FIR B2B Podcast #96: Lessons from the demise of Klout

Klout is dead. The news wasn’t a surprise, and the announcement from its current owners at Lithium didn’t leave anyone tearing up. The idea of boiling influence down to a single number always struck us as overly simplistic. And the tools to measure influence are so much more sophisticated now than in Klout’s heyday.

But we should pause and understand why Klout fell into disuse and what marketers can learn about measuring the effectiveness of their social media campaigns. It’s also a good time to look at what other tools are available that are useful, such as LinkedIn Social Selling Index, (shown here) which gives your account various scores and then breaks them down into four components that have a little more meaning. You can see how you rank within your industry and within your LinkedIn network. There’s also Twitter Analytics, which tracks changes in your Twitter engagement through five different elements: tweets, tweet impressions, profile visits, mentions, and followers. Again, one number doesn’t really describe the range of influence that a social network provides, and you might want to focus on one or two elements as you measure your own reach.

I reviewed social media marketing tools many years ago and certainly that universe has seen some evolution, but SproutSocial, SimplyMeasured, Looker and Adobe’s Marketing Cloud are all still available and very reasonable measurement tools as you construct your campaigns. And as general purpose business intelligence tools such as Microsoft’s PowerBI and Domo become easier to use, they can be used for this purpose.

We also touch upon another looming deadline this week, with the GDPR regulations coming into full force. My podcasting partner Paul Gillin has written a piece about executives are turning more positive on its potential and also using the compliance deadline to effect some positive changes in their organizations’ privacy and data protection policies.

You can listen to our latest podcast (15 min.)here.

FIR B2B #94 podcast: Panera Dread

Panera Bread’s reaction to a breach of its customer records is a classic example of what not to do on so many levels that it’s hard to know where to start. Officials lied to reporters about the nature and extent of the breach, treated the security experts that knew what actually happened with disdain, took months to recognize the existence of the breach only after others revealed it to the public, told people that the leak was fixed when it wasn’t and glossed over the real issue: a major IT flaw in its application program interface specs that caused the breach to begin with (as well as another this week at P.F. Chang’s). It didn’t help matters that the chief information security officer at Panera came there from a similar job at Equifax in 2013.

The reaction from Ragan is a good summary of what happened and how the situation was mis-handled, and if you want more specifics from the security researcher that first found out about the flaw last August, can read this post on Medium. That latter link reproduces the email messages that showed how the company ignored the researcher’s notification. Firms need to hold themselves to better accountability, have breach plans in place, and make it easier for security researchers to submit vulnerability disclosures in a non-threatening and simple way.

My 14 min. podcast with Paul Gillin can be played here.

FIR B2B podcast #93: Is privacy finally a thing for B2B marketers?

With the #DeleteFacebook meme taking hold, this could be a turning point for privacy, or certainly is a major moment of reflection about what the role of marketing is in this debate. Marketers have certainly been dazzled by the potential of big data for targeting and personalization. Maybe they need to exercise more caution in the future, or at least respect the need for better privacy controls.

With my partner Paul Gillin, I discuss a few thoughts about the changing nature of privacy and what the revelations of the past week mean for marketers.

Reactions to the Facebook disclosures have been negative. The Internet Society has posted an op/ed saying that “Mark Zuckerberg’s apology is a first step, but it’s not enough.” Certainly, many people and businesses (SpaceX and Tesla are two corporate examples) are deleting their Facebook pages, but do they really understand that this data persists for quite some time? The EFF has this handy guide for individual privacy, and Wired has posted a more comprehensive series of suggestions here. We suspect that some corporate users will also get smarter about how their data is consumed by social platforms of the future.  Hopefully, some solid regulation will come of this movement, and a better appreciation of our customers’ privacy too.

On a related note, in perhaps the worst timed news yet, Slack has changed their privacy policy. Now business owners can download entire workspaces, where these conversations are recorded for posterity. We knew that our expectations around workplace privacy were low, but our IM chats too?

There’s also a new academic study on web tracking tools that shows that the threat of misbehaving third-party applications trampling on private data is huge. Thousands of these tracking tools are used by online advertisers, and many are good at evading ad blockers.

