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It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who Knows You: Breaking Into Someone’s Top 100 List


This post was originally published on LinkedIn, April 21, 2014.

How many times have you heard someone say, “It’s all who you know” within the context of getting ahead in your career? Probably a lot.

Interestingly, just the opposite is true. It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.

Thought experiment: Consider the social networks of celebrities, national politicians, or CEOs. Obviously there’s a small number of people who they “know,” meaning that they know them by name and remember something about them and wouldn’t mind a conversation with them. However, most their power in society is derived from the fact that a preponderance of strangers know them. That’s why they can get tickets to a sold-out show, or a million Instagram followers, or a private audience with the President to discuss their new charitable initiative.

Now consider the people you “know” (or think you know). Common scenario: You got someone’s business card at an event nine months ago and sent them a follow-up email about how nice it was to have met them. Now, there’s something you want from them – an introduction related to an advertised job, their attendance at an event you’re planning, a donation to your spouse’s charity. If you didn’t make a memorable impression when you met them or subsequently, the fact that you “know them” means nearly nothing. What matters is if they “know you” – in other words, that they remember you and think something positive about you that motivates them to respond to a call-to-action.

Confession: I meet lots of people who don’t make a memorable impression on me. It’s not atypical for me tobecome a victim of the cocktail party scenario where they approach me a year later with a huge “Hi!!” and I look at them with a blank stare. Often, the story is like the above – they met me after a talk I gave at a conference two years ago and we connected on LinkedIn and they read my writing but we haven’t had a conversation nor have I heard anything about them since. It sounds harsh, but I can only keep track of so many people; They know me, but I don’t know them.

Because people can only keep track of the activities of about one hundred people who are currently important to them, business networking is actually far more ruthless than you’ve probably been led to believe. If you can’t break into your target’s “Top 100 List” within a reasonably short amount of time, they have no bandwidth to “know you” and thus can’t really be of any use to you. You may as well have not met them in the first place.

Why do some (non-celebrity) people tend to break into lots of personal Top 100 Lists and others don’t? I previously wrote that your brand is the sentence people say about you behind your back. Simply put, some people’s sentences are more memorable and meaningful than others. Contrast, for example, “Bob’s in marketing, I think he works for a big company in New York” and “John’s one of the most creative marketing execs to come out of New York in the last decade.” If there’s truth in the latter statement, it follows that over time John is more likely to “be known” by many more people than poor ambiguous Bob.

Knowing people doesn’t scale, but being known to people scales infinitely. Therefore, a good strategy for meaningfully expanding your professional network should include activities that grow the number of people who know you (There are also network effects at play here: the more people who know you, the more conversations there are about you, and the more people hear about you, the more people know you, ad infinitum). Such activities might include public speaking, guest writing for popular blogs in your specialty area, or appearing in a television interview. Or it might be an invention that you launch on Kickstarter to much acclaim, or something else physical that you create which garners attention. You should also give careful consideration to the “narrative on the street” about you: What is that key detail that sets you apart from so many others?

It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.

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Mark Drapeau’s New Job: Corporate Public Diplomacy via Innovative Social Engagement


This post was originally published on BrianSolis.com on January 19th, 2010, shortly after I started working for Microsoft.

Guest post by Mark Drapeau

For a good part of my career, I was a scientist researching how animal behavior is controlled by genes and neurons. Desiring something more, I got a terrific fellowship from the scientific society AAAS in 2006 and was able to conduct science and technology policy research at the Department of Defense for a few years. That experience opened my eyes to everything from the inner workings of the military, to how the government purchases goods and services, to how social technology is changing how the government conducts its operations.

Since I left the Defense Department a few months ago, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, reading, and writing, teaching a class at The George Washington University about what could be called “entrepreneurial journalism,” and consulting some private sector clients about how emerging technologies are changing and democratizing media, marketing, and other specialties. I’ve gone fairly far afield from watching fruit flies have sex, but what the hell – It’s as good a background as any, and it shows I have education, patience, and a certain sense of self-loathing (wink).

But many people have asked me what my next “big move” was going to be. Today, I am happy to announce that I will be joining Microsoft as Director of Innovative Social Engagement for the company’s U.S. Public Sector division, based in Washington, DC. I’ll be part of its new Applied Innovations Team that has a recently appointed Director of Innovation, who in reports to the division’s Vice President. The organization is responsible for Microsoft business across federal and state & local government; higher education and K-12 markets, as well as a significant portion of the U.S. healthcare market.

