Top 10 Philly Influencers on Twitter?

I want to preface this post with this disclaimer – I LOVE the guys at Technically Philly.  They are smart wonderful people who are doing great things for Philadelphia and its tech community and I support them 100%.  If you are not reading Technically Philly, you should be!  Just one of the truly great things about all of the guys at Technically Philly is they are open-minded.  If someone does not agree with them, they quickly and willingly reach out to find out why and are open to lively, respectful debate.

While it is not the first time and I am sure will not be the last, Technically Philly, I respectfully disagree with you.

On 7/27/2010 Technically Philly contributed an article to their partner, Philly Mag’s section The Philly Post – ” Philadelphia’s 10 Most Influential Twitter Users“.  The premise of the article was their view of not who the are the most followed Philly Twitter users but who are the “must-follows”.  As a Technically Philly reader, an active member of Philly’s tech and social media communities and a self-admitted Twitter addict, I was intrigued.  Till I read their list.  Of the 10 people on the list there is 1 musician, 1 techie, 1 serial entrepreneur, 1 athlete and 6 newspeople/journalists. While I don’t disagree that the people on their list are influential.  I follow almost all of them myself, but to consider them the 10 MOST influential Philadelphians on Twitter.  I don’t think so.  Technically Philly and I have different definitions of influence as evidenced by our Twitter convo on the subject –

GloriaBell: @TechnicallyPHL I found it interesting that a news magazine picked primarily news people as the most influential – really?
TechnicallyPHL: @gloriabell Who do you think we missed?
GloriaBell: @TechnicallyPHL I guess who you may have missed depends on your definition of influence. I don’t consider news ppl as the only influencers
GloriaBell: @TechnicallyPHL IMHO There are a lot of influencers as defined by ppl making things happen in Philly as opposed to just reporting it
To be clear, I am not defining influence by numbers (most followers) or interaction (amount of time/effort put into interacting with their Twittersphere).  My basic definition of influence is rooted in how many people you touch on and off line, how many people you help, how many people not only listen to what you say, but are moved to action by your words – whether those words are on Twitter, some where else online or offline and mostly by whether you are, at least in part, using your Twitter interactions to help make things happen in our wonderful city.
But here is my quandary – How to answer the question that Technically Philly posed to me – “Who do you think we missed?”   I know that I disagree with their list, but to name who I consider the top 10 – I am at a loss.  I can think of so many people who are part of the Philly Twitter community that I consider influencers for different reasons that it would be difficult for me to name a “top 10”.  So I leave you with the same question – Who would you name as your top 10 Philly Twitter influencers?

Redefining social through a lesson learned

I posted this tweet yesterday afternoon –

“DO NOT call yourself a social media consultant, expert, guru, visionary – anything – if all you do is push out links & RT other ppl’s stuff”

To my surprise, I received a fair amount of negative feedback from my followers.  I was, rather harshly in some cases, admonished for “telling people how to use Twitter”.   I have to admit that the responses both hurt and made me angry, until I stopped to really think about them.

There is one clear truth when it comes to Twitter. We all use it for different reasons.  We all have different objectives, or in some cases, no objectives at all.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  Every social media platform should be used by each individual in the way they find most beneficial.  I realized that I was upset because the negative responses I received made it appear that I was trying to tell others how to use Twitter.  That was not my purpose and, unfortunately, 140 characters was not enough to explain. So, it was time to write a blog post.

What prompted my tweet was a series of new followers.  As I have explained in earlier posts, I carefully evaluate each new follower to decide if I am going to follow them back.  I want to make sure that the connections I make will be mutually beneficial.   I was aggravated by several new followers who, per their bios, were self-professed social media consultants, experts, gurus, visionaries, etc… , but when you read through their tweetstreams, they were comprised almost exclusively by links, retweets and self-promotional statements.   Go ahead and call me old-fashioned, but I still believe in the SOCIAL part of social media.  That if you are going to profess yourself an “expert” in this field, then you have to also believe its power is in its social aspect.  That means you don’t just talk to yourself.  That you understand it is not traditional push marketing.  That is a medium that allows us, possibly for the first times ever, as people and companies, to TALK to one another in larger numbers and on a wider reach.  When the supposed “experts” devalue the medium by using it to solely push information at others, I believe we all lose.  But, that is just me.  I may be alone in my thinking, I would love your comments and feedback to know if I am or not.

