It's Really Simple; Be Valuable and You Will Be Valued

Despite the crazy title of this post, it is not about personal brand. That’s a conversation that is happening elsewhere in the blogosphere and, though I’ve talked about it on this blog, it is not relevant to this post.

What is relevant is value. Actual value versus “perceived” value.

Late last night, around 2am, I was plugging away on a client project. Blinded by blurry eyes caused by hours of intense concentration, and creeping exhaustion, I switched over to check on an email that had just rolled in. It was from an editor at a well known financial publication. He was working on a story that asked the question, “What would I do if I lost my job today?” and he was soliciting feedback on a portion of the article dedicated to Twitter.

The portion of the article I read was very good, except that it missed something. It missed, what I call, the “secret sauce”. It described how Twitter worked, how to get followers and made the connection between number of followers and the ability to get a job.

My response to him was that he needed to include the secret sauce in the ingredients. Clearly, the secret sauce wouldn’t be secret if I told the world, so instead, I’ll share it with you as long as you only tell someone else if you find value in it. ;-)

The secret sauce is this: Be valuable.

Recently, as the economy has soured even more, and layoffs continue to happen around us, many people who have benefited from great jobs have found themselves looking for work. Folks who have cultivated massive numbers of followers on Twitter are on the street looking for work and finding it hard to drum up anything. They’ve discovered that despite their social media popularity, they are not necessarily valuable to employers.

Employers are looking for the people that stand up above the crowd. They stick out, not obnoxiously so, but in a smart and efficient way. They are not looking for marketers or personal brand evangelists. They are not looking for celebrities. Indeed, these people might cost them too much anyway.

They are looking for the people who don’t just talk about Health 2.0, for instance, but who clearly demonstrate through their own conversations, writings and actions, that they are valuable!

Marks of value are demonstrated when someone shares their knowledge with someone else who is asking questions. Value can be shown in the ongoing conversation around a topic (It is obvious when someone is simply repeating talking points, and when they know their field). Value is on display in quiet genius, not simply frequency (or loudness) of messages. Someone is clearly valuable when the content they are discussing, respectfully (as a key identifier), is put into action through their careers, thought leadership and social interaction.

Clearly, value is not simply being a subject matter expert, but it is also in the conversational and socially interactive approach that the person assumes. Identifying a valuable person is much easier when they are in their own element and not looking for work or otherwise performing. How they behave among their peers and the respect and authority bestowed on him by his peers is a clear indicator of value, not in a celebrity way, but in an influencer kind of way.

The principles behind the secret sauce on Twitter are the same principles that apply in real life. When former HP CEO Carly Fiorina was forced to resign, the HP Board didn’t put out a job requisition for a new CEO. They identified Mark Hurd, the then CEO of NCR who demonstrated amazing ability in turning NCR around, as the guy they wanted to run Hewlett Packard. It wasn’t because Mark had the right salary requirements, or was out there cultivating his brand on NCRs dollar. In fact, it was exactly the opposite. He was demonstrating his value to NCR so HP went after him.

Value is one of those things that is subjective and hard to achieve. But understanding of the community, the social aspects of people and cultivating a subject matter expertise does begin a person down the road to being valuable. Certainly, there is more that can be said, but probably enough to chew on for now. :)

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.