Podcast – Martech E3 with Dorai Thodla - Pravin Shekar | Outlier Marketer

All about Influencers

Martech Conversations: Episode 3

INFLUENCERS - Who they are? What can they do to your organization? Where to find them? In this episode, we discuss the need for influencers and the overlooked platforms to find them apart from social media.

Follow Dorai Thodla here: @dorait

Follow Pravin Shekar here: @pravinshekar

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Pravin Shekar: Hello and welcome to one more episode of the Martech conversations between Dorai and Pravin. Dorai, great to talk to you again, it's been a break, but always lovely to see you.

Dorai Thodla: Same here, Pravin, just looking forward to this.

Pravin Shekar: So Dorai, this is something you planted as a seed about a couple of months ago, and we're just having a conversation, which is the How-to series. And so I have been researching and looking into it. But the one key aspect that comes is influencers and one is generic influencers, but then we can narrow it down to the martech part on a specific tech influencers and your favorite of Twitter influencers. But I would just like to kick off with a low full toss here. What's your view about influencers? Yeah.

Dorai Thodla: So I've just learned this art from someone, I don't remember who. Normally you answer the question with the question. So Pravin, back to you. What do you think? Who do you think is an influencer? When you say influencer, what comes to your mind?

Pravin Shekar: Okay, the first thing that comes to everybody's mind is somebody with a large following. Okay, is by default an influencer. But I would more focus and the whole world is also changing towards micro-influencers. Okay, now, the example that I would give is a young boy, 12, you also know Ravi and Somia son Dharshan, who is a tech geek, but more a gadget geek. So the last few purchases that I wanted to make, and some of our friends wanted to make, we just reached out to Dharshan saying, hey, I need some earphones, I need a camera, I need to get a new phone or a laptop. And he quickly researches and sends it across to us. So if you ask me, for the geek and the mobile and the techno part of it, who is my influencer? It is that 12 year old boy, who continues to influence the friends and the family circles, in terms of what to buy and what not to buy. So that would be my answer to you in terms of who I think, is an influencer for me for that particular need.

Dorai Thodla: Yeah, super, I think, this is a fabulous answer. And we'll take from there and then work a little bit. So every one of us has somebody either in their family or in friends circle, that when we want to buy a camera, we want to buy a car, we want to buy a house or we want to buy when these like phone, I think they use the especially generation, right, the older generation always goes to the youngest generation because they're like, you know, completely in line with exactly what, and they know what they want. And as soon as they buy it, there will be a new phone and they want that. So they're always keeping track of this kind of stuff. Yes, it's surprising that you said this, because when I bought my second TV after coming to India, I mean, I was in India, at the time, after starting my company, I took my seven year old son to the shop, and he knew exactly what TV we should get Sony your son at the time, right? And he was the influencer and then so, you know, there is no age bar. So let us look and parse that a little bit. Influencers are passionate about the space or the sphere, where they influence, right, they're knowledgeable in the sense that they are much more knowledgeable than you are and you would rather trust their, you know, knowledge. Second thing and the other thing is that they're very quickly known to others. And they don't even market themselves in but still everybody knows, because they always draw the conversation towards this topic that they’re most passionate about. And so those are the kinds of things so now let us slightly veer off. And I don't know whether we can take Dharshan as a business influencer. So let us switch a little bit because we are talking about marketing, to business influencers. And so these are the key things. And people with passion standard, because they find a lot of information, they share a lot of information. And because they share and they unconditionally help other people with questions. And these qualities make them stand out. And in an earlier episode, we talked about how to educate book market, right? And this falls right there. They're out educating, you know. So you want to be educated or not, they'll educate you. For example, I have such people about meditation, about Bhagavad Gita as a passionate about things that I'm not at all passionate about, but you just cannot, you know. But we know that if somebody says, Hey, who's a good guy to talk to about this and you can point them to this. So that is one. We can run down a list, but I think, since our goal is to how do you find them automatically, right? And how them find in specific niches, like Obama is the influencer, but it's not he's not gonna do anything for me. Right? Trump is also an influencer, but I definitely don't want him to do anything for me. So, you know, the influencer at a broader scale is different. So when you go on, you know, a very specific area. I'll tell you one story that I just started blogging. And then I said, writing everyday is difficult then early 2003, or 2004, or something, and then I stopped. And then 2006, we had a meet with a blogger by named Robert Scoble. He was a very big influencer in Silicon Valley, we sat within the house of one Mr. Doug Engelbert. And he told us why people should blog. And he gave a lot of reasons. But he said, Don't worry about readership. Don't worry about anything. So it's basically self expression, I said, you will, you know, it's kind of a public diary, but you're not writing your intimate secrets there. You're just, you know, all your thoughts and you'll be happy to go back. So even if you think that you're the only reader for your blog, please go ahead and blog. I remember that in 2006 January 1st, I came back and started blogging and at the time, then I started blogging almost every day for a while. And then I stopped for a different reason. But when I was doing this, I tried find who are the influences in blogging, and there is a guy by the name, there are a bunch of them, like copy bloggers, Darren Rose. And one other guy had a way of becoming an influencer in a very, very interesting way.

