Lessons in Influence: How I ranked #43 in Fast Company’s Influence Project

Did you ever wonder how much influence you really have? I did.

When I heard about The Influence Project sponsored by Fast Company to find the most influential person online I was slightly intrigued, if nothing else to find out if, and where, I may rank given my extensive work over the last number of years in the social media. I didn’t expect to see myself anywhere but I’d be pretty psyched if I did 😉

I clicked a link that presented a very stimulating visual display of participants already engaged. The shiny bauble had me and I signed up with Facebook Connect to immediately enter (what I would come to consider) “the race to learn more”.

I received this email:

Kevin,

Thank you for participating in Fast Company’s The Influence Project. You’re about to find out how influential you really are. Your unique, personalized ‘influencer’ URL is:

http://fcinf.com/v/bo89/welcome

Click on the above link, and start influencing! Remember:

1) You can use any means to spread your unique link to your online network. We shortened it for you so you can share on Twitter and Facebook.

2) Your goal is to influence as many people to click on it as possible.

3) You want those people to sign up as well, since they will be spreading your influence along with their own.

4) You can track how your influence has grown, where it’s led, and where you stand at any time on the site.

5) Your picture is going to be in the November issue of Fast Company magazine, where we’ll reveal the most influential person online!

Thank you, The Fast Company team

Some of the things I keyed into immediately:

  • You can use any means to spread your unique link…
  • …Influence as many people to click as possible.
  • Your picture is going to be in the November issue of Fast Company magazine…

SatMkt-FastCompany1Any means necessary? Hate the game not the player.

The use of my communications skills, creativity and strategy, in addition to my place in several moderately-developed social media sites, I figured, would greatly impact the success of my effort over someone without. Admittedly, other skill sets or starting placements in a network could probably also provide some strategic advantage. My placement is self-perceived as a member of the social community (albeit one of the more active), but not someone with a following, like an author or an expert or a celebrity. I think these distinctions are important as you consider my starting point, and if you could replicate this exercise for your own purpose.

I’ve been getting people to “click” most of my career.

What if we think of “click” like “act”? For instance, advertising is writing headlines that get clicks. PR is working the network for editors and reporters that click with my compelling story. Graphics make it click to viewers. Branding is making sure it clicks into place, and marketing is putting this all in the right place so it has a chance to click the counter of participants.

This was my perceived advantage – knowing what makes people click. This on top of a pretty good social media platform (i.e. the collection of all the sites and services I have a presence within.)

Fast Company MagazineLest we forget – my picture will be in the national magazine?

Have you checked ad rates lately? Having my picture within a national business magazine was worth something, particularly given my work within the space. You don’t think I’m going to work this into my new biz dev if I hit? You’re reading this, aren’t you?

Big Disclaimer

When I started to participate within The Influence Project I committed to disclosing everything I would do to “influence” my rankings. It’s part of the redemption I thought I should offer for the evils I applied to my collective efforts just so I would rank well, and so I would have something good to talk about when it was over.

So here it is; everything I did to influence my position.

First, I sent an email to everyone I knew that would be interested in a project like this, or the subject matter.

Subject: How influential are you? Fast Company is sharing your rankings…

Hey, George:

I’ve found a very interesting contest from Fast Company to find the most influential person online;

http://fcinf.com/v/bo89

It’s a really interesting use of social media to create content and involve people, and the visualization of the data is a composite of profile pics. I think it’s a great example of social media marketing and thought you may be interested. – kp

I estimate I sent this to approximately 300 email addresses, and I sent a follow-up a week later with my status update and a request to explore it for themselves.

It was important to make sure I was truthful, and to fully disclosed what the link was, and why I thought they should care. If I didn’t I think it would be perceived as spam, or at the very least irrelevant, which would decrease my credibility for the next time I sent them something to review.

fast-company-logo-300x300Facebook

I posted to my Facebook Profile (900+ friends) and added a link to the sign-up, and included a color thumbnail of Fast Company’s logo: http://www.facebook.com/KevinPopovic. The post can’t do all the work, but it should compel them to “learn more”, or serve as evidence to support the post (even though they may not check it out themselves, they may assume it supports by the headline, description and image of the link).

Remember Marketing’s “WIIFM” – What’s in it for me? I did.

I posted the link to my profile with the same message as my email and encouraged my friends to join me in exploring the ranking and the visuals – two things I thought would be of real value, interest or benefit.

Many of my friends are in the same business as I am (or in related fields), and we usually post related items. This is where I thought I could get a lot of click-thru’s as many of my friends follow my lead, or will try new things I suggest to them. Again, I believe I have earned this social capital because I do not inundate them with things that aren’t really that interesting or valuable to them. In fact, feedback I receive (and pay attention to) says my track record is pretty high. Remember, when I recommend something it’s something I’m putting my name on.

