I have spent the last several weeks thinking, talking, testing and speaking on measuring influence, trust and expertise online. Its a subject that I find wildly interesting (and entertaining based on responses), and luckily dovetails nicely with my work at Lijit.
Here is my last deck from WordCamp Denver (which I did while fighting a bad back and after taking some Vicodin. I cant wait for the video…):
In it, I spend some time talking about HOW to increase influence (which I probably should put in a blog post somewhere).
Here is the presentation in three easy points:
1) Influence is a combination of expertise, brand and trust.
2) Influence is a single action by one person, which affects, positively (or negatively) a single action of another single person.
3) Influence is truly a 1:1 relationship. Reach allows that 1:1 relationship to occur rapidly and appear to be one:many (even though its a bunch of one:one interactions).
Ok, so we all agree, right? (If not, lets discuss in the comments, and pretend we all agree so the rest of my post doesnt go to hell.)
So, how does influence manifest in a community? What is its place/value within a community?
Certainly an influential member of a community can help shape the character of a community. Look at Andrew Hyde in Boulder. The events he has spearhead (StartupWeekend, StartupDrinks and IgniteBoulder) have all contributed to the startup character of Boulder; of Boulder being a place for young entrepreneurs to cut their teeth on the tech startup game. (It has also help validate us old people, and our work with startups…) Andrew’s effect on Boulder has always been something that I have respected and admired.
But what if the influence of that community member doesnt extend beyond the community itself?
Or what if there is no community to start with?
I suppose before we can continue, there has to be a definition of community.
If we ask Google (define:community), we get:
- a group of people living in a particular local area; “the team is drawn from all parts of the community”
- common ownership; “they shared a community of possessions”
- a group of nations having common interests; “they hoped to join the NATO community”
- agreement as to goals; “the preachers and the bootleggers found they had a community of interests”
- residential district: a district where people live; occupied primarily by private residences
- (ecology) a group of interdependent organisms inhabiting the same region and interacting with each other
Is all community is, a group of people that live near each other? I actually believe that community is a couple of these things. It is proximity (online that would be around a site) AND “agreement as to goals.” (which I would extend to “common goals and/or intent”).
Take my current favorite community, Threadless. 900,000 designers and art lovers all interacting around art.
(This might be the worst chart in social media.)
Here is what that image is saying. The circles are influencers. Most influencers have overlapping spheres of influence. A single influencer attempts to exert influence.
He is only successful if he influences another influencer, who must also influence another influencer and so on…
Each influencer than has some influence internally to the community, but also externally to the community, which attracts new members to the community. Thereby, increasing the community itself, and bringing in new resources (and potentially future influencers, who will–probably–always be influenced at some level by the original influencer). Whew.
For a single member of a community to truly have an influence on the community itself, she must first have the ability to influence other influencers. As she is able to apply more influence over the community, the more she is seen as an influencer and her sphere of influence grows, requiring less other influencers.
Now, if I was an advertiser, I would be interested in not just the influencers themselves, but the of influencer of the influencers, the Influencer Patient Zero of a specific community, if you will…(but I digress)
Influence’s place within a community then has three distinct functions:
1) Self-policing. Interestingly, I would imagine that the influencers in a community have influence, in part because they feel extreme passion about the shared goals and focus of the community (super users), and its in their own self-interest to ensure that those goals/focus dont change (to ensure no loss of influence).
ICanHasCheezburger is a great example where the community itself polices comments and other aspects of the content to ensure it lives up to the standards set by the community.
2) Attraction of new resources and people to the community.
With Threadless, the vast majority of their community members start by submitting a tshirt design. The influential members of the community (those that have been printed, for example) are attracting other designers to submit designs. They attract a certain “type” of community member, who is quickly taught the rules (see point #1).
3) Drive the community’s character.
Andrew, with StartupWeekend and Ignite Boulder. David Cohen with Techstars. Brad Feld through his blog. All of these members of the Boulder community really influence the character of the community. The character of the community helps to also define who can apply influence (a vicious circle!) and ultimately attract people and resources to the community, who are people who share the community’s character (ah! its an infinite loop!).
Influence and influencers, serve the primary purpose of fostering community, by both attracting people and resources (growing the community), and policing (protecting the community).
Related articles by Zemanta
- Follow Friday. Oh My! (learntoduck.com)
- HOW TO: Measure Online Influence (mashable.com)
- Geek Spring Break! (lijit.com)
- Entrepreneurship in Boulder in 2009 (feld.com)
- What’s the job market like in Boulder? (coloradostartups.com)
- WordCamp Denver (Feb 28th, 2009) (alexking.org)
Subscribe to this blog's RSS feed
I have always considered myself a business guy. I started my first business at the age of nine, and continued to build and run various businesses over the next 20+ years. My biggest success was selling Current Wisdom to the Indigio Group in January of 2007, both in terms of money and accomplishment. Does all that make me a startup expert? No, but it does make me experienced enough to know what I like and dislike about the startup life.
I have always hated the term entrepreneur. It feels fake and presumptious. It seems to be too easy to label anyone who is creative an entreprenuer. It literally means “one who undertakes a task,” but has evolved to include the assumption that some sort of risk was attached to that task.