What I did find most valuable from these exchanges is the lesson I learned in the potential damage of a poorly worded tweet, status update, email, whatever the message form.  Failure to find a clear way to express our message or intention leaves open the possibility of misinterpretation and misunderstanding, as was the case with my tweet.   My critics apparently interpreted it much differently than it was intended.  My intent was never to tell anyone how to use Twitter, it was to express my frustration with the self-professed social media “experts” who have not embraced what I feel is the most important aspect – the social.

Twitter Tales

For her blogaversary Conversation Agent, Valeria Maltoni, asked her readers to submit their Twitter Tales.  She asked us to “write a short post describing how a connection you made on Twitter, first, lead you to an opportunity and opened new horizons”.   While I have many, many Twitter tales of deep and lasting friendships and professional relationships that have developed from chance meetings on Twitter.  There are a few that stand out as examples of how small and connected our world truly has become and how wide we make it when we reach out to those we encounter on Twitter.

The first story occurred shortly after I joined Twitter.  I had become “pals” with a wonderful lady by the name of Kim (Haynes) Hollenshead (@kimhollenshed) who lived in Austin (I live in Philadelphia).  Kim and I had exchanged pleasantries and had some Twitter convos for a few months when she happened to Twitpic a photo of her new home.  I responded that it looked a lot like my father’s house north of Austin.  We chatted briefly about the area and the fact that I am originally from Texas.  During our Twitter exchange and telephone calls to our respective parents, we figured out that not only were our families from the same very small town but also that her uncle had been my father’s best friend all through school.  Two women that would never have met, had it not been for Twitter, have now become close friends and have brought our families back in touch after 30+ years.

Not only has Twitter opened doorways for me personally, allowing me to develop deep sincere friendships with people I would never have met, but it has also been a cornerstone of my professional development.  Every day on Twitter I learn something new.  Someone reaches me with information and knowledge.  They open my mind and stretch my imagination.  Being actively involved on Twitter led me to people like Beth Harte (@bethharte)  and Annie Heckenberger (@anniemal) who welcomed me with open arms into the social media world and Social Media Club Philadelphia.  These generous women who took time to teach me, mentor me and eventually encourage me to start my own social media consulting practice.

Twitter has touched me in multiple ways, personal and professional, and it has also touched my heart and my compassion.  My first couple hundred followers were the result of meeting Connie Reece (@conniereece) and Susan Reynolds (@susanreynolds) and becoming involved with the Frozen Pea Fund.  Twitter helped me find others who were as passionate about the fight against breast cancer as I am.  From these initial connections has grown my Twitter “family”, the people I laugh, cry and share triumphs and tragedies with.   Twitter’s involvement with my philanthropic side does not end there.

I first met Melissa Thiessen (@melitami) at PodCamp Philly 2008.  We shared a love of so many things, geeky and otherwise, we quickly became inseparable friends.  One of things that Melissa and I share is a belief that life is about giving back.  That we are not complete as human beings unless we are doing our best to help others.  Twitter has allowed us to live that belief in the form of Twestival.  When the announcement was made last year that they were recruiting volunteers from cities all over the globe to hold events that would raise money for charity:water, Melissa immediately stepped up to make sure that Philly was represented.  Knowing me the way she does, she never even had to ask if I wanted to participate, it was a given that I would be her partner in charity.  Together with a wonderful team of volunteers, we built Twestival Philadelphia.  On February 12, 2009 Twestival Philly joined 201 other cities globally to raise $250,000 to bring clean drinking water to third world countries.   And we did not stop there!  Twestival HQ decided not to wait another year so the Twestival cities were encouraged to choose a local charity and hold a Twestival Local event between September 9th and 13th.  Cities around the globe, including Philadelphia, again brought together their communities to raise money for deserving charities.  Twestival Philly’s charity was Gift of Life Family House.  We helped this deserving organization raise money to build a safe, supportive affordable place for organ transplant patient families to stay.

