While working on a new book for hopeful business authors called Write For You, Christopher Greenaway and Amelia Hartley of CGW Publishing began to research the 'Internet marketing gurus' who advocate using sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as marketing tools, and what they found was startling. It turned out that the Internet experts had next to no value, while individuals who were traditionally newsworthy were very valuable.
They began to research this phenomenon further.
“This all started when we received a newsletter email from someone we know, a sales manager turned small business consultant and social media marketing expert', says Greenaway. “We knew that the image he portrayed bore no resemblance to the reality of his business, and so we started to look into what he was really up to”
Hartley adds, “We began to research Twitter, since this was the tool that the marketing experts seemed to be pushing most”. What she quickly found was that the Internet marketers were using a very simple and a very old trick to make it appear as if they were popular, when in fact they were extremely unpopular. In many cases, their real popularity was so low that they have a negative effect on the amount of information in the world.
“We live in the information age. We have twenty four hour a day news, advertisements pushed to our mobiles, advertising on just about every Internet page and TV program and possible more blogs, Facebook profiles and Twitter feeds than there are human beings on the planet. Socially, we have developed a thirst for knowledge, and therefore the marketers of the world have evolved to meet that need”, say Greenaway and Hartley as they expand on their idea. “In the information age, we value people for how much information they add. This isn't a new idea – we've always valued people who had news from the front line or gossip from the manager's office. Technology simply adds a new level of immediacy to the problem.”
As Greenaway and Hartley continued to piece together the different pieces of this puzzle, they developed a simple system that anyone can use to determine the true value of someone who purports to be an Internet marketing 'expert'.
In their book, Write For You, they tell the story of what happened next.
“The most popular British writer on Twitter, Stephen Fry, who at the time of the research was following 53,497 people and was followed by 1,616,454 people. This meant that Stephen Fry generates 30 times more interesting thoughts than he consumes, so we decided to use Stephen Fry as a measure of newsworthiness and give him a value of 1 Fry.
In comparison, Jerry Springer, the American TV host, is worth 50 Frys. He contributes 50 times the amount of news as does Stephen Fry.
Oprah Winfrey, the American TV talk show host, is worth 6,625 Frys, or 6.6 KiloFrys.
Clearly, people who are traditionally popular carry more authority, because people want to hear what they have to say.
Paul O’Grady, the British comedian turned TV presenter and author, changes the picture quite significantly. He has only 13,340 followers, but he isn’t following anyone, so his value is infinite. But for the purposes of calculating a number, we must assume that he is somewhat interested in at least someone, so we added an arbitrary variable to our formula which gives him a value of 441 KiloFrys or 0.44 MegaFrys.
The singer David Bowie, by our formula, has a value of 1.54 MegaFrys. He contributes 1.54 Million times the news value of Stephen Fry.
At the other end of the scale, an Internet marketing guru in America, who has lectured at Harvard Business School on the value of Twitter to businesses, scores just 0.03 Frys or 30 MilliFrys.
She is followed by 59,427 people but is following 59,080 people, a difference of just 447. While Internet marketing ‘experts’ focus on the 59,427, what we need to look at is the 447, because this indicates the value that the person adds.
The Internet marketers try to convince us that having 59,427 people following you is good for publicity, but the fact that she needs to follow 59,080 people in order to attract her followers is very bad indeed.
The way that Twitter gurus advocate building a following is to say to each other, “Hey, if I follow you, will you follow me? It will be good for both of us!” No, it won’t.
If you're lost in a remote jungle, you won't survive any longer by saying, “Hey, if I eat your leg, you can eat mine!”
A British sales manager turned small business consultant and social media expert has 1,216 followers who enjoy reading about the fact that it’s sunny today. He is following 1,235 people, so he produces less news than he consumes. His news value is less than zero Frys at -0.02 Frys, or -20 MilliFrys. What’s worrying is that he advises businesses on the importance of social media marketing.
The smaller the number of Frys, the less interesting the person is. A negative number means that on top of being grossly uninteresting, the person actually detracts from the amount of news in the world.
An American Internet marketing guru who says that he “helps businesses to elevate their status in the online world to maximise their marketing exposure” as he “travels the world imparting his wisdom” is worth -0.05 Frys, or -50 MilliFrys.
His unnewsworthiness is surpassed only by the British singer and TV presenter, Cilla Black. She measures in at -1.76 Frys.
In fact, none of the Internet marketing gurus who we found advocating Twitter as the latest business marketing tool scored any higher than 9 MilliFrys, which is disappointing when you notice that Dick Van Dyke of “Cor blimey Mary Poppins!” fame scores just over 3 Frys.
A dancing chimney sweep is a factor of a thousand more important than the most successful Internet marketer.
This is especially disappointing if you have paid Internet marketing experts people a lot of money to build a social media marketing campaign for you. You would literally be better off spending your money with a man who dances with penguins.”
A few months after developing the Fry and tracking the value of a growing number of celebrities, business people, marketing experts and politicians, Greenaway and Hartley met up with ABSEM's CEO, Naval Kumar, and discovered that despite being an Internet marketer himself, he shared similar views of what was happening in the world of social media. ABSEM had built their search marketing agency on solid and legitimate practices and have resisted the short term, 'snake oil' promises that other agencies often make.
Kumar says, “As you can see, creating valuable news is not an easy job. If you don’t legitimately stand out from the background noise, you’re not going to get there with marketing tricks either.
A simple calculation of the difference between creation and consumption, between import and export, immediately reveals who is actually creating value. And in any business, creating value is the way to make a living.
We've built a solid reputation through organic search optimization and credible online marketing, because we know that delivering long lasting results for our clients is what they want, not easy fixes and shady practices that just do their business more damage in the long run.
The key is to use these tools to create a genuine following. Don’t simply follow other people, concentrate on saying something of real value.”
Together, CGW and ABSEM have created not only a way to measure Internet value but, perhaps more importantly, a way to develop a credible and trustworthy online presence that will stand the test of time.
CGW Publishing (cgwpublishing.com) is a British independent publisher of business books, working with expert authors to create a service business around their intellectual property.
ABSEM (absem.com) is an independently owned digital marketing agency based in in London, England and Los Angeles, California.