What Is a Social Media Influencer?

The buzz word of the past few years has been influencers and because of its buzzword status it has taken on a meaning so bland, it is almost useless. An influencer is literally any person with influence. That can be a celebrity or the owner of a local business who influences what people wear in a small town. However, a social media influencer is a specific type of individual who has influence across social media spheres. They are also a key part of growing your  business’s online presence and more importantly your social media following.

A social media influencer is one who exerts influence over an audience of any size on any variety of social media platforms.

However, as I argue in my forthcoming book “You Don’t Need Social Media Unless You are Doing It Right: A Small Business Guide to Social Media” that type of influencer isn’t necessarily relevant:

The most effective influencers are not the people at the bottom with one follower, nor are they the people at the very top with all the followers. They are the people who have moderately sized followings and who have audiences in more than one circle.

Think about it this way:

  • The person at the apex of an influencer pyramid (i.e. the “most important name” or the person with the biggest following on a topic) has a lot of authority but they only talk about one thing like sneakers.

  • The person at the bottom of the influencer pyramid might talk about a lot of things or about a singular thing but they likely have too few followers for it to be worth your time to engage with them.

  • The real influencers who provide brand value are those in between the bottom and the top who have influencer in multiple segments i.e. sneakers and ice cream and have a moderate to decent number of followers. These are connectors.

In his book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell defines connectors as, “a handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack for making friends and acquaintances.” Steven Johnson, in his book Where Good Ideas Come From, discusses this social construct even further. He argues that it is not just that connectors are sharing information across different groups – it is that they are sharing information that comes from a different context.

This difference is context i.e. someone who is not just an ice cream enthusiast but also a lover of crime dramas  and 18th Century Chinese art helps an idea to permeate new information networks that create idea spread. Not only do ideas spread that way but that as ideas or concepts cross groups, they begin to innovate and change other people’s ideas.

People’s ideas change because they are being hit with information that is new and novel to them. This is the real way that you change broad scale perception and why you begin an influencer approach.

You need your topic to spread into new audiences where it would not otherwise spread because you only have access to your limited audience. When you identify connector-influencers (who from here out we will simply call influencers) you are able to scale your ideas out to audiences where these ideas, in part because they are new, can make a broader impact.

The growth of an idea then comes not from the size of the audience following a specific person but rather their ability to transmit ideas across multiple channels. These people are more effective than other types of influencers because they possess the ability to cross-pollinate.

A real social media influencer is someone who helps a message spread through crosspolinating it across different channels. As you begin to source influencers, you should be looking for not just those at the apex of their relevance but for those who are connector-influencers and can help your idea spread outside of your segmented audience.

There is a fascinating TED talk by Dave Troy who maps social media maps with geographic maps and shows the ghetto-ization of ideas within social communities. Therein, we see the role of the connector-influencer brought to life as they are someone who quite literally traverses social divides. That is the social media influencer who matters. That is the one you want to create partnerships with as you grow your channels and think about new and different means of growing a social media following.

So, I ask you: how are you developing your influencer plan? What are you doing to ensure that you are finding connector – influencers? I will discuss this more in the next post.

What It Means To Put Your Brain on Social Media

The following blog post is not for beginners but rather my rumination on an inherent problem arising from social media i.e. the question of what results from your brain on social media or the way social media targets changes our brains. Consider this a theoretical musing by a professor of social media that’s a 3.0 conversation for social media marketers.

Remember those 90s commercials about your brain on drugs? Turn out social media acts like a drug for your brain. As a result likes and comments produce  the feel good hormone serotonin and increase neurological activity in the brain. This is your brain on social media: constantly searching for the next feel good high.

The study done at UCLA scanned the brains of 32 teens who were asked to submit pictures and then awarded a random number of likes. After scanning their brains, the scientists found that the more likes a photo got the more neurological activity a teen showed. This is the same activity shown when one buys chocolate or wins money.

What does that mean for us as marketers and what does that mean for us as humans?

