Ruud Questions: Brian Carter

Brian Carter is one of those people who grows on you until one evening you sit typing the intro to an interview and you realize you can't even pinpoint the moment you got to know him; he's just always been there.

Brian's sense of humor is quirky, funny. If you pick the wrong set of tweets by one of his many @ handles you'd be excused walking away from them with a dismissive shrug of the shoulder and a heartfelt "weirdo!"

In fact, Brian's been the only contributor to the Search Engine People blog who tried to negotiate -- and reason! -- posting light hearted, "silly" blog posts. That's typically Brian, I think; he's serious about being funny.

But he's more than that. He's open and honest, inquisitive, practical and smart.

In March you had about 16K followers and follow about as many yourself. Now, almost 4 months later, you have 27K followers (following 25K) and if you keep going at this rate, you'll pass 43K by the end of the year.

What's your reason to follow so many people?

To me, Twitter is about

1. Conversations
2. Networking opportunities
3. Media reach
4. Fun

To do all of those, you need someone to see your tweets. The more people who see your tweets, the more response you get, and the more opportunities there are. It's all about interaction. But only a certain percentage of your followers are watching at any one time. And if you have diverse interests and expertises like me, not everyone will be interested in every tweet. The more followers you have, the more chance there is that you'll get a response to every tweet.

Since I'm not a celebrity, I can't just gain tens of thousands of followers based on other media exposure. I have to do it by following people. This year, as I predicted, has been the Invasion of Twitter by Celebrities. At one time I was a top 100 twitterer on hubspot and twinfluence. Not anymore!

Regardless, with about 20k followers, I can get 100-500 clicks on a tweeted link, depending on retweets. You can't tell me that would be the same number with 1k followers or 100k followers. Ok, you can tell me but I won't believe you. ๐Ÿ™‚

You don't seem to follow back 1:1 ... What's the difference there? Bots?

I don't autofollow back because I don't want to end up following bots of questionable repute. I follow people who talk with me or retweet me, but I'm not perfect- I miss some people. But they can call me out at anytime and I'll follow them.

What do you use for contact management; the things we typically track in CRM? And if you don't use any, how do you "wing it"?

You mean how do I organize responding to people on Twitter? I don't. LOL. I tweet and monitor mentions of me and I reply. Sometimes I check in on somebody I haven't heard from in a while and respond to one of their tweets.

Your TweetStats show you prefer the web interface. I was surprised. I more or less expected the hardest choice for a media maven like you to be between TweetDeck and Seesmic Desktop. Why the web?

I don't like desktop apps that monopolize system resources. At least one of the two you mentioned used to have problems with that and I haven't checked back. One of them I believe had an API-related limit. But mainly, I don't see anything crucial missing from retweeting is easy. I'm quick with the copy and paste. I'm not seeing what the big advantage is of using those apps- that could be neglect on my part. But obviously, if you can do what I do without them, do you really need them?

I used to always have open to monitor my name and other accounts (@soulpossum @danishpunkrock @tweetROI @momidlike2tweet etc.) but search.twitter starting having problems showing new tweets, at least in Chrome, and added the @briancarter mentions tab, so I'm cool with that.

Sometimes I tweet from HootSuite. If I participate in a chat like #GNO I might use TweetGrid, but that's about it.

According to those same stats you tweeted a lot at the end of 2008 (1500-2000 tweets/month) to go back to moderate to medium amounts (500-800) again afterwards. What's up with that?

Actually that might be skewed by not tweeting much at all in early 2009. I was investing my energies in other things like TweetROI. I'm sure sometime this year I'll tweet that much again.

In the latter half of 2008 I was speaking at conferences and traveling a lot, and that gave me a lot of in-between times to tweet. When you're traveling alone, tweeting provides a sense of connection. Taking photos and sending them to twitpic with funny captions is one of my favorite pastimes- that happens more when I travel.

Your master piece The 6 Spheres of Social Media Marketing is a pretty streamlined conversion process going all the way from "anyone" to "customer". When we're following @briancarter are we seeing that process in action?

LOL I haven't always been that intentional on twitter for myself. But you might be onto something...

In the outer three spheres (beyond, engagement, SM lists), I'm monitoring conversations on keywords that concern me and following those people and possibly replying to them. I have gotten more intentional lately about staying current with certain friends, industry peers, and journalists.

LOL now that I'm evangelizing TweetROI, I have to care about who blogs about social media and so on, and just hope I didn't piss them off at some point with one of my bad jokes or snarky comments. Those people are more on my radar to read and reply to.

I talk to some of my closer SM contacts more privately; via DM, IM, or email. That's definitely true of the people I've met in person. Once I've met someone IRL, it's less likely that you're seeing my relationship with them in public @replies.

