Recent Posts: Expanding Social Authority and Enlivening Boring Predictions

This blog hasn’t been very active lately, but that’s because most of my contributions have appeared elsewhere. Here’s a roundup of what I’ve been musing about.

10 Tips for Expanding Your Social Authority in 2015 - Part 110 Tips for Expanding Your Social Authority in 2015 – Midsize Insider, Jan. 1, 2015

I go into detail on strategies to get more out of your existing social presences and where to experiment with new ones. It comes down to basic blocking and tackling, and making sharing part of your daily routine.

Organic Facebook Marketing Is Dead; Think Customer Service Instead – Midsize Insider, Dec. 22, 2014

Numerous studies have shown that organic posts by Facebook pages are reaching only a tiny fraction of the audience they used to. This may finally be a wake-up call to marketers to share Facebook responsibility with customer service and to use Facebook as a listening post and customer-retention vehicle.

Research Shows CISOs Gaining Influence Even as Challenges Mount – Midsize Insider, Dec. 15, 2014

IBM’s annual CISO survey shows that security executives are finally getting a seat at the leadership table.

20 Ways to Enliven Those Boring Year-End Predictions – LinkedIn, Dec. 16, 2014

Annual predictions are now a dime a dozen, and most are predictable, self-serving and monotonous. Instead of following the pack and issuing the same old lame set of predictions, change up your angle and approach to make them stand out. Here are 20 ideas organized into eight categories.

Rick Short, IndiumFIR B2B #20: Indium’s Awesome Engineers

In Episode 20 of the For Immediate Release B2B podcast, we speak to Rick Short, Director of Marketing Communications at Indium Corp. Indium has created a creative and successful inbound marketing campaign that connects engineers to customers to solve problems in exchange for contact information. It’s paying off so well that the company can afford to increase its focus on lead quality because it has more than enough leads in the hopper.

FIR B2B #19: Doubts about Social Media’s Lead Gen Potential

Two new surveys cast doubt on the value of social media as a lead generation vehicle. One found that the top three value propositions of social media relate to ongoing customer engagement rather than lead generation. A second found organic social media marketing and social media advertising, which have some of the lowest costs per lead, also produced the worst quality leads.

In our interview section, we speak to Don Lesem and David Wagman of IHS and Engineering360, which is one of a suite of vertical communities the B2B information provider is launching to increase customer engagement.

FIR B2B #18: John Fox on Why Marketers Need to Get Out of the Office

John Fox has led the launch or re-launch of 44 companies, resulting in double and triple-digit growth for every client served. He thinks all the talk of a radically new B2B buyer journey is overblown. The process hasn’t really changed all that much, he says in this interview, and he has provocative thoughts on what content really motivates buyers.

Infographic Gives Good Overview of Good Helpouts

One of the many little-known Google services is Helpouts, which are video meetings with experts who can help you do everything from seed your lawn to play the piano. You can hold impromptu Helpout conferences using Google Hangouts immediately or schedule them for later, depending on the expert and availability. Some carry a charge and others are free. Several brands offer free Helpouts to support their products.

A useful infographic arrived today from DPFOC, a digital marketing agency based in Ireland and the UK. It traces the history of Helpouts and offers some useful advice on what you can do with them.  I thought it was worth sharing. I’ll even forgive the agency for auto-launching a video when you visit its site.

DPFOC IG Helpouts

Stop Talking! I’m Trying to Listen!

Three years ago I routinely advised clients to spread their content around liberally through multiple channels as a way to reach the largest possible audience. I recommended setting up multiple Twitter accounts for different functions like customer service and marketing. And I advised linking generously to influential bloggers as a way of generating reciprocal links that build search visibility.

Today I would recommend none of those things. As social networks have grown, so has the amount of noise they generate. Spammers have corrupted the value of outbound links to much that some bloggers no longer even use them. The factors that once made social media so appealing – accessibility and openness – have become a liability.

What to Stop doing in Social Media_coverLast week David Spark launched an ebook that provides important updates on the social media practices that many of us have long taken for granted – but perhaps shouldn’t any more. Hazardous to Your Social Media Health (free with minimal registration) contains advice from Spark and 56 other veteran practitioners about 50 online behaviors that used to be cool but aren’t any more. One of my comments is included in the book, but that isn’t why I recommend it. I just think it serves a timely and valuable purpose.


An overarching theme of the ebook is to shut up. The din of auto-posts and pointless comments about nothing in particular is drowning out valuable messages and undermining social media’s value, say several of the contributors. Democratic media is great, but when everyone is shouting at once you can’t hear anything.

David Spark

“This giant land grab of users was actually valuable when we weren’t so overwhelmed by social messaging,” Spark writes. “Now the influx is so overwhelming that we’re reliant on filters to manage the noise.”

For example, Leo Laporte (@leolaporte), who has nearly a half million Twitter followers, says he doesn’t even read his home Twitter feed anymore because it’s so clogged with useless messages. He now relies upon filtering and aggregation services like Flipboard and Nuzzle to sort through the noise.

The victim of too much noise is meaningful conversation. The opportunity to talk with constituents was the reason many brands went online in the first place, but it’s getting harder and harder to converse with an audience that’s overwhelmed with information.