So what does that long job title of mine ultimately mean? What’s the overall goal of this newly-created position? I think of it as “public diplomacy” for a corporate unit. This role differs in many ways from traditional public relations or public affairs, which despite a recent influx of new technologies still mainly involves “providing information for the public” at its core. Corporate public diplomacy, on the other hand, involves actively shaping the communications environment within which corporate activities are performed, and reducing the degree to which misperceptions complicate relations between the company and its customers. In my view, this complex mission is conducted using what I call innovative social engagement.

What’s Innovative Social Engagement?

Let me tell you what it is not, first. After observing many people whose jobs variously involve public relations, marketing, communications, advertising, technology, sales, and being digital natives, let me reveal the “anti-vision” for my new position:

* It’s not merely leveraging my personal brand to promote a corporate brand, though that’s part of it.

* It’s not merely using social media platforms to connect with audiences in the public sector, though that’s part of it.

* It’s not merely making social connections with influential people in real life, though that’s part of it.

* It’s not merely engaging people complaining about the company online and conducting after-the-fact customer service, though that’s part of it.

* It’s not merely creating public relations events to get people’s attention, though that’s part of it.

* It’s not merely developing word-of-mouth marketing campaigns or helping the company go against type and poke fun at itself, though that’s part of it.

* It’s not merely chasing the coolest, latest trends and incorporating them into strategies, nor reviewing cutting-edge tech gadgetry, though that’s part of it.

* It’s not merely reporting live from events nor interviewing people inside the company on video (something like what Robert Scoble famously did for Microsoft), though that’s part of it.

* It’s not merely being a product evangelist, though that’s part of it.

* It’s not merely measuring the effect of online communications on customers, though that’s part of it.

* It’s not merely creating a blog and writing about the best ideas or latest news or providing the most value to the most people, though that’s part of it.

* It’s not merely creating new online opportunities for product sales, though that’s part of it.

My vision of corporate public diplomacy via innovative social engagement includes many if not all of these things, but it is not simply one or a few of these things. My charges include creating lasting and meaningful experiences for audiences, engaging willing participants in my work-related social activities, creating emotional responses with Microsoft brands of relevance to the public sector, transcending brand expectations to add value to people’s lives, and generally being remarkable (in the vein of Seth Godin) to specific people I desire to engage with and even influence.

Returning to the notion of conducting corporate public diplomacy via innovative social engagement, I think that the U.S. State Department’s new Democracy Video Challenge is an excellent example of the multi-faceted, engaging, and remarkable storytelling and influencing that can be accomplished with clear goals, true strategic thinking, and a holistic view of the suite of available tactics and opportunities. As the movement of Government 2.0 progresses, I think that I’ll be able to learn a lot from the best practices in it. In return they will learn from me and likeminded people working at commercial organizations, NGOs, and any other entities engaged in public sector and public service activities.

So What Will I Actually Be Doing?

Someone who is charged with directing innovative social engagement for an entity needs to be visible, agile, adaptable, innovative, social, engaging, passionate, empathetic, fun, and disruptive. They should be pervasive or restricted, overt or subtle, traveling or stationary, and leading or listening as a given situation calls for. They must be a master storyteller, understanding what performance they need to give, what actual or digital stage they’re performing on, and what audience is in the house to watch them.

In my new position with Microsoft U.S. Public Sector (MSPS), I’ll play the role of storyteller. I won’t just be using MarkDrapeau.com, and I won’t just be using Microsoft.com either. I won’t just be blogging on my own or other platforms, I won’t just be tweeting and using social networks, and I won’t just be planning events in DC and across the country. I won’t just discuss Microsoft technology, and I won’t even just discuss technology. Rather, in something akin to a “think-and-do tank” role, I’ll be creating and promoting a fresh, innovative way of thinking about engaging different audiences with corporate and personal storytelling – and then I’ll be acting on many of my own ideas, too. I’ll also largely be maintaining my autonomy to write a personal blog and conduct other activities that benefit larger communities, and I’ll have explicit permission to talk not just about Microsoft but also about other companies and products, and use them too. I may even try to “monetize the hate” à la blogger Heather “dooce” Armstrong.