In the other three spheres, I don't do a heck of a lot- It's not like I'm a freelancer who needs to win agency business- that stuff goes through Fuel salespeople and account managers. However, people I've created relationships with have fed us business... Hmm, Ruud, you're helping me realize I've left a few things out of my 6 spheres! I had a feeling there would be more corollary stuff to write on that. LOL now you're definitely getting some new posts. ๐Ÿ™‚

In that piece you write that you need to keep the end in mind and that that end should be making you money; "no money" equals "get another job". What's the goal, the end in mind, for @briancarter?>

Right now, I have a number of goals. For Fuel Interactive, we're building business, growing my department, getting more clients, improving our business and optimization processes, and so on. My goals are to build and improve Fuel, train and grow experts and leaders, and push the search and social media industries forward. I believe we are the vanguard of the new advertising and marketing industry, and we should lead in the trends toward greater accountability and ROI. I'd like to see a change in focus in traditional media like AdAge and OMMA. That would be nice.

For TweetROI, we want to be one of the top players in the paid tweeting industry. I'm going to help grow that industry, evangelize our service, and drive enhancements to the service. I also am going to watchguard quality- I'm as concerned as anyone about paid tweeting reducing conversation quality or spammers corrupting the great social "party" we've all been having. I'll do my best to make sure relationships stay front and center. One goal is to help Twitterers make money while keeping their authenticity and dignity. The other is to make Twitter a practical marketing channel for businesses of all sizes.

And the other thing is my sense of humor. I'm constantly looking for innovative ways to make people laugh. I'm not a touring stand up comedian, so I have to be more creative. I did the first Twitter stand up comedy act, tweeting my jokes for a couple hours back in Octover 2008. I've taken my comic characters like Larry Possum to YouTube, to mom-focused tweetups, and to charity efforts. We're actually pitching Larry Possum as a celebrity hotel reviewer to one of our clients right now. And I take my funny photos and twitpic them. Increasing people's joy through comedy is one of my serious goals.

When I see growing opportunities like (in sequence) blogging, video, social ... mobile of course (left on the table by tons, still) ... I see that the first wave of people who benefit most from it are those who have a first-line involvement. The line between them and the business is very short; often they are the business. The further away you get from the money, the more it becomes a service which will attempt to maximize revenue by going for the lowest possible cost per action. Zappos wouldn't be Zappos on Twitter had Tony Hsieh gone for "lowest possible cost".

How do you propose a business quantifies and judges its investment in social media? Should they go beyond "employee cost per hour vs. directly contributable conversion"?

Has anyone really measured what Zappos has gotten from Twitter? Certainly loads of backlinks and free press. I wonder how much revenue that was for them. But you're right, a lot of people get attention for being the first, or the most, and it's not repeatable. So you either have to follow proven strategies and tactics and you DO care about your cost and KPI, or you decide to be a crazy innovator. Not everyone can be Zappos because not every CEO is or needs to be Tony.

As far as attribution goes, I work a lot with PPC which is one of the easiest channels to track ROI in, but from what I've seen, at least 10% of the value isn't tracked, and possibly much more- there's the effects of PPC on other channels, and the complexity of the sales cycle and multiple touchpoints. I believe that accountability in advertising is great, but until we have better analytics, we have to take it with a grain of salt and keep using common sense.

PR and branding have always had an effect, but we can't measure it easily. Social media efforts are somewhere in between- it's more measurable than PR and it provides more value than just direct sales revenue. When you figure out how to measure improvements in brand affinity and the effect of one advertising channel (among multiple touchpoints) on customer lifetime value, let me know. ๐Ÿ™‚

The answer is, there's not a clear answer yet. In fact, I think analytics-based advertising runs into the same larger issues that all science does: no matter what we do, we can't predict everything, we can't know everything, we can't understand all causes and effects. The environment is constantly changing. The circumstances of something that worked this year might not be present next year. Successful marketing is a mix of inspiration, analytics, proven strategies, intuition, and common sense. You need marketing experts with experience who collaborate with clients because they often have insights about their business and customers that we just don't have data on or experience with.

If a company decides to outsource its blogging, its social media, its social networking ... do they lose Voice?

Depends on how they do it. I always suggest that an agency can interview key employees and do all that prep, writing, and execution. That's one way to retain voice while outsourcing much of the initiative and work.

Seeing that many of these venues almost by definition become churn & burn services when in the hands of 3rd parties, what criteria should a company use to select one?

I believe the agency should be collaborating with you on strategy, goals, and KPI's. If you don't know what the end goal is of a tactic or platform, why are you doing it?

For example, I'm extremely skeptical of Facebook marketing- that's a long story. To me, getting followers or engagement on a social platform is great, but if it doesn't affect your end goals, what's the point? Maybe it's only providing branding or increasing brand affinity. But if you haven't even thought about how to get those FB fans to do something else for you, I'd call that neglecting strategy and losing potential value.

If your agency isn't asking questions, isn't creating something custom for you to leverage your particular advantages, you could probably have an intern do it for you.

Finally a few for the road ๐Ÿ™‚ Favorite email app?


Storing knowledge or information in .... ?


Favorite time or attention management system?

My brain. I'm a bit ADD and I don't resist that. I use to-do lists, but many things are fluid. Priorities and possibilities change quickly when you work in teams. I also go with my gut a lot. I'm naturally analytical, so I used to overcomplicate my self-organization. Not anymore. I'll send you a picture of my desk, for this part... LOL.



About the Author: Ruud Hein

My paid passion at Search Engine People sees me applying my passions and knowledge to a wide array of problems, ones I usually experience as challenges. People who know me know I love coffee.

Ruud Hein

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