Five social media truths for industry analysts

One man band
One man band, by Ferrell McCollough

Industry analyst is a tough act to master: just like a one-man-band need to combine multiple instruments, analysts usually have many talents such as writing, public speaking, educating –and ideally analysing. Do they now need to be their own publicists as well? 

The pandemic has brought in a dramatic uptick in social media usage, accelerating the move to digital for many interactions. Its convenience and immediacy make it a force that’s there to stay when the new normal finally settles. So, if you have lost the password of the Twitter account you had set-up back in 2007 to kick the tyres and haven’t got a plan to engage on LinkedIn, now is the right time to jump in.

Let’s be honest though: being on social media does require commitment. But in today’s attention economy, thought leaders need to probably exert as much effort getting their insights out there than producing research. Far-fetched? I think not.

1. Always start with your audiences and their needs

This might sound obvious but you should start by resolving and prioritising the audiences you want to address and engage. This immediately makes you more adept and purposeful than the overwhelming majority of social media users. 

Ask yourself who you need and want to reach and what’s in it for them?

Here are some examples of audiences relevant to industry analysts and their drivers:

  • Media (reporters) need to have some quotable, newsworthy soundbites, such as market share trends, vendor conference first takes or M&A reactions
  • Technology users and buyers seek insights on technology trends and thoughts on vendor positioning and viability, plus of course hints on commercial practices
  • Vendor executive management value market insights and feedback 
  • Spokespersons appreciate mentions as it helps them justify the time they invest with analysts
  • AR pros want connect and stay up to date with research themes 
  • Conference attendees seek to network and share learnings
  • Who else do you want to talk to?

2. What does good look like? 

Your first step should be to stay current: an inactive, incomplete or outdated account profile actually doesn’t portray you positively. 

So what should be your goals? Start by establishing your desired outcomes to focus your time investment. It’s not one-size-fits-all: your goals might be different to your peers and it is likely you will achieve multiple goals simultaneously.

Here are a few thoughts on potential outcomes you can use to set your goals:

  • Personal branding comes of course to mind, being seen as a thought leader drives readership and hopefully subscriptions, consulting, interviews, etc. Trust Phil Fersht / HfS Research (LinkedIn, @pfersht) when he says “The leading analysts in today’s tech industry are those who command huge impact and influence using their vast social networks.  I founded and built a Tier 1 analyst firm largely as a result of my influence and impact with blogs, LinkedIn and Twitter.  Today I have 45,000 followers on LinkedIn which provides instantaneous impact for research pieces and insight.” 
  • Social media is also a great research tool were you can garner “weak market signals and inspiration for researchaccording to Neil Ward Dutton / IDC (LinkedIn, @neilwd)
  • On a firm level, this elevates insights above content, although marketing and brand are paramount to success in a content economy, people still buy from people and when it’s about insights, your firm should have a panel of luminaries. Patrick Moorhead / Moor Insights & Strategy (LinkedIn, @PatrickMoorhead) sums it up neatly: “Analysts influence and with more people getting their info and opinions here, Twitter is yet another place to engage with stakeholders.  No reason to completely lock it away behind a paywall. Give enough to show smarts and reinforce or add a subscription.
  • Personal connections also matter: as Fabrizio Biscotti / Gartner (LinkedIn, @fab_biscotti) puts it, “It’s always good to engage with stakeholders.
  • At events, social engagement creates a buzz around it and enhances attendee experience. Events managers told us it helps showcasing events to prospects, reach out to media and increase awareness, share thought leadership and engage attendees

3. Don’t obsess about followership –it’s all about the conversation

When it comes to metrics, we’re well served in today’s digital world: isn’t everything measurable? 

Not quite. As the saying goes “When the sage points to the moon, all that the idiot sees is the finger.” –Anthony de Mello. Abundance of data can obfuscate the question you should be asking. I call this the digital marketer data-blindness. Rather than paying undue attention to followership, you should concentrate on insights and engagement. 

As Ray Wang / Constellation (LinkedIn, @rwang0) says “Social media is more than market intelligence or a personal brand. Think of it as an important component of signal intelligence and digital feedback loops.  You have to be an active node in a network for that network to be valuable.  You get as much as you give.

Depending on your firm culture (aversion to risk, openness, hierarchy) you might find this easier or harder. It’s more likely than not you’ll find openness, sharing and engaging positively is rewarded even within conservative firms. Just don’t forget to acknowledge, re-tweet, comment –don’t simply open up the tap and stay in broadcasting mode.

4. Who should engage and where?

Back to the audience, their wants and needs question. It’s likely there’s space for everyone, but it’s best to have defined roles. 

  • Analysts should focus on their coverage areas 
  • Conference teams are extremely helpful wrapping-up, sharing insights and at marshalling 
  • Sales can be great at helping their clients internalising some content

Do follow your audience on the channels it uses, all at the same time make choices on which channel(s) is/are best suited to your purpose(s). Stick to open social media networks, as peer-to-peer groups take much more effort to scale.

