Author | Marketer | Speaker

I help companies turn data, ideas and relationships into reach and influence. 

How can smaller companies keep up in social media?

"David et la tête de Goliath," by Guido Remi (1575 - 1642). Flickr CC photo credit  Renaud Camus.  How can smaller companies keep up in social media? How will influencer engagement change? Are infographics here to stay?

These three questions were submitted by the first three winners of my signed book giveaway! Entries are still open, so submit your question today. Now, let's get some answers on the board.

Ryan Swindall asks:

I work for a smallish company that's constantly trying to keep up and look larger on social.  How would you recommend that we keep up with bigger and better funded companies on social media when we can't (or won't) go for another round of funding?

Lots of big companies have really stupid social strategies. That’s your advantage. For example, take a look at the average Fortune 500 corporate blog and tell me if they’ve really got it down! Likely not.

Social media is great for smaller companies because engagement can’t really be bought. The barriers to entry are low, so you can even the playing field by focusing on things that don’t require a lot of personnel and funds. If your big competitor hires ten writers to crank out so-so content, create a content array that relies more on curating great external content to deliver a greater amount of value.

There are a thousand ways to become a resource—it’s not all about creating word count. Don’t go head-to-head on things you’ll never be able to truly emulate (like headcount), and find better ways to make your company useful.

Joel Widmer asks:

What will a successful influencer outreach campaign look like in the next 5 years? How will influencer engagement change?

I’m going to focus on the second part of Joel’s question. There’s a story in my book about a party I attended at a tech conference where supposed influencers were given the sponsor’s latest model mobile phone. I was one of those “influencers,” and they made it really clear I was on some kind of list and I should feel super special about it. I wasn’t ungrateful, but I was perplexed. First of all, I’ve never blogged about consumer electronics, and I’m not one to really tweet about the space either. On top of that, even if they were going for highly influential people in general, I’m certainly not one of them (as compared to some of the people at the party who didn’t get free phones, including a few friends of mine). No, I was on that list for one of three reasons:

1)   Someone at the PR agency handling the party recognized my name from something completely unrelated to consumer electronics.

2)   The data they used to ascertain attendee influence was the wrong data to use in the context.

3)   The data they used to ascertain attendee influence was simply inaccurate.

In the next five years, we’re going to see less of that. Influencer identification is getting more accurate, granular, and contextual. People using these tools are getting better at it. And—this is the thing that sometimes drives innovation more than anything else—the budget owners for these programs aren’t going to tolerate so much speculative money wasting. They’re going to ask for results and proof and optimization plans. The money won’t be coming from the experimental budget in five years, so everything it’s spent on will need to perform. If there’s one corner of the social media space that needs that kind of scrutiny, influencer ID and engagement is definitely it.

Derek asks:

Are infographics just a fad or are they here to stay?

I take it from Derek's question that he isn't impressed with the bulk of infographics out there, and he thinks people are getting away with producing low-quality work because the medium happens to be hot. Or maybe I’m totally projecting my opinions onto his question, because that’s totally how I feel.

It’s hard to find an analogous medium that might guide a prediction here, but take something like online presentations (i.e. slide decks). Slides are flooding the web because slideshare makes it easy to share and embed them. But does better technology—essentially, a better container—lead to better content overall? Judging by the mountain of yuck on slideshare, I think not. And will the rate at which that mountain of yuck grows slow down anytime soon? I don’t think so, because, like a landfill, there aren’t really any penalties for contributing to it.

So you have a similar thing going on with infographics. Technology is driving the costs of production and distribution down. The medium is trendy, as you point out. Everyone wants in on that game, and now everyone can get in on it.

But there’s yet another force moving infographics and slide decks along roughly the same trajectory: impressions-based journalism. As long as ad revenue supports online media, and as long as what outlets charge for that ad space is based in whole or in part on impressions / pageviews, they’ll embrace formats that allow them to quickly churn out page after page of content. Every time you see a slideshow where an article should really be, it’s not because the journalists and editors felt that was truly the best way to convey information to readers; it’s because it’s easy to throw those up with little effort and they can count every slide advance as a separate pageview in order to charge advertisers more. You don’t have the latter issue with infographics, but you certainly have the appeal of easy pageviews and reduced costs associated with original content creation.

As long as someone can embed an infographic on a page, bookend it with a few intro and conclusion sentences, and call it an article, they medium will be extremely popular.

OK, now everyone thinks I hate infographics. Nope. The truth is, well-done data visualization is really incredible. People like David McCandless and shops like JESS3 and Column 5 put out extremely good work. When you have actual data to convey, and that data is interesting, infographics are the bee’s knees! I think infographics will get more interactive as HTML5 and other technologies are widely used. They’ll look more like the data journalism you see over at the Texas Tribune and The Economist.

That's it for the first batch of book giveaway winners! Remember, you can still enter to win your own signed copy. But if you just can't wait and you're into sure things, buy a copy today!


© 2016 Ian Greenleigh