None of this – my friendships around the globe, new business relationships, the speed and depth at which I learn and grow from shared knowledge, the privilege of being a part of something so much larger than myself – it would not have been possible without the power and reach of Twitter.  There are not enough words, time or space to acknowledge all of the people from Twitter who have touched my life.  Everyone I have met, interacted with, developed relationships with, they all have a special place in my heart.

My final words are a Thank You to Valeria for collecting these stories.  Showing the world what Twitter means to us.  How powerful these 140 character conversations are in building meaningful, productive personal and business relationships.

Twitter Tales

For her blogaversary Conversation Agent, Valeria Maltoni, asked her readers to submit their Twitter Tales.  She asked us to “write a short post describing how a connection you made on Twitter, first, lead you to an opportunity and opened new horizons”.   While I have many, many Twitter tales of deep and lasting friendships and professional relationships that have developed from chance meetings on Twitter.  There are a few that stand out as examples of how small and connected our world truly has become and how wide we make it when we reach out to those we encounter on Twitter.

Here is a link to my Twitter Tale…..

http://redstaplerconsulting.net/2009/09/14/twitter-tales/

I’d love to hear yours!

My first ride at Blog Carnival!

I was extremely honored when a lady that I respect immensely, Lani Rosales (@laniar), co-founder of New Media Lab,  approached me to be a “judge” for this week’s edition of Social Media Blog Carnival.  Of course, I accepted immediately!   For anyone who is not familiar with Blog Carnival, it is a compilation of blog posts submitted over a set period of time (usually a week) and then a selected “judge” is invited to review all of the submissions and chose their favorites for the week and host them on their blog. (I encourage you to click the link and explore not only the Social Media Blog Carnival, but all of the other Blog Carnival categories.) SMBlogCarnival

Over the last week, multiple submissions appeared in my email inbox.  I poured over them, reading most at least twice, some more than that.  I wanted to make sure that I not only gleaned as much information as possible from the submissions, but that I gave fair consideration to the efforts of all of the participants. I wish I had room on my blog for all of the fantastic entries, but time and space make that an impossibility, so I chose the two entries that “spoke” to me the most.  I hope you enjoy both of these articles as much as I did! Your comments are welcome and encouraged.

How Twitter is Teaching Business the Lost Art of Conversation

Monday, June 22, 2009 Posted by Isaac Yassar

So it’s happened. Twitter has gone mainstream. As Twitter users, we knew instantly when Mumbai came under terrorist attack. We laughed at the photo of Stephen Fry stuck in an elevator when he tweeted his predicament, we were there when Ashton Kutcher beat CNN to 1 million followers, we caught the first glimpse of passengers being evacuated from the ditched plane on the Hudson River and we all suffered the lag time when Oprah Winfrey sent her first ever tweet on live TV.

Industry pundits and bitter journalists regularly diss Twitter as a time-wasting, “look at me” fad, destined for Forgottensville in 2 years. In fact New York Times reporter Maureen Dowd is quoted as saying to Twitter founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone:

“I would rather be tied up to stakes in the Kalahari Desert, have honey poured over me and red ants eat out my eyes than open a Twitter account.”

So is Twitter really just an emergency beacon and “a toy for bored celebrities and high-school girls” as Dowd gleefully claims?

Thankfully, no. The latest wave of Twitter users are business executives. They range from home business owners, SME’s, middle and upper management, marketing executives, brand evangelists and CEOs. Take a look at ExecuTweets and you’ll see some well-known names with very active Twitter accounts: Richard Branson of Virgin, Lisa Stone Co-founder of BlogHer, Tony Hsieh CEO of Zappos and Steve Case Co-founder of AOL, to name a few.

It’s not just individuals either. Some of the world’s most recognized brands are Twittering. I found a number of super brands on Twitter and asked my followers which of these they were following:

Read more here

Re-defining ROI in the age of social media.

Posted by Matt Stigliano on 06/20/2009 06:27 PM

What’s the return on your investments?