The notion of privacy by design has been around for more than a decade; perhaps marketers should take a moment to review some of its precepts.

Listen to our 12 minute podcast here.

Adrian Lamo, RIP

I first met Adrian Lamo back in 2002. I was teaching a high school networking class and I thought it would be cool to have the kids experience a “real” hacker, since so many of them aspired to learn how to get into the computerized grading system that the school ran. It wasn’t a very exciting teachable moment, as I recall. But Lamo made a big impact on me, as he couch-surfed in my New York suburban apartment.

Sadly, I learned that last week he died at age 37 in Wichita, KS. The cause of death hasn’t yet been determined, and he had been living in the area for the past year, according to reports. Lamo moves around alot, thanks to a rather interesting personality that could best be described as on the autism spectrum.  When I met him, he had the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder and was later diagnosed with Aspberger’s. One of his quirks was that it would take him a while to leave my apartment every morning: he had a sequence of steps to follow in a very specific order before he could walk out the door.

Lamo was a study in contradictions: both very bright and very socially awkward, a Sheldon Cooper before his time. He had a high sense of morality. At the time Lamo stayed with me, he had been arrested for breaking into several different computer systems, including that of the freelancer database of the New York Times. His method was to find an open Web proxy server and use that to gain entry inside a corporate network. (It is still a common entry point method, although many companies have finally figured out how to protect themselves.) He never profited financially from these attacks, instead he would often leave hints on how a company could close these proxies and improve their security. He was sentenced to house arrest for the Times attack.

At the time we met, he was called the “homeless hacker” – not because he was living on the streets, but because he was young and had no fixed address, and would go from couch to couch as the mood took him. I offered him a place to stay and a chance to get to know him better, thinking how cool could that be? Little did I know.

When I told my then-teenage daughter about his impending visit, she was rather incredulous (you have someone wanted by the police staying with us) but ultimately she was won over by his geek cred – she had a problem with her cell phone that she recalls him fixing in a matter of seconds.

Well, Lamo went on get a degree in journalism, ironically enough. He was very connected to the tech trade press, and Brian Krebs recalls his various interactions with him in this post.

Lamo is remembered in various tributes in the past few days with his role in the Wikileaks/Cablegate case of 2010, when he divulged the name of Private Manning to the feds as the leaker. Both then and now, his decision was vilified in the hacking community, with numerous online threats.

I had a chance to speak to Lamo back in 2011 and recorded the interview for ReadWrite, where I was working at the time. It covers a lot of ground:

He has some very wise comments about the importance of government secrecy, and the freedoms that it enables for us all. Lamo saw the Manning case from the other side, as a case that would be eventually remembered supporting our freedoms. It was a real issue for him, because as a hacker he could certainly understand what Manning was trying to do, but as someone who also understood the role of our military he couldn’t in good conscience allow her to leak all that data. When Manning contacted Lamo he had a crisis of conscience and made his decision. He struggled over harming Manning, whom he considered a friend, or harming countless others who would be placed at risk because of Manning’s leaks. He wishes Manning had come to him before making the documents public.

This is certainly an interesting position for a hacker to take, to be sure. He was vilified in the hacker community because of it, but I think he made the right decision. “Who would have thought that when we first met ten years ago that I would have been involved in the single biggest intelligence leak in history,” he told me. How true.

He continued to work as a security consultant, helping corporations understand better security practices as well as going out on the speaking circuit. Ironically, his preferred method of communications more recently was FedEx! “I’m a little bit of a Luddite these days,” he said.

Lamo left this planet far too soon. He was a very smart guy and had a very solid moral compass, and those two traits guided his actions all his short life. I am sad that he is no longer with us, and hope that his life can be noted and celebrated for his accomplishments, verve and significance.