Beyond Social Media

So maybe it’s time for the media to evolve beyond collaboration. Giovanni Rodriguez (@giorodriguez), CEO of SocialxDesign, suggests that the next evolution of social media will “enable people to do more, not just talk more.”

He’s referring to the emerging so-called collaborative economy, which uses social constructs to create value. Services like AirBNB and Uber either enable us to do things we couldn’t do before or make it faster/cheaper/easier to accomplish tasks. The collaborative economy is an exciting development. A couple of years ago we thought it was cool to consult our social network for advice on where to book a hotel. Now the members of our network have become the hotel.

Spark and his collaborators are particularly harsh on practices that contribute to the noise level without adding value or that have selfish objectives like raising the sender’s profile at someone else’s expense. Sections like, “Stop Blogging About Everything” and “Stop Lifecasting” drive home this point. In “Stop Sharing Without Consumption,” he scolds Guy Kawasaki by name for openly advocating the practice of sharing headlines without actually reading the content. He also tweaks the practice of content curation if it’s done simply to build one’s social profile on the back of others’ work. Much as I love Kawasaki’s Twitter style, I agree completely with Spark’s criticisms.

I don’t agree everything in Hazardous to Your Social Media Health, of course, including Stowe Boyd’s advice to stop using RSS readers and Charlene Li’s admonitions against personal blogging. Some of the listed behaviors are also duplicative or appear to have been added to stretch the list to 50, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is a useful, timely and practical how-to manual for the next stage of social media development. I guarantee that in five years much of it will be out of date, but it’s sure a useful document to read right now.

How to Read and Summarize a 20-Page Research Report in 20 Minutes

You were just handed a 20-page research report with the assignment to write a headline and four-paragraph summary that will entice your target audience of business and IT executives to read it. Where do you begin?

Marketing professionals face this problem all the time. They have to take a voluminous amount of data and analysis on a topic about which they may know very little and make it not only accessible but sexy. Often they opt for the two paths of least resistance:

  • Copy the executive summary verbatim.
  • Use vague language to disguise the fact that they don’t understand what the report says.

It doesn’t have to be that way. With a few tricks demonstrated here, you can skim a 20-page report, identify key points and write a summary that can easily be adapted for different audiences in about 20 minutes. The key is to let the authors of the document do most of the work.

We’ll use the big data analytics study from IBM that’s embedded below as an example. The annotations I’ve made in the red boxes show some of the highlights you’ll use to create your summary (if the annotations aren’t showing up on your browser, click the link below the embed to download the PDF).

As you skim the document, look for signposts that point to important information and label them. Here are some labels I use. You can copy these or make up your own.

Key Point – Essential information for one or more of the audiences you need to reach, this is one of the two or three most important findings.

New Insight – Analysis by the report’s authors that challenges convention or indicates new ways of thinking about a trend or problem. In many cases, new insights are the principal value a research study offers.

Important Data – Statistics that support key points or that validate the quality of the research.

Takeaway – Useful information that tells how key points and important data can be put to practical use.

Summary Trend – Attitudes, practices or behaviors that research has identified are common to a large number of people or organizations  and that may indicate change in the market.

Important Sub-Theme – Trends or findings that are not essential to the main topic but which are interesting nonetheless. Important sub-themes are often surprising or unintentional discoveries.

Potential Gotcha – in behaviors or beliefs usually involve risks or tradeoffs. Gotchas are what people worry about. They’re critical to story-telling because they introduce dramatic tension, which makes stuff interesting.

Outsource the Work

The secret to skimming a report without digesting it in its entirety is to let the authors do the work for you. After all, they know a lot more about the topic than you do and they want to show off their best stuff.

Don’t just copy the executive summary and walk away, though. The authors may be addressing a different audience than you are, or they may have downplayed a point that you think is really important. You still have to perform due diligence.

Look for signposts that point you to important information. Here are a few:

Executive Summary – This is what the authors think is most important, and they’re probably right. It’s critical that you read it,

Data – Look for numbers in the body of the report, percentages in particular. These may be Important Data that supports Key Points or Sub-Themes, or they could just be interesting factoids.  Look in particular for percentages of 50 or more. This indicates a majority of the people surveyed  agree on something.

Charts and Graphs – When the authors go to the trouble of extracting data and turning it into an image, they must think it’s pretty important. The information in charts is often critical validation for Key Points. You can extract important numbers to sprinkle throughout your summary or press release.

Callouts – Those are the paragraphs or quotes that usually appear in larger type and are set off from the rest of the text by hairlines or boxes. Page 4 of the IBM report has a callout at the bottom of the page. Callouts are commonly used to add visual variety, but the passages or quotes they contain are usually points the authors think are important.

Subheads – When done right, these denote breaks in the narrative that either take it in a new direction or organize information into categories. The subhead “Defining big data” on page 2 of the IBM study is a change-of-direciton subhead, while “The pattern of big data adoption” subhead on page 10 is the beginning of a whole subsection of the document in which the authors discuss a typical staged approach to deployment. Each subhead within that section denotes a different stage. They’re good bullet points for your summary.

Summary recommendations – Most reports conclude with a summary of the findings. Again, the authors are doing your work for you by telling you what they think matters.

Copy the sections of the report you just highlighted and paste them into a document. You now have all the important elements to work with. In my next post I’ll talk about how to boil that information down into a good summary.

Next: How to Summarize Content for a Business Audience