  • LinkedIn is good for long form posts and re-sharing some insights –though for instance Margaret Adam / IDC (LinkedIn, @madam_idc) says “Personally, I find LinkedIn a bit more useful though.”
  • Twitter is more reactive, perfect for vendor conferences 
  • Image-based mediums can achieve results but it takes a professional team to produce good quality video clips

5. Be who your nan sees in you

Ready to take the plunge? Follow my ten commandments for the social analyst.

  1. Everyone is a spokesperson, everything is on record.
    Check your firm social media policy. Or buy one. Don’t forget you’re always a spokesperson. 
  2. It’s a conversation.
    Listen first, talk second.
  3. Buzzwords matter.
    Use the right hashtags, for instance #ARchat, the one for the conference you’re at and/or a trending industry theme. Think searchability and, again, add to the conversation.
  4. Keep the cadence, it’s a marathon –not a sprint.
    • Once a month on LinkedIn does it, once a week is probably the top end?
    • Several times a week on Twitter is OK
  5. Follow and curate.
    Check who to follow: people you work with, clients, prospects and also people you consider thought leaders in your or related spaces. Follow back people and share the love: share other’s point of view when they add to the conversation.
  6. Be insightful and put things in context.
    Say why a trend matters, explain why something is newsworthy. Add value when re-tweeting or sharing: bring in some perspective (which trend does this fit in?), contextualise (why important?), add your own insights.
  7. Be personable and authentic.
    A hobby is good,sharing good pictures for instance is nice –but don’t let it take over your feed.
  8. Don’t be afraid to challenge… and agree to disagree.
    Just keep in mind not to be baited and be drawn into arguments you won’t win. 
  9. Be who your granny wants you to be.
    Be nice. Polite. Considerate. Respectul. 
  10. Help people helping you.
    Acknowledgements always help AR folks to justify the time executives invested.

Thanks to all the analysts cited above and on the Twitter thread for their contributions and to Reyne Quackenbush (LinkedIn, @The_Quacker) for reviewing this blog post.

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4 Responses to Five social media truths for industry analysts

  1. Stephen England Sunday 29th November 2020 at 20:54 #

    Bleeting (blogging and tweeting) is the domain of vendor centric consultants and wanabees (also known as bunny slipper pundits) and is always almost powerless as a form of buyer advisory influence on real enterprise class buying decisions – what to do, who to do it with and how much to pay for it.

    Just look at how many end user clients Gartner has (15K) and how rarely their analysts engage in meaningful commentary on social media. Those same analysts do not prioritize social media interactions as informational sources compared to briefings, inquiries and end user conversations.

    • Phil Fersht Sunday 29th November 2020 at 23:51 #

      Stephen – do you have any idea how much business we get at HFS via our social media connections? In your world you only see Gartner, and that’s OK, there is a business for people to help IT vendors deal with Gartner. And you can probably ride out the legacy Gartner “monopoly” (that you want to perpetuate) until you retire.

      But you’re doing your clients a huge disservice not alerting them to the influence of analysts embedded at the C-Suite with many very senior decision-makers. I never see you on Linked or Twitter, where so many of the emerging generation frequent, which is why you are blind to the changing world – and have been for decades.

      You are out of touch and cling to your desire for things never to change. You are the embodiment of legacy executives who failed to move with the times and are happy to chug along breathing the fumes of a model where there is only one player left in the market.

      HFS is achieving 8-figure revenues and has the “dream team” of analysts driving new ideas and thinking that stems from our social media roots, combined with great research. For someone claiming social media is bullsh*t and taking money from dinosaur AR executives who hate embracing change as much as you do… you are doing your “profession” l and huge disservice,

      Happy to jump on an IIAR web session to educate you on the changing world, as the IIAR folks would greatly appreciate it,

      Cheers

      Phil

  2. stcrossgroup Monday 30th November 2020 at 15:47 #

    Interesting post Ludovic. I kind of agree with part of Stephen’s reply and part of Phil’s too. My bigger concern is around what’s meant by social media.

    As we would all probably agree Twitter etc is just noise and from what we see and has limited impact on enterprise decision making.

    On the other hand we’re seeing much stronger engagement between end-user buyers and analysts in closed user groups which are still ‘social’ but not visible in the public domain.

    We see significant numbers of well connected analysts (including many from Gartner) in these spaces and from what I’ve seen from our data many are involved in vendor selection discussions.

    Having insights into this data can provide evidence to help AR teams redefine their analyst tiers and ‘analysts of interest’

    • Ludovic Leforestier Tuesday 1st December 2020 at 16:17 #

      Analyst influence via social is another conversation Bill, I was trying to explain how analysts could use social media as a tool.

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