FIR B2B podcast #92: TechTarget CMO John Steinert on the science of ‘intent marketing’

John Steinert joined TechTarget as CMO two years ago after a decades-long career in B2B technology at companies that included Pitney Bowes and SAP. So why join a tech publisher? Steinert actually doesn’t see TechTarget as a publisher, and in this recent piece he explained why he was so excited about the opportunity: product, purpose, people and potential. In this interview we discuss the differences between publishing and content marketing, how intent marketing can help provide insights into impending technology purchase decisions and how marketers can make their content more effective and targeted. 

TechTarget’s not-so-secret weapon is its lead generation and tracking mechanisms, which permit the company to see exactly what kinds of content is crucial for their visitors. Steinert describes what data is collected — with visitors’ permissions of course — and how it can be used by their advertisers and sponsors. He also distinguishes between visitors who are just looking to snack on information versus binge consumers, who are likely closer to purchase.

This all makes a difference in what kind of content is created and how keywords are chosen to bring in the right visitors. “You have to have strong SEO, people have to find your stuff and it has to be cross-linked and judged popular and valuable,” he says 

TechTarget’s distinction has always been its portfolio of microsites focused on technologies products or categories — such as SearchWindowsServer.com. But you’d be hard-pressed to find the names of those sites on the company’s home page today. That’s deliberate. Far from being a publisher, TechTarget is today a data company.

Incidentally, both Paul and myself have had a long connection with TechTarget: Paul was the company’s sixth employee and I have been a regular freelancer for numerous websites of theirs.

There is a lot of wisdom in what Steinert says, and he is worth a careful listen to our 25 min. podcast here.

FIR B2B podcast #91: All About Influencer Marketing with Marshall Kirkpatrick

Marshall Kirkpatrick leads influencer marketing at Sprinklr.  He and I worked together at ReadWrite long ago, and he subsequently started Little Bird, an influncer marketing platform that was acquired by Sprinklr in 2016. Since then, he has helped augment the combined platforms for the enterprise.

Marshall has been active in understanding how social media influence is acquired and measured for more than a decade, and likes to talk about this pyramid, in which influence is just one of several steps toward providing real insights into how a brand is understood in various media forms. While our discussion on this podcast is mostly about Twitter and measuring its influence and effects on marketing B2B brands, we also talk about how to find people within an organization that are more inclined to tell your story.

One key data point is to look at when someone started using social media networks: the earlier they did, the more potentially influential that person could be. It isn’t just about counting raw numbers of followers, Marshall says; an influencer has to be picky about who they follow. There are ways to suss this out. Social media is more about finding quality than quantity. 

You can listen to Paul Gillin and I talk about this here.

FIR B2B Podcast #89: Fake Followers and Real Influence

The New York Times last week published the results of a fascinating research project entitled The Follower Factory, that describes how firms charge to add followers, retweets, likes and other social interactions to social media profiles. While we aren’t surprised at the report, it highlights why B2B marketers shouldn’t shortcut the process of understanding the substance of an influencer’s following when making decisions about whom to engage. The Times report identifies numerous celebrities from entertainment, business, politics, sports and other areas who have inflated their follower numbers for as little as one cent per follower. In most cases, the fake followers are empty accounts without any influence or copies of legitimate accounts with subtle tweaks that mask their illegitimacy.

The topic isn’t a new one for either of us. Paul wrote a book on the topic more than ten years ago. Real social media influencers get that way through an organic growth in their popularity, because they have something to say and because people respond to them over time. There is no quick fix for providing value.

Twitter is a popular subject for analysis because it’s so transparent: Anyone can investigate follower quality and root out fake accounts or bots by clicking on the number of followers in an influencer’s profile. Other academic researchers have begun to use Twitter for their own social science research, and a new book by UCLA professor Zachary Steinert-Threkeld called Twitter as Data is a useful place for marketers who know a little bit of code to assemble their own inquiries. (The online version of the book is presently free from the publisher for a limited time.) David has written more about his book on his blog here

Paul and David review some of their time-tested techniques to growing your social media following organically, and note the ongoing value of blogs as a tool for legitimate influencers to build their followings.

You can listen to our 16 min. podcast here:

FIR B2B podcast #87: A LinkedIn Exec’s 2018 Sales and Marketing Predictions

We spoke to Justin Shriber, Vice President of Marketing for LinkedIn Sales and Marketing Solutions, to start off the new year. He put together a series of predictions for the year ahead, and in this discussion he explains them and the role that LinkedIn will play in advancing B2B sales and marketing in 2018.