More specifically, I’ll be doing at least seven things immediately: (1) Interacting with and socially empowering the other members of the seven-person Applied Innovations Team; (2) Discussing my opinions about science and technology in the public sector and continuing to be a thought leader there; (3) Experimenting with new pre-sale information and social technology, often beta or free products that potentially have a public sector role; (4) Showing the human side of MSPS and engaging audiences through multimedia channel content production and other online activities; (5) Participating actively in the public sector communities of government, education, and healthcare; (6) Measuring and understanding public sentiment about MSPS using innovative techniques; (7) Acting as a competent resource for senior Microsoft decision makers, corporate partners, and customers, and public sector decision makers.

The Bottom Line

I’m not a fanatic. I don’t think that Microsoft makes all the right products, develops all the best solutions, or generates all the most awesome innovations. And I refuse to pretend that I do. But while I think they do in fact do a lot of that, I don’t think they always relate those facts well to their active or potential customers. What currently has me excited is the opportunity to act as “The Official Taste Tester of the Microsoft Kool-Aid” (as one employee put it), and tell the MSPS story to people using innovative methods. Simultaneously, I also hope to create a new model for how brands engage their various constituent communities. Finally, I plan to continue being both cheeky and geeky in 2010, which many people seemed to like in 2009.

That’s a lot to be responsible for, and I’m admittedly taking on a big personal and professional challenge. But that’s why I’m doing it. If it were straightforward and easy, I’d already be bored.

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How to Execute (Against) Your Resume


This post was originally published on Mashable on October 15, 2008.

Anyone who has pried opinions out of me (or seen my eyes glaze over) knows that I admire simple, clear language and despise buzzwords and jargon. Well, at a recent New York event , the wine entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk said one of the smartest and simplest things I have heard about incorporating emerging social tools into your life: “Execute against yourself.”

Sounds strange, right? But according to Gary and the people he was sharing the stage with, Julia Allison and Loren Feldman, you must first have a core business, purpose, or mission, and only then can you enhance that core using peripheral social tools for marketing and other purposes. As Gary puts it, “Content is King. But marketing is Queen, and she rules the house.”

Execute your resume

My personal “core” is using a scientific background to devise analytical approaches to strategic problems. But in the last six months or so I have developed a modest expertise with emerging social technologies that in principle can stand on its own. And so, logically, I have been thinking about how to display this newfound experience with social tools on my resume, given that I work largely in an area where those skills are peripheral but perhaps important to the main tasks. Are they computer skills? People skills? A relevant hobby?

With traditional media gatekeepers becoming decreasingly influential, it seems like everyone who is tech savvy is laying the groundwork for online personal and business branding. And I have heard more than once that “Google is the new resume.” You are your search results as far as anyone is concerned. So, someone could reasonably argue that the resume as we know it is dead. Resume, R.I.P.

Execute against your resume

But I say, long live the resume. Because simply saying that “Google is the new resume” is not entirely true. And here I disagree with authorities like author Brian Solis. Traditional careers like doctor, lawyer, scientist, architect, and so forth are not going anywhere. Even as social software tools become pervasive in society, people in such careers will simply figure out how to best add them (or not) into their work to add value. They will not entirely restructure how they carry out their lives; they will use them to enhance their existing lives. In Gary Vaynerchuk’s terminology, they will “execute against themselves.”

Hip to be elite

My strong suspicion is that people who travel in elite circles (went to Yale, had a Fulbright, worked at McKinsey) will not rely on event attendance and microblogging to sell themselves. At the same time, this does not mean that they cannot leverage social tools for their advantage. To the contrary, I predict that hip digital immigrants will gradually develop more powerful online presences than digital natives once they maximize the effect of combining old-school strengths with new media strategies.

So, if you are a handsome chef, a starving artist, a club promoter, or a professional blogger – maybe resumes are dead and you can rely on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and other sites to entirely promote your brand. But to the rest of the world, I say: long live the resume.

Dr. Mark Drapeau is an Associate Research Fellow studying Social Software for Security (S3) at the Center for Technology and National Security Policy of the National Defense University in Washington DC. These views are his own and not the official policy or position of any part of the U.S. Government. Email: markd [at] mashable.com

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