For marketers, it shows the integral connection between the brains of our target customers and our brands. User generated content that grows more engagement results in feel good vibes about the product and about the user. Therefore, the more we ask users to create content about us and then reward them for that content creation the more effective we are going to be in creating good positive relationships. This speaks also to the need for brands to like and respond to comments from their users. If we like content, it helps to fuel the serotonin burst.

Tip: Make sure you are as engaged with what your audience is posting as you are with your own posts.

For humans, I think its worrisome. It shows the addictive nature of social media and the way it takes over our brain and our level of happiness. I worry about teens who delete posts that don’t get likes fast enough or judge their self esteem on the responses to social media content. And, yet, I feel like we have done them an injustice by not explaining that a like doesn’t have  a value and that social media has manufactured its own importance.

Tip: We know the mental connection between values and responses to online content but perhaps we don’t have to exploit it. We should manage our expectations of what is possible — provide value where we can and not demand audience size for the sake of audience size.

Do you agree or disagree about the way we should act when considering the brain on social media? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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5 Easy Ideas for Your Social Media Strategy (AND WEBINAR!)

Do you ever feel like you are sitting around creating social media post after social media post but your audience size isn’t growing and you aren’t seeing results? You are not alone. The majority of small business owners who participate on social media don’t see the results they want. The number one culprit for this occurrence is that your social media strategy and your business strategy are not aligned.

Tonight, starting in two minutes, I’ll be hosting a live webinar on Facebook to talk about why your social media strategy and your business strategy need to be aligned and the simple way to do it. Join to ask questions in real time!

If you can’t make it, here are the 5 Easy Ways to Connect Your Business Strategy with Your Social Media Strategy.  First off, get two pieces of paper. On one, write your business vision, business goals and business audience down. Repeat this on a second piece of paper.

  1.  Visualization: Take one of those two pieces of paper and put it in front of wherever you sit when you are creating your social media posts. This will help you to constantly check that what you are posting on social, aligns with your business goals.
  2. On the second piece of paper, look at your business goals and ask yourself which of this will be improved by social media? Often, not all your goals have a social media component. This is important direction to have as you are building your social media platforms.
  3. Then ask yourself: who is your audience? What social media platform would they be using? Re-position your social media time to invest in those platforms over others.
  4. Now, write down next to your business vision, goals and audience, your social media vision, your social media goals and your social media audience. This will help you to understand what you are trying to accomplish on social media and why.
  5. Finally, spend time understanding how your social media goals can benefit your business goals i.e. what would have to happen on social to see you have a successful business result. Make sure there is a way to track and measure this.

Social Media Strategy for Small Businesses

Confused about what it means to set a business goal or vision? The below taken from my upcoming book on social media titled “You Don’t Need Social Media, Unless You Are Doing It Right: A Small Business Guide to Social Media” coming out in July, explains:

You want to understand the goals and vision of your business because it should directly translate to the goals and vision of your social media plan i.e. your social media plan should help reinforce and be reflective of your company goals. This may sound like common sense to some but it is often surprising to realize that small businesses with two or more owners don’t have common understandings of the business’s vision and goals.

When I was teaching a class in Nairobi a few years back, I was asked to consult on the creation of a social media plan for a start-up incubator hub. The five partners sat with me in a room and explained why they needed a social media plan. When I asked them to step back and tell me what their business plan was, I received five very different and somewhat conflicting answers. I explained that until they knew and were aligned on what their business should do, I wouldn’t be able to craft a social media plan that achieved results. If I didn’t know what the business wanted to do, the social media would only reflect that and they would see the slow, listless growth that had been the impetuous for the original meeting.

Similarly, last year, I was working with a professional leadership development coach who shared that while her business was growing rapidly, she was struggling to see any growth in her social media channels and she couldn’t figure out why. She routinely spent an hour a day on social media and yet, she only saw one or two followers increase per week. When I asked her why she was on social media, she looked at me like I wasn’t listening.

“I have to be on social media,” she said.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because everyone is,” she said.

“But, why are you on it?” I asked again.

