The Aaron Brazell Train Keeps Rolling

This post is quick and dirty. Sort of a braindump of sorts. I just want to get it out there as I’m coming in to land with the WordPress Bible and doing a delicate dance of travel, and final deadlines.

I’m sitting in Orlando International Airport and processing a lot of thoughts. Saturday, I gave my first keynote at IZEAFest which is an event that is, at it’s core, an opportunity for bloggers and online marketers to extend their reach online. My talk was about Influence and is loosely based around the 8 Traits of Highly Effective Influencers post I wrote back in March.

My goal in the keynote was to provide insights that other speakers might shy away from giving because, in general, people like to be coddled and told what they want to hear, not what they need to hear. I knew going into the session that I might ruffle some feathers, but I love the online community so much that I thought it would be a disservice to bring a message that enabled destructive behavior. We don’t need no rockstars, especially rockstars with no substance. What we do need are people who recognize the powerful principles that have made people influencers for thousands of years. There is nothing new under the sun.

I do want to expound on this concept of transparency, a topic I addressed in my keynote. Transparency is absolutely essential, but transparency only makes it easier to see inside. You have to be transparent to sell services, business and trust. However, if the content of your character sucks, then transparency only ensures that the world will see it. Transparency solves no problems if you suck as a person or your product sucks because it just does. It may be better to worry about your DNA then worry about making sure the world can see it. Just saying.

You can see some outtakes here.

There’s been a bit of buzz about the session that you can read too.

IzeaFest 2009 - 55Of course, my new friend Missy Ward made sure I met Murray Newlands: “Oh you need to do an interview with Aaron Brazell!” – I’ll make sure that info is out and about when it happens as well.

In about a week, I’m on my way back to Las Vegas for Blog World Expo and to speak at WordCamp Las Vegas. In case you’re wondering, the topic is a bit clever – Star Wars Quotes: The WordPress Genius They Are (think Yoda’s voice) where I’ll be sharing some guiding principles around WordPress, open source and the community. So if you’re in town for the show, stop by and say hi.

Finally, regarding speaking… I have spoken 28 times in 2009. Universally, I am not paid to speak. In some cases, like with Blog World Expo and IZEAFest, expenses are covered and I’m grateful. Generally, however, they are not. Most of these events are local things and constitute no real travel time, but still impact the timeline I have available for client work, etc.

Beginning in 2010, I’ll be looking to have some sort of fee structure involved with speaking opportunities. While I will always leave the door open for unpaid opportunities where it makes sense, it makes no real sense to do 28 speaking engagements in a year and not get paid for it. I want to provide that heads up as we’re entering the final stretch of 2009 and I’m lining up opportunities for 2010. If you do want me to speak to your company, industry event, or community group, please email me at aaron@technosailor.com so we can start working those details out.

Until then, follow me elsewhere in the interwebz:

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Changing the Currency of Influence via Search

There is no doubt that Google is the king of search but how did they become that way? In the old days (you know, before PageRank was dubbed irrelevant), the idea was that the number of links to a site, particularly by more “powerful” sites increased the relevance of an indexed page in the Google index. To this day, that philosophy holds, tho clearly the weight has shifted from “links of powerful sites” to “internal links”.

Google has not significantly adjusted how they determine the importance of an article, site or keyword in some time, tho they claim some 70+ algorithmic tweaks last year. And that’s fine. Google’s index is Google’s index. It has trained us how to search and what we expect when we search. It has taught us silently and we compare all other results to the Google results, despite the fact that Google results are in themselves arbitrary and based on their own determination via algorithm.

But I digress.

It’s interesting when new search engines or tools come out. It’s interesting to see the innovation as it takes place. One such tool that I discovered, almost by accident, does a good great job of building an index around links and pages passed around Twitter. This tool is Topsy, which combines Twitter Search with Google like results (in other words, the results are not tweets themselves).

For those of you not occupying your every waking moment on Twitter, it is by most objective measures, the new information aggregator – like RSS readers were supposed to be or portal sites try to be.

The currency of influence on Twitter can be summarized in two letters: RT (short for Retweet). Many bloggers are including the ability for stories to be “retweeted”, or redistributed on Twitter, and that is precisely what Topsy is measuring. (An example of retweeting capability on a blog can be seen on this blog – see that Retweet button at the end of the article?)

Much like Google set the currency of relevance based on links, an assumption that was valid at the time and still carries some level of validity today, Topsy has recognized that more influence is being distributed via Twitter and thus, a relevancy algorithm around this currency must be built.
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I don’t know if Topsy is a “Google killer” or even if they strive to be one. My guess is, it will never supplant Google in our lives. However, an ambitious approach to this new distribution of influence is an important, and enjoyable, thing to watch.

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8 Traits of Highly Effective Influencers

This is a 10 page article. Be sure not to miss the rest of the story!

The cult of personality has so pervaded all aspects of our lives. From Obama to Tom Cruise to Derek Jeter and even web celebrities. It pervades our culture thoroughly and it’s not entirely clear why.

In most cases, we don’t know anything about the objects of our affection aside from their names and their public work. Strangely, it’s the stuff that happens outside of the public eye that really makes people who they are validating what has been said, that character is what we are when no one is looking.

This mentality is frightening because it is the product of “no thought” following of someone. Whether you believe in the concept of “personal brand”, or you dismiss it outright, the desire to latch onto a recognized individual plays out everyday.

Being a celebrity is a dead end road. Celebrities simply wow people with imagery and public facing acts. Being an influencer involves changing games and lives and moving needles.

“This cult of personality is frightening in itself because it is the product of a “no thought” following of someone.”

Several years ago, I posed the question, ” How much do people talk about you?” In asking the question, I suggested that a person has arrived if they don’t even have to go to an event and still are name dropped in conversation.

My next question, rhetorically, is to find the value add of that conversation? There’s a fine line between being mentioned at a conference in the context of influence and knowledge, and simply being name-dropped just for the effect of, “Wow you know that person?!”

To be an influencer, you’re going to have to balance that self brand, personal marketing for the sake of being known with providing absolute, unquestioned value to the greater community. Carrying the mantle of an influencer means being a celebrity for the community. It means always giving of yourself so that the rest of the crowd benefits. It’s almost self-sacrificial, flying in the face of personal brand or celebrity.

To rip off the gist of the great John C. Maxwell‘s great series of books on leadership, there are ten traits of highly effective influencers. These traits do not include getting included on lists published by obscure bloggers, or gaining high numbers of “friends” on the social networks. Alone, these effects are not bad, but they tend to be self serving effects of minor celebrity and do not constitute “influence”.

Ride with me through this article. If you can last, then I hope you come out better on the other side. Share it with your own audience, churches, schools, social networks or office mates. The principles here transcend venue. In other words, an influencer in social media is not different, on principle, than an influencer in government.

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