I am not a risk taker, every action I have taken is measured, and all potential outcomes are intellectualized. Some paths come with increased difficulty and some outcomes are bit murky, but risk implies a lack of control, and with careful planning and thought, that rarely occurs.
I am not an entreprenuer. I am just a business guy.
But, with the explosion of the Web 2.0 concept, everyone is now an entrepreneur. Even my old drug dealer used to come to me with a hundred different business ideas every time we talked (at least 2-3x per week). I am convinced that most startup “CEOs” are enthralled by the concept of an “entrepreneur” being a business Indiana Jones, fighting competitors and being lauded for the risks they take, and only they know where that treasure of a truly innovative idea is hidden because everyone else is a “moron” that “doesnt get it.”
I am not Indiana Jones. I am just a business guy.
So when I sold Current Wisdom, I began to sniff around for other opportunities (maybe even starting another adventure), and it seemed that all the cool stuff was happening in Boulder. I reached out to the one true entreprenuer I knew, Danny Newman, a kid that I had been good friends with, fell out of step with, and once I had emerged from my “Snow period” (Picasso had his Blue Period. I can have my Snow Period, dammit.), I knew I wanted to rekindle that friendship. So, I went over and checked out PocketFuzz, Danny’s latest endeavor.
We talked about the startup scene. We talked about the people, the players and the posers. But, mostly, we just talked. (Yes, I know you have images of us hand in hand skipping through daisies, you ass, but really we are two talkitive people.) And within the conversation, two things of interest bubbled to the surface.
The first was TechStars. A lot has been written about TechStars, but more than anything it put young startup executives in a learning mode with experienced folks. Awesome idea. If you havent yet, and its applicable, apply now.
The second was StartupWeekend. Started by a 24 year old designer named Andrew Hyde, the idea was to get a bunch of smart people in a room and see what happened. I contacted Andrew and noticing that there was no “business guy” category, asked if I could attend. Andrew agreed.
Over the next couple of weeks prior to the event I lent a hand in collecting ideas, sending surveys, etc. During the event, I told Andrew that I would be happy to run any errand he needed done, so I found myself getting ice, name tags and the like.
But while the event ran, I met dozens of other really smart people. I helped build and define VoSnap, the first StartupWeekend company, and I had the opportunity to meet everyone in Boulder that was involved in the tech scene.
After that, I soon started blogging (it took me a few months to become a regular blogger), and I came across a search widget called Lijit. Tara, from Lijit reached out soon after I installed, and quickly after that I met Todd Vernon and Stan James.
A month or so later, over lunch (I swear he wasnt drinking. I think he disputes that now), Todd offered me a job at Lijit. Given my desire to stay in the startup life, I decided to join, and havent looked back since.
On Friday, Startup Weekend returns to Boulder. Its been about 8 months or so since the last one. And there have been 15 weekends in between the two. This weekend, I plan to be “the blogger,” and help out Laura Fitton and Tara Anderson with their Live Show (sponsored by Pulver.tv). We have some really cool guests coming (and if you want to be a guest, just email me at micah [at] currentwisdom [dot] com). I would really like to see a fair and complete representation of our tech community, so I expect emails from Christina Warren, Erica O’Grady (who will be there), Chris Brogan, Loren Feldman, Erin Kotecki Vest, Ronald Lewis, and as a wide range of people as there are slots.)
What do I expect from this weekend? Not much, really. I tend to like to see what the weekend brings. But I do hope that one of the participants has an similar experience to mine, and joins our fantastic tech community here in Boulder.
But, if you ask me to point out the entrepreneurs, I wont be able to. After all, I am just a business guy.
Today I tweeted about it being a week of lasts (moving out of Denver and all that entails) and a week of firsts (moving into Boulder and what that brings). That always creates that feeling in your gut that is a mix of excitement and fear; trepidation and anticipation; knowledge and faith.
So, here is one of my lasts. The last time I write this post in the house I have lived in Denver for the past three years. Perhaps thats why its almost 6pm, and it sits unwritten.
Two Types of Time… – Peter, who is unapologetic about his ADHD, writes that with ADD there is two types of time: “Now” and “Not Now.” As an person with ADD (and frankly if you saw Peter and I together, you would understand the importance of the “H”); I have a hard time understanding this concept. Frankly, for me, there is one type of time: “Now.” Nothing else exists. Maybe thats what Peter meant? To show you how ADD I am, I read that line, pondered it for awhile and never read the rest of the post, which is about the speed of information online.
Lemmings…Cliff…Oops – Have you ever known someone for a number of years, and then just found out recently that they have been blogging for almost as long? Such is the case with my friend Matt Mantey, and his blog The Internet is Just a Fad. One of the top internet marketing folks I know, Matt’s blog is a great resource on the subject.
On Burning Out – Andrew is one of my favorite people, with the rare mix of gumption, idealism, charisma and intelligence. While the effort he has put into StartupWeekend has certainly been an example of this, his personal blog has been a little “dry” over the past several months. Now I know why, Andrew has learned the first lesson of entrepreneurship: You always burn out.