Then she stopped talking and looked at me and really listened. Eventually, we determined that she wanted to use social media to build her brand personality so that she could get speaking gigs and eventually launch and publish a book. Now, she has a laser focused vision for how to engage on social media and a plan that is tuned to getting her in front of the TED community, interacting with leaders in her sphere and sharing her thoughts online, so that she has the material to write a book in the next few years. Her goals of speaking and book publishing align with her business goals to increase her passive income (i.e. ways to make money without requiring service) and to enhance her credibility with top tier corporate leaders.

A social media plan to be successful needs to have a central thematic topic and vision in order to allow customers to understand why the channel exists and how to relate to the channel. A business vision does this for your social plan.

To determine your business vision, look five to ten years in the future and ask yourself, if I was wildly successful, what would my business do? Examples of business vision statements include Microsoft’s previous vision “to put a PC in every home in the world;” Starbuck’s vision statement ss “to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time;” and Tesla’s vision statement is “to create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world’s transition to electric vehicles.”

If you are having trouble creating a vision statement, check out Five: Where Will You Be Five Years from Today by Dan Zadra. It’s a useful book for figuring out your personal or professional vision statement and simpler to use than a lot of the MBA books on the topic.

I believe that setting a big business vision is the single most important thing that you can do for your business. As Lafley and Martin say “A too modest aspiration is far more dangerous than a too-lofty one.”  The reason being that a modest vision mostly achieves modest results. Modest results are boring for your employees, for your investors and for your customers. You could be a run of the mill car manufacturer or you could be Tesla. Which do you think gets people more excited and interested in being associated with your brand? Tesla wins every time.

When I host classes, I challenge students to expand their business vision using a simple exercise that I have outlined below. I’d encourage you to try this as well before you read any further:

  • Take a few minutes to write down your vision statement.
  • Then ask: how could I expand what this statement accomplishes? Can I make it bigger?
  • Then ask yourself again: how do I make that more interesting to me?
  • Then ask: would I be happy doing this and if not, what would make me more satisfied?
  • Then ask yourself, one more time: how can I expand this?

Having a vision for your business is about having a vision for yourself, for each person who works for you and for every person that will come in contact with your brand. It’s also about understanding why you are doing what you are doing and creating alignment on the why is what directs your social media execution i.e. the story you tell across those platforms.

Noted speaker and author Michael Hyatt’s recent book discusses the concept of drift. Drift is what happens when you are living a life without intention and strategic goals. Drift happens when you’re just floating through your life taking what comes to you. Drift happens all the time in social media when we do not align with our business visions and instead waste time tweeting, liking, friending and following rather than strategically acting to ensure the biggest results. Fight the drift, by engaging in a big business vision.


A business goal is a one to two-year goal that you want to accomplish because it helps your business get that much closer to achieving your vision. These are measurable, and actionable goals. In general, these goals will be focused on the bottom line i.e. these goals should in some fashion help you to increase your ability to SELL your products and services or fundraise to be able to accomplish your mission.

There is a business acronym for setting goals called S.M.A.R.T. This stands for specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, and timely and is a tool to make sure that the goals you are setting you can achieve. First created by G.T. Doran in the early nineteen eighties, this framework has been widely embraced by the business community. In his book, he writes “Ideally speaking, each corporate, department, and section objective should be:

  • Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
  • Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
  • Assignable – specify who will do it.
  • Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
  • Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

Notice that these criteria don’t say that all objectives must be quantified on all levels of management… (it) is the combination of the objective and its action plan that is really important. Therefore, serious management should focus on these twins and not just the objective.”

Examples of business goals can include:

  1. Selling X number of products in 2016
  2. Raising X amount of dollars in 2017

As you think about your business goals, make sure they are achievable in the short term, easy to understand, and something that is measureable. You generally do not want to have more than three goals and one of those goals should be a definitively focused sales goal. Well this may seem like a lot of work to do just in order to make your social media plans more effective, I can tell you it is worthwhile.

If you, your social media team or any other member of your business does not know your goals then they will not be able to effectively implement them. If they don’t know how to implement against them, time and energy are being wasted caught in the drift of social media.

Why We Side Hustle?

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of speaking with the team at Cosmopolitan magazine on their podcast the Cosmo Happy Hour with host Elisa Benson and co-panelists calligrapher/designer/entrepreneur Rae Childs and founder of Undrrated and Cosmo Deputy Editor Marina Khidekel! The topic? Side Hustles. The result? Everyone needs a side hustle and I want to help you get yours.