Dorai Thodla: He said, I want you to write a blog post every Friday, he will run this competition. Now, it's not really a competition. He said, Okay, this Friday, I want to know, what you think about bloggers, your thoughts about bloggers, and or blogging and write and send me a link, and I'll post it in my blog. And because it's a collection, so I at that time, you know, it was I said, you know, we always copy all this famous titles like Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. So I just happily took that and said, Seven Habits of Highly Effective bloggers, and I wrote a blog post, then I found out that I was not the only dude who did that and there was another guy who also did that. So I changed my title because he was before. So out of respect to him, I changed the title. And then I found that there is a whole bunch of people who wrote blogs and posted on this. You know, this influencer blogger, I'll find out exactly what that blog is until you still there. A lot of people discovered other bloggers through that list, for example. Beautiful, okay, so this is something what influencers do they bring others to limelight, and then he goes, he went through all the blogs, he thanked. And he wrote comments and all that kind of stuff. So I think people who give unconditionally, and who express if they give unconditionally, but in some corner of the world, where nobody knows anything about it, we will know about it in social media and all that they do it in on public forum. You know, like, you know, Now, of course, we have social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and all that.

Dorai Thodla: The second thing is that much before all these things came, we had influences they are the editors of popular magazines, PCV, and infoworld. And all these you know, like Dr. Dobbs journal for the geeks, and all that sort of stuff. And similarly, a lot of marketing journals, you look at it, you know, now, Neil Patel is like an influencer. Because they kind of there is an interesting thing about influencers because a lot of people want to talk to them. And they talk to a lot of people. It's by nature they're like that. And then because of that, they have a lot of accumulation of knowledge. And I think their head will burst if they don't spread it. So they do spread it and when they spread it that you know, gives back and more people will say some people will agree with them, some people will disagree with them. There'll be all these conversations going on. So these are conversation generators. So influencers are also conversation generators, and then they are very authentic because you can look at it, I mean and look at see how they are in you know, Naval Ravikanth, angellist and there are people you know that you cannot miss in the even if you're just like, somehow you will Tim O'Reilly, you know, he predicted, well, he coined the term web 2.0. He's an influencer but he was publisher of technical books, essentially. But he is a very strong influencer. So hotters are some freelancers? Right? So Pravin, you know, it's like turning out one book every other week, I think, you definitely are an influencer. Because you're reaching out through a medium. And people read it and they may agree with you may not agree with you, they'll send in comments and, and because you do a lot of research, you spent more time than anybody else on that particular topic. So you have something to contribute, and you get all these other feedback and you make it better. That, you know, that effect is there. If I want to find influencers, I look for conferences in a particular space.

Pravin Shekar: Yes.

Dorai Thodla: So normally the keynote speakers in the conferences turn out to be influencers. For topic keynotes there are influencers too. Of course, you need to be carefully look because as sponsors, always get speaking slots did not necessarily be influencers. But you know, for a long time, in we have the show called COMDEX, you know, Computer Dealers Exposition in Las Vegas, we used to die to be in the keynote a while I mean, Bill Gates speaks, you have to go and listen. And every year there used to be like some new discoveries and things like that. So conference speakers, and some conference speakers, even before they become famous, in fact, they become famous because of being invited to speak at a conference either because they have an entirely new angle, or they provoke people to think very, very differently. Then editors of magazines are influencers, because they are connected to lots of good journalists, right? And who gather information who do analysis and editors have to sit and write opinion, sometimes opinion columns and the editorials and all that kind of stuff. And the way we knew is that when in 1993, when we're trying to advertise a product, the only internet was not there. No, you cannot, because there are some browsers, like waking up from slumber is aware. And then we used to go to these magazines, and we used to go visit every one of the headquarters and made it a point because somebody said talk to them, then you know, they'll say, okay, all of them said, Okay, please advertise. But that's not conditional. If you want to write a column, write a column, otherwise, we'll allocate somebody to write a column for you, and all that sort of stuff. And they had very different slots, where we know that this column was sponsored column and this column was naturally written, or this product was included on it. And talking to them was like, you know, so much about the investor. So I'll pause here and then there is a whole bunch of others that I can talk about, but let you know. I'll pause for breath and let you ask some questions.

Pravin Shekar: That's absolutely spot on Dorai. Because we are currently when you talk about influencer only looking at social media, there's a whole lot more power on regular media or regular channels as well, that people just refuse to think about. Which leads me to the next question you've clearly defined who is an influencer? Why do they do what they do? But there's also a huge bunch that just focuses on amassing a following. I personally, don't subscribe to this influencer marketing part when we just pay somebody to put it put or tweet, etc, etc. Because I firmly believe in adding value and building trust and that is pretty much how a true influencer engages with the audience. But let me break it down and just ask about Twitter as a channel and when we look at a people with a lot of following. How do you Dorai, what would your approach be to identify a real influencer from a fake one?

