris Brogan has a pull or reach that is over 3,000 times more powerful than that of the average Twitter user. Mari’s reach (or social pull) is 1800 times greater than the average Twitter user’s.
The second is the fact that we can identify those 122,000 people through tools like PeekYou analytics. In building a web of identifiable people we’re also moving the point of connection in business from the corporation to the person and creating more opportunities for a more individual form of captialism where the person, the networked power of the individual, is the new capital.
To get a better handle on that I asked three of the social media power influencers about their network building and what it means to their businesses to have strong social media influence.
Jason is exceptional in having a very large average network size (13,000). That means the average network size of each of his followers is 13,000. Mari – with a much larger following – has an average network size of 11,000. Pam Moore with an identifiable following of around 41,000 has a reach, or social pull, approaching 1600, that is 1600 times the average Twitter user.
Q: I wanted to know when they decided that this was a goal for them – to grow a powerful network:
My focus on networking for business purposes began in earnest in late 2005 and early 2006. I was transitioning out of a niche area of public relations into mainstream marketing and PR, and social media was beginning to percolate as a subject in the broad marketing world. I’d used social media (blogging and social network platforms in particular) for personal reasons for a long time and knew my way around.
As I began to add professional contacts in the mainstream world, my network began to grow. It wasn’t until late 2007, early 2008, however, that I started speaking at conferences and focusing my networking on influencers. That’s when I went from 1,000 social contacts to 5K, 10K, etc. At BlogWorld & New Media Expo in the fall of 2007, I decided to target the power players, get introduced, ensure they knew who I was and I was working with brands and knew a thing or two. Every bit of my networking since has been targeted and purposeful.
I joined Twitter in September 2007; I was already active on Facebook about four months prior to that. At the time, I was running my business fulltime from the road, traveling the U.S. in an RV. I would share all manner of photos from my various travels and my network began to grow from there — people would tune in to find out which city I was in and what activities I was enjoying. I kept my growth milestones moderate at first, growing to my first 1,000 followers, then 2,000 and so on. I was never aggressive in pursuing followers, but I was proactive.
Q: I asked what are they are most focused on?
I don’t like to focus on one network over the other. Instead I like to focus on an integrated strategy that leverages content to connect with audiences with a goal of meeting both life and business objectives.
How I use each of the following:
Blog: Provide the best possible content I can to inspire and connect with target audiences.
Twitter: Enables me to reach a large network of folks who enjoy and share my content with their friends. Also enables me to build communities that are taken offline and on to other social networks for further nurturing.
LinkedIn: Where people validate what I do, what I have done and who I am.
Facebook: Enables me to more intimately connect with people via my personal Facebook page, business page and private groups.
YouTube: Similar to my blog but in video format. It was a key success contributor while in startup mode.
Google+: Similar to all of the above but enables me to connect with my most favorite, geeky friends.
I get the highest number of qualified leads from LinkedIn. However, I have also received hot leads via Twitter DM and Facebook messages. I have been a member of LinkedIn for many years. I have a network size of 1700+ and know most all of the people I am connected to. I have over 50 recommendations from current and past colleagues and clients. The growth of this network has been 100% organic and a spill over from past employers, other social networks and life!
TweetChats: I host #GetRealChat on Tuesday 9pm ET. We average 12-18 million impressions for a single TweetChat. The community has grown substantially since January. We have had many guests including AT&T, Argyle Software, Klout, Webtrends, Kred, EmpireAvenue and many more. It enables me to connect with brands as well as give back to the community who has helped me. I have seen people join the tweet chat not knowing how to do a retweet. Many of these same people are now leading communities, quitting their corporate gigs to pursue a life of their dreams.
MS: Facebook has always been my “first love” when it comes to social networks. I proactively, but slowly, built my friends to the maximum of 5,000 over a period of approximately 18 months from 2007 to 2008. Once Facebook launched fan pages for businesses in late 2007, I also began to slowly build up a fan base. It wasn’t until 2009 that my fan page really took off, though. Now, with the recent introduction of the “Subscribe” feature on personal profiles, I gathered over 60,000 subscribers in just 2.5 months and have passed the number of likes on my fan page (57k). Amazing. I’ve found the Subscribers to be the fastest growing social channel I’ve ever seen.