Side Hustles

We talked about everything from why we side hustle, to how your side hustle affects your main career, to your community growth, to your work place growth, to your economic freedom. A side hustle is the must do for 2016.

In response to the podcast, I wrote a blog post here on my personal channel and I’m including it below.

Why do we side hustle? We side hustle because our insatiable curiosity cannot be contained, because we refuse to be let our 9-5 jobs limit our passion and our potential. We side hustle because to side hustle is to explore and try again and fail and grow and learn and expand the never ending breadth of our human potential.

 We side hustle because to not explore our own human potential is the greatest injustice we can perpetrate.

 Our potential lies not in our 9-5. It lies not in where we are right now. It lies in the future of our imagination.

 Culturally, we have become boring. We watch Netflix more than we talk to our loved ones. We plan our weddings for longer than we plan our lives. We consume garbage content and we know more about the Kardashians than we do about our sisters. We are boring.

 But, it is through our boredom that the side hustle has erupted — its our unwillingness to  live at the base level. It’s our effort to stand up and take on new projects, to explore new creations, to live a multi-hyphenate life. It’s our “Fuck Yeah – we are living” motto brought to life. Our next promotion is not in the hands of mid-level management. It’s in our hands — to stay in our job, or to pursue a new hobby, or to create a new empire.

 The average billionaire has seven or more streams of income. We should too. Whether you are a billionaire, or you are just getting started: your side hustle is your creative exploration of your potential wrapping around the potential of your economic and intellectual freedom.

 Learn a new skill. Envision a new future. Side hustle; because to not side hustle is to accept the status quo. It’s the economic form of settling.

 We are not settlers. Not a one of us. We all have creative potential and possibility. We have businesses yet to be formed. Passions yet to be found. Networks yet to be cultivated.

 That is why we side hustle.

 We side hustle because the future is bright and vivid in our minds and our potential is endlessly running alongside our effort and our dedication.

 We dare you to start a side hustle because at worst, you will learn a new hobby and at best, you will free yourselves from the constraints of the American Dream to develop dreams of your own. 

Now, do you have a side hustle? If so, what? Share in the comments below. Also, I’m going to launch a Side Hustle podcast in July. Want to be featured? Reach out to me!

Will the Content Bubble Burst?

Will the content bubble burst? You know the content bubble i.e. the crazy machine that brands are force feeding with the drivel, boring bottom of the internet garbage that gets put out there all the time. It’s the culture that’s response for telling me what Kim Kardashian ate for breakfast, who walked down the aisle with Jennifer Lawrence at her best friends wedding, and the 800 ways I should feel bad about my wrinkles, body fat, hair color and the miracle products that will fix it. It’s the reason Vogue is boring and no one wants to read the New York Times. It’s the content bubble and its killing us.

It’s killing us because it is inundating us. It’s ineffective and it isn’t cost effective. Do you know the Daily Dot employs 15 people to run is Snapchat channel? Cosmo has more? Mashable is moving to video to feed the content beast. They are all struggling with the real pressure to increase numbers, drive engagements, and push out more content  because…. Because why? Because more subscribers mean more dollars from advertisers. Because, advertisers think more eyeballs means more potential customers. But, does the dumbing down of content results in fewer eyeballs overtime because people are constantly disappointed?

I had lunch with a friend the other day who was telling me about how she is constantly intrigued by the headlines of a certain Time Inc women’s outlet but constantly disappointed when she actually gets to the article. She’s been “click-baited” and the content has under-served her. I so often feel this way too, that I basically NEVER click on articles online. I only respond to those people I trust share or to those that arrive in my inbox collated by newsletters I believe in.

Recently, in a conversation with Casey Lewis, Co-Founder of the Clover Letter, she talked abut the response that girls have to their daily newsletter. “They want smart content is the response we get from 100% of readers because right now they don’t even know where to go. They go to top news websites and they dont even know what to find because there is so much traffic driver click-bait on the channel.”

