I often wonder who really follows technology reporters on Twitter. Is it just a bunch of PR folks like myself, end users and decision makers, or other journalists and analysts? Not too long ago, Denise Dubie, senior editor at Network World, brought this question to the forefront when she twittered the following.

New to me: The Followers pitch. PR saying I should cover their client’s news because my ‘followers’ need this info.

Was that accurate? Who is following Denise these days? Well, we did some research and it turns out:

  • 26% are end users, developers or enterprise decision makers
  • 25% are in a marketing role at a vendor
  • 16% are at a PR agency
  • 4% are other journalists
  • 3% are analysts
  • 17% are either spammers or other non-related organizations
  • 9% have been inactive for at least 3 months

Over the past week we researched 10 technology journalists to find out who is following them. In the end we sampled 2,262 of 14,492 followers. Thanks to straining our eyes to the point of blindness, this leaves us with a margin of error of just +/- 2 points. Our goal was to try to research 15% of followers. To accomplish this, we researched the 2nd, 6th, and 16th follower in each page of 20 followers. For those with 3,000+ followers, we thank you and so does our vision insurance provider!

Enough of the how, what did the research uncover?

Breakdown by Profile

One of the most interesting facts about this research was the insight into the progression of the type of follower. Twitter’s follower listings are in order of when they clicked the ‘follow’ button from newest to oldest. As we first started our research, we noticed an extremely high number of marketing and vendor profiles. At times these reached 70% of followers. As we hit the half-way point the follower profile shifted toward the end-user. This suggests that early followers of tech journalists were directly in IT, seeking a way to connect with peers to discuss technology related issues. As the popularity of Twitter grew, companies began to take notice and the corporate Twitter account was born. That gives me an idea – who is following corporate Twitter accounts….? Wait…they should pay for that research :-)

End User Percent

Some highlights:

  • Larry Dignan, editor-in-chief at ZDNet, and Jessica Tsai of CRM Magazine take the prize for most end-user followers at 33%, Thomas Wailgum of CIO comes in a close second at 32%
  • Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky has more press following him, 15%, than anyone else in our group
  • As a percentage, more analysts follow Mary Hayes Weier of InformationWeek, 6%, followed by Rich Tehrani of TMCNet at 4%
  • More than 50% of followers are on the corporate side, not a member of the influence audience (press, analysts, PR)
  • 22% of all followers are completely irrelevant comprising spammers, inactive accounts and some that we just can’t explain on a company-sponsored blog

Our research shows this group of technology journalists has a broad Twitter following mostly comprised of enterprise users. Does it mean the pitch to Denise was accurate and her followers do indeed need to know the information? I am not sure because it depends on many factors, the least of which are newsworthiness and relevancy. It is one thing to say 26% of her followers are end users and it is another to say 10% of her followers are end users of VMWare and are interested in virtual and remote setups (hypothetically of course). Just like in any other area of PR and press/analyst interaction, you have to know more about the audience you are pitching and explain how it is relevant.

Percent of Followers

Who we researched:

  • Adam Lashinsky, Fortune
  • Denise Dubie, Network World
  • Jessica Tsai, CRM Magazine
  • Joe McKendrick, ZDNet SOA blog
  • Larry Dignan, ZDNet
  • Larry Walsh, Channel Insider
  • Mary Hayes Weier, InformationWeek
  • Rich Tehrani, TMCNet
  • Sid Hill, Manufacturing Business Technology
  • Thomas Wailgum, CIO

Recent tweet (or twitter if you like) from @twailgum:Caution Blogger

  • Why are so many tech PR folks (not @mprosceno) disdainful of blogs and bloggers? Reminds of The Jerk: “He HATES these CANS!”

I follow Thomas Wailgum, senior editor at CIO Online, on Twitter and was a little taken back when I read this tweet last week. I enjoy public relations, am passionate about it and take offense to generalized comments about the industry, and my gut reaction was to fire off a reply. Luckily my logical side grabbed control and I sat on it.

Do PR people really have disdain for blogs and bloggers?

The answer (purely speculative and based upon my vast knowledge of everything) is no. However, for some of my counterparts, social media is uncharted territory and probably appears to be confusing. So while some will make mistakes, others of us, while not experts, have applied ourselves to learning and engaging with bloggers in an effort to realize what works best for them – and for our clients. One needs to ask themselves, is a blogger the same as a print writer? How do the rules differ, if at all? Does social media change agency/client interaction?

To respond to @twailgum, I do not think tech PR folks have a disdain for bloggers.  In fact, many in tech PR probably wish they could blog as successfully as you tech insiders. You likely came in contact with a few that just don’t understand blogging, bloggers, or the reach the medium has—especially in tech. Please don’t judge the many from the mistakes of a few.

As a side note, @twailgum followed that tweet with a retweet of Denise Dubie, senior editor at Network World:

  • RT @DDubie: New to me: The Followers pitch. PR saying I should cover their client’s news because my ‘followers’ need this info. >>yikes!

This got me wondering…who really follows the technology media on Twitter? Stay tuned because we’re about to do some digging and the results may surprise you.