After attending, the SABOR Town Hall Meeting and listening to Sean Wood and Rich Teplitsky of KGBTexas speak on the topic of social media, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about some of the things I noticed while I was there as well as some of the snippets of conversation that my ears overheard from other people’s small groups as they were gathering and getting ready to go.  Some of the audience was there to get an idea of what social media was, some were there to get more out of it, some where there just to see what the craze is all about.

Return on investment (ROI), is the ratio of gain or loss on an investment relative to the money invested.  In real estate, you often hear the term ROI being referred to around the hours and/or money we spend on any particular activity in order to generate business.  In terms of social media, I have heard many people question what the ROI is on it.  Whether it be blogging, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, or even ActiveRain itself, social media is all around us, but there has been some serious conflicts over the quantifying of the actual returns of using it based on the investment you put into it.  There are plenty of success stories of transactions closed thanks to the many different forms of social media, but I think there’s something else to look at.

Interaction.

As agents we spend much of our time looking to get in front of people.  To talk to them, to share our experiences, to tell them what we do, and to hopefully make them our clients (or at least a great referral source).  Agents are doing this all day long.  The girl at the grocery store, the guy pumping gas, the small business owner that you know through BNI – no matter where we go, we’re interacting and building relationships which we work to turn into business.  Occasionally, the business falls in our lap – “You’re a Realtor®?  I have a house I need to sell, can you stop over tomorrow?”  Other days, it takes a growth process of going from “that agent guy” to “my Realtor®.”  We hear the word cultivation a lot when referring to the people we meet.  Cultivate the relationship, build the trust, get the business.

Social media is really no different.  Strangers will talk to you, friends will tell others about you, and building a sphere of influence is the name of the game.  As many people discuss over and over again, the trick is not to sell.  I definitely believe this to be the case, but this is not the point of this post.

So what is the ROI on social media?

Read more here

Who says Twitter relationships are not real?

I write this through tears that are clouding my vision.   I received news today of the passing of one of my Twitter peeps @lilyhill.  While “Lily” (Roberta Frazier) and I never had the chance to meet face to face, we did share some lovely conversations and I always looked forward to seeing what she had to say.  In some ways it seems odd to feel the profound sadness that has come over me at the passing of someone I really had never “met”.  But, I do feel a deep sadness.  A sadness for Roberta’s family – my heart aches at the thought of her daughter having to type that final tweet from her mother’s account – A sadness at a life lost way too early; A slightly selfish sadness that I will no longer be able to avail myself of Roberta’s wit and wisdom.  And an even more selfish sadness at the reality of my own mortality.

What strikes me even more is that I am feeling this deep sadness for a person that I only knew electronically.  There are people who try and claim that the relationships we develop through Twitter are not “real”.  They are a result of snippets of information that we chose to share with the world and have no basis in the deep understanding necessary for true relationships. I say they are wrong!  In the almost 2 years that I have been on Twitter I have been blessed to interact with people all over the world that I now truly call FRIENDS.  Some I have met in person and some I have not, but that does not lessen the feelings I have for these people.  Some of the people I now consider my dearest friends, that I consider my extended family, I met on Twitter.

The bits and pieces of our lives that we daily share with each other on Twitter are the building blocks for those relationships.  The times that we laugh together, support each other, educate one another, just chat, share virtual hugs, share wisdom & insight and on days like today, cry together. This is what builds those relationships.  It is wonderful when proximity allows us to translate those into “real life” friendships, but I don’t feel any less for those I am close to on Twitter who are in Florida, Missouri, California or Australia than I do for those right here in my own beloved Philadelphia.  I can feel their love, kindness, support and caring as strongly as if they were sitting here next to me.  Twitter has allowed me to grow beyond my own little geographical world.  It has allowed me to touch and be touched by the power of people from everywhere. For that I am eternally grateful.  I wrote “An Open Letter to My Tweeple” back in February 2008 describing what Twitter meant to me.  Those thoughts and feelings are amplified exponentially with each day that I spend engaging in conversations and interacting with my community on Twitter.

So to those who would say these relationships are not real – I on behalf of the Twitterverse say you are very, very wrong.  The sadness I feel right this moment at the passing of @lilyhill is proof.

Stop wasting your time! And mine.

