Today I received a cold call from someone telling me how their outsourcing company from India can help me build my business the same way they have done this for many other reputable companies. I am a bit too nice when it comes to these calls for many reasons including the fact that I understand the challenges of building a business and you never know who you are speaking with.
A few minutes after this sales call I got a call that started out similarly with someone mispronouncing my name as they asked to speak with me. The difference this time is that the call was from a very large potential client in the performance marketing space (our main business). Of course I did not know this until after I got off the call and was able to research the company more.
How To Break Through The Social Clutter To Find Those Valuable Relationships That Really Matter
In this time of multiple touch points, on and offline, it is difficult to know just who you are speaking with and what their motivations might be. If you are like me you have many email accounts, Twitter accounts, IM, VOIP, Cell Phone, land line, snail mail, SMS, FaceBook, LinkedIn, the list goes on and on.
If you take the time to check every message from someone new to judge whether they warrant further investigation you will probably spend most of your time just dealing with research and communication to these people. I thought Social Media was supposed to help us communicate better, faster and when and where we wanted. Instead it is becoming an overwhelming fire hose for many people where they ad hoc communicate with separate groups of people who each have their favorite social tools.
Social Media is still new and unless you already know the person trying to reach out to you it is still a guessing game, or is it? One of the best things about social media is the immediacy of information. Take real time search for example. You can quickly find people who are Tweeting or posting to FaceBook information about “outsourcing” but with the huge list of information that displays in the search results, how do you judge relevancy of the person posting it as well as their authority in the space?
Is this person just reading an article or are they an expert in this area? When you step back from the social media flurry hopefully you will remember how most people grow their business: referrals and recommendations from people they know. In the social ether this does not quite mean the same thing as it did before, but it still holds a lot of weight. There are certain social indicators that you can use to quickly judge the potential value and opportunity from a new contact whether it is a referral from someone you know or someone you don’t.
Take Twitter as the example social network. Like many basketball fans, I followed the flare up over the @Shaq twitter account vs @THE_REAL_SHAQ some time ago. Now this is a celebrity vs a nobody which is fairly easy to quickly figure out if by no other way than to check the profile follow numbers and URL.
What about the business world? Just because someone recently signed up and has only a few followers does that mean you should ignore their direct messages? What if the account is very focused on a tiny niche, does that mean that they will never have a lot of followers? Do you really have to read their bio, all their tweets, follow their profile URL and see who follows them? If they are just starting out they may be a huge opportunity for you but appear to have little to no value after all this research.
Bottom line, how do you judge authority of the person contacting you or Tweeting information that you find interesting or useful?
1. Twitter Profile Review
You should click through to their profile. Have they spent the time to customize their background and picture? Do they have more followers than people they are following? Do they have a URL and is it branded to their account? Does their account have Google PageRank (this probably justifies a whole article but we will save that for later)?
2. URL Shortener
This is probably only a useful measure for people who work in the interactive space. If they are digital rock stars then they should be using a URL shortener for a reason, not just because it is the default shortener in the API they use for Twitter. For example if people use TinyURL they do not place much value on the shortener they use since this is a shortener that is not very short and has basically no added value.
If they don’t place a lot of value on what happens to their links, and how they use them, then why should you bother even clicking them? If they use a mix of shorteners then you can read into this that they probably Tweet a lot from different applications and don’t organize everything in one place (does this tell you anything about the way they work?).
Some people are using services like 9mp.com for branded URLs, tracking, vanity URLs, SEO value, and other functionality. 9mp also has a unique algorithm which provides an authority weight from 1-5 which provides some insight into a Tweeter’s authority and can be read similar to Google PR. The ultimate is if someone uses a fully branded URL shortener that is customized to their account or business, such as Amazon.com. These people are obviously serious about social media, branding and their links.
3. Twitter Authority Ranking Sites
Recently a few of these sites have popped up and they each offer slightly different value.
Tweetmeme: This is a good tool to assess a blogger or their content and the power of links on Twitter, but is not really that useful for assessing an individual Tweeter’s value and relevancy to you. It can give you a quick way to see how popular the person’s content is on the web with the number of links they have and how many retweets those links have received.
Klout: This seems to be the most direct attempt to help people measure the value of a Tweet and the person who sent it. To keep things nice and neat they use a K-Score which gives a single number for fast evaluation. From their website:
Klout measures an individual’s influence on Twitter to help you understand how many of your friends are taking your recommendations for new music, movies or restaurants seriously and clicking your shared links. For businesses, Klout provides insight into who you want to be talking to about your brand and spreading the word about your product.
They make a judgment, using their proprietary algorithm, as to the social influence of the Twitter account:
The Klout engine calculates “True Reach”. True Reach takes into account how active a user’s network of followers actually is. If someone hasn’t tweeted in 3 months it is unlikely they are being influenced by anyone they follow. Klout also evaluates how engaged a person’s followers are. Have they ever @ mentioned or retweeted them? Do they have any common friends and do they talk about the same topics? True Reach allows Klout to go beyond the easily gamed follower count to understand the size of someone’s real audience.
TwitterGrader: This tool provides another good source of information to help you judge the value of someone who contacts you via Twitter.
What Twitter Grader is trying to measure is the power, reach and authority of a twitter account. In other words, when you tweet, what kind of an impact does it have?
Twittorati.com: This new site from Technorati is really set up for tracking bloggers in Twitter. This is very helpful when someone tells you about a new article or blogger to follow on Twitter but is more like trying to assess the value of a potential relationship using TMZ.com than something useful and actionable to the majority of us.
Twitroduce: This tool, for which I have been advising, combines information in a fast snapshot from tweetmeme, Klout, TwitterGrader, 9mp.com and more for those who login. More importantly it is all about getting personal recommendations from people you know.
You can do one of three things, send only a direct message, send a status update and a direct message, or send a status update only. This gives the user the option to be formal, or to allow their suggestion to be read publicly by posting it as a status update. #followfriday was a great idea, but it is like throwing a bunch of flyers into the wind and hoping people pick one up. With Twitroduce you know who is recommended, why, information about them and you can quickly follow them or multiple people with one person. Most importantly you know that the person sending the Tweet meant that recommendation for you vs hundreds of other followers they have.
What does all this boil down to? Well it goes back to what is social media to you? For me it is an extension of what I already do in the networking arena and it adds a nifty tool for added distribution. This means that standard business networking etiquette should apply. You do not “know” someone unless you really do know them and therefore the best way of learning more about someone is by doing your research and asking people who you already know and trust. It is great to have quick snapshot tools like Klout but most likely your largest opportunities will still come as referrals and recommendations from people you already know and trust.
Gideon Rubin is the CEO at Simply Ideas LLC and also blogs about performance marketing, lead generation, and SEO on Performance Marketing Blog. Follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn