Saturday, January 10, 2009

Who Are Your Influencers?

image by me

Let's talk about influencers on one of the hottest of social media platforms going right now: Twitter.

It's a name that's just beginning to make itself known in the non-tech world, yet its growth is phenomenal. Last year, Twitter usage grew greater than 750% over the previous year, and greater than 75% of that population is 20-49 (the current and future donors and volunteers you're looking for). At the very least, those numbers make Twitter worth looking at as a social media tool.

Over the last year, there have been an explosion of applications helping Twitterers make sense of their Twitterverse conversations - organize, group, auto message, and follow and unfollow. (If you don't know what these terms mean, you might want to see this.) One of these is TwitterGrader.

What is TwitterGrader?

If you are already on Twitter, you probably know about TwitterGrader. You give them your twitter ID and they give you a report about your "ranking" in the twitterverse (based on an algorhythm that takes into account the number of followers, among other things).

Twitter Elite

Once you have your report, you can review the suggestions for people to consider following or look at the "Twitter Elite."

The Elite have thousands of followers. Because of the number of people their tweets reach, they're consider major influencers. And most of them (right now) are in high tech/social media.

Since they're in an area that doesn't have much to do with your nonprofit mission, you may be inclined to dismiss following any of them, a decision that can be supported by the fact that many of them don't follow back in any meaningful way and the center of Twitter's attraction is the opportunity to converse, which is why it's often described as an online cocktail party.

Part of Why I Follow Some Elites

I used to work in high tech, and I'm a self-described geek, so a lot of the names in the Elite listing are familiar to me. And even though I expect few follow-backs and a limited-to-none interaction, I choose to follow some of them because their tweets keep me up to date on what these tech influencers are doing, looking at, who they're working with, and who they consider influencers. Okay for you, you say, but not for me.

My answer to that is, mostly not. But not completely, and for the same reasons.

Did I Lose You?

Well, recently on @Twitter_Tips, @Boris said that "FaceBook is about people you used to know and Twitter is about people you'd like to know better." Or know at all, I would add.

A lot of the influencers will be working on things that will change the social media landscape. While they're formulating their strategies and thinking up innovations, they'll be gathering information. This gives you the oppportunity to get an idea of upcoming trends, ask questions, and contribute your own viewpoint.

I Predict

My first prediction is that most nonprofits will come to rely on social media as a great community tool, so while you're looking to connect with people in the nonprofit sector, they aren't the only ones you should be paying attention to. Pay attention to the marketers too, because they'll help you make the most of social media opportunities. And pay attention to the tech innovators, because they'll be creating the next social media application improvements and platforms.

If you feel most comfortable at parties when you stick to what you know, the foregoing advice will probably whizz right by you. But if you're willing to engage in conversation with people outside your area of expertise and experience, you can learn a lot.

And my second prediction is that those nonprofits that don't learn from social media use it to the best of their ability, will not survive.
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