Dorai Thodla: So there are two three things you do right? First you filter them. So let us say, let us say our conversation about Martech, right? You were saying martech influences. So we'll say martech, marketing technology, you search on Twitter, you're going to find a bunch of tweets, okay. And then, you know, you take a look at those tweets. And we have this tool that saves about the top, you know, 100 or 1000 tweets kind of thing. And then you can sort them by engagement. Okay, even we ignore follower count completely. Because if you look at some of the most influential people there are very, very small follower count, but the engagement is like huge, they have long threads of conversation going on, and a lot of people jumping in, in fact, that is another source where I find influencers just in these conversations, but that continuation, right? So you filter. So just because somebody talked about martech they may show up in your tweet, but if they're not having a lot of conversations about marketing technology, different aspects of that's how I found Scott Brinker, who was, you know, who put together this market map of martech companies like you know, 6800 plus kind of things. And then he later joined Hubspot. That's how, you know, you find people. So in Twitter, what I would look for I look for engagement and the quality of conversations, and not somebody who's like, tweeting all the time, you know, those are people who are trying to kind of show up in the crowd, you know, at some point in time, but initially, I think it's, you know, the compulsive I used to tweet like 20,30,40 times a day, because I, every time I read an article, I would tweet that article, because I knew exactly who were people. I had maybe about 10-20, you know, people who would actually read stuff, and reply or have a conversation or comment or something like that. So I look for retweets. And the retweet is kind of interesting, because retweet is sending a signal. Why would somebody retweet your tweet, sometimes with comments sometimes without comment, with comment will get you a slightly higher rank. But sometimes people just will retweet without comment also. Why is that is because they find what you found and tweeted about interesting to their audience. So through these people, you are reaching their audience. And that is and if it is that alignment. So that is the term I'm looking for topical alignment. So if you're interested in Martech, I am interested Martech, and I know that which ones you will retweet, when I'm tweeting pretty much close and you're not even that much on Twitter. I know exactly which ones, you know, like, some of my friends would retweet. And none of them not a single member of my family will retweet anything I tweet, they'll say please go away, don't be anywhere near me kind of thing. So we know and they don't repeat everything they read, things they resonate with, and things they follow. The other very quickly happening is some of the most influential people are the VCs. Many of the VC firms, if you've seen started having partners, who write lot of blog posts, and who are and they use Twitter as a way to promote their blog posts. And they start conversations too. So we sees a people know. And then research and research hogs know, suddenly, all of a sudden.

Dorai Thodla: I found this some link to next gov, which is basically the next government, you know, the basically, and they talk a lot about what the government is spending money on time on what is initiatives and that kind of stuff. And there's a nice thread, and they have a Twitter account. Almost every research organization, National Science Foundation has one, discovery channel has one. So what happens is, you can go looking for them. Right? And in so back to your Twitter question is that I will look for topical unit. I say the definement as martech and but the topic is not just martech, you don't you can't just look for hashtag martech because then it all. so what you do is first you find the vocabulary of that space. It's the market right, what is the market? The market is buyers sellers, you know influencers the VCs who fund it and the startups who do the work and all that sort of stuff and find a collection of those people and so and they all use slightly different terms, some places technology in marketing, sometimes martech and search engines still are not smart enough to put them all together in so you gather the vocabulary and then you search for those terms. Then you find the people and then I normally look at into really influential people have their own lists. I look at the list of influencer people like for example, when I go after, you know, following Naval Ravikanth, Kimora Lee or Paul Graham, you know the Y Combinator, founder, co founder of Y Combinator I look at who are the people they follow. Normally their follower lists are very small 50 they'll be following in 30 to 50 people. But that is very deep in that space either. You know, they are people who they work with or people they you know, they are sometimes retweeting. So we say how much how some of the big influencer retweeting whom are they retweeting kind of stuff. And so this there is a very interesting discovery stuff that you can do with Twitter. And we thought we can do a lot of things with natural language processing with keyword extraction and all that it goes only certain to some distance after that human beings have to get in and then look at it and say does it make sense? And is outbound marketing marketing is inbound marketing martech. So inbound marketing, what are they then what you start searching saying inbound marketing tools, so inbound marketing plus technology, and then say that is how you start finding people bunch of searches, and then look at the list. And then look at the engagement metrics, you can form your own engagement rates. How frequently they tweet is not a big metric, but it's useful, how much of the tweets are like everybody likes things, so I don't use like as if somebody says, for example, if I say, Hey, we want to run this hackathon on marketing tools, let us know whoever wants to join. And then I get like 50 likes on it. And I said, What am I going to do with these likes? Are they going to join or not? But nice thing about them is because they like it spreads. So somebody in the group maybe in some of them will retweet saying that, hey, this is Dorai’s tweet and you guys can go and register and things like that. So you know, retweets are for me higher than likes, conversations are better than retweets and likes. So there is this hierarchy of engagement.

Pravin Shekar: Lovely Dorai, that was a very quick masterclass on Twitter influencers. A whole bunch of questions are coming through in terms of how to identify the influencer for my company or brand, what kind of tools exists, how do I go ahead with but we'll pause this conversation for today and continue on with the other questions as always a pleasure talking to you Dorai.

Dorai Thodla: Same here. Pravin it's a lot of fun. So thanks.