I love to point to the upcoming generation as a way of understanding what is and isn’t working in our own social media channels. As such, I believe we need to take what The Clover Letter is finding into account and what we ourselves are also encountering. The world is basically just pumping out shitty content to drive traffic to people who are not going to continue to consume shitty content.

The power comes from the brands that understand this, the brands who lean out to create poignant content, just maybe not all the time. Wait but Why the long form  blog on complicated scientific and cultural issues is the perfect example of this. They do not post uniformly on specific days or issues but instead when they do post they are adding VALUE.

Value is something I write about a lot in my forthcoming book and something that I encourage people to think about in the Social Works System. If you provide real value, people will respond. If you create content with value people with respond. You don’t need to fill the internet with more shitty content. Instead, do us a favor and make valuable content that people will want to consume. Until more brands do this, we will see the content bubble grow and at some point in the future burst. Gen Z, at the very least, isn’t going to put up with it.


Do I Need ChatBots?

Chatbots are the future of the social web. They are also the temporary future of the social web until intelligent agents change the entire way we engage with brands, people and properties online. In the future of intelligent agents, humans will do a fraction of the work we currently do to book trips, make appointments, shop, or research. Instead, we will have our own intelligent agents who we will use natural human language to engage with us and who will work on our behalf with other intelligent agents to do things like book travel, buy Christmas presents, set up meetings, and find answers to our questions. Before we get to that, we will see a change in the way that people are consuming online content.

Right now when we consume online content, we have to search for it and then read the content. We go to websites with search toolbars and long pages of various differentiated content where a web designer and a company have decided what is or should be the most relevant information. When we go to social media platforms, we do much the same thing except the only information that is being surfaced to us is the most recent content or the one that a social platform algorithm has determined will be the most relevant.

What if the paradigm changed? What if brands had smart engaging chatbots that messaged me when they thought I’d want to know something or that joined a conversation with my friend group when we wanted to know where to eat dinner or watch a movie? What if I could just go to a brand’s website and ask it the questions I wanted to know and it would give me the answer without me having to search for it? What if I could go to a department store website, stand in front of my camera on my computer and ask a chatbot what would look best on me from the entire catalogue in the store and it could respond with the three things it recommends I buy?

This is what the future of a chatbot forward world could look like. It’s a world in which the user experience of consuming the web has changed and as result how we engage on social platforms will change. If a department store can make a smart quirky engaging chatbot that I humanize with a name, who learns me, and readily engages with my likes and interests, I wont need social media pages – I’ll have true personalized human connections. Like calling my mother, I will remember to “call” the chatbot when I need her.

For those of you who are building social media platforms and strategically planning for the next decade, the future of chatbots should be on your horizon. In the way that apps, were the thing of the late aughts and early teens, chatbots will dominate the next five years. Brian Roemmele, the payments expert, recently argued in a Medium article about Viv (the intelligence agent being created by the team behind Siri) that when:

“Viv Labs … (opens)… the system up to developers….I am predicting a land rush similar to when Apple opened up the App store for the iPhone.”

The future will be in determining how to best use these chatbots to do what your customer needs on your website or social channels. It will simply replace the app as a means to source content to the individual because it will be more streamlined, require fewer steps and be more personal and relevant to the customer. It wont just replace the app, though. It will replace how you do business, how your web properties exist and how we engage broadly.

So, do you need a chatbot? Yes.

Now, how do you create a chatbot? It is still very early days in the world of chatbot creation and as such, there are not a lot of tools and resources for determining how to make a chatbot and answering the question for businesses of how to create their own chatbot. So, start with determining your value add:

  • What is the unique experience that you think a chatbot could bring to your customer?
  • Will there be something that chatbot can do that your customer currently struggles with?

The next step would be to source out an agency or developers who can help you bring this to life. They will guide you through both the UX, UE, and back-end experience necessary to enact. It’s the wild west out there for chatbots, so dont expect this to be cheap or easy. What it will do is help to put you at the front of the market and as the category lead with your solution and that alone might be worth the effort.

Want to learn more? Check out this  Facebook chatbot group here, this very good article in the Guardian, and, you can check out another of our blog posts here.


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