Smart, quanitative driven marketers will still be in high demand, but the pendulum will start to swing back toward marketers that have a qualitative eye for good stories.

— Brands will re-evaluate the platforms on which they post their content, favoring those that have gone on record saying that user trust is a priority for them. Brands want platforms that give them control over affiliations and customer IDs, where they show up, and the audiences to which they’re exposed.

Sales will be the new awareness marketing channel. Sales used to be the direct connection to prospects, but we will see sellers start to build awareness through direct advocacy programs.

Marketing will gather more intelligence around the reach employees have on the sales side. There will be formal processes that make it possible for employees to easily decide what shareable content speaks to them so they can maintain their own individuality while also benefiting the company. 

LinkedIn Sales Navigator will play an increasing role in this unification of marketing and sales efforts. 

Sales and marketing alignment will continue to improve. Organizations need to engage both sales and marketing in a concerted way from awareness through conversion, rather than having marketing take the front end and sales the back end.

Listen to our 21 minute podcast here.

FIR B2B podcast #85: How Digital Channels Are Transforming B2B Sales

Our guest for this week’s episode is Ray Grady, the President of CloudCraze. In a recent report, CloudCraze uncovers the value B2B organizations are seeing from digital channels and their future expectations for online sales. Forrester expects eCommerce to reach $889 billion and represent 11% of total B2B sales in the U.S. by the end of 2017. Without a doubt, a digital revolution has taken place in B2B, leading to explosive growth for those who have invested in eCommerce. 

We ask Grady about his survey, which covered 400 representatives of consumer packaged goods, manufacturing and software companies. It found some interesting and perhaps non-obvious results:

  • More than half of B2B businesses (56%) give self-service access to all of their customers.
  • For the first time in B2B history, nearly half of B2B businesses sell their full product line online.
  • Sixty percent of B2B decision-makers indicate that the growth of digital has caused their sales team to grow along with it.
  • European businesses are generally more advanced than U.S.-based businesses when it comes to the maturity of their digital commerce sites. They have more of a global mindset, a greater willingness to embrace agile systems and present their site in many different languages. EU buyers are also more comfortable buying B2B products and services online.

You can listen to the 21 min. podcast here.

FIR B2B Podcast: Seth Greene on making effective podcasts

This week my podcasting partner Paul Gillin and I talk to Seth Greene about how to market small (and large) businesses using some time-tested direct response marketing methods that begin with creating podcasts. Seth is the author of Market Domination for Podcasting, as well as several other books. He offers so much great advice in this interview that you’ll want to have your notebook handy. Among his tips and observations about podcasting:

  • Global smartphone proliferation and Apple CarPlay have been big factors in the recent rapid growth of podcasts. It’s time for businesses to take notice.
  • It’s not about big markets – A few hundred regular listeners can give your business a great boost if they’re the right people.
  • Optimal length is 20-30 minutes, which is the length of the average workout or commute.
  • You can do a lot of your own promotion. Use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter. Send email to your clients. Ask your guests to promote to their lists.
  • Interview formats work well for a couple of reasons. One is that it’s hard to keep a narrative going all by yourself for a half hour. Another is that guests will often promote to their friends and associates. If you have a co-host, it’s even easier to keep the discussion moving. In Seth’s case, a partnership with TV celebrity Kevin Harrington has been a huge boost to listenership.
  • The biggest mistake B2B marketers make with podcasts is being boring. You’ve got to bring personality to your show.
  • Don’t turn down any opportunity for media promotion of your program. You never know who’s reading/listening.

Greene’s Market Domination firm has been one of the fastest growing direct response marketing firms in the country. He is the only person in history that Dan Kennedy has nominated for marketer of the year three years in a row and he’s been featured on numerous TV shows and quoted frequently in national business magazines.

Check out his SharkPreneur podcast, co-hosted with Shark Tank’s Kevin Harrington, and follow Seth on Twitter.