Big PicturenbDuring recessionary times there is more green lost than just money. The recently released CDW 2009 Energy Efficient IT Report shows that as IT budgets get cut, so does the importance of energy efficiency. This is a far cry from 18 months ago when you couldn’t avoid the green topic. Each day it seemed a handful of companies launched green initiatives while vendors touted their new green solutions.

Our work with B2B technology companies requires us to step back and look at the big picture—how do our actions today impact our client’s business 6,9,12, or even 18 months from now? While the pace of innovation and information delivery may travel faster than we can blink, the ROI from new investments rarely zooms along as quick. This instant gratification has clouded the judgment of some and the big picture is completely missed.

The CDW report highlights just that, the need for instant gratification. Cut now at the expense of what might be saved/made in the future. We see this in many industries from manufacturing to hospitality to transportation. What is the impact going to be on companies that quickly shed costs now when the economic environment improves and they are playing catch up? Or when government regulation, such as the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, forces companies to reduce their carbon footprint?

This is by no means limited to energy efficiency. For one of our clients, Infor, we have focused a lot of editorial on the long-term benefits innovative technology can provide companies across several industries. For example, utilizing technology to develop long-term employee plans, maximize the use of their skills, help align the workforce to meet the changing business environment, and minimize the need for mass layoffs. The long-term benefit? Retaining the talent you have spent so long training, minimized ramp up when orders start flocking in and employee / employer work satisfaction.

Marketing, something near and dear to me, gets hit hard anytime the economy goes south. What I’ve noticed in my career is that the companies that kept marketing alive during the tough times became the established voices during the upswing. These companies saw and understood the big picture. They seized the opportunity and the quiet vacancies left by their competitors to establish a foothold in the market. When budgets returned, competitors were busy ramping up their communications and marketing activities (developing updated messages, 6 – 12 month plans, filling the pipelines, etc), while the other companies were firing on all 8 (err, let’s be green here), 4 cylinders and taking mindshare and eventually customers.

It is sort of the chicken and egg question. Unsure how long an economic recovery will take, many purchasing managers, finance managers and CFOs are in a bind. There are definitely two sides to every argument, but I do believe those that make the leap will see great rewards for their efforts.

Good or bad, the Twitter phenomenon, much like the evolution of social media, is undeniable. For businesses, the service is a direct way to communicate with your customers as part of a broad communications strategy. For now though, let’s put all of that aside and have a couple good laughs, deep thoughts, and what-were-they-thinking moments as we look as some of the most interesting tweets (or twitters) from executives so far this year. If you are interested in reading why you should be a part of the Twitterverse, I recommend you read Steve McAbee’s post, 12 Reasons B2B Executives Can Use Twitter to Get More Engaged with Customers.

zappos

intuit

aberdeen

Twitter Stat 1

techrigy

palo alto

mktg cons

Twitter Stat 2

inuit 2

pja

unmarketing

Twitter Stat 3

facebook

Twitter Stat 4

networked insights

twitter

telligent 2

telligent

Twitter Stat 5

forrester

twitter2

Twitter Stat 6

What are some of the most memorable tweets you have read? Care to share? They may make our 2009 top 25 tweets later this year!

Additional Resources:

chrome os

Google announced plans Wednesday to enter the operating system business with a new product called Google Chrome OS, an open source project intended for netbook PCs. Details are sketchy, but it appears that a windowing system based on the Google Chrome Web browser will run on top of a Linux kernel and function as the user interface and application loader.

Like many others, I was excited at first. For one, my phone has Android, Google’s mobile OS, which I find more user friendly and capable than Windows Mobile or Blackberry OS. But, after the initial buzz wore off, I was left with a few unanswered questions, the biggest of which was “Why?”

Due to its open source status, the cost of Google Chrome OS would be quite low, even for large scale enterprise implementations. So, given Google’s array of consumer web applications aimed at businesses as well as individuals, the Chrome OS could be designed to encourage a massive shift toward cloud computing, thereby increasing Google’s revenues. But what if that’s not the only reason?

The Wall Street Journal points out that Google now challenges Microsoft in virtually all of its core businesses. With an impressive roster of hardware partners for Chrome OS announced Thursday, is it possible Google thinks their new operating system can win a fight with the Windows giant on its home turf?

Maybe they do. Maybe they can. But, it’s unlikely to happen. With Windows 7 available in stores on October 22featuring good-old Windows familiarity and some sleek new features like advanced touchscreen support, Microsoft will continue to dominate the netbook OS market.

There is also reason to be cautious about the impact Google Chrome OS will have on Google’s bottom line.On Monday, Microsoft is expected to announce the release of Office Web, the long-awaited and much-anticipated cloud-based companion to the tremendously popular MS Office suite. According to Gartner research published by The Wall Street JournalMicrosoft already owns 94 percent of the office suite market. When you take into account the lack of features available in Google Docs and its general lack of compatibility with other office suites, Office Web’s promise of a seamless transition between cloud and PC is sure to take some wind out of Google’s sales.