Q: I wondered were there particular thresholds that were like waymarks where the network building started to grow or change. Mari has some interesting points to make there:
MS: Yes. On my Facebook personal profile, those thresholds were at every 1,000 friends – especially given I had been very deliberate about hand-picking most all individuals with which to connect. I was deliberate in reaching out to many influencers, authors, speakers, leaders and Internet marketers. On Twitter, the threshold seemed to be 10,000 followers – once I got to that point, my growth, reach and impact was exponential. I saw some decent traction on Google+ too; I got up to 30,000 followers fairly quickly (less than three months), but am still testing how G+ fits into the mix for my social media marketing plans.
Q: I also asked what are the business gains from having this scale of network?
JF: Credibility is the big thing. CEOs of some companies will call me back. Marketing managers of brands who pay a bit of attention to Social MediaExplorer will take my calls. I’m not cold calling if they at least know my name. Micro-celebrity does have some benefits. Being recognized and given a head start on credibility is one of them.
1. 24/7 Market Research: One known fact about social media is there is always someone to talk to. I love the power of real-time conversation. If you have a question about anything, even at 2 am on a Saturday night you are guaranteed to get a handful of solid opinions and suggestions within a few minutes at the tweet deck!
2. Agility: Having an always on engaged network provides agility in brand awareness and time to market with new products or business ventures. As an example, our agency ZoomFactor is experiencing much growth as a result of social media. We have a new business partner and are excited about how agile and accepting our audience is as we transition our brand and launch new services. We take them along with us each step of the way.
3. Ability to establish authority. Because of the reach a solid network provides, it’s easier to establish authority in a specific topic or content area. This of course assumes you have knowledge and real authority on the content area.
4. Trusted Voice: Our ability to walk the walk, not just talk the talk helps us close deals and earn trust of new clients based on proven methodologies. By earning our clients trust earlier in the engagement cycle, we can more easily help them become a social business and integrate social media into their business versus simply hiring us to setup their Facebook page (which is what they usually initially think they need).
5. Hang with the right peeps. I always say that if you hang with 9 brokes you’re going to wind up being the 10th! It’s important people new to social media hang out with people who are going places. Don’t sit on your lonely Facebook page wishing someone would “like” and talk to you. Instead get out there and engage.
MS: Three primary benefits that I enjoy: 1) the ability to help people out, share their content, and bring a spike in traffic to a quality post, new resource or tool, 2) greater opportunities to participate in – and speak at – online and in-person events around the world, and 3) early invitations to beta test new platforms, tools, and apps.
Is there much network crossover, i.e. people following you from Twitter to elsewhere?
JF: People who follow me on Twitter inevitably try to connect with me elsewhere. I’m more choosy on other networks — I want high quality connections, not just passing acquaintances — but I have a fairly low threshold for who’s worth connecting to. I like being connected to a lot of people. It helps you drive more action when you need to.
MS: Absolutely. I intentionally cross promote across my various social channels. At times, I’ll tweet out a permalink from a Google+ post to bring more people over to my Google+ profile. I do the same with the permalink of a post on my Facebook fan page from time to time. I often say to my clients and students that, of all the social networks, Twitter is the easiest to proactively grow. Even though the relationships are non-reciprocal, when you follow people the majority will follow you back. Whereas on a Facebook page, it can be much slower to gain momentum – the act of liking other pages doesn’t create an increase in your own likes. Page owners need to be creative in building a highly engaged community in order to grow their network.
Advice to newbies?
PM: Focus on the people. Relationships are the life raft of evolving technology change. Focus on the art of social media over the science. Knowledge of the tools will come with time. Network growth will come with time. Invest your efforts in connecting to real people, one person at a time. Focus on the heartbeat of social which is real people.
JF: Make sure you’ve got substance to stand on. You can be popular and know everyone, but when they start reading your materials, asking you to speak at events, look at your experience … if there’s little there to speak of, you’re going to be just another follower to them. You’ve got to have a foundation of experience, wisdom, smarts, clients or something to solidify yourself with influencers in your field. Then you can become one yourself. Those without substance don’t last long.
MS: Be active every single day, if only for a few minutes a day. (Okay, you can take Sundays off if you wish, but that’s often a very active day on social networks. Plus, Sunday is Monday on the other side of the world!) During that time, 1) share quality content, 2) engage back, and 3) proactively friend/follow a few more people. You can always do this via your mobile device when away from your desk.