Ideahaus LogoFacebook Group & Fan Pages

I re-posted the same message and link to Ideahaus’  Facebook Group and Fan Page. Assuming we have influence with these participants, this seemed an appropriate place and audience to help my efforts. I received comments in return, and confirmations that the link and project were of interest (audience feedback – make sure you listen 😉

I also took advantage of the social capital I have earned as the Communications Director for my clients, and the audience I have built on their behalf. The Facebook Fan Page for Stylin Online has over 226,000 fans – most of them have come as a result of something I have done or directed. Many of them where more than supportive to give back to one of the people responsible for their fan page, and to join our now collective cause to “help move KP to Number 1.”

As much as I hated to admit it, my existing network was good but not sufficient enough to generate the kinds of clicks I thought I would need to place well. I needed clicks from people outside of my network, that would be interested in learning more, interested in their rankings.

I discussed my situation with a number of colleagues, including Phil Laboon from Eyeflow. Phil and I worked together to reach out to new people – people that would click on my unique URL. While testing different strategies we modeled some close to a pay-per-click campaign although each were at a much lower per cost than normal (pennies per). The tests proved successful generating hundreds of clicks in just a few days.

FastCompany-FB-AdFacebook Ads

Of course I ran ads (“any means to spread your unique link”, remember?) And I ran them for every other reason you run an ad: to advertise a product or service to an audience who would be interested in the purchasing or participating of aforementioned product or services.

I selected users 18+ within the United States who included “social media” within their profiles to target the ads to people who may want to learn more. In doing so they clicked on my unique URL to get there. As the ad delivered what was promised (delivery to the project, and an opportunity to get your own rankings by entering) I had no concerns that this would impact me negatively. I delivered what I promised.

Facebook allowed me to create a ridiculous amount of impressions (6M+), but all I really wanted was the clicks (1,586). And yes, you’re reading the budget correctly – $1,320.04.

FastCompany-FB-Stats

Why would I invest this much into this effort? Because it was cheaper than buying an ad – a lot cheaper. The current rate (10-25-2010) as advertised in the Fast Company Media Kit is $32,330 for a 1/3 page color ad. This does not include additional fees for the online exposure in articles or search results (search “fast company most influential person”).

And the ad would not reflect on me nearly as well as a mention (even just the visual) and the ability to state I was in this month’s issue of Fast Company, a national magazine for my target audience.

LinkedIn-Logo-02LinkedIn Profile

Out of all of my points of contact, I thought I would get the most activity from my LinkedIn Profile and my network of 1,300+ connections. Again, it was not the largest, but it is sizable. And as social relates so close to contemporary business strategy, it was pertinent. I posted a message and link on my status update twice a week, with a slightly different update to keep it interesting and non-repetitive.

LinkedIn Groups

I posted the link with comments to the Ideahaus group on LinkedIn. It seemed the perfect venue to share my activity and what I was learning every week from the project. I am also a member of another 47 business groups and was looking at them as the next strategic target.

Groups (of contacts) may seem like a logical target because of the quantity of prospects, and the one-to-many marketing is a time / cost saver but…

  • I wasn’t the only one posting about the project
  • Each group is moderated by a manager who’s job is to manage incoming communications (how many of the same posts do they want to see?)
  • The more people saw it the more backlash that came with it

Some groups were more “saturated” than most but I did happen to cross my posts with other group members. My posts were deleted in some instances (because of repetition), reprimanded by others (who perceived it as spamming the group). I did receive a number of emails from members that they thought it was interesting too.

LinkedIn Email

I sent one message to each of my 1,300+ connections for the same reasons I thought it was relevant to send an email. It took a little time as the maximum number of recipients is 50 per send (user tip: copy / paste the subject and message twice from a text editor), but I was able to send a personal communication (as opposed to a group broadcast and hoping they saw it). Now, how many people check their LinkedIn inbox on a regular basis is arguable but I did have 6 weeks.

This is starting to sound like a lot of work but it really wasn’t.

twitter-logo-transparentNext, my Twitter status was updated – but it was updated by my LinkedIn updates (twice a week). My Ideahaus (#ideahaus) followers (711) weren’t tasked any more than my other communities. I also included my Satellite Marketing (#SatelliteMktg) followers(718) as this was a good example of my “satellites” in play for a specific purpose. I received several direct messages about the project, which I discussed directly, and in a positive light.

So where is the ROI?

ROI (Return On Investment) is usually viewed with narrow eyes, but me? I wear big glasses. I think my money (and man hours – about 40 over 8 weeks) had been invested well, and I think the ROI has come in some places, and will come in others, including:

1.     Bragging rights, with all caveats in place.

2.     My picture in a national business publication.

3.     A relevant reason to share my story and how I got here.

4.     Lessons about what I, and others, think about “influence”.

5.     Another example of how a “satellite marketing” strategy can be used for business applications.

Fast-Company-KP2

Thank You. Everyone. Even the other 33,294 of you that entered.

Although I don’t think there will be a formal ceremony – especially for #43 – I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped me reached this position.

To all of my friends and colleagues that indulged my adventures in “influence” – I thank you for your patience and understanding. To the social sites and services that facilitated my social networks and the ever-increasing balance of my social capital – I couldn’t do it (as well) without you. To Fast Company, and the architects of The Influence Project – thanks for the cool visuals, for making us think about influence, and ultimately our roles in social media.

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