There seem to be quite a few hurdles stacking up against Google. But they have to know and understand the challenge ahead of them and have an answer. Will it change computing as we know it? I don’t think it will happen overnight, but if Google presses forward with a cloud OS, you can bet others will follow and the landscape will change forever.

Do you or your company use Google Apps? If so, what do you like about them? In light of the impending Office Web Beta, will you be staying with Google?

UPDATE 7/13/2009: As predicted, Microsoft unveiled Office 2010 BETA at its Worldwide Partner Conference this morning. This updated version of the immensely popular office suite comes with a slew of new features, including free Web-based versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and OneNote. For screenshots and additional information, check out The Complete Guide to Microsoft Office 2010 at TechCrunch.

more-moneySince the first signs of a recession loomed in late 2007, the PR industry has been quick to point out reasons why companies should not cut their PR budgets. Apparently, those arguments fell on deaf ears as PR spending has dropped 11 percent.

Well, we are now deep into this recession and while some say we have reached, or are nearing, the bottom it is still pretty clear there is a long way to go before the economy fully corrects itself. Where does your PR budget stand during a transitionary period? Do you keep the status quo, cut back, or move forward? I think it is pretty obvious where I am going – push forward, full steam ahead!!!

In all seriousness, this is a time to start reinvesting. In speaking with many marketing directors, spending cuts are still in full swing. These guys are down, not quite out, but getting close. What’s more, they are leaving holes in the conversation all over the place. It’s time to take advantage of their silence and walk over them. Do you stop running your pattern because a defender fell down? No. You run, catch the football and try to score the winning touchdown. You wouldn’t even think of stopping, much less look back, so why are so many companies still in this wait-and-see mode? Wait too long and you’ll see your competition get up and go whizzing by.

Why is PR important now?
Opportunity: Your competition is likely not making near as much noise as they once did. This means there is a gap to fill. Go fill it. Speaking up when your competitors aren’t greatly increases your share of voice in your industry.

The Need for Content: Most conversations I have with reporters focus on the need for story ideas and content. The economy has been brutal on the media industry and they are being asked to take on the job roles of several people. Wearing so many different hats, they’re turning to their trusted sources for ideas and contributed pieces.

Information Hungry Customers: Buyers are scrutinizing every purchase decision, conducting as much research as possible, and PR helps disseminate information about your product or service, influences the influencers, and gets your brand noticed.

Secure Your Position: Timing is crucial in so many aspects of business. While it may not be the best time to launch an IPO, it is time to set the stage for thought leadership and industry awareness. When companies and consumers start buying again, do you want to be playing catch-up or already be in the limelight?

thought-leadership1

Today’s economy has made many of us very price conscious; however, our buying habits are still swayed by brand perception and image. In the grocery store you may look at the store brand and then find your eyes wandering over to the premium brand as your brain ponders – what really is the difference? After our minds wrestle with this dilemma, you make a choice and justify it.

“Money is tight; Publix Rice Cereal is no different than Rice Crispies.” (Really, it tastes the same and still goes Snap!, Crackle!, Pop!)
or
“Philadelphia cream cheese tastes so much better than the generic brand; it is worth the extra 82 cents.”

B2B buying decisions are quite a bit more complicated but still rely, especially in the early stages, on perception and brand awareness. The first step is usually to make the short list. This comes from recommendations based on the reputation of your product or service and brand awareness. In essence, you have to be found and seen as a respectable and forward thinking company. This starts with your people, or more accurately, your spokespeople.

Great spokespeople have a knack for entertaining and engaging any audience regardless of the topic. Not everyone is born with this talent. What companies need to do is find people who are passionate about the business, industry and product. Someone who will enthusiastically stand behind what they are saying. I have worked with several of these people and, through specific thought leadership campaigns, helped develop them into sought after speakers who command the respect of the media and industry. Here are some tips on how you can do this at your company:

1) Find the right spokesperson – Your spokesperson should be engaging, extremely knowledgeable and able to discuss complex topics in language that can be understand by a broad audience. Keep in mind, your best spokesperson is not always going to be the one who wants to be in the spotlight.

2) Training – No matter how well a person speaks in a casual environment, put them on a public stage on or the phone with a reporter and the nerves can come out. Go through a full day training session to work out the kinks. This is time well spent and pays great dividends.

3) Get out there – Briefings with the press and analyst communities (don’t forget the analysts!), speaking engagements and byline articles.

4) Commentary – Find news and trends relevant to your industry and provide commentary. Show the industry you know what is going on and have an expert opinion.

5) No Sales Pitches – If you want to establish credibility and become a sought after spokesperson, stay far away from sales pitches and avoid the Death by PowerPoint syndrome. PowerPoint is a crutch that should be avoided, especially during media interviews.

6) Patience – Being considered an expert does not happen overnight; it is a gradual process to build the industry’s trust and confidence. Give it time and make sure your spokesperson is actively engaged.

Now, don’t get me wrong. For all of this to work, you also need to offer a great product. However, without the right spokesperson to align business wisdom with industry intelligence, that product can sit idle in a warehouse never to be seen again.