Fair warning – this post is going to be a rant.  It will not be the sweetness and light that everyone has come to expect from me.  What it will be is a brutally honest assessment of an issue that has been getting under my skin for some time.

I am an active Twitter user.  Some will say too active and I am sure there are some that would like to tell me to shut up (or more likely STFU).  To all of you, feel free to unfollow me.   Don’t stick around expecting me or my Twitter usage patterns to change, it’s not likely that they are going to.  You will not hurt my feelings if you decide not to follow me any longer.   To each his own and if I’m too much for you, then PLEASE then move on.

Sorry to get off on that tangent, but I guess it was also something I needed to get off my chest.  Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.  I am active on Twitter and as a result am privileged to gain new followers on a fairly regular basis.   I want to qualify everything else that I am about to say with the following –

I am HONORED by every single person that follows me on Twitter.  It is an amazing and humbling privilege to know that I am able to reach the number of people that I do.  Everyone who is following me on Twitter has their reason and I respect that.  I just want to make it clear that I do acknowledge the joy and responsibility that comes from touching the lives of so many people.  However, I may not follow every single person that follows me for a multitude of personal and professional reasons.

When I receive a new follower notice, I take a close look at the following

  • Are you a spammer?  Most of the spammers are pretty easy to spot.
  • Bio – if you don’t have one, very unlikely that I am going to follow you back.
  • Website – my general rule – no link, no return follow.  I do make occasional exceptions, but being able to link to your site tells me more about you, your business, what you like to do, etc… Some of the building blocks necessary to develop a conversation and a relationship.
  • The first couple of pages of tweets – I am looking to see what kind of interactions you are having.  Are you conversing and engaging people on a regular basis or are you only broadcasting or just trying to sell me something.   I want to know that you are making an attempt to build relationships with other people.

So, if I am following you, I’ve put in some effort to get to know a little about you.   No, I don’t follow back every single person or business that follows me.  It’s a choice that I have made for several reasons, much too long to get into in this post.  The point I am trying to make in telling you how I determine who I follow is this.  I do not use an automated service telling me that I should follow someone, I have used a process and made the decision to follow someone.

What has me ranting today are the people who, after using my criteria and trying to make a thoughtful decision, I have chosen to follow that then immediately respond to me with an auto DM offering to

  1. Teach me how to use Twitter and gain thousands of followers — Hey jerk, take a look at how long I have been here and how I use Twitter.    The first thing you will see if you have read any of my material is I DON’T CARE ABOUT THE NUMBERS!  For me it is about conversations, relationships and the sharing of information.   And really please, don’t offer to teach me to use Twitter when you have been on half as long (or less!) than I have.  After almost 2 years, I have it pretty well figured out, as least well enough for my purposes.
  2. Offer to teach me how to use social media –  See # 1 – I’m here, I’m using it, I’ve been living it!  I actually help other people understand and envelope it into their lives.   Social Media is not something you teach, it is not something you do – IT IS SOMETHING YOU LIVE.  It is a living, breathing organism that feeds on our interactions, relationships and conversations.
  3. Offer to teach me how to make money online — AGAIN, get to know me, pay attention to anything that I say  and you will quickly realize that, for me, being on Twitter has virtually nothing to do with making money.  Yes, I have an account for my business and yes, I do promote my business, as well as many others, on Twitter.  But it is not about making money and if you read anything of mine, you will very quickly figure that out.  It is about sharing information, developing relationships and connecting with people.  If out of those interactions, I am able to advance my business or anyone else’s – Fantastic! – but that is not even remotely close to what it is about.
  4. That immediately try to sell me something – Oh please, do I even have to tell you how I feel about this?  Seriously, you obviously don’t get it if the first thing you are sending me is a sales pitch.

So bottom line – all of you who do these things, maybe they work on other people. They don’t for me.  You have wasted your time and you have wasted mine.  I have put thought and effort into getting to know a little bit about you before I follow you.  The same common courtesy would have been greatly appreciated.  I’ve been resisting doing this because negativity is not generally a part of my nature, but don’t be surprised when the day comes that I, or someone else, start publicly calling you out on Twitter for your actions.